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John George Haigh

Johhn George Haigh - Serial killer
AKAAcid Bath Murders
DOB24 July 1909
OccupationVarious
Kill Total15 +
Kill PlaceLondon & Sussex
Kill Date1944 - 1949
M.O.Shooting / Acid
VictimSee Here >>
Haigh's parents belonged to a religious sect known as the Plymouth Brethren, they were purist and anticlerical. Almost all forms of casual entertainment, music, carnivals, magazines and newspapers were regarded as sinful. Only stories from the bible were acceptable. Haigh was a bright student who won scholarships to Wakefield Grammar School.

Unfortunately accounts of his younger days would  suggest that he would never actually amount to much more than the disturbed individual he became in later life. Haigh suggested that the seeds of his future career as one of the most notorious serial killers in English history were sown during his early religious upbringing

Haigh became an apprentice to a firm of motor engineers, however this only lasted a year, he then scraped a living in sales, insurance and advertising and any job that demanded snappy dressing and the gift of the gab. By the age of 21 he had been sacked for suspected theft.

July1934, Haigh married 23-year-old Beatrice Hamer. The marriage soon fell apart. That same year he was jailed for fraud and Beatrice gave birth while he was in prison but she gave the baby girl up for adoption and left Haigh. His family ostracised him from that point onwards.

1936 Haigh moved to London and became chauffeur to wealthy William McSwan, the  owner of amusement parlours.
Haigh used his mechanical skills to maintain McSwan's amusement machines.
Following that he became a bogus unqualified solicitor and received a four-year jail sentence for fraud. He was released just after the start of World War II and somehow missed being called up to serve.

He served several jail sentences for fraud and theft, on one time whilst inside Lincoln Prison he began planning the series of perfect murders. He learned much from other inmates and avidly read books on acids which he found available in the prison library.

Using glass jars from the kitchens, dead field mice brought in from the fields and small quantities of acid taken from the tinsmith shop, Haigh carried out experiments to see how long it would take a small body to dissolve in acid. It was not long before he had devised a formula to apply to humans.

John Haigh meticulously planned each of his murders, with all three stages carefully thought out to prevent untidy, or messy finishes to his gruesome activities.
The first stage was to isolate the victim from any familiarity around them (escorting them to his "workshop", which was nothing more than an adjacent room next to a factory). In all of the cases, his victims were always led under a pretence of discovery, which was based upon his initial friendship established with each of them. Put simply, they had absolutely no reason to suspect Haigh of performing anything unusual, until it was too late.
Stage two was to render his target incapable of responding to his attack, via the use of a .38 Webley revolver.

He concealed the gun upon his person,  once he had coaxed his intended target inside his workshop. Then Haigh would seize any opportunity to kill the victim with as little effort as possible.

Thirdly, was the disposal of the body using vats of industrial acid.

It was Haigh's mistaken belief that a corpse could be completely disposed of via the acid. Unfortunately for Haigh, certain parts of the human body are more resilient than most people think, either by their very nature (such as teeth and bone) and artificial items (such as false teeth) and are usually picked up as trace evidence by forensic experts. Haigh's false assumption that murder could not be proved without the body eventually led to his downfall.

 

Though the murders were very important to Haigh, he also  needed to sustain himself financially, and would strip the body of any valuables that he could use himself, like jewellery, and ration cards which he later used for himself. These would later be found at his home, which provided further evidence against him.

 

1944 Haigh renewed his previous friendship with the McSwan family and rented a small basement workshop at number 79 Gloucester Road in Kensington where he allegedly worked on his 'inventions', whilst also working for the family collecting rents from their numerous properties.

9 September 1944, he took William McSwan to his workshop and bludgeoned him to death. He then placed the body in a 40 gallon barrel filled with sulphuric acid. Later he covered the drum and went home to sleep. The next day the remains of McSwan were little more than cold liquid and lumps which he disposed of down a drain.

By forging documents he obtained all of William McSwan's assets  Haigh also managed to obtain the McSwan's property in Raynes Park, Wimbledon Park and Beckenham Park, and around £4,000 in cash. He faked documents to show the parents that there son had run away to Scotland to avoid the draft. But, he was getting greedy and wanted more of the family money.

2 July 1945 Haigh took Donald and Amy McSwan to his basement on  Gloucester Road, on the pretence that their son had returned. There he beat them to death, disposing of the bodies in the acid.

1947 Haigh had stolen McSwan's pension cheques and also sold their properties, stealing about 8,000 pounds in total.
He then moved into the Onslow Court Hotel in Kensington. Living the high life, he was also a heavy gambler, and it was not long before the money was running out.
To fix his financial situation, he decided to find another couple to kill and rob:

He befriended Dr. Archibald Henderson and his wife Rose, after pretending to be interested in a house they were selling, he built up a friendship, and was then invited to the Hendersons flat by Rose to play the piano for their housewarming party. While Haigh was at the flat he found and stole Archibald Henderson's revolver, Haigh was planning to use it in his next crime.
He rented a small workshop at 2 Leopold Road, Crawley, Sussex, and moved acid and drums there from the basement in Gloucester Road.

12th February 1948, he drove Dr. Henderson to Crawley to show him a new invention he had allegedly been working on. . When they arrived, Haigh shot Henderson in the head with the stolen revolver. He then lured Mrs. Henderson to the workshop, claiming that her husband had fallen ill, and shot her as well. As with his previous victims he dissolved their bodies in the drums of acid. He then forged letters  supposedly from them, and sold all of their possessions for £8,000.

Now back at the Onslow Court Hotel. Haigh was calling himself an engineer, he met and befriended Olive Durand-Deacon, 69, the wealthy widow of solicitor John Durand-Deacon.

Olive mentioned an idea to him that she had for artificial fingernails. He invited her down to the Leopold Road workshop in Crawley,

18th February 1949  once inside, he shot Olive in the back of the neck with the .38 caliber Webley revolver that he had previously  stolen from Archibald Henderson.
Haigh stripped her of her of any valuables, and put her into the acid bath.

28th February 1949, A friend of Olive had become suspicious at her disappearance and continually question Haigh, to keep her quiet he agreed to go to Chelsea police station with her, to report the disappearance. Unfortunately for Haigh, once there the desk sergeant recognised Haigh and did a background check, Haigh was arrested while a search of his hotel room took place.

The police soon discovered Haigh’s record of theft and fraud and commenced a search of the workshop in Sussex.
Police found Haigh’s  briefcase containing a dry cleaner’s receipt for Mrs. Durand-Deacon’s coat, and also papers referring to the Hendersons and McSwans.
The workshop in Sussex did not have a floor drain, unlike the workshop he had rented at Gloucester Road in London. He had therefore, disposed of the remains by pouring them out on a rubble pile at the back of the property. Investigation of the area by pathologist Keith Simpson revealed 28 pounds of human body fat, part of a human foot, human gallstones and part of a denture which was later identified by Mrs. Durand-Deacon's dentist.

2nd March, 1949 Haigh was charged with the murder of Mrs Durand-Deacon and was moved to Lewes Prison.
Suspected of killing up to 15 people, he was eventually charged with just six murders.

Monday 18th July 1949, His trial began at Lewes Assizes.
Haigh pleaded guilty due to insanity. The Judge ordered the jury not to accept the plea as Haigh had acted with 'Malice Aforethought'.

Trial finished the following afternoon. It took the jury seventeen minutes to find him guilty. The judge sentenced Haigh to death.

Wednesday 10th August 1949, 9am. Haigh was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Wandsworth prison., assisted by Harry Kirk. Outside the prison a crowed of about 500 people gathered. 

Acid Bath Victims

Nown Victioms

William Donald McSwan
Donald McSwan
Amy McSwan
Dr. Archibald Henderson, 52
Rosalie Henderson 41
Olive Durand-Deacon, 69

Recoommended Books

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