John George Haigh: The Acid Bath Murderer
Publishers: Pen & Sword
There are some murderers who have become so synonymous with their crimes that their infamy that their names have entered the lexicon as a simile. Jack the Ripper, Ian Brady, Fred West, John Christie and Harold Shipman are among these, but where does John George Haigh – charmer, fraudster, gambler and, ultimately, serial killer of the post-war years – fit in this league of notoriety? Not very highly, it would seem until the words Acid and Bath are added to his titles.
Convicted on 6 counts of murder, ostensibly for profit, and hanged in August 1949. That he beat his first 3 victims to death and shot the final 3 is gruesome enough, but add to the fact that his mistaken belief that without a body there could be no legally recognised charge of murder being brought, he then disposed of his prey in barrels of acid, adds yet more depravity to the case. That his defence further added the gloss of vampirism, then what’s left is one of the heinous crimes of the twentieth century.
What Dr Jonathan Oates manages to accomplish with this book, however, is remove the tabloid style “glamour” from the narrative and instead presents an academic yet nonetheless riveting account, appraisal and conceptually fascinating account of the events and those embroiled in them. In minute detail, we get to understand Haigh’s psyche, but also the circumstances of those surrounding so that by its conclusion, a complete and deeply satisfying portrait of the man and his times has been painted with great insight and compassion for those whom fell foul of Haigh and their friends and family.
For any analyst of the criminal mind, John George Haigh: The Acid Bath Murderer is a worthy addition to any collection, as it will enhance not only the cases in question, but also the psychological profiling of one of crimes most notorious exponents.