The Vampire of London: John George Haigh

Murder for Profit

Between 1944 and 1949 John George Haigh, known as The Vampire of London and The Acid Bath Murderer, killed 6 people for profit. Admitting to a further three murders after his arrest, although these were not substantiated.

Using forgery to give himself power of attorney over the victim’s property he made quite a significant amount of money in post-war Britain.  Although his final victim only netted him £110 before he was caught.

Smashed or Shot

A swindler and a crook, he was in and out of prison for forgeries and theft. But it wasn’t until 1944 that he began murdering his victims. Deception was not difficult for him and after murdering his first victim he convinced the family that he was, in fact, hiding out so he wouldn’t be drafted. A year later he’d had another idea, and murdering the parents of his first victim and then posing as their son, he took control of their property and sold it. Making a tidy profit.

Haigh’s first three victims -William McSwann and his parents- had their skulls bashed in in Haigh’s workshop. Before he disposed of the bodies. His next three victims -The Hendersons and Mrs Durand-Deacon- were shot with a weapon previously stolen from Dr Hendersons own home.

The three victims who he also claimed to have murdered were two females -one from Eastbourne and one from Hammersmith, and a male named Max.

Means of Disposal

Once he’d murdered his victims he took the bodies and stuffed them into barrels. Pouring Sulphuric Acid on the remains so that they would melt and he could then dispose of the sludge on a nearby wasteground. The signature behaviour that caught him the nickname The Acid Bath Murderer.

Caught

Taking Mrs Durand-Deacon’s friend to the police station to report her absence was his first mistake. The desk sergeant was immediately suspicious of Mr Haigh. As Haigh disposed of the barrel of sludge that had been Mrs Durand-Deacon and having her jewellery valued, the police were looking at his file. And when he returned to the hotel they were waiting for him.

Whilst he stuck to his statement about the missed appointment. The police weren’t relying on that evidence alone. And paid a visit to his workshop. There they found a recently fired gun, a receipt for the dry cleaning of a coat, and the leather apron and gas mask. Haigh wore them when using the sulphuric acid.

Convinced he couldn’t be sentenced to murder

Trying both an insanity plea and holding to the belief that he couldn’t be charged with murder if no remains were found. His attempts to avoid jail and spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital failed.

The Vampire of London: Drinking their Blood

John George Haigh 1909-1949, The Vampire of London

Before leaving the scene and disposing of the evidence, Haigh would drink a cup of the victim’s blood. Or so he claimed in his statement to the police once he was arrested.

Involved in a car accident Haigh said that due to an injury blood seeped into his mouth. Awakening the memory of a dream he’d had when he was younger. Where trees dripped with blood and a man collected it in a cup. And a desire to drink human blood. This was perhaps the turning point from fraudster to murderer.

But it is perhaps wise to remember, Haigh was fully aware that if found to be insane he could not be tried for murder. He knew in advance the consequences of his actions and how he might beat them.

The papers took to calling him a vampire, although they were fined for using such a term, and he became known as The Vampire of London. But because of his method of body disposal, he was also known as The Acid Bath Murderer.

Evidence recovered

The Vampire of London’s final victim provided the evidence despite the majority of the victim’s bodies never being recovered. The pathologist found Mrs Olive Durand-Deacon dentures. As well as bone fragments, and personal items. Proving both who she was and that she had been murdered. As well as gallstones, blood spatter evidence and human fat (which could have provided a protective layer to the bone fragments that did survive).

It took the jury 17 minutes to find him guilty. Hung for murder the 10th of August, 1949: John George Haigh -The Vampire of London and the Acid Bath Murderer.

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