JOHN GEORGE HAIGH
I would like to stress that John George Haigh had left Outwood and was living at No. 79 Gloucester Road, South West London. when the following events occured. When reading his sometimes chilling account of what occured remember he was a compulsive liar.
HIS FIRST VICTIM
In the words of George Haigh “In the first instance I am led to young McSwan. I have hit him with either a leg of a pin-table or a piece of piping. I could not be sure which. I have cut his neck with a penknife. I attempt to drink the blood, but unsuccessfully, and grab a glass from a sink to catch it. I drank the blood slowly and with much satisfaction.
Eventually I stood up and was appalled by the presence of a corpse on my hands. I left the question of dealing with the corpse until the following day, and went home to bed.
The question of disposal did not arise until after the event. Then the method appeared obvious. I already had at Gloucester Road a quantity of sulfuric acid for scaling metal.
I had first to find a drum in which to place the body. This was not difficult I discovered one which had been in use as a water butt for A.R.P. purposes in a churchyard.
To transport it back to the basement I borrowed a handcart from a builder’s yard. I put McSwan into the drum, and then considered the problem of getting the acid out of the carboy. This was something else which hadn’t occurred to me. I had to do it by bucket. Nor had I thought to prepare for the fumes. I was badly choked, and had to keep going out for fresh air.
Eventually the job was done, and I left the basement, locking the door behind me. Subsequently I returned to find the operation completely successful, and when the body had disappeared I poured the sludge down the drain. If anything like teeth remained they will now be down Barking Creek, or wherever it is the sewers of London ﬂow into the sea.”
John George Haigh was to commit 5 more murders and dispose of the bodies in exactly the same way.
It was his final victim Mrs Durand Deacon that led to his downfall. Mrs Constance Lane, an elderly lady who was a friend of Mrs Durand-Deacon. The day Mrs. Durand Deacon disappeared she was worried about her, for her friend was a person of extremely regular habits, and Mrs. Lane knew she would not go off like this without saying a word to anyone.
Next day, when she discovered Mrs. Durand Deacon’s bed had not been slept in, she was highly alarmed and spoke to another resident of the hotel about it, this was the suave smiling John George Haigh, whom she knew had arranged to meet her friend the previous day. Mr Haigh was not at all concerned.
But next morning, Sunday, 20th February, 1949, and with still no news of her friend, her mind was made up. She would go to the police. George Haigh drove Mrs. Lane round to the police station, and waited while she conﬁded her fears to the oﬁicer in charge. Then he drove her back to the hotel again.
For Chelsea’s busy policemen this was a routine enquiry, and they sent along Sergeant Alexandra Maude Lambourne to make the necessary report. Among the people she spoke to at the hotel was Haigh, and, for some reason, Sergt. Lambourne thought his manner was a bit too smooth.
She was a shrewd woman, and a ﬁrst rate judge of character. His room was searched, the workshop at Crawley was opened up, and its secrets revealed. Haigh hadn’t even bothered to hide the acid, or the gas mask, or the drum in which he had dumped the body. Blood spots still spattered the walls.
He was asked if he could assist the police in their enquiries. He could. In fact he could tell them exactly how Mrs. Durand-Deacon died. And then, in startling sentences, he blurted out the whole story.
And, so typical of the man, when John George Haigh made a confession it was the biggest and best confession in the history of crime.
Haigh was put on trial on Monday 18th August 1949 at the Sussex Assizes in Lewes. He had no money to pay for his defence so the News of the World newspaper did a deal with him and offered to pay for his counsel if he would provide them with an exclusive.
The Daily Mirror newspaper was found in contempt of court for explicitly portraying Haigh as a vampire. The editor, Silvester Bolam, was sentenced to three months in prison.
The jury retired on the second day and it took just 17 minutes to find him perfectly sane and guilty of murder. Mr Justice Travers Humphreys sentenced him to death and it was announced that there would be no appeal.
Haigh said of the trial, “When I was sentenced to death by Sir Travers Humphries I couldn’t stop laughing, I saw the judge don his black cap and he looked the entire world like a sheep with its head peering out from under a rhubarb leaf.”
On Wednesday 10th August a crowd of around 500 people gathered outside Wandsworth Prison in bright sunshine. At 9am John George Haigh was hanged by Albert Pierpoint, assisted by Harry Kirk.
George Haigh told a warder in Wandsworth Prison “ Friday was always an important and fatal day for
me. I was married on a Friday, every killing was on a Friday, I was arrested on a Friday, and I was Brought before the magistrates on a Friday.”
But he was sentenced to death on a Tuesday and hanged on a Wednesday.
Years later, when living in their neatly kept villa in Leeds, broken and bewildered by the fate which had
overtaken their only son,
Mrs. Haigh, over 80, gentle, white-haired, kindly, remained convinced that those months of strain and despair at the time of their son’s birth were the cause of what she believed to be the mental sickness which turned him into a murderer.
‘Throughout his life, Haigh suffered from a recurring dream: he spoke of a forest of crucifixes that would gradually turn into trees and drip with blood. He would see a man collecting the blood into a cup but he always awakened before he could take a drink. It was the dream, Haigh would confess to the police after his arrest, that made him believe he needed blood in order to live.
Investigation of the sludge at the workshop by the pathologist Keith Simpson revealed Mrs Durand’s plastic handbag, 28 pounds of human fat, corroded human bones, three human gallstones and part of a denture which was later identified by Mrs Durand-Deacon’s dentist during the trial.
From the Paperback “The Authentic & Revealing Story of John George Haigh by S Sommerfeld. and the website, The old police cells museum.