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Introduction

The case of John George Haigh was one of the post-1945 case which gained a lot of media coverage at the time. Along with the case of Neville Heath, it attracted a great deal of coverage in the newspapers even though Haigh's guilt (as with Heath) was not questioned.

In the case of Haigh, it was also the method of disposal which has given him his place in criminal history.

The Case Details

Haigh was regarded as a charmer by the residents of the Kensignton Hotel where he was living in 1949. He became friendly with a 69 year old widow called Olive Durand-Deacon. Mrs. Durand-Deacon often spoke to Haigh of her ideas to market cosmetics. In turn, Haigh invited her to visit his factory, which was nothing more than a storeroom.

When Mrs. Durand-Deacon visited his premises, located at Crawley, Haigh shot her through the neck, removed her clothes and put the corpse into an empty drum, which he then filled with sulphuric acid. Haigh made several trips back to his factory to ensure that the body was being dissolved by the acid.

With another hotel resident, Haigh went to the police station to inform them about Mrs. Durand-Deacon's disappearance. However, the police were suspicious of Haigh's manner. When they found that he had a criminal record, they searched his Crawley factory. The police found fragments of Mrs. Durand-Deacon's body as well as traces of blood. They also found a .38 Webley revolver which had recently been fired.

When the police arrested Haigh, he told them that "Mrs. Durand-Deacon no longer exists. I've destroyed her with acid. You can't prove murder without a body." He then made a statement admitting eight other murders, all involving the disposal of the victim's body in acid baths. Although most of Mrs. Durand-Deacon had been reduced to sludge, the police found an plastic denture which was confirmed as belonging to the lady.

Haigh was tried at Lewes Assizes on 18-19 July 1949, with Mrs. Durand-Deacon's murder. The trial judge was Mr Justice Humphreys, the Prosecution case was led by the Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross and Haigh was defended by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. Haigh was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

On 10 August 1949, Haigh was hanged at Wandsworth Prison.

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