Evidence starts on sentencing in lion trial

Phalaborwa Circuit Court state prosecutor Ivy Thenga will give reasons on Friday why the killers of Nelson Chisale, who was fed to lions, deserve heavy sentences.

She intends bringing three witnesses to the stand to do this—after two days of evidence in mitigation of sentence by the defence for Mark Scott-Crossley (37) and Simon Mathebula (43).

Scott-Crossley was convicted in April of masterminding the premeditated murder of Chisale (41), who was viciously assaulted and then heaved over a security fence into a lions’ encampment at the Mokwalo White Lion Project in January last year.

Mathebula was convicted of acting in concert with him in committing the killing.

The trial of a third accused, Richard “Doctor” Mathebula (41), no relation to Simon Mathebula, was separated from theirs after he fell ill with suspected tuberculosis and was hospitalised. His trial has since been set down for November 29 to December 2 in the Tzaneen Circuit Court.

Thenga indicated she will call to the stand the investigating officer in the case, a member of Chisale’s family and a former employee of Scott-Crossley’s.

She will, however, be able to present her case only after cross-examining the last of the defence witnesses to testify in mitigation of sentence, forensic criminologist Dr Irma Labuschagne, who spent all of Thursday in the witness box.

Labuschagne told the court she believed Scott-Crossley was remorseful about not stopping the killing of Chisale, even though he refused to admit to anything other than his involvement in the disposal of his body.

Scott-Crossley faces a mandatory life sentence for the murder unless his counsel can prove compelling and substantial reasons why this should not be imposed.—Sapa

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