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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Shock at SA lion murder acquittal
White lion
Nelson Chisale was thrown into a white lion breeding ground
A South African man convicted of murdering a man whose remains were found in a lion enclosure, has had his life sentence overturned on appeal.

White contractor Mark Scott-Crossley and an employee were alleged to have beaten up black former worker Nelson Chisale and thrown him to lions.

Scott-Crossley was convicted of murder and given a life sentence in 2005.

Now an appeal court in Bloemfontein has overturned the murder verdict and reduced his sentence to five years.

After the ruling, Mr Chisale's niece, Fetsan Jafta said: "We were trying to cope really. We were getting there. But now they have opened those wounds and it is really painful."

"I do not know how we are going to cope with this but God will help us. All we can do is pray because really there is no justice in this," Ms Jafta told the South African media.

The appeal court ruled that the prosecution in the 2005 trial had failed to prove that Mr Chisale was still alive when he was thrown into the lion enclosure.

Consequently it substituted a conviction of being an accessory to murder after the fact, reducing the sentence to five years which means Scott-Crossley will be eligible for release on parole within a few months.

The Star newspaper's Riana van der Schyff, said "the court decision will send shockwaves through the entire nation".

Racial tensions

The case has highlighted the racial tensions that still exist in the South African countryside 13 years after the end of apartheid.

Crossley
Scott-Crossley could be out within months

Mr Chisale was sacked late in 2003. In January 2004, he returned to pick up his belongings at the farm near the Kruger National Park in the north-east of the country.

There he was beaten up by Scott-Crossley and another of his employees, Simon Mathebula - who was jailed for 15 years.

They tied Mr Chisale up and then took him to a nearby lion breeding centre, where they threw him into an enclosure.

The court was unable to establish whether Mr Chisale was already dead when he was thrown into the enclosure, as Scott-Crossley claimed during his defence.

The only remains recovered were a few bones and some shredded clothing.



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SEE ALSO
Life for S Africa lion murderer
30 Sep 05 |  Africa
SA farmer 'fed worker to lions'
10 Feb 04 |  Africa
South Africa's violent farms
03 Sep 03 |  Africa

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