Tic Toc, Tic Toc
"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."
John George Haigh was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire,and grew up in the village of Outwood, West Yorkshire. His parents, John Robert, an engineer, and Emily, née Hudson, were members of the Plymouth Brethren, a conservative Protestant sect who advocated austere lifestyles. He was confined to living within a 10 ft fence that his father put up around their garden to lock out the outside world. Haigh would later claim he suffered from recurring religious nightmares in his childhood. Despite these limitations, Haigh developed great proficiency in the piano, which he learned at home. 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 sacked after being suspected of stealing from a cash box. Haigh then married 23 year-old Beatrice Hamer. The marriage soon fell apart. The same year Haigh was jailed for fraud, Betty gave birth while he was in prison but she gave the baby girl up for adoption and left Haigh. Likewise, his conservative family ostracised him from that point onwards.
While in prison he dreamed up what he considered the perfect murder of being able to destroy the body by dissolving it with sulphuric acid. He experimented with mice and found it took only 30 minutes for the body to disappear.
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.
William Donald McSwan
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
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
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.
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
CaptureTwo 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 not only found Haigh’s attaché case containing a dry cleaner’s receipt for Mrs. Durand-Deacon’s coat, but also papers referring to the Hendersons and McSwans. Further investigation of the sludge at the workshop by the pathologist Keith Simpson revealed three human gallstones and part of a denture which was later identified by Mrs Durand-Deacon's dentist during the trial and conviction.
Questioned by Detective Inspector Albert Webb, Haigh asked him "Tell me, frankly, what are the chances of anybody being released from Broadmoor?" (a high security psychiatric hospital). The inspector said 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 not only killed Durand-Deacon, the McSwans and Hendersons, but also three other people: a young man called Max, a girl from Eastbourne, and a woman from Hammersmith.
ExecutionIt took only minutes for the jury to find Haigh guilty. Mr Justice Travers Humphreys sentenced him to death. Haigh was led to the gallows and hanged by executioner Albert Pierrepoint on 10 August 1949.