Historical Murders presented by Paul Stickler


Acid Bath Murders

aka John Haigh: cold-blooded killer

Between 1944 and 1949

Headshot for the Acid Bath Murders
Headshot for the Acid Bath Murders

When Olive Durand Deacon went uncharacteristically missing in 1949 from the Onlsow Court Hotel in west London, focus quickly turned towards John George Haigh, a man who had been seen to recently ingratiate himself with the widow.

Almost boasting, Haigh told police that he had murdered the missing woman, but her body would never been found since he had dissolved it in sulphuric acid. A search of his factory premises unearthed several clues that suggested his claim was true, but there was no sign of a body.

Amazingly, Haigh went on to say that his experiments with sulphuric acid had been going on for several years and he had systematically murdered five other people in the space of 5 years.

Illustration for the The Acid Bath Murders
“How can you prove murder if there is no body?”

He had dissolved each of their bodies in 45-gallon drums containing the corrosive acid.

Enquiries confirmed that each of the victims had not been seen for several years and Haigh’s claims were proving to be correct. He had murdered two families: William and Amy McSwann and their son William and three years later, Archie and Rose Henderson. His motive for murder was pure greed. After each of the cold-blooded killings, he forged documents and deceived solicitors and families into believing he was entitled to their assets and spent the proceeds on hotel bills, fine wine and gambling. When the money ran out, he simply looked for another wealthy victim. Haigh pleaded not guilty to murder on the grounds that he was insane and even volunteered that he had drunk the blood of each of his victims. Shortly before his trial he admitted to other killings though there was no evidence to support his claims. The jury did not believe him to have been insane and Haigh was hanged in 1949. Since leaving school, he had spent most of his time deceiving people, going to prison and spending other people’s money.

The victims...
Olivia Durand Deacon, William McSwann, William Donald McSwann, Amy McSwann and Archie and Rose Henderson
Another pile of photos from The Acid Bath Murders
  • How did Haigh get access to sulphuric acid?

    He had fraudulently set up a business as an engineering company which purportedly needed sulphuric acid. He had no problem in ordering as much he needed

  • Where was Haigh’s factory where he murdered Olive Durand Deacon?

    Leopold Road, Crawley. The building no longer exists.

  • Why did people not report the victims as missing?

    Haigh managed to convince friends and family that each of the victims had genuine reasons to be away. Some did raise concerns and one relative threatened to go to the police, but none was ever reported as officially missing.

  • Were any body parts found at all?

    Yes, some remnants of human bone were found, some teeth and some gall stones.

  • How did Haigh murder his victims?

    We only have his own version of this. The McSwanns were hit about the head and the Hendersons and Durand Deacon were shot with a .38 calibre Enfield revolver

Further reading...
Cover of The Acid Bath Murders

The Acid Bath Murders

Gordon Lowe


Cover of John George Haigh: The Acid-Bath Murderer

John George Haigh: The Acid-Bath Murderer

Jonathan Oates


Cover of Murder with a Difference

Murder with a Difference

Mary Lefebure



The Acid Bath Murders case is available as a presentation. Whether delivered on world-wide cruise ships or in a local village hall, it's absorbing, informative, and entertaining. Contact Paul Stickler for more information...

Paul Stickler presenting on stage on a cruise ship