Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen
(11 September 1862 – 23 November 1910), usually known as Dr. Crippen,
was hanged in Pentonville, England, on November 23, 1910 for murdering
his wife. He has gone down in history as the first criminal to be
captured with the aid of wireless communication.
Crippen was born in Coldwater, Michigan, USA to
Andresee Skinner and Myron Augustus Crippen. Circa 1885 Crippen became a
homeopathic doctor and started working for a homeopathic pharmaceutical
company, Dr. Munyon's.
His second wife was Cora Turner, born Kunigunde
Mackamotski to a German mother and a Polish-Russian father. She was a
would-be opera singer, who went under the name of Belle Elmore. A rather
overbearing woman, she tried to control every aspect of her husband's
life. She openly had affairs, about which he did not complain very much.
In 1900, Crippen and his spouse moved to England.
Unfortunately, his U.S. medical qualification was insufficient to obtain
a doctor's position in the UK. The couple moved to 39 Hilldrop Crescent,
Holloway, London where they had lodgers to compensate for Crippen's
rather measly income. Crippen was not a homeopath in the classic sense
in that he used many potions aside from homeopathic remedies.
After a party at their home on January 31, 1910,
Belle disappeared. Hawley Crippen told everyone she had returned to the
United States, and later added that she had died in California and had
Meanwhile, his lover, Ethel le Neve, moved into
Hilldrop Crescent and began openly wearing Belle's clothes and jewelery.
The police were informed of Belle's disappearance by her friend,
strongwoman Kate Williams, better known as Vulcana. The house was
searched but nothing was found, and the doctor was interviewed by police
Chief Inspector Walter Dew.
After the interview (and a quick search of the house)
Dew was satisfied and had no doubts regarding the truth of his story.
However Crippen and le Neve did not know this, panicked and fled to
Brussels spending the night in a hotel. The following day they went to
Antwerp where they took the SS Montrose to Canada.
Their disappearance led Scotland Yard to perform
another three searches of the house. During the fourth and final search,
they found the remains of a human body, buried under the brick floor of
the basement. Sir Bernard Spilsbury found traces of hyoscine, a calming
drug. Mrs. Crippen had to be identified from a piece of skin from her
abdomen, because her head, limbs and skeleton were never recovered.
Crippen and le Neve fled across the Atlantic on the
Montrose, with le Neve disguised as a boy. Unfortunately for them,
Captain Henry George Kendall was keeping abreast of the news by wireless
and was mingling among the first class passengers. He recognised the
Just before steaming out of range of the land-based
transmitters, Kendall sent a wireless telegram to British authorities: "Have
strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are
among saloon passengers. Mustache taken off growing beard.
Accomplice dressed as boy manner and build
undoubtedly a girl." Had Crippen traveled second class he would have
probably escaped Kendall's notice. On board the Montrose a wait of
several days ensued because the ship was out of range of wireless
communication. Dew boarded the faster White Star liner, the SS Laurentic,
arriving in Quebec ahead of Crippen, where he contacted the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police.
As the Montrose entered the British territorial
waters (in 1910 Canada was a crown dominion) of the St Lawrence River
Inspector Dew, disguised as a pilot, came aboard. This was Crippen's
second mistake concerning his evasion. Had he sailed directly to the
United States, even if he had been one day eventually recognised, it
would have required an international arrest warrant followed by
extradition proceedings, complicated by the fact that he was a US
citizen, to have him brought before the Old Bailey. As it was, Dew was a
Scotland Yard detective on duty acting within the bounds of the British
Kendall invited Crippen to meet the pilots as they
came aboard. Dew removed his pilot's cap and said, "Good morning, Dr
Crippen. Do you know me? I'm Inspector Dew from Scotland Yard." After a
pause Crippen replied, "Thank God it's over. The suspense has been too
great. I couldn't stand it any longer." He then held out his wrists for
Crippen and le Neve were arrested on board the
Montrose on 31 July 1910. After discovering the circumstances of his
arrest, when Crippen alighted he cursed both Kendall and his ship.
Crippen was returned to England on board the Laurentic's sister ship, SS
As World War I approached, the Admiralty feared that
Dover harbour would be an easy target for U-boats, and decided to sink
two obsolete ships at the harbour entry as an added defence. The
Admiralty bought the SS Montrose, filled its hull with ballast and
moored it at Admiralty Pier, Dover.
On 28 December 1914, a storm raged and the Montrose
broke her moorings, drifting up the English Channel towards the Goodwin
Sands. Tugs were sent after her and four men boarded the wreck to secure
cables but to no avail. She sank in the channel between the North and
South banks of the sands where she could be seen until 1963. The last
sailor to leave the Montrose before she broke up was named Crippen.
Captain Kendall later became master of the Empress of
Ireland which was wrecked on the 29 May 1914, with the loss of 1,012
lives. She took only 14 minutes to sink, a relevant fact which explains
how a simple fluvial collision could reach the magnitude of a mid-Atlantic
disaster (Titanic). She sank off Father Point, Quebec, the exact place
where Crippen was arrested. Kendall survived the disaster and died aged
Trial and execution
Sketches from the trial of Dr CrippenCrippen and le
Neve were tried separately at the London assizes held at the Central
Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London E.C. After just 27 minutes of
deliberations, the jury found Crippen guilty of murder and he was hanged
by John Ellis in November. Ethel le Neve was acquitted.
Crippen's trial revealed the startlingly meticulous
manner in which he had disposed of his wife's body. After killing her,
he professionally removed her bones and limbs, which he then burned in
the kitchen stove.
Her organs were dissolved in acid in the bathtub, and
her head was placed in a handbag and thrown overboard during a day trip
to Dieppe, France. Throughout the proceedings and at his sentencing,
Crippen showed no remorse, only concern for Ethel's reputation and
prospects. At his request, her photograph was placed in his coffin and
buried with him.
Although Crippen's grave on the prison grounds is not
marked by a stone, tradition has it that soon after his burial a rose
bush was planted over it.
Many people consider that during the trial Crippen
was shamefully bullied by Mr R.D. Muir, one of the three prosecuting
counsel. Some accounts relate that during his trial Crippen made Masonic
signs appealing for assistance, namely interlaced fingers held above the
Whether this is true or not, the judge, Lord Chief
Justice Richard Everard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone, who was
renowned for his leniency towards prisoners, at one point during the
trial definitely changed his stance towards Crippen and supported Muir
up to the point where he could be equally accused of bullying the
Shortly after the execution, Muir made a visit to the
United States where he was very aggressive toward the press. One
journalist asked if he thought he would have won his case if Crippen had
been tried in the US. Muir snapped back, "Since I know nothing of
American law I can hardly answer that question." That evening the
headlines ran: "Man who hanged Crippen boasts that he knows no law."
Possible motives for the murder
A theory which was first propounded by Edward
Marshall Hall was that Crippen was using hyoscine on his wife as a
depressant or anaphrodisiac but accidentally gave her an overdose and
then panicked when she died. It is said that Hall declined to lead
Crippen's defence because another theory was to be propounded.
In 1981, newspapers reported that Sir Hugh Rhys
Rankin claimed to have met Ethel Le Neve in 1930 in Australia and that
on that occasion she told him that Crippen murdered his wife because she
Question of doubt
There remains some dispute over whether Dr Crippen
did, in fact, murder his wife. One theory, which was first propounded by
Edward Marshall Hall (who had initially been engaged to lead Crippen's
defence, although he later gave up the brief), was that Crippen was
using hyoscine on his wife as a sexual depressant but accidentally gave
her an overdose and then panicked when she died.
In 1981, Hugh Rhys Rankin claimed to have met Ethel
le Neve in 1930 in Australia. On that occasion, she is said to have told
him that Crippen murdered his wife because she had syphilis.
Raymond Chandler, the novelist, commented that it
seemed unbelievable that Crippen would successfully dispose of his
wife's limbs and head, and then, rather stupidly, bury her torso under
the cellar floor of his home.
Dornford Yates, the novelist, who was involved with
the trial as a junior barrister, records that Crippen put the remains in
lime so that they would be destroyed, but failed to realise that while
dry quicklime destroys, if water is added it becomes slaked lime and
preserves. Yates used this fact in the plot of his novel The House That
Berry Built and told the story of the trial from his viewpoint in his
memoirs As Berry and I Were Saying.
Close examination of the press reports and the
transcript of his trial (18 to 22 October 1910) leave open the
suggestion that Belle Elmore may not have been his only victim, although
no evidence was ever presented concerning this theory.
Controversial new evidence
In October 2007, Michigan State University forensic
scientist David Foran claimed that mitochondrial DNA evidence showed
that the remains found beneath the cellar floor in Crippen's home were
not those of Cora Crippen. This research was based on alleged
genealogical identification of three matrilineal relatives of Cora
Crippen (great-nieces, located by US genealogist Beth Wills), whose
mitochondrial DNA haplotype was compared with DNA extracted from a slide
with flesh said to be taken from the torso in Crippen's cellar. This has
raised new questions about Crippen's guilt and the actual identity of
the remains found in the cellar. One theory is that Crippen may have
been carrying out illegal abortions; it may be that one of his patients
died and that he disposed of the body in the way he was accused of
disposing of his wife. The remains were also tested for gender at
Michigan State, using an innovative test. On this basis, the researchers
concluded that the body parts were those of a man. If accepted, this
result would clearly destroy the illegal abortion patient theory.
The research team also argued that a scar on the
abdomen of the body, in which the Crown Prosecution's interpretation as
a scar consistent with one Mrs. Crippen was known to have, convinced the
jury that the remains were Mrs Crippen’s, was incorrectly identified,
due to the tissue's having hair follicles, whereas scars do not, which
Dr. Crippen's defense argued at the time. Dr. Foran's colleague, John
Trestrail, claims that it would have been unusual for a poisoner to
dismember and hide the corpse because most poisoners are anxious to
obtain certification of death by natural causes. These recent arguments
for Crippen's innocence have been disputed by several commentators.
It has been argued that the DNA sample could have
been tainted or mislabelled, or – alternatively – that the alleged
relatives were not actually blood relatives of Mrs. Crippen. The DNA
results do not affect the fact that human remains were found in
Crippen's basement, a fact Foran himself stresses, but the judge in the
trial placed great weight on the issue of identification of the remains,
stating in his summing up that if the remains were those of a man,
Crippen could not be found guilty, making it clear that he regarded this
as central to the case even at that time. As noted above a further test
is claimed to have shown that the samples are not female but male.
Identification of the sex of the remains was impossible at the time, as
no sexually identifiable body parts were present.
Speculation about this discrepancy includes the
suggestion that Dr. Crippen killed Cora's lover Bruce Miller and buried
part of his body there (or – alternatively –that he was a serial killer),
but there is no evidence to support either claim. In a skeptical review
of the new evidence, and the suggestion that the remains came from a
male, David Aaronovitch has written: "As to the body being male, well
the American team was using a 'special technique' that is 'very new' and
'done only by this team' and working on a single, century-old slide,
described by the team leader as a 'less than optimal sample'". However,
Foran stated in an interview, "I and my graduate students regularly work
on biological material as old and much older than the Spilsbury slide.
We have conducted a large amount of research on skeletal remains dating
as far back as 1000 B.C. So the tissue on the slide was relatively fresh
by our standards." He said that removing the cover-slip from the slide
was tricky due to the fixative used, "But once it was off, the ‘scar’
tissue was in fine condition." "A slide in a museum is a pretty nice way
to preserve DNA. Compare that to bones that have been in the ground for
thousands of years." He stated, "There was a lot more DNA work than what
is portrayed in the film. Those tests showed unequivocally that the
remains were male."
John Trestrail had previously requested New Scotland
Yard to provide samples of the blond hair found in curlers at the scene
(and now preserved in New Scotland Yard's museum) to conduct DNA testing
to see if they are Cora's. Obtaining a DNA sample from these sources
would greatly lessen any questions of contamination. New Scotland Yard
has repeatedly denied his request. However, New Scotland Yard was
willing to test a hair from the crime scene for a fee, which in turn was
rejected by the investigators as "over the top," making this an option
which is still open if New Scotland Yard continues to extend the offer.
Trestrail has hypothesized that the police planted
the body parts and particularly the fragment of the Jones Bros. pajama
top at the scene to incriminate Crippen, a case of "Noble Cause
Corruption", in which a investigator who is truly convinced that a
suspect is guilty, but feels he lacks the evidence to convict him in a
court of law, plants and/or manufactures evidence to frame a "guilty"
man. Another motive is that Scotland Yard was under tremendous public
pressure to find and bring to trial a suspect for this heinous crime.
Trestrail admits he has provided no support for this hypothesis and that
it is his best guess. An independent observer points out that the case
did not become public until after the remains were found.
Crippen's relative, Patrick Crippen, has asked,
through his legal advisor Giovanni di Stefano, that Crippen's remains be
exhumed for reburial in a family plot in the U.S. In order to proceed
with the exhumation from the prison cemetery within the walls of HMP
Pentonville, Crippen's representatives must first obtain permission from
the relatives of several other executed prisoners who share the same
In December 2009 the Criminal Cases Review Commission,
having reviewed the case, declared that the court of appeal will not
hear the case to pardon Crippen posthumously.
In popular culture
John Boyne's novel, Crippen, portrays a (fictionalized)
account of Crippen's life.
The Erik Larson book, Thunderstruck, interweaves the
story of the murder with the history of Marconi's invention of radio.
In Episode 33 (third season, episode 7, "Salad Days)
of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in the skit entitled Climbing the North
Face of the Uxbridge Road, a team of mountaineers appears to be climbing
a sheer rock wall, which, when the camera pans out, turns out to be the
gutter of an ordinary street. They are "climbing" horizontally, lying on
the ground. The BBC interviewer (John Cleese) asks one of the climbers (Graham
Chapman), "Isn't this crazy?", to which the climber replies, "Aye, well
but they said Crippen was crazy didn't they?" The interviewer pointedly
replies, "Crippen was crazy", to which the climber responds, "Oh, well
there you are then."
In the BBC sitcom, Coupling, the character Steve
cites Crippen and his wife as a good example of a couple that should
never have been together while desperately trying to break up with his
girlfriend, Jane. The slightly unhinged Jane counters that they probably
had a lot of good times before her murder, though.
In the video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, is
the hospital in the fictional village Montgomery named "Crippen
In the comic book The League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen, the invisible man is named Hawley Griffin, after Crippen.
In the BBC comedy Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain
Blackadder refers to the magazine King and Country as, "about as
convincing as Dr. Crippen's defence lawyer".
Mystery writer John Dickson Carr references Crippen
in a number of his books, most notably in Poison In Jest.
A hardcore punk band, Dr. & the Crippens, performed
and recorded in the UK throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s.
In the Ken Ludwig play, Leading Ladies, the character
Florence uses the name Dr. Crippen as an insult to her physician Doc
In the British TV show, Jericho 2: The Hollow Men,
Detective Jericho says a lonely false confessor named John Bull would
confess to being Dr. Crippen or the iceberg that sank the Titantic if
you asked him.
In the Kate Bush song "Coffee Homeground" from her
Lionheart album, the lyrics are generally about poisoning and mention "pictures
On TNT's popular television drama series The Closer,
the recurring character of the medical examiner is named "Dr. Crippen".
He is played by actor James Avery.
The most popular UK based medical themed blog is
called Dr Crippen, although the web master, an anonymous English General
Practitioner signs himself 'John' rather than 'Hawley'.
J.H.H. Gaute and Robin Odell, The New Murderer's
Who's Who, 1996, Harrap Books, London
The World's Most Infamous Crimes and Criminals.
New York: Gallery Books, 1987. ISBN 0-8317-9677-4
Nicholas Connell, Walter Dew; The Man Who Caught
Crippen, Sutton Publishing (2005), ISBN 0-7509-3803-X
Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen
The case of Dr Hawley
Harvey Crippen is one of the most famous British criminal cases. This
was the first major case that Bernard Spilsbury, the famous pathologist,
was called in to investigate. The case also involved the major use of
radio in tracking down the suspects.
Hawley Harvey Crippen was born in Michigan, USA, in 1862. When he was 21
he came to England to improve his medical knowledge. He obtained a
diploma, which was endorsed by the Faculty of the Medical College of
Philadelphia, and in 1885 Crippen acquired another diploma, as an eye
and ear specialist, from the Ophthalmic Hospital in New York. These
qualifications were not sufficient for Crippen to practice as a Doctor
in the UK.
After Crippen's first visit to England he wandered about the USA,
practising in a number of larger cities. In Utah, during 1890 or 1891,
his wife died, and he sent is 3 year old son to live with her late
wife's Mother in California. During one of his stays in New York he
married again. His second wife was a girl of 17 years old whom Crippen
knew as Cora Turner. Her real name was Kunigunde Mackamotski, her Father
being a Russian Pole and her Mother German. There were more wanderings:
St. Louis, New York and Philadelphia, with a short visit across the
border to Toronto. The Munyon Company, a patent medicine company, now
employed Crippen. Mrs. Crippen, who was deluded by her modest singing
talent, travelled to New York for opera training.
arrives in the UK
1900 Crippen was in England again, and except for one short interval,
remained in England. He became the manager at Munyon's offices in
London's Shaftesbury Avenue, and later in the year his wife joined him
in rooms in South Crescent, off Tottenham Court Road, At one period, it
is said, that he practising as a dentist and a women's consultant. In
1902 Munyon's recalled him for six months in Philadelphia. Mrs. Crippen
had been seeking music-hall work, with slight success. During one of her
music engagements, she met an American music-hall performer called Bruce
Miller (who later testified at the trial).
When Crippen returned to London the Crippens lived at 34-37 Store Street,
Bloomsbury. Crippen, who was small in height, left Munyon's for a
variety of jobs. Some of them failed, and presently he eventually
returned to Munyon's, who had relocated to Albion House, New Oxford
Street. In Albion House, when Munyon's business began to decline,
Crippen was also in partnership with another firm: The Yale Tooth
Specialists. While working here, Crippen employed as his typist Ethel le
Neve. He had first met her when they had been working for one of
Crippen's business failures: The Drouet Institute. Although Crippen took
over the Munyon's office on a franchise basis, he failed to halt
Munyon's decline and Crippen ended his 16 year relationship with the
Munyon firm on 31 January 1910.
The move to
39 Hilldrop Crescent
During this period, the Crippens moved into a house in Camden Town:
number 39 Hilldrop Crescent. It was a larger house than the couple
needed, indicated by the annual rent of £58 10s. As Crippen's salary,
when he earned one, was £3 a week, it seemed strange that they should
choose such a house, that Mrs. Crippen could afford to buy fox furs and
jewellery and they could still put some money away. At the end of
January 1910 Crippen was a few pounds overdrawn at the bank, but there
was £600 on deposit, more than half of this sum was in his wife's name.
As a guide to these monetary sums, whisky was 3s 6d a bottle and furs
could cost £34.
Mrs. Crippen, under her assumed name of Belle Elmore, continued with her
career as a music hall entertainer.
Mrs. Crippen attained some success in provincial halls, but she became
well known and popular in certain theatrical circles. For two years
before her death, she was Honorary Treasurer of the Music Hall Ladies
Guild, which hired a room in Albion House. She was described as
vivacious and pleasant, fond of dress and display, with a New York
accent and dark hair which she dyed auburn. A Roman Catholic, she
converted her husband to that faith.
contrast to his wife, Crippen was a small man. He appeared to be
mildness itself, an almost insignificant figure, dapper in dress, with a
high, bald forehead, a heavy, sandy moustache, and rather prominent eyes
behind gold-rimmed spectacles. Witnesses at his forthcoming trial
described him as kindly, gentle and well mannered.
The crisis, which ended with Crippen's execution, came in December 1909.
His wife was tired of him, and she knew that Ethel le Neve had been his
mistress. She threatened to leave Crippen, which would have been
excellent news for him, but she was also planning to take their joint
savings with her. On 15 December 1909, Mrs. Crippen gave notice of
withdrawal to their bank. A month later, in January 1910, Crippen
ordered five grains of hyoscin hydrobromide at Lewis and Burrow's shop
in New Oxford Street. It was such a large order; they had to place a
special order with the wholesalers. Crippen collected the order on 19
the evening of 31 January 1910, there were two guests to dinner at 39
Hilldrop Crescent: a retired music-hall performer called Mr. Matinetti
and his wife. After dinner, the Martinetti's and Crippen's played
several games of whist. At 1.30am the following morning the Martinetti's
The next day, 1 February 1910, Crippen pawned a diamond ring and some
earrings for £80, and that night Ethel le Neve slept at 39 Hilldrop
Crescent. On 3 February 1910, two letters signed "Belle Elmore" and
dated 2 February 1910, were received by the Secretary of the Music Hall
Ladies Guild. Mrs. Crippen had resigned from her position as Honorary
Treasurer, as she had been summoned to the USA, as one of her relatives
had been taken seriously ill. The letters were not in Mrs. Crippen's
handwriting. Mrs. Martinetti called on Crippen later that day, and
rebuked him for not telling her directly about her friend's sudden
departure. Crippen told her that they had been busy packing. "Packing
and crying" replied Mrs. Martinetti, Crippen relied that they had got
Crippen then pawned more rings and a broach for £115. On 20 February
1910, Crippen took Ethel le Neve to the ball of the Music Hall Ladies
Benevolent Fund. It was noticed that le Neve was clearly wearing a
broach, which was known to belong to Mrs. Crippen. On 12 March 1910,
Ethel le Neve moved permanently into 39 Hilldrop Crescent. Shortly after
this event, Crippen have his landlord's 3 months notice of his intention
to vacate the house. Just before Easter 1910, Crippen told Mrs.
Martinetti that Mrs. Crippen had been taken seriously ill in the USA,
and that she was not expected to live. If she died, Crippen told Mrs.
Matinetti that he would take a week's holiday in France.
24 March 1910, the day before Good Friday 1910, a telegram arrived for
Mrs. Martinetti: "Belle died yesterday at 6pm". It had been sent from
London's Victoria Rail Station, before Crippen and le Neve set off for
During his absence in France, Mrs. Crippen's friends had a great deal of
discussions about their friends sudden trip to the USA, and her death.
When he returned, Crippen made several attempts to prevent the sending
of tokens of remembrance. Crippen stated that she had died in Los Angles,
her ashes were returning to England and that gifts sent to the USA would
arrive too late.
Everything was neatly explained, and the Crippen went around his normal
business. Ethel le Neve was seen wearing more of Mrs. Crippen's furs and
jewellery, which was regarded as being in poor taste.
friend of the late Mrs. Crippen, a Mr. Nash, made a short visit to the
USA where he made some unsuccessful enquires about Mrs. Crippen. When he
returned to London, he went and spoke to Crippen. Dissatisfied with his
answers, he went to Scotland Yard and told them his story.
week after Mr. Nash's visit to Scotland Yard, Chief Inspector Dew called
upon Mr. Crippen at his work place located in Albion House. He admitted
that he had been lying about his wife's death. He believed that she was
still alive, and she had gone to Chicago so she could be with her friend
of her early music-hall days, Bruce Miller. His lies were to shield her
and himself from any scandal that would result from her elopement. Dew
then obtained a search warrant and visited Hilldrop Crescent,
accompanied by Mr. Crippen. He found nothing and was beginning to
believe Crippen's explanation regarding his wife disappearance.
Crippen & le
For some reason, Crippen panicked and left for Antwerp, accompanied by
le Neve who was disguised as a boy. When Dew returned to the house, just
to check a couple of dates with Crippen, he found the house empty. He
then raised the alarm.
While Crippen and le Neve's description was being widely circulated, Dew
returned to Hilldrop Crescent and thoroughly searched the house. While
in the coal cellar, Dew probed the brick floor and found the remains of
Mrs. Crippen buried in lime.
During their voyage from Antwerp to Canada, Ethel le Neve disguised
herself as a boy. The Montrose's Captain became suspicious of the
couple's affectionate behaviour, and radioed his concerns back to London.
Chief Inspector Drew boarded a faster ship, the SS Laurentic, and
arrested the pair on 31 July 1910.
This was Spilsbury's first murder case and the one that established the
reputation of his name. In his notes he recounts the discovery in the
Human remains found 13 July . Medical organs of chest and abdomen
removed in one mass. Four large pieces of skin and muscle, one from
lower abdomen with old operation scar 4 inches long - broader at lower
end. Impossible to identify sex. Hyoscine found 2.7 grains. Hair in
Hinde's curler - roots present. Hair 6 inches long. Man's pyjama jacket
label reads Jones Bros., Holloway, and odd pair of pyjama trousers.
There was no head, all the limbs were missing and no bones, except for
what appeared to be part of a human thigh. One of the pieces of skin
that was recovered had a scar, made as a result of an operation. The
organs were analysed by Drs. Wilcox and Luff. The skin was analysed by
Drs. Pepper assisted by Spilsbury.
The remains of Mrs. Crippen were eventually reburied in Finchley
Cemetery, a week before the start of her husband trial.
was decided that Crippen and le Neve would be tried separately.
18 October 1910, Crippen's trial opened before Lord Chief Justice Lord
Alverstone, in the No. 1 Court of London's Central Criminal Court (Old
Bailey). The trial lasted five days. The prosecution's evidence was the
purchase of the poison by Crippen, and that no one had seen Mrs. Crippen
since the Martinetti's left the whist game early on the morning of 1
Crippen was defended by A.A. Tobin, KC (later a judge). Tobin was
assisted by Mr Huntly Jenkins and Mr. Roome.
Prosecution witnesses on the 1st day included Mrs. Martinetti,
other acquaintances of the Crippens, some of Mr. Crippen's business
associates. Bruce Miller and Mrs. Crippen's sister travelled from the
USA to provide evidence.
the start of the 2nd day, Chief Inspector Dew gave evidence,
including the reading of a long statement provided by Crippen. In the
afternoon, Dr. Pepper took the stand. He stated that the mark on the
piece of skin (produced in the court) was caused by an abdominal
operation. Someone skilled in dissection, he stated, carried out the
dismemberment of the body. The remains were those of an adult, young or
middle-aged, but there was no certain anatomical indication of body's
sex. When the remains had been examined, they had been buried for around
4 to 8 months. The burial had taken place soon after death had occurred.
When asked by the prosecution whether the burial could have occurred
before 21 September 1905 (when Crippen took up residence), Dr. Pepper
relied "Oh, no, absolutely impossible." During cross-examination,
Dr. Pepper was asked whether he had cut a piece of the skin sample
across the area of the scar and handed it to Dr. Spilsbury. He confirmed
that this was the case.
the start of the 3rd day, 20 October 1910, Dr. Spilsbury was
called to give evidence. He confirmed the analysis performed on the
sample by Dr. Pepper, and that Dr. Pepper had provided him with a sample
for microscopical analysis. Spilsbury stated that the provided sample
was 1½ inches long, and almost ½ inch wide. It included a portion of the
scar. At each end of this fragment he found glands, but there were none
in the centre, proving that it was indeed a scar and not a skin fold.
Spilsbury also stated that the presence and arrangement of certain
muscles provided further proof that the specimen came from the lower
The defence then asked Spilsbury how long he had been associated with
Dr. Pepper, whether, before his own examination, he had heard that Mrs.
Crippen had had an abdominal operation. Spilsbury replied that
The fact that I have acted with Mr. Pepper has absolutely no influence
upon the opinion that I have expressed here. The fact that I had read in
the papers that there had been an operation on Belle Elmore had no
effect at all upon the opinion I have expressed. I have no doubt that
this is a scar."
The evidence presented by Wilcox and Luff took up the majority of this
day. This concerned their analysis of the organs and other material
found: a small portion of liver, one kidney, a pair of combinations,
hair in a curler and three fragments of a pyjama jacket. The day
finished with the opening of the defence, and the examination of Crippen
by Mr. Huntly Jenkins.
The 4th day mainly consisted of Crippen's cross-examination
by the prosecution. As the questioning continued, Crippen's replies
became more vague and evasive. When asked when he purchased the pyjamas,
Crippen replied that he had purchased them in either 1905 or 1906. A
buyer for the firm Jones Brother of Holloway was able to prove that this
pyjama material was not acquired by his firm until the end of 1908, and
that three suits of pyjamas, made from this material, were delivered to
39 Hilldrop Crescent in January 1909. As the prosecution stated in their
summing up, who alone during the next 12 months could have buried the
jacket in that house? And "Who was missing who could be buried in it?"
The jury took 27 minutes to find Crippen guilty and sentenced to death
by hanging. Ethel le Neve was tried 4 days later and found not guilty as
an accessory after the fact.
23 November 1910, Crippen was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London.
Before his execution, Crippen requested that a photograph of Ethel le
Neve be buried with him.
Ethel le Neve sailed for New York, under the name of Miss Allen, on the
morning of Crippen's execution. After reaching her final destination of
Toronto, she started calling herself Ethel Harvey. Sometime during the
period 1914-18, she returned to London and married a clerk called
Stanley Smith. The couple settled down in Croydon and had several
children, eventually becoming grandparents. Ethel died in hospital in
1967, aged 84.
The once "most famous house in London" (as some newspapers called 39
Hilldrop Crescent at the time) was destroyed, together with the
surrounding houses, by German air raids in World War Two.