Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen

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  • Topic: Hawley Harvey Crippen, Bernard Spilsbury, Walter Dew
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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.

Murder

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...
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