The white owner of a construction company, initially sentenced to life in prison in 2005 for ordering that a black man be beaten and then...

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The white owner of a construction company, initially sentenced to life in prison in 2005 for ordering that a black man be beaten and then thrown to a pack of lions, was released Thursday on parole — a stunning turn in the notorious “lion’s den case” that has left many South Africans enraged.

Mark Scott-Crossley, the owner of the construction company, had been convicted of murder in the killing of a former worker, Nelson Chisale, in Limpopo province.

South Africa has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and the most monstrous killings are a staple of newspaper headlines. But even in the nation’s relentless cavalcade of brutal crime, Scott-Crossley’s offense seemed sensational.

Chisale had been fired, and a judge found that when he returned to get his belongings, his former boss ordered other workers to beat him with sticks and tie him to a tree before loading him into a pickup truck.

Chisale, 41, was then driven 10 miles to a game reserve and tossed over a fence to a pride of rare white lions. Remains of his skull, gnawed bones and bloody clothing were all that was found.

The crime was seen by many as a throwback to apartheid and grisly evidence of enduring racism in South Africa.

Though he and one of his workers were convicted of murder, a year later an appellate court reduced Scott-Crossley’s sentence from life to five years, agreeing that he might have ordered a beating but not necessarily a murder — and that Chisale already could have been dead before he was fed to the lions. The convicted worker is serving a 15-year prison sentence.