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Encyclopedia > John George Haigh

John George Haigh (July 24, 1909August 10, 1949), the "Acid Bath Murderer", was a serial killer in England during the 1940s. He was convicted of the murders of six people, although he claimed to have killed a total of nine, dissolving their bodies in sulphuric acid before forging papers in order to sell their possessions and collect substantial sums of money. He acted under the mistaken belief that police needed a body before they could bring a charge of murder. As a consequence, he was convicted through forensic evidence and executed on August 10, 1949. is the 205th day of the year (206th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1909 (MCMIX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Serial killers are individuals who have a history of multiple slayings of victims who were usually unknown to them beforehand. ... Year 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full 1940 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sulfuric acid (British English: sulphuric acid), H2SO4, is a strong mineral acid. ... is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Early life

Haigh was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire and grew up in the nearby village of Outwood, West Yorkshire. His parents, John and Emily, were members of the Plymouth Brethren. He was confined to living within a 10ft fence that his father put up around their garden to lock out the outside world. Haigh would later claim he suffered from recurring religious nightmares in his childhood. Haigh won a scholarship to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, claims were made that a desk carved with his name remained at the school, but they were put aside when a teacher of 30 years at the school said the desk was removed over 20 years ago. He then won another scholarship, his parents having switched their belief from the nonconformist brethren to the high church of Wakefield Cathedral, where he became a choirboy. Haigh, however, developed a passion for cars. After school he was apprenticed to a firm of motor engineers. After a year, he quit that job, and took jobs in insurance and advertising. Aged 21, he was fired after being suspected of stealing from a cash box. In 1934, Haigh stopped attending his parents' church. For other uses, see Wakefield (disambiguation). ... Look up Yorkshire in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Outwood is a district to the north of Wakefield, a city in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. ... The Brethren are a Christian Evangelical movement that began in Dublin, London, Plymouth, and the continent of Europe in the late 1820s. ...

Marriage and imprisonment

On 6 July 1934 Haigh married the 21-year-old Betty Hammer. The marriage soon floundered. The same year Haigh was jailed for fraud. Betty gave birth while he was in prison but she gave the baby up for adoption and left Haigh. On his release he was jailed again — this time for 15 months — for a fraud involving cars bought on hire purchase. This time, when freed, he tried to go straight with a dry cleaning business, but it failed when his business partner was killed in a motorcycle accident. He then moved to London and became chauffeur to William McSwann, the wealthy owner of an amusement park. Haigh and McSwann became friends but Haigh still wanted to set himself up in business. He did — but as a bogus solicitor, earning himself four years in jail for fraud. Haigh was released just after the start of the Second World War, then jailed again for theft. While in prison he dreamt up what he considered the perfect murder: destroying the body by dissolving it with acid. He experimented with mice and found it took only 30 minutes for the body to disappear.[citation needed] is the 187th day of the year (188th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Hire purchase (frequently abbreviated to HP) is the legal term for a conditional sale contract developed in the United Kingdom, and now found in India, Australia, New Zealand, and other states which have adopted the English law concept. ...

The "Acid Bath" murders

He was freed in 1944 and became an accountant with an engineering firm. Soon after, by chance, he bumped into McSwann in the Goat pub in Kensington. McSwann introduced Haigh to his parents, Donald and Amy, who mentioned that they had invested in property. On 6 September, 1944, McSwann disappeared. Haigh later said he hit him over the head after luring him into a basement at 79 Gloucester Road, London SW7. He then put McSwann’s body into a 40-gallon drum and tipped sulphuric acid on to it. Two days later he returned to find the body had become sludge, which he poured down a manhole. , A wealthy area in Kensington, that is just south of Kensington High Street. ...

He told McSwann’s parents their son had fled to Scotland to avoid being called up for military service. Haigh then took over McSwann’s and when Don and Amy become curious about why their son had not returned after the war was coming to an end, he murdered them too. On July 2, 1945, he lured them to Gloucester Road and disposed of them. This article is about the country. ...

Haigh stole Donald McSwann’s pension cheques, sold their properties — making about £8,000 — and moved into the Onslow Court hotel, Kensington. By the summer of 1947 Haigh, a gambler, was running short of money so he found another couple to kill and rob: Dr Archibald Henderson and his wife Rose, whom he met after purporting to show interest in a house they were selling.

He rented a small workshop in Leopold Road Crawley, West Sussex, and moved acid and drums there from Gloucester Road. On 12 February 1948, he drove Dr Henderson to Crawley, on the pretext of showing him an invention. When they arrived he shot him in the head with a revolver he had earlier stolen from the doctor’s house. He then lured Mrs Henderson to the workshop, claiming her husband had fallen ill, and shot her. Crawley is a town and local government district in West Sussex, England. ... West Sussex is a county in the south of England, bordering onto East Sussex (with Brighton and Hove), Hampshire and Surrey. ...

After disposing of the bodies in acid he forged a letter from the Hendersons and sold all their possessions for £8,000, except their dog, which he kept.

Last victim and capture

Haigh's next and final victim was Olive Durand-Deacon, 69, a widow and fellow resident at the Onslow Court. She mentioned to Haigh, by then calling himself an engineer, an idea she had for artificial fingernails. He invited her down to the Crawley workshop on 18 February, 1949, and once inside he shot her in the back of the head, stripped her of her valuables, including a Persian lamb coat, and put her into the acid bath. Two days later Durand-Deacon’s friend, Constance Lane, reported her missing.

Detectives soon discovered Haigh’s record of theft and fraud and searched the workshop. Police not only found Haigh’s attaché case containing a dry cleaner’s receipt for Mrs Durand-Deacon’s coat, but also papers referring to the Hendersons and McSwanns. Further investigation of the sludge at the workshop by the pathologist Keith Simpson revealed three human gallstones. Professor Cedric Keith Simpson, CBE, FRCP, (July 20, 1907 – July 21, 1985) was an eminent British pathologist. ...

Questioned by Detective Inspector Albert Webb, Haigh asked him: “Tell me, frankly, what are the chances of anybody being released from Broadmoor?” The inspector said he could not discuss that sort of thing, so Haigh replied: “Well, if I told you the truth, you would not believe me. It sounds too fantastic to believe.” Location of Broadmoor Hospital at grid reference SU8464 in the United Kingdom Broadmoor Hospital is a high security psychiatric hospital at Crowthorne in Berkshire, England. ...

Haigh then confessed that he had not only killed Durand-Deacon, the McSwanns and Hendersons, but also three other people — a young man called Max, a girl from Eastbourne and woman from Hammersmith. The latter three might have been part of Haigh’s attempt to convince the police of insanity.[citation needed]

Trial and execution

After arrest, Haigh was remanded in custody in Cell 2 of Horsham Police Station when it was in Barttelot Road. He was charged with murder at the nearby courthouse in what is now known as the Old Town Hall.

The Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross KC, (later Lord Shawcross) led for the prosecution at Lewes Assizes, and urged the jury to reject the prisoner’s defence of insanity because he had acted with malice aforethought. In most common law jurisdictions, the Attorney General or Attorney-General is the main legal adviser to the government, and in some jurisdictions may in addition have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions. ... Hartley William Shawcross, Baron Shawcross (February 4, 1902 - July 10, 2003), was a British barrister and politician and the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal. ... This is about Lewes in England. ... The Courts of Assize, or Assizes, were periodic criminal courts held around England and Wales until 1972, when together with the Quarter Sessions they were abolished by the Courts Act 1971 and replaced by a single permanent Crown Court. ... Malice Aforethought is a 1931 murder mystery novel written by Anthony Berkeley Cox, using the name Francis Iles. ...

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe KC, defending, called many witnesses to attest to Haigh’s mental state, including Dr. Henry Yellowlees who claimed Haigh had a paranoid constitution, adding: “The absolute callous, cheerful, bland and almost friendly indifference of the accused to the crimes which he freely admits having committed is unique in my experience.” David Patrick Maxwell Fyfe, 1st Earl of Kilmuir (1900-1967) was an important British politician and jurist. ...

It took only minutes for the jury to find Haigh guilty. Mr Justice Travers Humphreys sentenced him to death.

It was reported that Haigh, in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison, asked one of his jailers, Jack Morwood, whether it would be possible to have a trial run of his hanging so everything would run smoothly. It is likely his request went no further, or, if it did, the request was denied. Whatever the case, Haigh was led to the gallows by Chief Executioner Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949. Wandsworth Prison is a prison in Wandsworth in south London, England. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Albert Pierrepoint (30 March 1905 – 10 July 1992) is the most famous member of a Yorkshire family who provided three of Britains Chief Executioners in the first half of the 20th century. ... is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

In popular culture

  • Haigh had agreed to model for a death mask being made by Madame Tussauds waxworks. He left his clothes to Tussaud’s with the stipulation that his waxwork was always kept spotless, with trousers neatly creased, shirt cuffs showing and hair parted.[citation needed]
  • Haigh has been compared to the French serial killer Marcel Petiot. It is possible that Haigh had read about the exploits of another Frenchman, Georges “Sarret” Sarrejani, the Marseilles lawyer who used similar methods in 1925 to destroy his victims’ bodies.[citation needed]
  • On 25 March, 1949, Silvester Bolam, editor of the Daily Mirror, was jailed for three months and the newspaper’s publishers fined £10,000 for contempt of court in its reports of early proceedings in the case against Haigh. It was said that the reports and photographs — described by the Lord Chief Justice as a disgrace to English journalism — could have prejudiced Haigh’s defense.[citation needed]
  • In 2002, Martin Clunes played Haigh in an ITV drama, A is for Acid.
  • One of the Subordinates (antagonists) in the video game Clock Tower 3, Corroder, is based on and named after the killer.[citation needed]
  • Now defunct Louisiana sludge metal band Acid Bath took their name from Haigh's method of disposing of his victims' bodies.[citation needed]
  • Metal band Macabre, has a song named Acid Bath Vampire which is about John George Haigh.[citation needed]

“Tussauds” redirects here. ... Doctor Marcel Petiot (January 17, 1897–May 25, 1946) was a French doctor who was convicted of multiple murder after the discovery of the remains of twenty-six people in his home in Paris after World War II. // Early life Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot was born January 17... Marseilles redirects here. ... Alternate newspaper: The Daily Mirror (Australia) The Daily Mirror is a popular British tabloid daily newspaper. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Independent Television (generally known as ITV, but also as ITV Network) is a public service network of British commercial television broadcasters, set up under the Independent Television Authority (ITA) to provide competition to the BBC. ITV is the oldest commercial television network in the UK. Since 1990 and the Broadcasting... Clock Tower 3 ) is a survival horror game and is the fourth installment in the Clock Tower series by Capcom. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Haigh’s victims

  • William Donald McSwann, 6 September 1944
  • Donald and Amy McSwann, 2 July, 1945
  • Archibald and Rosalie Henderson, 12 February, 1948
  • Olive Henrietta Robarts Durand-Deacon, 18 February, 1949

See also

John Bodkin Adams, suspected serial killer and also a member of the Plymouth Brethren. John Bodkin Adams, (January 21, 1899–July 4, 1983) was a general practitioner in Eastbourne cleared of murdering one of his patients. ... Serial killers are individuals who have a history of multiple slayings of victims who were usually unknown to them beforehand. ... The Brethren are a Christian Evangelical movement that began in Dublin, London, Plymouth, and the continent of Europe in the late 1820s. ...


  • The Times, court reports, 9 and 26 March 1949; 29 July 1949; 19 January 1951.

The Times is a national newspaper published daily in the United Kingdom (and the Kingdom of Great Britain before the United Kingdom existed) since 1788 when it was known as The Daily Universal Register. ...

External links



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