Monday, January 24, 2005

LION'S DEN

South Africa's Lions Den murder trial begins. The victim was dumped at a white lion breeding projectThe trial of three men accused of feeding a black former farm worker to South African lions has been adjourned after one of them pleaded guilty.

Mark Scott-Crossley, Richard Mathebula and Simon Mathebula, were expected to plead not guilty, but Richard Mathebula apparently changed his mind. The three are accused of tying Nelson Chisale up and throwing him into an enclosure used for breeding lions.

The post-mortem examination found that Mr Chisale was mauled to death. Richard Mathebula, 41, told the court in the courthouse in Phalaborwa, on the edge of Kruger National Park: "I would say I plead guilty because I followed instructions given to me by my employer." His lawyers then asked for, and were granted, an adjournment. Trade union leaders say the case highlights the widespread abuse of farm labourers in South Africa. Mr Scott-Crossley is white, while his two alleged accomplices, and the victim, are black.

A fourth man arrested with the accused has agreed to testify against them. The court papers say Mr Chisale, a father of three, had returned to the farm from where he had been sacked two months earlier, to pick up some personal belongings. It is claimed that attackers set upon him with knives, bound him up with rope and electrical wire, and drove him to Mokwalo White Lion Project at Hoedspruit, about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Johannesburg. He was then allegedly thrown over the fence into the lion enclosure.

Police recovered his skull, body parts and the remains of his clothes more than a week later.

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