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Few trials have aroused such public interest as that of John George Haigh at the Lewes Assizes, before Mr. Justice Humphreys on 18th July, 1949, for the murder of Mrs. Olive Durand-Deacon, a wealthy widow.
For months before, the country was aghast at rumours that a series of monstrous crimes had been committed by Haigh, and the excitement was little diminished when the editor of the Daily Mirror was charged with contempt of Court for publishing material closely associating the prisoner with crimes for which he was not being prosecuted.
Severe censure was passed by the Lord Chief Justice, who sentenced the editor to three months' imprisonment and fined the paper £1,000. The prosecution at Haigh's trial, in the formidable hands of the Attorney-General himself, charged him with the shooting of Mrs. Durand-Deacon and the disposal of her body in a drum of acid. Haigh's counsel did not dispute the facts but he put forward the defence that his client was suffering from paranoia and thereby was not responsible for his actions.
In support, eight other murders were disclosed which Haigh alleged he had carried out, in which he said he had performed the shocking ritual of drinking a cupful of blood. Stress was laid on the accused's strict upbringing, the effect on his mind of his change of religion, and his vivid dreams in which blood predominated.