The Acid Bath Murders

Josie Klakström
11 min readJun 10, 2020
John George Haigh via Wikipedia

On a dry, sunny day in August 1949, the Wandsworth prison gallows opened for John George Haigh. With his sentencing unanimous, this saw the end of the Acid Bath Murderer and supposed vampire, but how did he end up there?

John George Haigh was born on the 24th July 1909 in Stamford, Lincolnshire. His parents were John, an engineer, and Emily. The family moved to Outwood, West Riding of Yorkshire when John was younger, and were members of the Protestant church, Plymouth Brethren.

Haigh was a fan of classical music and played the piano. He was a good student who won scholarships to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Wakefield Cathedral, where he became a choirboy.

Haigh had an odd sense of humour and was bullied at school. He would pull the stool out from under the elderly organist when she sat down to play. He also chased a pig around its sty until it died from exhaustion. For this, he was beaten.

When he finished school, Haigh worked as an apprentice engineer at a firm. He was subsequently fired for adding sugar to his boss’ petrol tank. He held other jobs in insurance and advertising but was once again fired after he was accused of stealing from the cash box.

In 1934, Haigh married Betty Hamer, however, the marriage didn’t last long. He was arrested four months later for car fraud and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Whilst in prison, Betty gave birth to a daughter. She left Haigh and gave the child up for adoption.

In 1936, Haigh was released from prison and moved down to London. He became a chauffeur to arcade owner, William McSwan, who would later become his first victim.

He left his employment with McSwan and invented a new persona; William Cato Adamson. Adamson was a solicitor, with multiple office locations including London and Guildford, Surrey, where he sold fraudulent stocks and shares to unsuspecting victims. This scam came to an end when someone noticed Guildford was misspelt on his letterhead.

He was handed a four-year prison sentence for fraud but subsequently spent time in and out of prison for the next several years.

Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing.