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"Acid Bath Murderer"
Personal Information || Victims || Modus Operandi || Motives || Quotes || Comments || Links
John George Haigh (The Acid Bath Murderer)
"The shaping of a killer from a deeply disturbed childhood..."

What drove this dapper englishman to systematically destroy his victims in a very sophisticated manner, so as to avoid detection? It was only a matter of time before the police would question him regarding the spate of disappearances...

Personal Information
Name John George Haigh
Aliases "The Acid Bath Murderer"
Location UK
Born 1910
Died 10th August 1949 (Death by hanging, Wandsworth prison)
Status Deceased

William Donald McSwann (?) 1944

Haigh's first known victim was the son of his second and third victims, Donald McSwann and Amy McSwann. He was murdered in a similar method to all the others, incapacitated before being having some of his blood removed for consumption, then being placed into a large vat of acid for decomposition into a viscous sludge.

Donald McSwann & Amy McSwann (?) 1946

Parents of the unfortunate William Donald McSwann, both were killed in the same fashion after being led along by Haigh that their son had "run-away" to avoid being called up into service...

Archibald Henderson & Rosalie Henderson (?) 1948

Husband and wife were both duped by Haigh's impeccable manner and respectability and were later fated to be Haigh's new victims. Mr. Henderson was taken to Haigh's store room (much like his other victims) and disposed of in his now trademark fashion. Mrs. Henderson was lured the following day and met a similar demise.

Olive Durand-Deacon (69) Died 18th February 1949

Mrs. Durand-Deacon killed while facing Haigh with her back, whereby he promptly shot her in the back of her neck. Haigh then severed an artery in the body to extract some blood which he then consumed. This activity later be referred to in his trial in an elaborate attempt to plead insanity. Unfortunately for Haigh, his activities were viewed very suspiciously by a close friend of his latest victim, which caused an inescapable series of events which eventually led to Haigh's apprehension.

Modus Operandi

John George Haigh methodically planned each of his murders, with all three stages carefully though out to prevent untidy, or messy finishes to his activities.

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). He concealed the gun upon his person once he had coaxed his intended target inside his workshop. Then 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.


The initial explanation that Haigh supplied was that he was a vampire, and as such required the life blood of the living to sustain himself. The elaborate disposal methods he used on the bodies afterwards was merely a systematic way of ensuring that he would not be caught. Whatever the decision, the jury were convinced that it was a hasty ruse given by Haigh as part of an insanity plea, to prevent him being hung. It took just 15 minutes for the jury to find Haigh guilty of his crimes, and being very sane when he committed them

It was a mystery how an intelligent boy from a good home could be shaped into the cool, calm and calculating killer which Haigh evolved into. It eventually was left to Haigh himself to define those seminal moments in his childhood which would culminate into life shaping events.

His father was intensely religious, and as a young child was embedded deeply into his upbringing, with a focus on the more negative references in the Bible involving "Satan", "Thou shall not..", "Thy will not..." etc. This was also coupled with very vivid dreams involving crucifixes transforming into trees that wept blood (a possible reference to the crucifixion of Christ at Golgotha).

An important point to note at this stage is that whilst his childhood experiences may have had a profound effect in his actions, he kept detailed accounts of his murders, possibly as a form of recollecting the events when he needed to "re-live" the experience (as a form of "trophy"). These records make for a very disturbing, yet fascinating reading into the mind of a serial killer.


Whilst awaiting execution, Haigh had this to say of his parents:

"Although my parents were kind and loving, I had none of the joys, or the companionship, which small children usually have. From my earliest years my recollection is of my father saying: 'Do no' or 'Thou shall not'. Any form of sport or light entertainment was frowned upon and regarded as not edifying. There was only condemnation and prohibition..."

"It is true to say that I was nurtured on Bible stories but mostly concerned with sacrifice. If by some mischance I did, or said, anything which my father regarded as improper, he would say: 'Do not grieve the Lord by behaving so.' And if I suggested that I wanted to go somewhere, or meet somebody, he would say: 'It will not please the Lord.'"

More ominously and disturbing, were Haigh's description of his recurring nightmare:

"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."


Its important to recognise how Haigh was able to repeatedly build up a relationship with his victims, gaining their trust to the extent that when he invited them to view his so called (and often hyped up) "workshop" they would have no apprehension about his intentions, up until Haigh shot them.

John George Haigh ability to "fit-in" with other people helped him to carry out his activities for a very long time before finally being caught, which one could blame upon his upbringing without him being granted the option of living a shy and sheltered life. In my opinion, it is unusual for Haigh to blame his strict religious upbringing in its entirety (which was believed to be a main component in Haigh's psychological make-up of why he murdered) as the reason why he killed. The fact that he would patiently wait for opportunity, and planned out how to lure the victim to the location he had setup with the appropriate tools required to dispose of the body, suggests that Haigh was looking to kill his victims, with an eye to acquire something from them.

However, if this was the case, he didn't do a "good job". His bank balance was frequently in the red, with the only recovered items from his earlier kills being the modest ration books in the names of his victims. Hardly a prize worth killing for, but perhaps an additional "bonus" in conjunction with the kill which allowed Haigh to get by.


Links soon to follow.

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