John George Haigh

George Haigh Nickname: The Acid Bath Murderer

Reign of terror: 9 / 9 / 44 - 18 / 2 / 49

Motive: Profit


Date Victim Crime Place
9 / 9 / 44 William McSwan Murder Basement flat in Gloucester Road, Chelsea
1945 Donald and Amy McSwan Murder Basement flat in Gloucester Road
February 1948 Dr Archibald Henderson, and his wife Rosalie Murder Crawley
18 / 2 / 1949 Mrs Olive Durand-Deacon Murder Crawley

A month after his arrest he also admitted to three more murders - a woman and a youth in West London and a girl in Eastbourne. These have not been substantiated.

Method: His first 3 victims were beaten to death. The last 3 victims were shot with a .38 Enfield revolver belonging to Dr Henderson. Once the victims were dead, Haigh claims that he drank a cup of the victims' blood. He then pushed the body into a 45 gallon drum. Then he put on a rubber apron, gloves, wellies, and a gas mask and poured concentrated sulphuric acid into the drum to cover the body. The intense heat generated by the action of the sulphuric acid on the body melted the human bones completely. At least a couple of days later, Haigh returned and emptied the remaining sludge onto adjoining waste ground.

Sentence: Haigh was given the death sentence, and on 10/8/49 he was hanged.

Interesting facts: Haigh's original reason for killing his victims was for profit: from the McSwan family, it is estimated that he made about �4000, a lot of money in post-war Britain. He forged papers which gave him power of attorney and so he was able to sell off their property. By forging papers, he was able to sell property belonging to the Hendersons worth �8000. He also kept their dog. From Mrs Durand-Deacon, he only had the chance to sell her jewellery and fur coat worth a total of �110.

Although Haigh confessed, he did not think that he would be charged with murder for two reasons. He claimed in court that he was insane. This would let him off the murder charge, and he would spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital prison like Broadmoor. This plea failed however. His other reason was that he thought he couldn't be charged with murder if the body was never found. He was wrong in this. Added to that, remains of Mrs Durand-Deacon were found among the sludge. Home Office pathologist Keith Simpson quickly found a gallstone. He also found her dentures, which hadn't melted in the acid; fragments of her left foot, which when reconstucted fully fitted one of her shoes perfectly; pieces of pelvic bone, two discs from her lower spine; a handbag, a lipstick container, a hairpin and a notebook. This mass of physical evidence was enough - a body was not needed.