Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Dr. Hawley Harvey CRIPPEN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Parricide - The first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless communication
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 31, 1910
Date of arrest: July 31, 1910
Date of birth: September 11, 1862
Victim profile: His second wife Cora Turner (also known as Belle Elmore)
Method of murder: Poisoning (hyoscine)
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison in London on November 23, 1910
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2

Dr. Crippen - The Daily Mirror


The trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen (8,8 Mb)


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.

Brief biography

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 been cremated.

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.

Transatlantic arrest

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 fugitives.

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 Empire.

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 the handcuffs.

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 Megantic.

The Montrose

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

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 91.

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 head.

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 accused.

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 had syphilis.

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 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.

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 Memorial".

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 Myers.

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 of Crippen".

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.

The Case Details

Crippen in the USA

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.

Crippen arrives in the UK

In 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.

In 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 Murder

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 January 1910.

On 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 left.

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 over that.

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.

On 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 Dieppe.

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.

A 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.

A 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 Neve flee

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 cellar:

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.

It was decided that Crippen and le Neve would be tried separately.

The Trial

On 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 February 1910.

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.

At 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.

At 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 abdomen.

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?"

After the trial

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.

On 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.



home last updates contact