John George Haigh: Everything you need to know about the Acid Bath Murderer and his links to Wakefield

A crime documentary exploring the life of a serial killer raised in Wakefield will air this week.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 9:23 am

John George Haigh was executed in 1949 after being convicted of the murders of six people.

He became notorious for his gruesome method of disposing of his victims' bodies using sulphuric acid and forging their signatures on documents, allowing him to sell their possessions for vast profits.

But before he became known for his crimes, Haigh was a schoolboy and chorister in Wakefield.

John George Haigh was executed in 1949 after being convicted of the murders of six people.But as a child, he lived in Outwood with his family, and was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral. Photos: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/JPIMedia
John George Haigh was executed in 1949 after being convicted of the murders of six people.But as a child, he lived in Outwood with his family, and was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral. Photos: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/JPIMedia

Haigh was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1909, and raised by strictly religious parents.

The family moved to Wakefield when he was young, where they lived on Ledger Lane, Outwood.

He secured a scholarship to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, the city's independent school for boys.

Many years later, Stephen Griffiths, also a former pupil of QEGS, would go on to be convicted of the killing of three women in Bradford.

John Haigh (1909 - 1949), the 'Acid Bath Murderer' or 'Vampire Killer' arrives at Horsham town hall courtroom for his trial. Haigh was found guilty and hanged at Wandsworth Prison in 1949. Original Publication: People Disc - HU0154 (Photo by Ockinden/Getty Images)

During his time in the city, Haigh became a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral, where he was described by fellow choristers as "a brainy lad, but a bit of a loner".

A photo submitted to the Wakefield Express in the years following his death shows Haigh as a smiling choir boy, and it was widely reported that his childhood ambition was to become a vampire.

In later life, Haigh worked a series of short-lived jobs, before he was jailed for fraud in 1934.

Ostracised by his family, he moved to London after his release in 1936, and in the following years was sentenced to several more jail terms for fraud.

A policeman carries evidence, wrapped in canvas, into the court at Horsham, Surrey, for the case of 'The Acid Bath Murders' involving John Haigh. (Photo by Don Price/Getty Images)

Between 1944 and 1949, he committed at least six murders.

In each case, after murdering his victims, he would dispose of their bodies by dissolving them in sulphuric acid and simply pour their remains away.

He would then use forged signatures to gain control of his victims' assets, before selling property and possessions for his own financial gain.

In 1949, Haigh was arrested after police investigating his neighbour's disappearance became suspicious of his behaviour and criminal record.

On being arrested and questioned, he admitted the murder of his missing neighbour and five linked cases, as well as an additional three murders which detectives were unable to prove.

During an interview, he bragged to officers that he had drunk the blood of his victims, leading some papers to dub him the 'Vampire Killer'.

Haigh wrongly believed that he had disposed of all the bodies, but his last victim’s dentures, found amid the acid sludge in a drain, proved crucial in his trial.

He was hanged by executioner Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949.

In 2002, his life was documented in Yorkshire Television's A is For Acid, starring Martin Clunes and Keeley Hawes.

Murders That Shocked the Nation: John Haigh - The Acid Bath Murderer will air on Sky Crime at 8pm on Thursday, July 15 with repeats at 3am and 3pm on Friday.