Take An Acid Bath: John George Haigh

He could be called a chemist, or at least a scientist.

He liked working with corpses. But he performed some very macabre experiments, that weren’t really experiments.

John George Haigh, unlike many scientists, was not working with chemicals in looking to benefit society with his work. He was just doing it for kicks, and it cost several people their lives, their fortunes … and their bodies.

Being called the “Acid Bath Murderer,” though, was a bit misleading – he only used the acid bath after the people were already dead.

Nonetheless, John George Haigh is considered one of the more creepy U.K. serial killers, not Texas for once. He was executed at the age of 40 after being found guilty of killing six people over five years, though he admitted to killing nine people while he was on Death Row. The other three deaths could not be officially attributed to him.

While the number of victims wasn’t staggering, what put Haigh at the height of infamy was what he did with the bodies. The story was revealed that Haigh believed that if a body was never found, he couldn’t be nailed for the murder, so he worked on a disappearing act.

After he either beat or shot his victims, he would grab the dead body, drink a cup of blood (he admitted), stuff the body inside a 45-gallon drum, and pour concentrated sulfuric acid into the drum until the body was submerged. The acid would eat away at the body, and the heat produced by the chemical reaction would even melt the bones. After a couple of days, Haigh would return and empty the drum of the resultant sludge.

Yep, cheery thought, right?

Why did he kill? The general claim was that there was a profit motive. After already serving time in prison for fraud, Haigh would forge documents that would give him power of attorney on behalf of his victims, allowing him to liquidate their assets. It was recorded that he made more than 12,000 British pounds with these sales, which was a lot of money in post-World War II Britain.

The very last victim exposed his “perfect crime,” as not all of the woman’s body had fully dissolved. A couple bone fragments were found, as well as dentures, lipstick and a handbag which were all traced to the most recent victim, a 69-year-old wealthy widow named Olive Durand-Deacon. As police followed up on a missing-person’s report filed by Durand-Deacon’s friend, police searched a property that Haigh was using, and evidence related to several of his other victims were discovered, along with Durand-Deacon’s remains.

The “perfect crime” was foiled, though Haigh certainly tried to get out of it. He first claimed that he was insane because of a tough childhood with an abusive father. But when that didn’t work, he tried the defense of not having a body meaning no conviction. Of course, that ultimately didn’t work either, and he was convicted of six murders and was executed by hanging.