Lion murder accused falls ill
Defence counsel for three men accused of feeding a man to lions in Hoedspruit last year had to delay presenting their case on Thursday after one of the accused fell ill.
“Accused number one tells me he’s suffering from chest and throat pains,” Mathews Kekana, counsel for Richard “Doctor” Mathebula, told reporters outside the Phalaborwa Circuit Court.
Although Mathebula had been taking medicine, he ran out of it and neglected to inform him of this, said Kekana. He said Mathebula began taking the medicine when he became ill days after his arrest on February 8 last year.
Arrangements were made to take Mathebula to a doctor on Thursday morning and the case was stood down until 11.30am to await the doctor’s report.
The illness had “nothing to do” with an alleged assault on Mathebula in the holding cells of Eikenhof police station after his arrest for the murder of Nelson Chisale.
Mathebula’s co-workers Simon Mathebula and Robert Mnisi, and their employer Mark Scott-Crossley, were initially all accused along with him. Charges have since been withdrawn against Mnisi, who turned state witness.
The Mathebulas and Scott-Crossley have all pleaded not guilty to throwing Chisale to his death in a lions’ camp at Mokwalo White Lions Project on January 31 2004 after allegedly assaulting him that morning and leaving him tied to a tree all day.
The trial was similarly delayed twice last week, firstly for a doctor to see a distressed Scott-Crossley after his R250Â 000 bail was revoked over an altercation with a witness, and secondly when Scott-Crossley felt so unwell he was unable to continue with the trial as a result of the side-effects of his medicine. His condition was not disclosed.
The defence case was to start on Thursday morning after a week-and-a-half of evidence led by the state. State prosecutor Ivy Thenga closed her case on Wednesday.
The defence case is expected to be opened by Kekana, followed by Duduzi Thabede, the advocate for the second man in the dock, Simon Mathebula—no relation to Richard Mathebula. Then Johann Engelbrecht SC, for Scott-Crossley will present his client’s case.
Only the Mathebulas have given the court explanations of their pleas. Scott-Crossley exercised his right to silence, but his version of events was put to the witnesses who testified against him.
In his explanation of plea, Richard Mathebula admitted assaulting Chisale with the flat of a panga blade and tying him to a tree when he tried to resist “arrest” on arrival at the Scott-Crossley smallholding. He said Scott-Crossley later ordered him to help throw Chisale over a fence into a lions’ den. Simon Mathebula admitted no part in the assault.
On his version of events, Scott-Crossley claimed he saw Chisale tied to a tree after he was assaulted and told his co-accused to deal with what he considered was their problem.
He went out, but was drawn into the situation on his return when he was told Chisale was dead in a bathroom. He alleged he helped dispose of the body under threats, which he did even though under the influence of a considerable amount of alcohol.—Sapa