Capital punishment on any scale, however small, invariably sends out shock waves, but few equal those that followed the execution of 25 men in one day, Thursday, March 21st, 1957, for the murder of five policemen in Pretoria. The hangings, of 24 black men and one described as “coloured,” were mostly carried out in batches.

The sheer scale of the procession to the gallows appalled people all over the world – even a former senior South African judge described it as “awful.” In the apartheid period between 1955 and 1989 more than 3,200 executions were carried out in South Africa, an average of more than 90 a year, and 97% of those hanged were black.