Farmer gets life for feeding labourer to lions

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A white farmer convicted of murder for feeding a black worker to lions has been jailed for life by a South African judge, ending a racially charged case which highlighted abuse of rural black labourers.

Mark Scott-Crossley, who got married in court just before being sentenced, was given life, and a black labourer, Simon Mathebula, was sentenced to 15 years, partly suspended, for his role in a murder which has shocked the nation.

"Let him rot in jail," someone shouted from the back of the crush of people streaming from the court in Phalaborwa, close to the Kruger National Park, north-east of Johannesburg.

The men were convicted in April of killing Nelson Chisale, 41, a farm worker. It provoked an outcry in a country where, more than a decade after the end of apartheid rule, some white farmers are still accused of abusing and exploiting black workers.

Little more than Mr Chisale's skull, shards of bone and a finger were found at an enclosure for rare white lions after the murder early last year.

The incident was apparently sparked by a dispute between the victim and his former employer, Scott-Crossley. Mr Chisale had also lodged a case of malicious damage against Scott-Crossley with the police for burning his property after his dismissal.

In testimony earlier this year, the court heard that Scott-Crossley had kicked Mr Chisale, pointed a gun at him and told him to pray. A few hours later, the prosecution said, Mr Chisale was thrown alive to the lions. A post-mortem examination showed the cause of death as being "mauled by lions".

The court heard in April that Scott-Crossley had held a grudge against Mr Chisale after he complained to the labour authorities.

Local media also reported that Scott-Crossley was married yesterday morning shortly before he was sentenced. A third employee arrested in connection with the death turned state witness. REUTERS