updated 4/28/2005 11:25:54 AM ET 2005-04-28T15:25:54

A South African farmer and one of his employees were found guilty of murder Thursday for attacking a farm worker with machetes and throwing him into a lion enclosure, bringing to climax a case that rattled a country long accustomed to violence and crime.

Delivering his verdict after a three-month trial, Judge George Maluleke told a packed and tense courtroom that Mark Scott-Crossley and Simon Mathebula were guilty of murder, the South African Press Association reported.

The two men had both said they were innocent and tried to blame each other for the January 2004 killing.

The victim, Nelson Chisale, 41, was attacked when he returned to Scott-Crossley's farm to collect some belongings after his dismissal.

He was beaten with machetes, tied up and then driven in Scott-Crossley's truck to a reserve for white lions in a nearby village, where he was thrown over the fence.

Much of the testimony revolved around whether Scott-Crossley, 37, ordered the killing -- as his workers claimed -- and whether Chisale was still alive when he was thrown to the lions.

Some 22 witnesses and a variety of forensic experts were called to give evidence, which included shreds of Chisale's bloodstained shirt and trousers. The lions left only a few bones, part of his skull and the end of one finger.

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