Sentencing starts in lion murder trial

Mark Scott-Crossley has a previous conviction for theft, the Phalaborwa Circuit Court heard on Tuesday while considering his sentence for throwing farmworker Nelson Chisale to lions last year.

Scott-Crossley (37) was sentenced to five strokes with a light cane for the offence committed in 1986, prosecutor Ivy Thenga told Judge George Maluleke, who is hearing the case with assessors Kate Choshi and Elphus Seemela.

Accomplice Simon Mathebula has a clean record, Thenga told the court.

Maluleke convicted Scott-Crossley in April for masterminding the murder of Chisale by feeding him alive to a pride of five lions held captive in an encampment in Hoedspruit. Mathebula (43) acted in concert with Scott-Crossley in killing Chisale, Maluleke found.

Scott-Crossley and Mathebula both pleaded not guilty of murder when their trial started at the end of January, almost a year after they killed Chisale (41), who was viciously assaulted before being thrown to lions.

A not-guilty plea was also entered by a third accused, Richard “Doctor” Mathebula (41), no relation to his co-accused, whose case was officially separated from theirs after he fell ill with suspected tuberculosis and had to be hospitalised.

“The court is pleased to note that your health has improved somewhat,” Maluleke told the gaunt Doctor Mathebula, who was brought to court with Scott-Crossley and Simon Mathebula on Wednesday.

The order that he be tried separately still stands, Maluleke told him, ruling that his case be adjourned to another date.
He ordered that Doctor Mathebula be held in custody in the court cells until Thenga could reach his advocate, Mathews Kekana, in Pretoria, and arrange a date to which the trial could be formally postponed.

In earlier hearings, the court was told that all that was found of Chisale in the encampment was a shaft of long bones, a skull with no mandible, fragments of rib, vertebrae, a pelvic girdle and a finger, his shredded shirt and ripped pair of khaki trousers.

Chisale’s remains were buried at his birthplace at Maboloka village, in Brits, North West, last March, after a court found that the dignity of his family outweighed the right of his alleged killers to a fair trial. The defence had applied to stop the funeral for a forensic pathologist to perform tests on his bones to determine the time and cause of death.

The court has set aside three days for the hearing of evidence in mitigation and aggravation of the sentences to be imposed on Scott-Crossley and Mathebula.—Sapa

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