When the murdered body of a South African Boer policeman, Lieutenant Leopold Nieumeyer, was found in a ditch in the Orange Free State in January, 1901, there were plenty of Boers who were glad of it.

This was the height of the South African war between the Boers and the ruling British. The Boers had plenty of grounds to hate their enemy as their soldiers, branded by the British as rebels, were regularly captured and executed. But from the British viewpoint Lieutenant Nieumeyer was different – although he was a Boer he was loyal to the British Crown. He also helped his masters round up fellow-Boers for the British concentration camps. For all this he was regarded by his own people as a traitor.

When his body was found in the ditch it was apparent that he had been shot twice from behind, effectively assassinated. Two Boers who had seen the incident decided to go to the British and reveal that the killer was Izak Liebenberg, a man already high on the British wanted list.

Liebenberg was captured six months later, in July, tried by a military court in November, and sentenced to death.

The circumstances of his hanging on Saturday, January 11th, 1902, were nothing if not crude. The first time the trap-door opened Liebenberg, hooded and bound, merely hit the ground a foot or two below. It transpired that no pit had been dug, so, while the doomed man was kept waiting, soldiers were brought in to dig to a depth for a suitable drop. This done, Liebenberg was “re-executed,” this time successfully.