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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
On the evening of Friday 18th February 1949, serial-killer John George Haigh murdered his sixth and final victim Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon, also known as Olive at his storeroom at Leopold Road. Six people had been murdered, as English Law states that “corpus delicti – with no body, there can be no crime”, having dissolved their bodies in acid, he knew he could literally get away with murder… but Haigh had made a fatal error.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Ive added the location of The Onslow Court Hotel at 108 Quen's Gate where John George Haigh lived for the last four years of the murders and where he met Olivia Durrand Deacon. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, Paddington or the Reg Christie locations, you access them by clicking here.
here's two little videos for you to enjoy with this episode; on the left is Wandsworth Prison (still a prison today) where John George Haigh spent his final days and where he was executed, and on the right is The Onslow Court Hotel in South Kensington where Johnny lived and where he met Olivia Durrand Deacon, his final victim. These videos are links to youtube, so they won't eat up your data.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Left to right, top to botom: bones fragments of Olive (pieces of pelvis but mostly her left foot), a tray of "sludge", the plastic handles of Olive's bag (not dissolved) and believed to be Olive's gallstones (also didn't dissolved). These photos are from the oriignal negatives, processed by myself and used with permission of the National Archives via Government License 3.0.
Credits: The Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
SOURCES: This series was researched using the original declassified police files held at the National Archives, the Metropolitan Archives, the Wellcome Collection, the Crime Museum, etc.
TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE: PART SIX OF SULPHURIC.
Johnny Haigh seemed such an unassuming little fellow; small and slight, neat and polite, and being just a few weeks from forty – blessed with a boyish face, dimpled cheeks and an unbroken voice - as he nibbled his toast and supped his tea, the quiet little choir-boy whose mummy had dressed him in bow-ties was still easy to see… but not the monster that he claimed to be.
For the last few hours, the four men had sat in the stuffy cramped confines of Interview Room Three of Chelsea Police Station, and as Chief Superintendent Barratt, Divisional Detective Inspector Symes and Detective Inspector Webb listened, little Johnny Haigh candidly recounted his callous crimes with the calmness of a man for whom murder was routine. And as each delicious detail tickled him, his feeble moustache bristled, but behind the dark dots of his marble-like eyes, there was nothing.
(Haigh) “I have made some statements to you about the disappearance of Mrs Durand-Deacon. The truth is, we left the hotel together and she was inveigled by me into going to Crawley. Having taken her into the store-room at Leopold Road, whilst she was examining some paper for use as fingernails, I shot her in the back of the head and disposed of her in a tank of acid”.
Having befriended the McSwan family and the Henderson’s, assumed their identities, inherited their estates and drained their assets, all five had mysteriously vanished and almost no-one had noticed.
Any investigation would prove fruitless; years had passed, evidence was sold, and with no fingerprints or witnesses, basing his murders on the legal loophole that (Haigh) “corpus delicti - with no body, there can be no crime”, all that remained of his victims was a yellowy-green sludge.
And so, cocky in his confidence, having already confessed to five perfect murders, John George Haigh, one of Britain’s most infamous serial-killers would now confess to a sixth; the how, the where and the when, every single detail… but without a body, the Police could do nothing. (Interstitial*)
Give or take a few minor mishaps, his first five murders had been a doddle and his sixth would be easy-peasy, but unlike the pitiful scraps he had been tossed having popped-off the supposedly wealthy McSwan’s and the Henderson’s, this time, Johnny would hit the jackpot… and not a moment too soon.
Johnny was broke! Again!
Having first fleeced the fortunes of the McSwan family and blown every penny in two and a half years, as the Henderson’s deaths had netted him a hefty £7700 (almost a quarter of a million pounds today), this should have been enough money to last a lifetime… only after just eight months, Johnny squandered the lot, and worse still, his bank account was overdrawn.
How? Don’t ask! He didn’t drink, barely smoked, didn’t do drugs and – described by his on/off lady friend as a “bit of a cheapskate” – although he wore sharp suits, drove fancy cars and ate in the best eateries, that was all just for show, as his idea of a good date was tea, toast and scrambled egg.
But then, nobody’s perfect. Of the three vices Johnny had, all would bleed him dry; as a bad gambler he couldn’t tell a dead-cert from an old nag; as a wannabe entrepreneur, he couldn’t see a done deal from a dodgy dud; and – most bafflingly of all - although he never had an ounce of empathy for anyone but himself, this working-class boy aspired to be accepted by those he secretly despised.
By the first week of February 1949, being neck-deep in debt and having bounced his last cheque, owing six weeks back-rent at the Onslow Court Hotel who had told him to “pay-up or get-out”, the middle-class reputation Johnny had cultivated was now in tatters and his name was becoming mud.
Business was bad. Nothing came of the silent jackhammer, the needle-threader, the toy rocking horse, the battery powered fan, or the other silly ideas he had no skills to build, and with Edward Jones sick of his so-called partner’s stupid schemes, Johnny’s only other means of income had come to an end.
As hard times bit hard, having sold Archie’s Lagonda and Saloon 12, shamefully this supreme swindler (who’d been half way to becoming a millionaire) scuttled back to his old tricks, by illegally refinancing his Alvis for just three hundred quid, a petty scam he last did a decade ago, only now, being so in love with living the high life, this pittance wouldn’t last him a day. But for Johnny there was no going back.
He’d been poor, broke, hungry and homeless, and he didn’t like it, not one jot.
For this boy born in the stark austerity of the Plymouth Brethren, there was nothing finer than sleeping on Indian linen sheets and taking tea and tiffin in the Tudor Room of the Onslow Court Hotel. It was civilised, cultured, sophisticated and – as one of its few male residents - being swarmed by a wealth of lonely widows, easily ensnared by the cheeky charms of a harmless man who (even during rationing) could slip his girl’s a little treat - like tights, bags and silks (just ignore the scorch marks) – oh yes, here he was adored… but taking tea with Johnny was like putting a famished shark in a paddling pool.
Since Christmas, wreaking with desperation, he had struggled to lure several ladies to their deaths at Leopold Road, and now he was out of money, out of time, out of luck… but not out of persistence.
(Haigh) “When I discovered there were easier ways to make a living, I did not ask myself whether I was doing right or wrong. That seemed to be irrelevant. I merely said “this is what I wish to do”. And as a means lay within my power, that was what I decided… if you’re going to go wrong, go wrong in a big way. Go after women – rich old women who like a bit of flattery. That’s your market”.
Unlike the pitiful pay-out he had been bequeathed from his old dead pal Mac McSwan and his fleet of pinball parlours, the day Johnny met Mrs Durand-Deacon, he knew had hit the jackpot…
Mrs Durand-Deacon was blessed with an impressively regal name which reflected her upper-middle class status, born on 28th February 1880, she was christened Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Fargas, although for brevity’s sake, she preferred to be called “Olive”.
As the first of five children to Henry, a prominent solicitor and Helen, a solicitor’s wife, raised among the royal parks in the wealthy borough of Richmond, shielded by the ornate wrought-iron gates of an affluent country villa with private tutors, four servants and a nurse, the upbringing of Olive could easily be described as privileged, and although she had money, above everything else, she had morals.
Being smart and fiercely independent, Olive was protective of her younger siblings; Nigel, Angela, Fred and Esme, and as a big sister - in every sense - being five foot ten and fourteen stone, as a stoutly built and strong-willed girl, she stood-up to bullies, shielded the weak and had a fire in her belly to fight for the rights of those less fortunate; not an easy a feat in an era where women were second-class citizens.
Having rejected the shackles of marital subservience, for Olive, the early 1900’s was a time to fight…
By the death of Queen Victoria - one of Britain’s wealthiest and most powerful women – the average woman had less rights than a horse; education was limited, careers were denied, prospects (beyond marriage and babies) were bleak, and denied the right to vote, women had no say on their own lives.
In 1903, infuriated at the ineffective women’s groups whose crusades culminated in a strongly-worded letter to the all-male British government, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Sylvia and Christine set-up The Women’s Social and Political Union; a small but powerful group who through “deeds not words” would fight and (if needed) die to give women the right to vote - one of their group was Olive.
Seen as little more than weak women, the government grossly underestimated the passion with which these women would fight, refusing to be silenced and unfazed by the threat of arrest, in order to draw attention to their cause, they relied on new tactics, what they referred to as “direct action”; whether by heckling, threats or protests, hunger-strikes, suicides and even bombs.
Under the name of ‘Mrs Drew’, Olive was unabashed about her own direct actions; over three years, she was expelled from the Albert Hall for shouting-down the First Lord of the Admiralty, she publicly harassed Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Cabinet Minister Winston Churchill as they strolled along Whitehall and being a staunchly vocal and physical supporter of women’s rights, she took part in the Black Friday protest of 1910 and two city-wide campaigns of targeted criminal damage across the West End in November 1911 and March 1912 - the second of which would land Olive in prison.
On Monday 4th March 1912 at 8am, The Women’s Social and Political Union congregated in Parliament Square for what their invite implied would be speeches by well-known suffragettes, but in truth, this rally of little women was nothing but a cunning ruse. As the speeches began, in a simultaneous attack, over 150 women armed with hammers, stones and clubs smashed shop windows right across the West End. Olive and her pal, the radical suffragette Maud Joachim broke six panes of glass at a jewellers and tea-shop on Regent Street, causing £32 worth of damage, and although the press initially dubbed this as an act of mindless violence, it was actually a very calculated political statement, designed to prove the government cared more about broken windows than a woman’s life… and they were right.
As one of the 126 women arrested, Olive spent five days at Holloway Prison, was fined £50 and was bound-over for one year, but it was a small price to pay, as vowing to fight on until every last women, regardless of class, wage or education had the right to vote… by 1928, they had won.
On 13th August 1918, 38 year old Olive married Reginald Durand-Deacon, a Captain in the Gloucester Regiment who later became a wealthy London lawyer, and although (a little late in life) she had finally found true love, standing true to her beliefs, her life would be good but her fight would never be over.
In short, unlike his other victims – a thin timid drip, a weak pair of old recluses, a bankrupt impulsive boozer and a bed-bound neurotic - Mrs Durand-Deacon would be no push-over. Compared to Johnny, she was taller, heavier, stronger, bolder and a real force-of-nature who never let a mere man boss her about. But as Johnny knew, every victim had their fatal flaw, and hers… was that she was lonely.
After twenty years of wedded bliss, on 25th January 1938, Reginald died. With a will of £5800 (just over £360,000 today) and no debts or dependents, her financial stability was assured, but a large pile of money is a poor substitute for the love, warmth and companionship of her beloved husband. For the last eleven years of her life, Olive never remarried, and although she was lonely, she was never alone…
…which was bad news for Johnny.
In fact, almost everything about Olive Durand-Deacon made her unsuitable for his murderous plan.
Olive was a well-known face in South Kensington high society, who was liked by everyone and was an active participant in groups such as the Six Points women’s suffrage, the Francis Bacon Society, Christian Science and Solicitor’s & Artists Benevolent Fund, all of which she gave sizable donations.
Olive was predictable; a precise and punctual lady who disliked surprises and rarely deviated from a schedule she openly discussed with her closest friend Constance Lane, and hating waste, she always informed the staff at the Onslow Court Hotel if ever she planned to be away (which was rare) or late.
Olive was easy-to-spot; as a tall, broad and regal looking lady, with immaculate make-up, who turned heads in her royal blue dress, black Persian lamb coat, large black hat, tortoiseshell spectacles and a bright red handbag. And as a lover of exquisite jewellery – who was never without her twin-set of pearl necklaces, pearl studded earrings, 18 carat gold watch, five rings (studded with rubies, sapphires and diamonds) and a large Russian crucifix on a gold chain – whenever she walked, she sparkled.
But worse still for Johnny, her disappearance would be entirely out-of-character and unexpected…
…Olive was an honourable lady; she had no vices, debts or enemies, she lived sensibly, spent frugally and although she tipped well, she never withdrew more than £5 a week to cover her needs. And with no psychological issues, as an older overweight lady, she had no major medical problems, except for gall-stones which gave her a mild stomach ache and a new set of dentures she had recently had fitted.
As his next victim, she was entirely unsuitable…
…only Johnny was blind-sided by one bright shining detail. Olive was rich, very rich, as having been bequeathed a small fortune by her late husband, as a savvy businesswoman and a shrewd investor in her own right, Olive had turned this £5800 into £37000 – a lonely widow who today would be worth £1.2 million pounds. To Johnny, he had hit the jackpot, and all it took was a little flattery. (Interstitial*)
(Haigh) “She was inveigled by me into going to Crawley. Having taken her into the store-room at Leopold Road, whilst she was examining some paper for use as fingernails, I shot her in the back of the head. Following that, I removed her coat, jewellery and disposed of her in a tank of acid. Oh, I should have said that in-between, I went round to a cafe for a cup of tea and scrambled egg”.
But she was so strong, so confident and so feisty? She was a fiery independent woman who harangued Prime Ministers, shouted down an Admiral, smashed shop windows and scraped in the street with the Police, where-as little Johnny Haigh, the skinny little weasel had repeatedly lied in his so-called confession, so was her death really that simple? (BANG, SLUMP, FIZZ) Well, yes, it was.
With his first five deaths a doddle and his sixth easy-peasy, having learned his lessons, murder really had become routine for Johnny… and yes, as always, he made a few cock-ups here-and-there… only this time, being so broke and desperate to sink his claws into Olive’s fortune – with his cocky calmness replaced by an impulsive recklessness – his mistakes weren’t just big, they were bloody stupid.
The killing Mrs Durand-Deacon wasn’t a well-though-out plan but a last-minute decision…
On Monday 14th February 1949, four days before her death, as Olive took lunch in the Tudor Room with her friend Gwendoline; overhearing the ladies discuss a lack of suitable alternatives to artificial fingernails and offering to mock-up a solution, Johnny invited Olive to his workshop in Crawley. It seemed inconsequential, but several witnesses heard the killer, lure his victim, to the murder location.
On Tuesday 15th February, Johnny ordered thirty gallons of sulphuric from Alfred White & Sons, being broke and his cheques having bounced, and although their relationship had fractured, he was forced to loan the cash off his unhappy business partner Edward Jones, and get Thomas Davies to deliver it.
On Wednesday 16th, as a years’ worth of wind and rain had rusted the steel drums he had stashed in the yard, yet again, unable to replace or repair either, he was forced to order a new one, but with no money to pay the bill, he didn’t, and for days afterward, risked a bailiff being sent round to collect it.
And yet, his worst mistakes were yet to come – this time, his crime had witnesses, a lot of witnesses.
Friday 18th February 1949 was Olive’s last day alive. As usual, as she took tea with Constance Lane in the small but tightly-packed Tudor Room, Olive said “I’m going down to Mr Haigh’s place in Crawley where he experiments on different things”, her appointment was at two-thirty and the time was ten passed two. This exchange was overheard by Constance, several residents and three waitresses.
At 2:10pm, Hilda Kirkwood (the hotel’s bookkeeper) witnessed Johnny leave via the front door, cross Queen’s Gate, enter his garage at Manson Mews and drove two and a half miles east in his dark-blue Alvis (registration plate BOV463), which was odd, as he was meant to meet Olive in fifteen minutes.
At 2:15pm, distinctively dressed in a royal blue dress, a large black hat, a black Persian fur coat, two pearl necklaces and a bright red handbag, Hilda watched as Olive hailed a taxi and headed in the same direction, to the Army & Navy Stores on Victoria Street where Olive purchased a set of false nails.
His plan was simple, as before, by meeting in a pre-arranged place, Johnny could ensure he was never seen with any victim on the day they died. Only having picked-up Olive, he was spotted… twice.
First at 3:45pm, as Johnny’s 20hp Alvis trundled passed Maurice Laudauer’s garage at Povey Cross at a sedate 35mph, the owner (who knew him well having serviced his car on many occasions) saw Johnny, in broad daylight, driving his Alvis towards Crawley, with a lady who fitted that description.
And second, a little after 4pm, with her gall-stones giving her gip, Olive needed to use the loo, so they stopped-off at The George; a local hotel, where (for the last five years) Johnny had often ate and slept, and having politely asked “Would you don’t mind if I use your bathroom?”, the manager Hannah Caplan would later positively identify Mrs Durand-Deacon... and Johnny Haigh; together, in Crawley, just three streets from Leopold Road and a few moments before her death. (BANG, SLUMP, FIZZ).
With Symes & Barratt having stepped away a while ago, as Haigh concluded his confession to Detective Inspector Webb, although his mouth grinned, the soulless glare of his cold dead eyes gave away nothing, “Mrs Durand-Deacon no longer exists. She has disappeared completely and no trace of her can ever be found. How can you prove murder if there is no body?” And with that, the callous killer slurped his tea. He loved to toy with this simple copper, knowing his intellect was vastly superior…
…but there was one thing Johnny didn’t know - the Police were one step ahead.
Being a master of silence and subtly checking his watch, Webb waited till Johnny had ran out of things to say and segued into small-talk, Haigh asked “so, where are the other two?”, suitable baited Webb replied “Well, they shouldn’t be very long now, they’ve got a fair way to come”, leaving that little morsel dangling on a hook, (Haigh) “They’ve been a long time, haven’t they?”, and with that Johnny fell into Webb’s trap (Haigh) “Where are they coming from?” to which Webb replied “Oh, they’ve been down to Crawley”. Johnny didn’t react; no smile, no blink, no wince, just a single solitary gulp.
But what could they prove? Nothing.
For Johnny, the evening of Olive’s death was like any other (Haigh) “disposal had become automatic by then. I am not aware of any remorse. It was a fatiguing business getting a fourteen stone carcase into an oil drum on one’s own, it took me two hours”. So hungry and tired, he had tea, toast, scrambled egg, a good night’s sleep, and the next morning, pumped the drum four-fifths full of acid and left.
There was blood on the walls, a handbag on the floor, tortoise-shell spectacles on the bench and a dead body dissolving in a drum, but with so much money to spend, Johnny was gone. And yet, before his cunning subterfuge of writing letters to lawyers and siblings began, it all took an unexpected turn…
On the afternoon of Sunday 20th February, with the usually punctual lady now missing for two days, Constance Lane, a long-term resident at the Onslow Court Hotel walked into Chelsea Police Station and reported her close friend – Olive Durand-Deacon - as missing… and she was aided by Johnny Haigh.
Eager to limit the damage, as Police Sergeant Dale took down Olive’s particulars, Johnny vainly barked “You have written down Mrs Lane’s name and address, but you haven’t asked for mine”. A decision which would prove fatal, as being so prominent in South Kensington’s high society, her disappearance made the papers… and so did Johnny’s name… a detail which didn’t go unnoticed by Arnold Burlin.
On Monday 21st, three days had passed, but the body hadn’t dissolved, (Haigh) “I returned to Crawley to find the reaction almost complete, but a piece of fat and bone was still floating in the sludge”. Being taller than Amy & Rosalie, having pumped the drum four-fifths full of acid, just like Archie, although her flesh, muscles and bones had dissolved into a black acrid soup, parts of her left foot still bobbed about on the thick sticky surface of yellow-green gloop. (Haigh) “I emptied off the sludge with a bucket and pumped a further ten gallons of acid into the tank to decompose the remaining fat and bone”, having tossed in her red handbag for good measure. A day later, “I dumped it in the yard”, and with that, the body was gone, evidence was destroyed and Mrs Durand-Deacon had vanished (Interstitial*).
…but the Police were closing in.
As a matter of routine in a missing person’s case, WPS Alexandra Lambourne questioned everyone at Onslow Court; their answers were solid, but one resident stood out; as being too eager to tell his side of the story, although this neat little man came across as harmless, something about him caused her skin to crawl, and unhappy with his answers, she alerted her boss - Detective Inspector Albert Webb.
Across the week, Johnny volunteered several statements in connection to her disappearance, but with his details vague, his facts shifting and his eyes cold and unemotional, having pulled his criminal record - although he had no history of violence – the detectives were in no doubt that they were dealing with a fraudster, a forger and a professional liar, so treading carefully, they brought him in for questioning.
On Monday 28th February at 4:15pm, when asked to assist the Police once more, Haigh exclaimed “I’ll do anything to help you” and was driven to Chelsea Police Station… but instead of being free to speak, as Webb awaited his colleagues’ return, for the first two hours, all they did was sit and wait in silence.
Exuding the calmness of a man who knew he would never be caught, Johnny supped tea, nibbled toast and even snoozed, but the delay was deliberate, and being so desperate to show-off just how clever he really was, although he would brazenly confess to his six perfect murders… the wait gave Barratt and Symes time to examine the storeroom at 2 Leopold Road.
Given permission by Edward Jones to break the lock, everything was a Johnny had left it a few days prior; his clean-up wasn’t even slap-dash, it was non-existent, but he knew he didn’t need it to be.
With the later investigation headed-up by Home Office pathologist Dr Keith Simpson and Detective Chief Inspector Guy Mahon; inside, they found three carboys of acid, an Enfield Mk1 revolver, eleven rounds of .38 calibre ammunition (three spent), a rubber apron, a set of rubber gauntlets, an Army-issue gas-mask, several items marked with a large monogrammed H, ten strips of red cellophane (believed to be a prototype for artificial fingernails), a broken monocle, a spatter of bloodstained whitewash removed from between two windows, an attaché case full of passports, driving licences, identity cards, ration books and marriage certificates in the names of William Donald McSwan, Donald McSwan, Amy McSwan, Archibald Henderson and Rosalie Henderson, and outside in the yard, three 40 gallon steel drums (two badly rusted and one nearly new but empty and dry) and a large quantity of yellowy-green sludge. It was a wealth evidence, but it was all circumstantial, and it wasn’t a body.
From the basement at 79 Gloucester Road, they recovered some unspecified sludge from inside the manhole and an old worn axe, gifted by Johnny to the estate agent, Albert Marshall, but not a body.
From Room 404 at the Onslow Court Hotel, they found a large stash of personal possessions belonging to all six victims, including Mac’s typewriter, Archie’s suits, every piece of forged paperwork relating to the theft of their estates, a shopping list written in Johnny’s handwriting for (Haigh) “a drum, acid, stirrup pump, gloves, apron, rags, cotton wool, red paper etc”, and amongst his dirty linen they found a bloodied shirt. And although he fully confessed (Haigh) “that must be Mrs Durand Deacon’s blood. I was wearing that shirt when I shot her”, again, it circumstantial evidence, but wasn’t a body.
After a painstaking examination of the yard at Leopold Road, having sieved 400lbs of soil, the Police found the smashed frames of Olive’s spectacles and the plastic handle of her red handbag, as well as several fragments of bone identified as the left foot of an elderly female, the broken pieces of Olive’s dentures (identified by her dentist) and amazingly even one of her gallstones. But once again, it wasn’t a body, in fact, with everything having been dissolved into an unrecognisable stew, these random bits of a dead woman were as close as the Police ever came to finding the remains of Mrs Durand-Deacon.
When shown all of the legal letters he had forged, although Johnny cockily crowed “yes, I wrote all of the signatures”, even going so far as to quip, “I signed Mac’s name, I remember I didn’t make a good job of it, instead of Donald, I write Ponald”, they could only arrest him for fraud but nothing more.
Even his diary, in which he had celebrated each killing with an initial “A is for Archie, R is for Rose”, knowing that “with no body, there can be crime”, as circumstantial evidence, it meant nothing. (End)
He had given the Police everything, and having confessed to the murders of six innocent people – the McSwan’s, the Henderson’s and Mrs Durand-Deacon - all of whom had vanished completely, John George Haigh, one of Britain’s most infamous serial-killers would never be convicted. (Interstitial*)
…or so he thought.
Across his six (supposedly) perfect murders, little Johnny Haigh had made a lot of mistakes, many of which he had miraculously got away with, and although many were big, they weren’t the biggest, as back in Lincoln Prison, on the day he had concocted his murderous plan, he had made a fatal mistake.
Back in Interview Room Three at Chelsea Police Station, bored of waiting, Johnny impatiently pressed (Haigh) “What are they doing now? Symes and Barrett I mean”. (Webb) “Well John, I don’t really know, but I should imagine they are working hard in order to get you hanged”, (Haigh) “Hanged, what on earth for?”, (Webb) “Oh, you know very well that they only hang people for one reason in this country, don’t you John?”. And he did… but having once read in a law-book about Corpus Delicti, Johnny knew (Haigh) “You can’t prove that I murdered anybody… you can’t prove a murder without a body”. To which, as his trap snapped shut, Webb retorted (Webb) “Oh yes you can…” and as Webb listed two trials off the top of his head, with that cocky grin firmly wiped off his smug little face, Johnny gulped.
Johnny was right though, “Corpus Delicti, with no body, there can be no crime”, but his mistake was to assume that by “body” the law meant a human body, but it doesn’t, it means a “body of evidence”. All the Police needed was enough circumstantial evidence to prove where the victim had been, how they had died and been disposed of and – more importantly - who had killed them, and having confessed to six murders, including Mrs Durand-Deacon’s - Johnny had given the police everything.
On 2nd March 1949, Johnny was charged with the murder of Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon, to which he replied “I have nothing to say”. The irony lost on him, as many-moons before, he had boasted to his cell-mate “who can tell if a murder has taken place if a person completely disappears? Only the murderer would know and if he kept his mouth shut, he would be safe”. On 18th July 1949, at Sussex Assizes, he pleaded his innocence, but after a two-day trial and having deliberated for just seventeen minutes, a unanimous jury found him “guilty” and he was sentenced to death.
On Wednesday 10th August 1949 at 9am, taking just seven seconds from the opening of the cell door to his little torso dangling from a taut hemp rope, as seasoned executioner Albert Pierrepoint perched the tiny trembling monster on a chalk ‘x’ - granted no last words, no final requests, no quick cigarette, no speeches, no bullshit, not even time for tears – with his last ever sight blocked by a thick white hood, as his skilled slayer pulled the lever, the trap doors parted and as his little body plunged seven feet and four inches into a dark cold void, as the hemp rope tugged tight, the top two vertebrae of his neck snapped to the right and little Johnny Haigh was dead. And with that, the killing-spree of John George Haigh, one of Britain’s most infamous serial killers finally (for the very last time) came to an end. (End) But was his death really that simple? (Rope/Pull/Creak) Well, yes, it was. (Interstitial*)
OUTRO: Friends. Thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile, that was the final part of Sulphuric; the true story of John George Haigh, with the omnibus editions of this series and a special Q&A episode rolling out next week, to mark the end of the season.
A big thank you to my new Patreon supporter – Mir Razavi – as well a big thank you to Julie at Nostalgia Knits for sending me the lovely hand-knitted sock, very cosy, and April McLucas and Emily Lock for the kind donations sent via the Murder Mile website. I promise you, it will be spent on beer and cake.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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