79 Gloucester Road
6th September 1944

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Site where Haigh murdered members of the McSwan family between 6th September 1944 and 2nd July 1945. 

During one spell of gainful employment between incarcerations, Haigh had found himself in the employ of William McSwan - a well-to-do fairground owner. Haigh had got on well in this position and McSwan was sad to see him go, so when the two ran into each other again in The Goat Tavern it wasn't long before McSwan invited him to meet his parents.

The parents - Donald and Amy - were also charmed by the dapper Haigh and freely talked of their investments in property. Sensing money, Haigh started to spend more time with the family, getting to know them more closely and formulating his plans. The first to meet their end was William.

The murder was one of simple violence - Haigh simply hitting the wealthy amusement park owner over the head. However, Haigh was - he would claim later in court - consumed with bloodlust. If his testimony and that of his diary is to be believed, he slit McSwan's neck and drank a cupful of his blood.

He then stuffed the body into a 40 barrel drum, which he filled with sulphuric acid. While the acid began its work, Haigh slept - claiming later to be beset by horrific dreams. Some days later, the body had liquefied, and Haigh tipped it down the drain.

Elated by his 'success', Haigh moved onto the next stage of his plan: to dispose of McSwan's parents and manoeuvre himself into the family's money and dispose of the parents. His first move was to convince the McSwan's that their son wasn't missing, but had fled to Scotland to avoid conscription. To maintain the pretence, Haigh forged postcards from McSwan to his parents while all the while drawing up his plans - "improving" his equipment and adding a steel bath painted with anti-corrosive paint.

During this time, the police alleged that Haigh also murdered a middle aged woman from Hammersmith - although he was never formally charged with the crime.

Eventually, on the 2nd July 1945, Haigh finished his business with the McSwans. In a similar fashion to their son, he ended their lives with blows to the head and once again claimed to have drunk their blood in his confessions to the police. Again like their son, their bodies were placed in Haigh's acid baths and dissolved for disposal.

Haigh coolly set about acquiring the McSwan's assets. Convincing their landlady that the pair had left for America, Haigh persuaded her to forward their mail to him - including pension payments. Forging signatures on official paperwork he gave himself power of attorney over the McSwan's assets and moved ownership of property into a false name. Altogether, he made some 6000 from his activities - a considerable sum in 1940s Britain.

Still he couldn't resist the lure of further crimes and engaged in a series of confidence tricks. Despite all this, he found himself running short of money as 1945 drew to a close and he rented a workshop on Leopold Road to where he moved his grisly workshop of murder.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 11th April 2012 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
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79 Gloucester Road: location