The Acid Bath Killer John George Haigh

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John, a bright middle-class man, claimed he killed six people of a religious sect his parents believed in and it influenced him immensely. He had religious nightmares that would ultimately lead to his psychotic break. He was obsessed with religious iconography and sacrificial fantasies. John was born on 24th July 1909 in Lincolnshire in a village Outwood, West Riding of Yorkshire.

What was John Haigh’s childhood like?

His parents belonged to the Plymouth Brethren religious sect. All forms of entertainment were seen as sinful therefore John had a lonely and bleak life with only his dog as a friend. His father told him that when he would sin a blue blemish on his head will appear. As time went on John saw that although he lied and broke all the rules, no blue blemish would appear. This was a turning point in his life as he felt invincible and that he could get away with anything.

He turned to music where he developed a proficiency in playing the piano. He often went to classical music concerts, was self-trained on the piano and won two scholarships and was a choir boy.

John’s early career and marriage

After school he worked as an apprentice at a motor engineering firm but, he kept the job only for a year. He went over to sales and advertising, as he enjoys dressing up. His life of crime started at the age of twenty-one when he was fired for stealing money out of the cash box.

He married Beatrice Hammer (21) on 6th July 1934. At that stage he was not part of his parent’s religious sect anymore, his parents did allow Beatrice and John to stay with them. Beatrice was charmed by John’s manners but, she was unsure about him. John, in turn, knew nothing of Beatrice.

While married to Beatrice, John starts his own business forging vehicle documents. Just four months into the marriage he was prosecuted for fraud, while he was in prison, his wife had a baby girl who she immediately gave up for adoption. In October of 1934, he was sentenced to 15 months, and Beatrice divorced him.

After he was released from prison, he changes his life around and started a dry cleaning business with a partner. He was successful in his business but, tragedy struck, his business partner was killed in a car crash, and with that, his dreams in the dry cleaning business disappeared. Not much is known about the partnership.

After his own business failed, he moved to London in 1936 and became a chauffeur for William McSwan. William was wealthy and made a name for himself by owning amusement arcades.  John also maintained the amusement machines for William. William saw the potential and wanted to promote him, but John had his sights set on something else, and the McSwan family was sad to see him go.

John gets back into crime

John starts yet another criminal enterprise and goes from a decent job to selling fraudulent stock shares, pretending to be William Cato Adamson from Chancery Lane, London.

Someone uncovered his criminal activities by the misspelling of his letterhead, and he went to jail for four years for fraud.When he got out of jail it was the start of World War II, he continued to be a petty thief and received several more sentences.

Where did John Haigh get his ideas for killing from?

At that time he was at Lincoln Prison, and he was inspired by the French murderer Georges- Alexandre. He would dispose of his bodies through sulphuric acid. An obvious choice would be to go after older wealthy women, they are vulnerable and have lots of money.

To test his theory, he started working in the prison’s tin shop where he tests the sulphuric acid on mice and the effects of acid on animal tissue. It turns out that it only takes 30 minutes to dissolve the body. He thought that if there was no corpse there would be nothing to convict him. Somewhere in his twisted mind, he mistook the meaning of “Corpus Delicti.”

I included this video of the effects of Sulfuric acid on meat. It is very disgusting.

John gets to test out his new skills

He was released from prison in 1943 and became an accountant at an engineering firm.

By chance, he bumped into his old employer William at The Goat Pub in Kensington in 1944. With the friendship rekindled William took John to meet his parents Donald and Amy. William worked for his parents and collected the money from their London properties for them.

The Goat Tavern and how it looks today.

On the 9th September 1944, John hits William over the head after he lured William into his basement. John rented a small basement workshop in Kensington where he worked on his inventions. John placed William’s body in a barrel of sulfuric acid. Two days after he put William’s body in the sulphuric acid the body was just sludge, and he threw him down a utility hole.

He told Amy and Donald that their son went into hiding in Scotland in fear of being called up for the military service. He even forged documents that he wrote from William to his parents. Since Amy and Donald trusted him, he started to collect the rent money from their properties for them, but since he was envious of their lifestyle he not only wants to collect the money, but he wants to spend it as well. Amy and Donald could not understand that their son would go into hiding since the war was almost over.

Amy and Donald became concerned about their son. John decides to curb their inquisitive minds and lure them to Gloucester road on the 2nd July 1945. He told them that it is a surprise visit from John. They were ecstatic as they thought they would see their son again and could not wait to go.

Unfortunately, they drove themselves to their murder scene. Both Amy and Donald died from blows to the head, and he drank their blood before disposing of their bodies in a barrel of sulphuric acid. Now that he has their properties and cash he starts to live the life he always wanted.

He took the pension cheques of Donald and sold their properties and stole about 8,000 pounds. After the murders of the McSwan family, he moved to Onslow Court Hotel in Kensington.

He gambled most of the money away and by the summer of 1947, needed more cash.

John murders the Archibald’s

He realized that he had the perfect murder scheme and found another couple to kill and rob. His next victims were Dr. Archibald and his wife, Rose Henderson. He met them at a house that they were selling. Rose asked him to play the piano at their new apartment for their housewarming party. While he was at the apartment for the housewarming, he stole Archibald’s gun to use it on them at a later stage. John decides to rent a new workshop, this time at 2 Leopold road, Crawley Sussex, John would sometimes stay at the Crawley George Hotel. He drove Archibald and Rose to Crawley; he told them that they should come and look at his inventions.

John took Archibald to the workshop and shot him in the head with the revolver he stole. He lured Rose to the workshop and told her that Archibald became ill. He shot her in the back of the head, and he disposed of their bodies in a barrel of sulphuric acid. John booked Rose and Archibald out of the hotel and took their possessions. He wrote a letter to sell all of their possessions for which he got 8,000 pounds. He did keep their car and dog.

So by 1949 February, John had stayed in the Crawley George Hotel for four years. He was running out of money and owed the hotel money for the room he stayed in. It was then that he thought it was time to kill someone again.

John’s final murder and his downfall as a serial killer

His next victim was Olivia Durand- Deacon. She was a wealthy 69-year-old widow who stayed at the hotel for six years and John told everyone that he was an engineer.

Olivia came to him and said that she had an idea for artificial fingernails, and he invited her to his workshop.He then shot Olivia in the back of the head, took all her valuables including a Persian lamb coat she had on and put her in a barrel of sulphuric acid. This murder did not give him a lot of money. He sold off her coat and jewels and just had enough money to pay his bill at the hotel and all of the necessary payments. When Olivia’s body turned to sludge in the acid, he threw the contents out of the window of his workshop.

Constance Lane a good friend of Olivia asked John if he had not seen or heard from her. John told her that they had a meeting planned, but Olivia failed to turn up. Constance was so concerned about her friend that she told John she is going to report her friend missing.John said that he would accompany her to the police station, he wants to divert suspicion away from himself. The policewoman who took the statement from Constance said John looked suspicious from the start.

Local police Sergeant Lambourne, ran a background check on John and by the next Monday Scotland Yard’s Record Office was contacted, and John’s criminal history came to light. The detectives went to the hotel, and John gave them his statement telling them Olivia had an appointment to see him but she never turned up, and he knew nothing further.

On Thursday the police were back at the hotel to ask him more questions. Saturday the 26th February, the police visited his workshop in Crawley.  Upon investigating his workshop, the police uncovered an apron, gas mask and in an attaché case a receipt of the dry cleaning of Olivia. In the workshop, the police found damning evidence that connects him to the murders of Archibald, Rose, Donald, and Amy. The sludge that was found next to his workshop was identified as Olivia, and it consisted of 28 pounds of human fat, three gallstones and a part of dentures.

Monday 28th February was the day that John arrogantly confessed the murders. I destroyed her in acid was his cold reply when the detective asked him about Olivia. John went on to say that the authorities could not do anything to him as there are no corpses. For some reason, he confessed that he drank all his victim’s blood.

The trail was on Monday 18th August 1949, in Lewes. The News of the World made a deal with him. They would pay for his counsel if he provided them with an exclusive story, he agreed. The court held The Daily Mirror in contempt for saying that John was a vampire. It only took 17 minutes for the jury to give a guilty verdict. He received the death sentenced without an appeal. John’s execution was at Wandsworth Prison at 9 am on 10 August 1949. 500 people gathered around the prison for John’s death.

6 Interesting Facts about John George Haigh

1. As a young boy, John had dreams about blood. In the dreams, the trees in the forest told him to drink the blood.

2. In Wandsworth Prison, John asked one of the correctional officers if he can have a trial run of his execution. His request was denied.

3. John modeled for a death mask made by Madame Tussaud’s waxworks. He left his clothes and gave instructions that he waxwork must always be spotless.

4. John kept his word to the newspaper that paid for his trail and completed his life story.

5. John’s case took the popular culture by storm. A Japanese band Church of Misery made a song called Make Them Die Slowly.

6. Different TV shows portrayed the murders. Bones Episode 3, Season 12. Clock Tower 3,  the video game described John as a fictional boss character.The radio featured an episode called The Jar of Acid in 1951.


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