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Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon. I am tempted to say this is the only picture of her, but on closer inspection, it would appear there are two of them taken on entirely different days in completely different outfits, but nearly identical.

She was one of the victims of John George “Acid Bath” Haigh, mentioned in the previous post. He took her to his ‘workshop’ on the pretext of discussing an invention of hers, whereupon he conked her on the head and dissolved her in a vat of acid. For her lambswool coat and the small change in her purse. Kind of a moron, was Haigh.

I very nearly started a True Crime blog years ago, before this one. There are millions of them now — there were probably dozens of them then — but I like to think I’d have brought something a little different to the genre. A little weaselly.

Like, for example, I’d always rather lead with the picture of a victim than the killer (though I was awfully tempted to illustrate this with a picture of Mrs D-D’s gallstones: the only part of her body to survive the acid bath).

I am not fond of murderers. It’s a damn shame that cults of personality spring up around serial killers, because they are always, always, ALWAYS giant losers. Too dumb to make a living some other way or too stunted and damaged to relate to other humans like an actual person.

And it’s tragic when journalists refer to them as “monsters” — they love that. It’s sounds so powerful and scary. And aspiring not-yet-serial-killers hear that and think, “monster. Yes. That is just how I would like to be remembered.”

Anyway, every true crime story has one — or at least one — little nugget of…je ne sais quois. A little factoid, often overlooked.

In Olive’s case, it’s the invention she wanted to discuss with Haigh: artificial fingernails.

Mrs Olive Durand Deacon was the widow of a war hero and had been an active suffragette in her day, even spending a night in the cells after throwing a brick through a window. But now she was a respectable lady in her late sixties – and rich. She was delighted to hear that nice Mr Haigh, who sat on the table opposite her in the hotel, was an inventor. She had a scheme herself to produce and patent artificial fingernails. This was 1949 and the post-war period when women wanted a bit of glamour. Mr Haigh liked the idea, and suggested she come down to the workshop to look at a few blueprints he’d knocked up for the project. That was the last they ever saw of her.

I’m no expert on artificial fingernails, but a cursory Google makes this at least thirty years before artificial fingernails became a thing. I like to think there’s a universe in which Haigh wasn’t an insufferable twat and they both died stinking filthy rich cosmetics barons.

February 19, 2019 — 8:17 pm
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