FORMER Test player Mark Vermeulen is expected to appear in court today after police charged him with arson in connection with the burning down of two Zimbabwe Cricket properties this week.
lign=justify>The 27-year-old cricketer has been detained since Wednesday after his car was allegedly spotted at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy just before fire gutted the institution.
The Academy at Highlands Country Club was burnt a day after another fire had broken out at Zimbabwe Cricket’s boardroom at Harare Sports Club, located on different premises.
“We have preferred arson charges against Vermeulen,” police chief inspector Andrew Phiri told IndependentSport last night. “He is likely to appear in court tomorrow.”
Vermeulen’s father had in the afternoon said he was making attempts to free his son, but Phiri said the player was still detained in “police cells somewhere in Harare”.
“We don’t know at the moment where they are holding him, but we are trying our best to get him out and sort matters while he is outside,” Vermeulen’s father Roland had said earlier yesterday.
The police have not made any other arrests in connection with the suspected arson.
“We have not arrested anyone else yet. So far it’s only the player who is helping us with investigations,” Phiri said.
National team kits and equipment as well as computers and a video system were reduced to ashes when the fire that gutted the thatch-roofed Academy broke out around 1940 on Tuesday. The pavilion was also razed to the ground.
At the boardroom on Monday, curtains and part of the carpet were burnt but the municipal fire brigade responded swiftly to put out the fire.
The motive of the attack is yet to be established, but Zimbabwe Cricket officials believe a group of disgruntled former administrators could be behind the suspected arson.
Chingoka has in the last two years been battling attempts to oust him – the latest one last month by Zanu PF apologist Temba Mliswa who rehashed allegations of corruption levelled against the Zimbabwe Cricket leadership.
However, it was not clear whether Vermeulen had any links to the group.
The player, slapped with a three-year ban in England for throwing a ball to a spectator during a club game, only returned to Zimbabwe in September and immediately expressed his desire to turn out for the national team again.
There are claims that Vermeulen, who played eight Tests between 2002 and 2004, had been expected to fly out to South Africa after concluding the game in Harare was not competitive enough.
In 1996 Vermeulen was banned from representing his school Prince Edward for uprooting his stumps after getting a poor lbw decision.
He was then sent back home during Zimbabwe’s tour of England in 2003 after he refused to travel with the rest of the squad when leaving the ground.