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Dr Hawley Crippen

Dr Hawley Crippen

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UPDATE SEE BOTTOM OF PAGE

 

Crippen (allegedly) murdered his wife Cora Crippen, stage name,- Bella Elmore. This case has fascinated the public for many years since the disappearance of Cora on 31st January   1910. Her remains were found buried in the cellar at their home, Hilltop Crescent, Camden, north London. The case continues to be debated to this day and has made the name of Crippen almost a household name. Even back in 1910 at the time of the trial the case was fiercely discussed, the full facts never emerging and eventually dying with Crippen in Pentonville prison. Augustus Pepper, a young Bernard Spilsbury, and William Willcox played the main roles at the trial, with medical evidence being the main evidence.

Born in Michigan, USA in 1862. One of the lucky few to attend school, he later went to Cleveland Homeopathic hospital to study medicine, becoming a doctor in 1885, he specialised in Ear, nose & throat. He was married in 1887 at the age of 25, and had one son. His wife died in 1891 and the son was to be brought up by the grand-mother. Crippen moved to New York where he met an attractive blonde, Russian-Pole, a year later they were married, and went to live in St. Louis. They then moved to London 1n 1900 when Crippen became manager of an advertising agency for homeopathic remedies. In 1902 Crippen returned to New York on business, during this time Cora, it is claimed, took up an association with Bruce Miller, he returned to America before Crippen cam home, Miller never saw Cora Again. It is at about this time, Crippen claimed at his trial that the marriage started to break down. Cora had become irritable, and "impossible to live with as a wife".

In 1905 they took a house in Hilltop Crescent, Camden. This was a large three bed roomed semi-detached house, and was too big for the Crippen's, this gave them an income opportunity, they decided to rent to a lodger. In 1909 Crippen resigned his position with the the advertising agency and took up a position with a dental surgeon in Albion House, New Oxford Street, Crippen was to become the medical adviser.

Cora Crippen was an arrogant and flamboyant woman with no real interest in her husband, and she resented her role as the mistress of a lodging house. She hankered after an acting career, and with only a moderate singing voice she joined the Music Hall ladies guild. She was then mixing with the acting and stage fraternity with whom she struck up a good friendship. 

By 1909 Crippen's affections, now not on his wife, had drifted to a young typist, Ethel Le Neve. Also, Crippen's finances were in a bit of a state, mainly due to Cora's flamboyance. On 31st January the Crippen's friends Mr. & Mrs. Martinettii came to dinner, they left at1:30am, Cora Crippen was never seen alive again. Cora, according to Crippen had gone back to America to look after a sick relative, the music hall to which Cora belonged got a letter saying that she would not be attending for a while, the letter was hand written, but not in Cora's handwriting. On February 9th Crippen pawned some of her jewellery, a broach and some rings, for £115. 

 

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Crippen like so many criminals could have got away with his crime had he not been over confident and careless. On 20th September he went to the Ladies Guild Music hall dinner, the society to which Cora had been a member, he took young Ethel Le Neve, not only wearing some of Cora's rings but also some of her clothes. This was not apparently the behavior of a lonely husband. By 12th March Ethel was living at Hilltop Crescent, and around the same time Crippen gave three months notice to quit the property. Just before Easter Crippen broke the news to his wife's friends, the Martinettii's that Cora had developed Pneumonia, two days later Crippen and Ethel departed to Dieppe for a holiday, Crippen sent a telegram to the Martinettii's informing them that Cora had died in Los Angeles. But, Crippen had not counted for a friend of Cora's, a Mr. Nash, being on business in California in May, he enquired after Cora but could find no record of her, her illness, or her death, on his return to England he went straight to the police.

 

30th June Chief Inspector Dew  - the same man involved in the Javk the Ripper investigation - began an investigation into Cora Crippen's disappearance. 

When Dew visited Hilltop Crescent on 6th June he found Ethel Le Neve running the household. Crippen gladly and enthusiastically gave Dew a tour of the house, showing the inspector the wardrobe containing his wife's clothes. But his nerve failed him and he admitted that the story of his wife's death was a fabrication, saying that he had made it up to cover up for the embarrassment and scandal that she had left him to return to a former lover in America, as far as he was aware she may well still be alive, Crippen promised Dew that he would write a description of his wife to be published in the American press, to find her whereabouts, this was never done. When Dew returned the next day he found that Crippen and Ethel had gone. Dew conducted a detailed search on the house, and in the coal cellar found loose bricks, on further examination they found human remains, caked in soil and lime.

The police circulated pictures of the couple and issued a warrant for their arrest. On Friday 29th July the missing couple became headline news around the world when captain Randall aboard the ship SS Montrose made their identity unknown. Randall had been given details of the couple before the ship set sail from Antwerp bound for Quebec, Canada on July 20th. Randall, a keen amateur detective, had his eye on his passengers, he noticed that "Mr. Robinson" and his son were unusually close, also, Randall was certain that Master Robinson, was in fact a girl, wearing trousers and short cut hair. Two days after setting sail he ordered his wireless operator to send a message back to England, to Scotland Yard, detailing his findings, the first time ever that wireless telegraphy had been used to catch a criminal. Inspector Dew wasted no time, he left Liverpool the very next day, on a faster ship, the Laurentic, they overtook the SS Montrose, on 31st July the "Robinsons" were arrested, officially extradited from Quebec and arriving back in England on 28th August. 

 

UPDATE

Was Crippen innocent ? A new documentary claims it has DNA proof that the remains found, that were always said to belong to Cora, are in fact the remains of an unknown man.

Watch this space !!

 

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