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S. African gets life sentence for feeding man to lions

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South Africa
Crime, Law and Justice

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- A white South African has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a black farm worker and feeding his body to lions.

Former building contractor Mark Scott-Crossley was convicted last April of the premeditated murder of Nelson Chisale, 38, a father of three.

Another farm worker, Simon Mathebula, was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for his part in the 2004 crime.

Many in South Africa believed the case highlighted brutality toward farm laborers and had racial overtones.

More than 80 percent of farms in South Africa are owned by whites, while the majority of their laborers are black. Traditionally, white owners are thought to mistreat their workers.

After the sentencing at a court in Phalaborwa by Judge George Maluleke, Scott-Crossley's lawyer said he was considering an appeal.

Johan Engelbrecht said he was awaiting instructions from his client as he did not have an opportunity to speak to him before he was taken to prison. He said he has 14 days to decide whether to file an appeal.

Mathebula will appeal, defense attorney Mduduzi Phabede said.

A third defendant in the case, Richard Mathebula -- who is not related to Simon Mathebula -- has been ill and is still awaiting trial.

A fourth accused man, Robert Mnisi, was released after agreeing to testify against the others.

The crime was discovered in February 2004 when workers at the Mokwalo White Lion Project, a lion-breeding operation in northeastern South Africa, found a skull, several bones and some blood-soaked clothes believed to belong to Chisale.

At the time, police said Scott-Crossley had recently fired Chisale from a farm near the lion-breeding operation, and they believed Chisale was assaulted when he returned to collect personal belongings.

Chisale had earlier filed charges, accusing Scott-Crossley of burning clothes the worker had left at the farm.

Chisale's niece, Sentsang Jafta, was the only one from his family to attend court hearings.

She told CNN on Friday that she was very relieved at the outcome of the trial. The case, she said, has put tremendous strain on her family and opened wounds she hopes can now heal.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report.

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