John George Haigh - the infamous "Acid bath" serial killer.
John George Haigh (photo) possessed a great deal of natural charm and passed himself off as an engineer. He served three prison sentences for theft and fraud and whilst in prison hit upon a new scheme to “get rich quick”. He would kill his victims and then dissolve their bodies in acid, in the mistaken belief that he could not be charged with murder if there was no body.
He battered or shot three men and three women to death between 1944 and 1949, all for financial gain, disposing of the bodies by dissolving them in sulphuric acid which quite quickly reduced them to a liquid sludge that he could pour down the drain. His victims were William Donald McSwan and later his parents, William and Amy McSwan. They were followed by Dr. Archibald Henderson and his wife, Rosalie, and finally by Mrs. Olive Durand-Deacon for whose murder he would hang. (photos)
Donald McSwan (photo)
had employed Haigh as a repairman at his amusement arcades and after release
from his third prison sentence, Haigh met William and invited him to meet up in
a basement at 79 Gloucester Road in London on Saturday the 9th of September
1944, where Haigh said he was making pin-ball machines. Here William was beaten to death, his body
dissolved and the remains simply poured away.
Unfortunately for William’s parents, their son had told Haigh that they
were quite wealthy. Haigh forged letters
purportedly from William to his parents saying that he had gone into hiding to
avoid being called up for military service.
They too, were separately lured to the basement in
next victims were Dr. Archibald Henderson, age 52 and his wife, Rosalie, age
41. They were a wealthy couple who had advertised flats for sale in a large
house that they had converted into apartments in
victim was 69 year old Mrs. Olive Durand-Deacon, who like
Haigh, lived at the
When the police arrested Haigh on the 26th of February 1949, and put this evidence to him, he told them, "Mrs. Durand-Deacon no longer exists. I have destroyed her with acid. You can't prove a murder without a body." He went on to admit to eight other killings of which only five could be substantiated.
Haigh was tried at Lewes Assizes before Mr. Justice Humphreys on the 18th and 19th of July 1949 and put forward a defence of insanity and claimed that he was also a vampire and had drank a glass of the blood of each of his victims. This made sensational headlines in the newspapers. However, the jury were less impressed and took just 17 minutes to find him guilty.
There was no appeal and 39 year old Haigh was hanged at Wandsworth prison by Albert Pierrepoint, assisted by Harry Kirk, on Wednesday, the 10th of August 1949. Pierrepoint obviously considered Haigh as a special case and used his calf leather wrist strap to pinion his wrists before giving him a drop of 7’ 4” for his 150 lb. body weight. This resulted in fracture/dislocation of the 2nd and 3rd Cervical vertebrae and “complete laceration of (spinal) cord” to quote from the LPC4 form.
A very large number of people were outside the main gate of Wandsworth on that morning to see the execution notices posted. (photo)
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