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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Haigh
JohnGeorgeHaigh.jpg
Police photograph of Haigh in 1949
Born
John George Haigh

(1909-07-24)24 July 1909
Died10 August 1949(1949-08-10) (aged 40)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Other namesAcid Bath Murderer
MotiveProfit
Criminal penaltyDeath
Details
Victims6–9
Span of crimes
1944–1949
CountryUnited Kingdom
WeaponsLead pipe, .38 calibre Webley revolver
Date apprehended
1949

John George Haigh (/hɡ/; 24 July 1909 – 10 August 1949), commonly known as the Acid Bath Murderer, was an English serial killer who was convicted for the murders of six people, although he claimed to have killed nine. Haigh battered to death or shot his victims and disposed of their bodies using sulphuric acid before forging their signatures so he could sell their possessions and collect large sums of money.

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  • ✪ The Acid Bath English Serial Killer - John George Haigh
  • ✪ John Haigh: The Acid Bath Murderer | Great Crimes & Trials
  • ✪ TALES FROM THE BLACK MUSEUM - John George Haigh (Discovery, 1999)
  • ✪ SCOTLAND YARD'S GREATEST INVESTIGATIONS - John George Haigh (History Channel, 1996)
  • ✪ THE BLACK MUSEUM - John George Haigh (Central TV, 1988)

Transcription

Just about all serial killers seem to have experienced some amount of trauma in childhood, but one thing that splits them apart is their intellect. Some of these killers seem like wild savages, barely self-aware. Others are extremely gifted, yet often display signs of psychopathy. Some are eloquent, attractive, and extremely cultured, such as the backpacker killer and lifelong scammer-turned celebrity, George Sobhraj, who read Nietzsche and Jung, classics and law, probably to be a better conniver. Then you’ve got the incredibly talented Ted Kaczynski, aka, the unabomber, who is said to have an IQ of 167. That’s slightly higher than violin prodigy Charlene Gallego, who with her husband brutally raped and killed mostly young girls in the late 70s. Today we’ll look at another talented killer, in this episode of the Infographics show, John George Haigh: Acid Bath Murderer. Just looking at pictures on the web, Haigh wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood movie of days gone by. It’s said he was incredibly charming, as well as suave and not too distressing to the female eye. But, like many killers that come across this way, he suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In short, that means someone who has feelings of grandiosity, is always seeking admiration, yet seems to have no empathy whatsoever. Do you know anyone who fits that description? If so, they can tick a box for possible future serial killer. So, our charmer Mr. Haigh was born July 24, 1909. He grew up near a place called Wakefield, which is located in West Yorkshire, northern England. They say it’s grim up north in that part of the UK. Back in Haigh’s day, it really was a grim place, being the backbone of industrial England. But it seems John wasn’t sent to work down the coal mine or in one of the textile mills; no, this lucky lad had it easier than some. But, he had some setbacks. Haigh is yet another serial killer that came from a very religious family – we sure are seeing a pattern in this series. In fact, Haigh’s dad, it’s said, had a mark on his head that he told his son had been put there by God as a brand to show that he had sinned in the past. The dad apparently told young John that if he sinned, he’d get a mark, too, but the mother could not fall victim to God’s branding iron as she was an angel. Not surprisingly, with this being told to John, he had a fuzzy sense of reality. He even committed a few sins as a child, and as he wasn’t marked, it’s said he sinned some more. He thought he’d escaped the wrath of God. Meanwhile, it’s said he went through his childhood suffering from terrible religious-themed nightmares. He didn’t even get to talk to other kids, as his dad built a huge fence around the house to keep other, not-so-pious people, out. But young John had some skills. He was brilliant at playing piano and from a young age showed an interest in classical music. He won scholarships to good schools and later a scholarship to Wakefield Cathedral. There he became a choirboy, which is perhaps a vocation you don’t expect of a future serial killer. After that he worked in a garage as he was very fond of automobiles, but he had to leave ‘cos he couldn’t stand the dirt. It’s even said he would only work on cars wearing rubber gloves and a mask. Haigh found a job to his liking, one that could be said to be in line with acts of cunning. That was working in advertising. But this is where his life of criminality started. He was fired for stealing. That didn’t stop him from getting a wife though, and he was married in 1934 to a woman he hardly knew. She filed for divorce within a few months after our man was charged with fraud. The child inside her would later be adopted. So, now we have a single man serving some time in jail. He gets out and becomes a recidivist, meaning he didn’t stop committing fraud. In fact, he was jailed many more times for doing things such as forging signatures on checks when buying cars, or selling fraudulent stock shares that were too good to be true. He was good at his job as he was articulate, smart and handsome, which goes a long way if you want to become a good fraudster. The problem was, he kept getting caught. And so, while sitting in his jail cell he came up with a cunning plan. If it’s the victims that keep getting me in trouble by blowing the whistle, just make sure there are no victims. Meaning, nothing left of them at all. Vanish them. His inspiration for this was a French serial killer named Georges-Alexandre Sarret, who had dissolved his victims in acid. Perhaps John should have read further, in that his inspiration ended-up losing his head to the guillotine… Out of prison, Haigh got his hands on some sulphuric acid and dropped some mice in pots of it. Yep, they dissolved. Now, does that work on humans? Yes, is the answer, and it’s very effective. According to one story about certain ways of dissolving bodies, acid is a great way, although the fumes are terrible, and it is dangerous, as it can burn you. According to that same article, Haigh did this: “He processed the bodies in a 45-gallon oil drum and reported that the victims dissolved completely in about two days.” It’s said he did this to six people, but there could have been three more. Who were they and how did he kill them? More importantly, why the hell did he kill them? Maybe this quote from him can partly answer that: “When I first discovered there were easier ways to make a living than to work long hours in an office, I did not ask myself whether I was doing right or wrong.’ That seemed to me to be irrelevant. I merely said, ‘This is what I wish to do’.” He added, “Go after women – rich, old women who like a bit of flattery. That’s your market, if you are after big money.” But he didn’t just kill older women. His first victim was a friend and former employer called William McSwan. He hit him over the head and threw his body in acid. A few days later and McSwan was nothing but sludge. Haigh told McSwan’s parents that their son had run away to avoid being called up for war. At the same time, Haigh was collecting his pension cheques, living in, and later selling his properties. He was flush with money at this point, but often gambled large amounts away. The parents became very suspicious, so Haigh invited them to his house after telling them their son was back and was dying to see them. Only they died after being hit over the head. Then they took a bath John had prepared for them. This conniver would be invited to the houses of the wealthy to play piano, only while hitting every note, he was noting what he could steal. He shot a wealthy couple he had played for and then stole all their belongings as well as forging their signature to buy more things. They took a bath, and John emptied out the sludge later. His final victim was a wealthy old woman, one whose husband had passed already. She met Haigh, who had said he was an engineer. She then told him she had this great idea to make artificial fingernails. Haigh said wonderful, come to my place and we’ll get to work. Only he shot her, and she became another person to take his special bath. He took her valuables, but it seems that was all. The cops had a lead as someone had seen Haigh with the missing rich woman. They visited his workshop, whereupon they found evidence that linked Haigh to all of the murders above. He was arrested, but he actually thought he would get away with it. You see, Haigh thought that if there were no bodies, then you couldn’t be convicted. He had read law and the term “corpus delicti”, which basically means there must be evidence before you can be convicted. Corpus meaning body and delicti meaning crime, so body of the crime. But the cops had evidence, they even found parts of bodies where Haigh had dumped the sludge, including bits of dentures, gallstones, a bit of a foot, and some human fat. Even though this sounds repulsive to us, some reports tell us that Haigh was also repulsed and found the whole matter of killing and dissolving rather unpleasant. For him it was just the best way to steal and get away with it. Haigh tried to plead insane given the gravity of his crimes and the fact he was versed in law, but the judge didn’t believe him. He talked of nightmares he had from a being a young child, trying to sound crazy. It didn’t work. He was hanged at the hands of prolific hangman Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949. As the story goes, just before he was hanged, he was asked by one of the guards if he wanted a drink, perhaps a brandy. Haigh replied, “Make it a large one, Old Boy.” So, do scammers ever get away with it? Does crime pay? It seems not, but why not tell us in the comments what you think about this and the man we talked about today. Also, be sure to check out our other video called Leonarda Cianciulli AKA The Human Flesh Soap Maker! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

Contents

Early life

John Haigh was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire,[1][2] and grew up in the village of Outwood, West Riding of Yorkshire. His parents were engineer John Robert Haigh and his wife Emily (née Hudson), members of the Plymouth Brethren, a conservative Protestant sect.[3]

Haigh later claimed that he suffered from recurring religious nightmares in his childhood. Despite these limitations, he developed great proficiency at the piano, which he learned at home.[4] He was fond of classical music and often went to concerts featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and many others.

Haigh won a scholarship to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield. He then won another scholarship to Wakefield Cathedral, where he became a choirboy. After school, he was apprenticed to a firm of motor engineers. After a year, he left that job, and took jobs in insurance and advertising. At age 21, he was fired after being suspected of stealing from a cash box.[5]

Marriage and imprisonment

On 6 July 1934, Haigh married 23-year-old Beatrice 'Betty' Hamer. The marriage soon disintegrated.[5] The same year that Haigh was jailed for fraud, Betty gave birth while he was in prison, although she gave the baby girl up for adoption and left Haigh. Haigh's conservative family ostracised him from then onwards.[6]

Haigh moved to London in 1936, and became chauffeur to William McSwan, a wealthy owner of amusement arcades. He also maintained McSwan's amusement machines. Thereafter he pretended to be a solicitor named William Cato Adamson with offices in Chancery Lane, London; Guildford, Surrey; and Hastings, Sussex. He sold fraudulent stock shares, purportedly from the estates of his deceased clients, at below-market rates. His scam was uncovered by someone who noticed he had misspelled Guildford as "Guilford" on his letterhead, an unlikely mistake from an educated solicitor. Haigh received a four-year prison sentence for fraud.[7] Haigh was released just after the start of the Second World War; he continued as a fraudster, and was sentenced to several further terms of imprisonment.

Haigh realised that his repeated arrests stemmed from leaving victims alive to report the crime, and he became intrigued by the crimes of French murderer Georges-Alexandre Sarret, who in 1925 had disposed of his victims' bodies via sulphuric acid.[7] While in prison, Haigh devised a method of destruction of the body of a murder victim by dissolving it in the acid. He experimented with field mice and found that it took only 30 minutes for the body to dissolve.[8][9]

"Acid Bath" murders

Haigh was freed from prison in 1943 and became an accountant with an engineering firm. Soon after, by chance, he bumped into his former employer William McSwan in The Goat pub in Kensington. McSwan introduced Haigh to his parents, Donald and Amy. [10] McSwan worked for them by collecting rents on their London properties, and Haigh became envious of his lifestyle.[7] On 6 September 1944, McSwan disappeared. Haigh later admitted hitting him over the head after luring him into a basement at 79 Gloucester Road, London SW7. He then put McSwan's body into a 40-gallon drum and tipped concentrated sulphuric acid onto it. Two days later he returned to find that the body had become sludge, which he poured down a manhole.[7]

He told McSwan's parents that their son had gone into hiding in Scotland to avoid being called up for military service. Haigh then took over McSwan's house and began collecting the rents for his parents, but he wanted the money from the properties. Donald and Amy became curious as to why their son had not returned as the war was coming to an end. On 2 July 1945, he lured them to Gloucester Road by telling them their son was back from Scotland for a surprise visit. He murdered them in his basement with blows to the head and disposed of them.[7]

Haigh stole William McSwan's pension cheques and sold their properties, stealing about £8,000, then moved into the Onslow Court Hotel in Kensington. Haigh was a gambler and was running short of money by the summer of 1947. To solve his financial troubles, he found another couple to kill and rob: Dr Archibald Henderson and his wife Rose, whom he murdered after feigning interest in a house that they were selling. He was invited to the Hendersons' flat by Rose to play the piano for their housewarming party. While at the flat Haigh stole Archibald Henderson's revolver, 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 Gloucester Road. Haigh was also known to have stayed at Crawley's George Hotel on several occasions.[11][12] On 12 February 1948, he drove Henderson to Crawley on the pretext of showing him an invention. 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 also.

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

Last victim and capture

Haigh's next and last victim was Olive Durand-Deacon, 69, the wealthy widow of solicitor John Durand-Deacon and a fellow resident at the Onslow Court Hotel. Haigh by then was calling himself an engineer, and Olive mentioned an idea to him that she had for artificial fingernails. He invited her down to the Leopold Road workshop on 18 February 1949 and, once inside, he shot her in the back of the neck with the .38 caliber Webley revolver that he had stolen from Archibald Henderson,[13] 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 found Haigh’s attaché case 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 rented by Haigh did not contain a floor drain, unlike the workshop he had rented at Gloucester Road in London. He therefore disposed of the remains by pouring out the container 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 during the trial.[14]

Haigh asked Detective Inspector Albert Webb during questioning, "Tell me, frankly, what are the chances of anybody being released from Broadmoor?"[15] (a high-security psychiatric hospital). The inspector said that 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."

Haigh then confessed that he had killed Durand-Deacon, the McSwans and the Hendersons—as well as three other people: a young man called Max, a girl from Eastbourne, and a woman from Hammersmith. These claims could not be substantiated.

Trial and execution

After arrest, Haigh remained in custody in Cell 2 of Horsham Police Station in Barttelot Road.[16] The cell door from his incarceration is now preserved in Horsham Museum. He was charged with murder, and had his first appearance before magistrates at the nearby courthouse in what is now known as the Old Town Hall, after which the full trial was held at Lewes Assizes.[17] Haigh pleaded insanity, claiming that he had drank the blood of his victims.

He confessed to having dreams dominated by blood as a young boy. When he was involved in a car accident in March 1944, his dream returned to him: "I saw before me a forest of crucifixes which gradually turned into trees. At first, there appeared to be dew or rain, dripping from the branches, but as I approached I realized it was blood. The whole forest began to writhe and the trees, dark and erect, to ooze blood...A man went from [sic] each tree catching the blood...When the cup was full, he approached me. 'Drink,' he said, but I was unable to move."[18]

The Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross KC (later Lord Shawcross), led for the prosecution, and urged the jury to reject Haigh’s defence of insanity because he had acted with malice aforethought.

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."[19]

It became apparent that Haigh had been using the acid to destroy victims' bodies because he misunderstood the meaning of the term corpus delicti, and mistakenly believed that, if the bodies could not be found, a murder conviction would not be possible. Despite the absence of his victims' bodies, there was sufficient forensic evidence for him to be convicted for the murders and subsequently executed.[20]

It took only minutes for the jury to find Haigh guilty. Mr Justice Travers Humphreys sentenced him to death.[21]

It was reported that Haigh, in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison, asked one of his prison guards, Jack Morwood, whether it would be possible to have a trial run of his hanging so everything would run smoothly. It is likely that his request went no further, or, if it did, the request was denied. Just prior to his execution, Haigh was asked if he wanted a brandy. He replied, "Make it a large one, old boy". Haigh was led to the gallows and hanged by executioner Albert Pierrepoint on 10 August 1949.

The case of John George Haigh was one of the post-1945 cases which gained considerable coverage in the newspapers even though Haigh's guilt was not questioned. The editor of the Daily Mirror, Silvester Bolam, was sentenced to a prison term for contempt of court for describing Haigh as a "murderer" while the trial was still under way.[22]

Haigh's confirmed victims

  • McSwan family:
    • William Donald McSwan (9 September 1944)
    • Donald and Amy McSwan (2 July 1945)
  • Henderson family:
    • Archibald and Rosalie Henderson (12 February 1948)
  • Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon, née Fargus (18 February 1949)

In popular culture

  • The Haigh case was dramatised in the episode "The Jar of Acid" on the 1951 radio series The Black Museum.
  • Hide My Eyes by Margery Allingham written in 1958 mirrors the Haigh case though indirectly.[23]
  • The mid-1960s unproduced Hitchcock project Kaleidoscope had been inspired by Haigh and serial killer Neville Heath.[24]
  • The role of Haigh was played by Martin Clunes in the ITV drama A Is for Acid.[25]
  • Nigel Fairs played Haigh in the Big Finish audio drama In Conversation with an Acid Bath Murderer (2011), which he also wrote. The cast included Richard Franklin as "Archie Henderson", Mandi Symonds as "Olive Durand-Deacon" and Louise Jameson (who also directed) as "Rose Henderson".[26]
  • For some years his waxwork was exhibited in the "Chamber of Horrors" at Madame Tussauds in London.
  • Haigh was referenced in the episode "The Final Chapter: The New Tricks in the Old Dogs" of the U.S. television series Bones.
  • The stage play Under a Red Moon, by Michael Slade, is a fictional account of Haigh's examination by a psychiatrist before his trial.
  • Stage play WAX by Micheal Punter is based upon a fictional meeting between Haigh and a woman (Anna), an artist from Madame Tussauds, who models his wax work for exhibition in the 'Chamber of Horrors' while he is in the condemned cell.[citation needed]
  • The video game Clocktower 3 references Haigh and his crimes directly with the in-game stalker, Corroder.

In music

See also

References

  1. ^ New Criminologist archives (April 2006). "John George Haigh – 'The Acid Bath Murderer'". New Criminologist. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2015. Archive extract published 10 November 2008.
  2. ^ "John George Haigh – Acid Bath Killer". Bedlam Asylum Crime Files. Horrorfind. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  3. ^ The Murders of the Black Museum: 1870-1970 ISBN 978-1-854-71160-1 p. 433
  4. ^ Root 2011, p. 24
  5. ^ a b Root 2011, p. 26
  6. ^ Honeycombe, Gordon (1982). The Murders of the Black Museum: 1870-1970. London, England: Hutchinson. p. 434. ISBN 978-1-854-71160-1.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Acid Bath Murderer". Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  8. ^ Ambler, Eric (1964). The Ability to Kill. London, England: Four Square. p. 14. ISBN 978-0892962389.
  9. ^ Hodge, James H. (1962). Famous trials 6: Thurtell and Hunt, Frederick Nodder, Peter Barnes and others, John George Haigh. Famous Trials. New York City: Penguin Publishing. p. 183. OCLC 221826770.
  10. ^ "A Walk in the Past: The Clacks family at the heart of the Acid Bath Murder". Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  11. ^ Radin, Edward D. (2008). The Deadly Reasons. Wildside Press LLC. ISBN 978-1-4344-6468-2.
  12. ^ The Trial of John George Haigh: (The acid bath murder). Volume 78 of Notable British trials, W. Hodge. 1953.
  13. ^ Hall, Angus (1976). Crimes of Horror. Phoebus Publishing. p. 6.
  14. ^ Jeffers, Harry Paul. Bloody business: an anecdotal history of Scotland Yard. Barnes & Noble. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-7607-1217-7.
  15. ^ Wilson, Colin; Pitman, Patricia (1984). Encyclopedia of Murder. London: Pan Books. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-330-28300-7.
  16. ^ "Sussex Police Headquarters, Old Police Station, Barttelot Road". Hidden Horsham. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Old Town Hall, Market Square". Hidden Horsham. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  18. ^ Hall 1976, p. 12
  19. ^ Root 2011, p. 179
  20. ^ Ramsland, K. (2006). "John George Haigh: a malingerer's legacy". The Forensic Examiner. 15 (4).
  21. ^ "Humphreys, Sir (Richard Somers) Travers Christmas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34053.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  22. ^ Greenslade, Roy (2004). Press gang: how newspapers make profits from propaganda. Pan Macmillan. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-330-39376-8.
  23. ^ DuBose, Martha Hailey; Thomas, Margaret C. (11 December 2000). Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. Macmillan. ISBN 9780312209421. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  24. ^ Barber, Nicholas (21 June 2018). "Why Hitchcock's Kaleidoscope was too shocking to be made". BBC. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Martin Clunes: he pass the acid test?". The Independent. 5 September 2002. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  26. ^ "1.3. In Conversation With an Acid Bath Murderer - Drama Showcase". Big Finish. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2012.

Bibliography

  • The Times, court reports, 9 and 26 March 1949; 29 July 1949; 19 January 1951.
  • Honeycombe, Gordon (1984). The Murders of the Black Museum: 1870-1970. Wiltshire: Bloomsbury Books.
  • Lane, Brian (1995). Chronicle of 20th Century Murder. Wiltshire: Select Editions. ISBN 978-0-425-14649-1.
  • Root, Neil (2011). Frenzy!: Heath, Haigh and Christie. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-099-55776-0.

External links

This page was last edited on 10 November 2019, at 17:51
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