English Serial Killer

John George Haigh

"Acid Bath Murderer"

  • Serial Killer, comitted his crimes by robberies- claims that he drank the victim's blood.
  • 6 victims
  • Dates of murders: 1944-1949
  • Date of arrest: February 26, 1949
  • Date of birth: July 24, 1909
  • Victims: William Donald McSwan/ Donald and Amy McSwan/ Dr.Archibald Henderson, 52 and his wife Rosalie, 41/ Olive Henrietta Robarts Durand-Deacon,69.
  • Method of murder: Beating with a blunt instrument/ Shooting
  • Location:London, England, United Kingdom
  • Status:Executed by hanging at Wandsworth prison on Aug 10, 1949


He was convicted of the murders of six people, although he claimed to have killed a total of nine. He did not use acid to actually kill his victims, but rather as a (he believed) foolproof method of body disposal - dissolving their bodies in concentrated sulphuric acid before forging papers in order to sell their possessions and collect substantial sums of money.

During the investigation, it became apparent that Haigh was using the acid to destroy victims' bodies because he misunderstood the term corpus delicti, thinking that if victims' bodies could not be found, then a murder conviction would not be possible. The substantial forensic evidence notwithstanding the absence of his victims' bodies was sufficient for him to be convicted for the murders and subsequently executed.

  • 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.

  • Haigh’s motivations for his crimes, which involved luring his prey to a fate where their blood was consumed before being dissolved in acid, have never been clearly corroborated. His claim to have been disturbed in his childhood by his strict religious parents, leading to a psychotic state of mind obsessed with religious iconography and sacrificial fantasies, has been developed. Critics believe that instead of insanity fuelling Haigh’s vampire-like activities, he was in fact a cold-hearted killer who arrogantly believed that where there was no body, there was no crime to pin on him.

Childhood and adult life:

  • Born in Stamford and grew up in the village of Outwood, West Yorkshire. His parents, Alfred and Emily, and were extremely conservative, anti-modern protestant. Haigh would later claim that he suffered from recurring religious nightmares in his childhood. But he still developed great piano skills and won a scholarship tp Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield.
  • After school, he worked in a insurance and advertising job, he was fired for being suspect of stealing from the cash box.
  • He then married Betty Hammer, in 1934. He was jailed for fraud, and Betty gave birth to their child but gave him for adoption, then she left him.
  • 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.
  • Involving setting up a false solicitor’s office, earned him four years in prison. It was while he was incarcerated that he thought up a new scheme to become rich quickly, instead of toiling for a living. His plan was simply to go after rich, older women. Haigh had also convinced himself that if there was no corpse, then there could be no conviction.


  • The first stage was to isolate the victim from any familiarity around them (escorting to his glamorised "workshop", which was nothing more than an adjacent room next to a factory). In all of the above cases, his victims were always led under a pretence of discovery, which was based upon his initial friendship established with each of them. Put quite simply, they had absolutely no reason to suspect Haigh of performing anything unusual, until it was too late.
  • The next stage was to cleanly render his target incapable of responding to his attack (via the use of a .38 Webley revolver). Haigh would seize any opportune moment to kill the victim with as little effort as possible on his part.
  • Finally, and probably most difficult of all, was the traceless disposal of the body (vats of industrial acid). It was Haigh's mistaken (and arrogant) belief that a corpse could be completely disposed of via the acid. Unfortunately for Haigh, certain parts of the human body are more resilient to attack than most people realise, either by their very nature (such as teeth and bone) and artificial items (such as dentures) and are usually picked up as trace evidence by forensic experts. Haigh's false assumption that murder could not be proved without the body was to have lead to his downfall.
  • One other key element in all the murders is the violations performed on the victims in the consumption of blood. Though the murders were very important to Haigh, he also saw the need to sustain himself financially, and would thus strip the body of any valuables that he could use himself (things such as jewelry, and ration cards which he later used for himself). These would later be found at his home, which provided further damning evidence against him.

Forensic evidence:

Even although the acid had destroyed a great deal of evidence, not everything had been eliminated. Such small bones and dentures were left behind, Mr Henderson’s foot and a gall bladder were all discovered, as the forensic team sifted through tons of mud and sludge. Technicians had to wear rubber gloves and cover their arms in Vaseline to protect themselves from the acid. They found the following items.

1. 28 pounds of human body fat

2. 3 faceted gallstones

3. Part of a left foot, not quite eroded

4. 18 fragments of human bone

5. Upper and lower dentures, intact

6. The handle of a red plastic bag

7. A lipstick container


"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. Suddenly the whole forest began to writhe and the trees, stark and erect, to ooze blood...A man went to each tree catching the blood...When the cup was full he approached me. 'Drink,' he said, but I was unable to move."