The dubious distinction of being the only South African to be tried, found guilty and sentenced to death twice for the same murder belongs to Duncan Moodie, 27, who shot his estranged wife Anita at her parents’ home in Klerksdorp, Transvaal.

They were sweethearts at school and married when he was 23 and she was 19. Their 18-month-long marriage was tempestuous from the start – Moodie couldn’t hold down a job, was often aggressive, a heavy drinker, and became grossly overweight. He drank a bottle of brandy a day and regularly beat his wife so severely that she had to hide her bruises from her parents.

His in-laws urged restraint, but he would say: “She’s mine, and I’ll do what I like!” When Anita filed for divorce and rejected his protestations of repentance, he shot her dead.

The court at his first trial in April 1961, was concerned only with his state of mind. Moodie was a psychopath, but did that excuse him from the consequences of killing his wife? When the jury retired the clerk of the court was so concerned about the security of their room that he sat in with them.

They found Moodie responsible for his action, returned a guilty verdict and he was sentenced to death.

Next day his defence team discovered that the clerk had sat in with the jury and, appealing the verdict, claimed that the clerk’s presence in the jury room was a miscarriage of justice. The court ordered Moodie’s release from prison, and a re-trial.

At the re-trial Moodie claimed he had already been acquitted on the murder charge and therefore couldn’t be tried again.

The state, however, claimed that he was released on a technicality. The court president thought Moodie was right, and discharged him, so the state then went to the appeal court.

The court’s decision was that, as a principle of law, a person cannot be punished or put in jeopardy twice for the same offence – but that was not to say he could not be tried twice for the same crime. But Moodie didn’t wait to hear their view – he had already fled.

He was finally re-captured in Botswana and brought back to Pretoria for his second murder trial. In February 1962, he was found guilty again and hanged on Thursday, June 28th, 1962.