THE wife of a controversial cricket star who died in Pakistan two years ago believes her husband may still be alive after faking his own death.
The death of Asim Butt, who played 71 times for Scotland, sparked a flood of tributes, including one from First Minister Alex Salmond, after he died while visiting his birthplace in Lahore. But his estranged wife, Tara, now has doubts that Butt, whose death was reported in November 2009, passed away in his sleep at the age of 42.
Mrs Butt, the mother of their three children, has fought an unsuccessful two-year battle to track down a death certificate for her husband, who ran an Easter Road newsagent.
The 48-year-old, who now lives in Egypt, said she had been repeatedly told by the Pakistani authorities that no death record existed for the cricketer, and her lawyer has also failed to track one down.
She claims the family of Mr Butt, who played for the Heriot’s club for more than a decade, has refused to respond to her queries.
Mrs Butt believes that her husband could have faked his death for financial gain, or to assume a new identity and be with a woman he was having an affair with.
She said she had left her husband in 2005 after he had an affair with an Edinburgh woman, who would give birth to his son. She said he also became involved in using drugs, including ecstasy and cannabis.
The couple reconciled and Mr Butt later won a battle against a brain tumour before they split again over his alleged infidelity, and Mrs Butt moved to Eygpt with her boys.
Mrs Butt said: “In the beginning I believed Asim had died. It was in the newspapers and that was what I was told by his family, but I became more and more suspicious when I couldn’t get the death certificate.
“I don’t know whether he has faked his death for financial reasons or to be with another woman. His family don’t answer my calls or e-mails.”
In 2007, Mrs Butt asked her husband for a divorce and planned to go to Egypt to live, but Mr Butt would not agree to the split and the couple were never formally separated.
Mrs Butt added: “Asim came to Egypt to see me and the kids in August 2009. He said he was getting pressure from his sister, who has four daughters, to allow them to marry our sons. Asim was also in a lot of debt.
“Asim went to Lahore in November to deal with the sale of his father’s house. I was told about Asim’s death by his family by phone. They had found his body in the house at around 8am or 9am, and said that he had died in his sleep. There was a funeral but I could not afford to fly over to Pakistan.
“I tried to get a death certificate so I could show I was a widow and not divorced. My children were in private school and I needed to prove I was a widow to pay reduced fees.
“I hired a lawyer in Egypt but he could not get a death ceritificate from Pakistan. The authorities say no-one with that date of birth and name had passed away.
“I’ve tried the Home Office and the Pakistani Consulate in Glasgow and they’ve not been able to help me either.”
The couple, who had lived together in Granton, had three sons – Ismael, 13, Kasim, ten, and Raheal, eight – after getting married 16 years ago.
Mrs Butt, who was born in Pakistan but moved to the UK with her parents and holds British citizenship, met the cricket star, who always remained a Pakistani national, while he was visiting London to apply for aslyum. The asylum bid was unsucessful, but Mr Butt was granted his visa after the pair were wed.
Mrs Butt said: “Our marriage had a lot of problems and, in 2005, I felt he was having an affair. I thought he had affairs before, but this time I was sure.
“He also became involved in taking drugs. He was smoking grass and I found tablets in his pockets, which were ecstasy. That’s when he failed a drug test and got banned.”
Butt gave the positive drugs test following the Scottish Saltires match against the Somerset Sabres on May 11, 2005. He claimed a cigarette he smoked at a party was laced with drugs, but was given a one-year ban.
Mrs Butt said: “I’ve never had a penny from Asim’s estate since 2009. His sons are entitled to a share of the house in Lahore, but I just want the truth.”
Chris Jones, president of Heriot’s Cricket Club, said they had never had a reason to doubt that Butt’s death was genuine.
He said: “At the time, the club heard that Asim had suffered an aneurism in Pakistan and died, and that certainly seemed to stack up because he had suffered from ill-health before that. I would be staggered and amazed if that was the case as Asim was a very upright individual.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said it had no record of dealing with Butt’s death in Pakistan.
A Home Office spokeswoman said she would not be able to assist with the case as Butt was not a British citizen. The Pakistan Consulate in Glasgow could not be reached for comment.
The News was unable to contact the family of Mr Butt.
Staff at the Easter Road shop thought to have belonged to family members said Mr Butt’s brother had returned to Pakistan.