Former Zimbabwe batsman suffering mental illness January 31, 2008

Vermeulen cleared of arson

Cricinfo staff


The Zimbabwe academy buildings after Mark Vermeulen's arson attack © cricinfo
 

Mark Vermeulen, the former Zimbabwe batsman, has been cleared of arson due to mental illness after being on trial for burning down the Zimbabwe Cricket Board's headquarters and academy in Harare.

Vermeulen, 29, had admitted setting fire to the two buildings in 2006 but pleaded not guilty to arson on psychiatric grounds, adding that he suffered from partial complex epilepsy and impulsive behaviour disorder after he was hit and injured by a cricket ball during a match in Australia.

After considering testimonies from Zimbabwean government psychiatrists, Dr Sekai Martha Nhiwatiwa and Dr Munyaradzi Madhombiro, that Vermeulen was a psychiatric patient under treatment, provincial magistrate Mr Mishrod Guvamombe ruled in his favour.

Vermeulen's lawyer, Eric Matinenga, said that Guvamombe had delivered a "special verdict" which meant Vermuelen had not been in control of his actions when he carried out the attacks.

"A special verdict is retained when a person commits an offence while they are not well up there. If the person is considered to be dangerous to society, he is committed to an institution," the lawyer told AFP. "If he does not pose a danger to society, as was found in this case, the person is freed."

If he'd been found guilty Vermeulen would have faced up to 25 years in prison with hard labour. He played the last of his eight Tests in 2004.