Lion man 'knew about Mncube passport'

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Dalu with a white tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Photo / File
Dalu with a white tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens. Photo / File

Lion Man Craig Busch knew about irregularities in a worker's passport before bringing him to New Zealand, a Whangarei coroner has been told.

An inquest into the identity of Dalu Mncube was held in Whangarei on Tuesday.

Mr Mncube, a big cat handler, was fatally mauled by a tiger at Zion Wildlife Gardens in May 2009.

At the hearing it was revealed that Mr Mncube was also known as Dalubuhle Ncube and Darlington Tembo and that Immigration New Zealand believed he may have entered the country on a false passport.

In a statement to police, Mr Busch's mother and Zion Wildlife Kingdom operator Patricia Busch said her son had offered Mr Mncube a job because he had previous experience in the field.

Mrs Busch said Mr Mncube had told her Craig threatened to report him to Immigration New Zealand if he did not side with him over issues at the park.

"Dalu told Craig that if that happened and he ended up in a cell, then Craig would be in the next cell because he knew about his passport and identity prior to him coming to New Zealand," Mrs Busch said in documents submitted to Coroner Brandt Shortland.

"I asked Dalu what he was going to do and he said that he would take holidays in September, and go back to South Africa and sort out his identity through his school records.

"Dalu wished to be known by his own name and to have an accurate passport. I believe he would have carried out his intentions if he had survived.

"I do know that at some point Dalu had said to Craig that it was not his fault that Craig had brought him from Africa to work with the big cats and that he had turned out to be better at this than Craig," Mrs Busch said.

About two weeks before Mr Mncube's death, both men had an argument at the park, where Mr Busch accused the cat handler of "stealing his life and a lot more", Mrs Busch said.

She did not know what passport Mr Mncube had until she came across some emails in a filing cabinet regarding Mr Busch's job offer to Mr Mncube.

She discovered the emails after Mr Busch was sacked from the park and before Mr Mncube's death.

Immigration New Zealand yesterday confirmed its investigation into concerns about Mr Mncube's identity was closed when he died.

Mr Mncube's partner Sharon declined to comment when approached at her home. Mr Busch did not respond to questions sent to him.

Coroner Shortland will make a finding on Mr Mncube's identity in three to five days before deciding whether the inquest can continue.

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