OHANNESBURG, South Africa A white South African farmer and one of his employees were convicted of feeding his former black worker to lions while still alive in a premeditated murder, a court ruled on Thursday.
Investigators found little more than a skull, a few bones and a finger last year in the enclosure for rare white lions in the northern Limpopo province, where the murder took place.
The case had sparked outrage in South Africa, where some white farmers are still accused of abusing black workers more than a decade after the end of apartheid.
Judge George Maluleke passed the guilty verdict against farmer Mark Scott-Crossley and worker Simon Mathebula, who had both denied killing 41-year-old former employee Nelson Chisale, the SAPA news agency reported.
The post-mortem gave Chisale's cause of death as "being mauled by lions".
Co-accused Richard Mathebula will be tried separately after he was admitted to hospital with tuberculosis.
"The evidence of guilt against (Scott-Crossley) is overwhelming," Maluleke ruled after six weeks of evidence by 23 witnesses excluding the accused.
Maluleke ruled that Scott-Crossley had held a grudge against Chisale after the former farmworker complained about him to the department of manpower. Chisale also brought a malicious damage case against Scott-Crossley with the police for burning his property after Scott-Crossley had dismissed him.
Scott-Crossley even went as far as banning Chisale from his game farm, the judge found in his almost six-hour ruling.
The "bad blood" spilled over on the day of Chisale's murder when he arrived at the farm only to be detained, the judge told a packed courtroom.
Maluleke set sentencing to begin August 10. It could take three days.
Scott-Crossley, handcuffed and holding a Bible, smiled and joked before and after the ruling, while Mathebula stood in the dock with his head bowed.
Scott-Crossley had instructed his co-accused to keep Chisale on the farm until he returned to deal with him, the judge found.
"They did not assist (Chisale). They did not seek help for themselves to avert this danger," Maluleke found.
Scott-Crossley admitted during the trial he told his workers to "sort out" Chisale, but said he then merely helped them dispose of Chisale's body after he was killed in his absence.