The Acid Bath Murderer

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John George Haigh was a very charming and well educated Englishman, a crook, a con man, and from 1944 – 1949 he tried his hand at serial killing. We know for a fact that this man killed 6, though he confessed to having murdered 3 more than that. Not a super high body count, but he is an interesting one!

So John was brought up in West Yorkshire by very religious parents who had been heavily involved in a religion called the Plymouth Brethren, and it sounds rather cult like. John had not been permitted to behave as a normal child, and was pretty much kept away from other children his age. His father had some sort of mark on his forehead, and he’d told his son that God had marked him there as punishment for his sins. A young John decided to try his hand at crimes such as theft in order to see if God would give him the same kind of mark which his father had; of course that didn’t happen, but the criminal behavior contributed. John was often in trouble breaking the law, usually theft of some sort, and as a young man he was fired by his employer for stealing.

At age 21 John married a young woman named Beatrice Hammer. Soon after the couple became man and wife, John was arrested for fraud. While he was imprisoned Beatrice gave birth to a baby girl; the infant was given up for adoption, the couple divorced, and John’s parents pretty much disowned their son. After his release from prison John continued his life of crime; he was arrested multiple times for fraud and theft.

Somewhere along the way John picked up the heavily misinformed notion that a killer could not be convicted of murder unless the police were able to find the corpse. Of course we all know this just isn’t true, but John thought he was clever enough to get away with it. During one of his more lengthy prison stays John began researching a killer by the name of Georges-Alexandre Sarret, a man who had soaked his victim’s corpses in acid. This seemed like a great idea – it would certainly get rid of a corpse and render his crime unprovable.

Once released from prison, John rented a small building; here he placed a 40 gallon drum and filled it with Sulfuric acid. Once he had this set up to his liking, the search for wealthy victims began.

John would meet someone he knew had money and begin to chat them up; the man had been good looking and, as is often the case with sociopaths, charismatic. Meeting people had not been too difficult for him. Once he’d obtained his victim’s trust, he would lure them away to his little building; often these people thought they were going to see John’s workspace for one reason or another. Once the killer had his victim where he wanted them, John would beat them to death, often with a pipe, and slit their throats – some were shot. Then, he’d place their remains in his handy vat of acid, and he’d allow the corpse to soak for a couple of days until they were no more than sludge.

Once the body had been dissolved, the killer would pour this sludge down the drain, or he’d simply dump it into the sewer or sometimes even the trash pile on his property. After this had all been taken care of and the killer was certain that he could not be tied to any murder, John would forge his victim’s name to appear that they’d made him heir to all of their belongings. From here he was free to sell all of their possessions, and the man did make a fortune doing this, he obtained thousands upon thousands of dollars. It was nothing to sneeze at, especially during this time period! John’s first victim had been an old acquaintance, and eventually he murdered that man’s parents as well.

Police eventually caught on to what John had been up to, how could they not? Though investigators never did find any full corpses, upon a search of his property they did discover other things; paperwork and other items which had belonged to the missing victims, a few human gallstones, a part of a foot, dentures, and nearly 30 pounds of human fat.

Once John realized he’d been dead wrong in his beliefs and that he absolutely could be charged with murder, he quickly changed his tactics; at this point he attempted to be deemed insane, he’d even stated that he’d often drank a glass of his victim’s blood. This didn’t work out the way he’d hoped; John was quickly found guilty by a jury of his peers and subsequently sentenced to death. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on August 10th of 1949; he’d been 40 years old.

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