|Hawley Harvey Crippen|
|Born||11 September 1862
Coldwater, Michigan, US
|Died||23 November 1910 (aged 48)
Pentonville Prison, London
|Spouse||Cora Henrietta Crippen|
Hawley Harvey Crippen (11 September 1862 – 23 November 1910), usually known as Dr. Crippen, was an American physician hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, England, on 23 November 1910, for the murder of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen. He was the first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless communication.
Crippen was born in Coldwater, Michigan, to Ardesee Skinner and Myron Augustus Crippen, a merchant. Crippen graduated from the Michigan School of Homeopathic Medicine in 1884. Crippen's first wife, Charlotte, died of a stroke in 1892, and Crippen entrusted his parents, now living in California, with the care of his two-year-old son, Hawley Otto. Crippen became a homeopathic doctor and started working for Dr. Munyon's, a homoeopathic pharmaceutical company. His second wife was Corrine "Cora" Turner (stage name: 'Belle Elmore'), born Kunigunde Mackamotski to a German mother and a Polish-Russian father. She was a would-be music hall singer who openly had affairs. In 1900 Crippen and his spouse moved to England. His US medical qualification was not sufficient to obtain a doctor's position in the UK. After living at various addresses in London, the couple finally moved to 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden Road, Holloway, London, where they took in lodgers to augment Crippen's meagre income.
After a party at their home on 31 January 1910, Cora disappeared. Hawley Crippen claimed that she had returned to the US, and later added that she had died, and had been cremated, in California. Meanwhile, his lover, Ethel "Le Neve" Neave (1883–1967), moved into Hilldrop Crescent and began openly wearing Cora's clothes and jewellery. The police were informed of Cora's disappearance by her friend, strongwoman Kate Williams, better known as Vulcana, but began to take the matter more seriously when approached by John Nash, the husband and manager of Lil Hawthorne. The house was searched but nothing was found, and Crippen was interviewed by Chief Inspector Walter Dew. After the interview (and a quick search of the house), Dew was satisfied. However, Crippen and Le Neve did not know this and fled in panic to Brussels, where they spent the night at a hotel. The following day, they went to Antwerp and boarded the Canadian Pacific liner SS Montrose for Canada.
Their disappearance led the police at 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 the calming drug, scopolamine. The corpse was identified by a piece of skin from its abdomen; the 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. Captain Henry George Kendall recognised the fugitives and, just before steaming out of range of the land-based transmitters, had Telegraphist Lawrence Ernest Hughes send a wireless telegram to the 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 travelled 3rd class, he would have probably escaped Kendall's notice. Dew boarded a faster White Star liner, the SS Laurentic, arrived in Quebec, Canada ahead of Crippen, and contacted the Canadian authorities.
As the Montrose entered the St. Lawrence River, Dew came aboard disguised as a pilot. Canada was then still a dominion within the British Empire. If Crippen, an American citizen, had sailed to the United States instead, even if he had been recognised, it would have taken an international arrest warrant followed by extradition proceedings to bring him to trial.
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 Chief 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 the handcuffs. Crippen and le Neve were arrested on board the Montrose on 31 July 1910. Crippen was returned to England on board the SS Megantic.
The Crippen murder was featured in a popular song:
Dr Crippen killed Belle Elmore
Ran away with Miss le Neve
Right across the ocean blue
Followed by Inspector Dew
Ship's ahoy, naughty boy!
Crippen and le Neve were tried separately at the London assizes, held at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London. After just 27 minutes of deliberations, the jury found Crippen guilty of murder and he was hanged by John Ellis in November at Pentonville Prison, London. Le Neve was acquitted.
Crippen's trial revealed the meticulous manner in which the body had been disposed of. After death, Cora Crippen's bones and limbs were professionally removed and 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.
The pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury could not identify the remains or even discern whether they were male or female. However, he found a piece of skin with what he claimed to be an abdominal scar consistent with Cora's medical history. Other evidence presented by the prosecution included a piece of men's pyjamas torn from a pair Cora had given Crippen a year earlier and curlers with bleached hair consistent with Cora's; both were found with the remains.
Throughout the proceedings and at his sentencing, Crippen showed no remorse for his wife and concern only for his lover's reputation. At his request, her photograph was placed in his coffin and buried with him.
Although Crippen's grave in the prison grounds is not marked by a stone, tradition has it that soon after his burial a rose bush was planted over it. Some of his relatives in Michigan have begun lobbying for his remains to be repatriated to the United States.
There remains some dispute over whether Dr Crippen did 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 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.
The novelist Raymond Chandler 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, a novelist who was a junior barrister at the trial, 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.
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 that 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 sex at Michigan State, and the researchers concluded that the body parts were those of a man.
It has been argued that the DNA sample could have been tainted or mislabeled and that the alleged relatives were not actually related to Mrs. Crippen. There was evidence presented at the trial which convinced the jury that the remains were that of his wife.
The research team also argued that a scar on the abdomen of the body, whose interpretation as a scar 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.
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. In fact, there have been cases of murderers who poisoned victims and then dismembered their bodies, such as Belle Gunness. Furthermore, the new DNA tests do not in any way affect the fact that the remains, regardless of whether they were Crippen's wife's or not, were, in fact, those of someone who had been poisoned and dismembered. Allegations have been made by Trestrail that the police planted the body parts at the scene to incriminate Crippen falsely, but he has provided no support for this accusation beyond his personal beliefs and theories.
Crippen's relative, Patrick Crippen, has asked, through his lawyer 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 unmarked grave.
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.