London Murders | Doctor Crippen

Dr. Harvey Hawley Crippen

Dr Crippen was born in Coldwater, Michigan in 1862. He became an American Doctor after studying at the Homoeopathic hospital college of Cleveland. After his graduation, he moved to New York and married Charlotte Bell, a student nurse. She bore him a son, they were about to have a second child when she died of a stroke in early 1890. Six months later Crippen at the Brooklyn surgery where he was the assistant physician when he met 19-year old Kunigude Mackamotzki, who adopted the simpler name of Cora Turner, they married in the fall of 1892.

Mrs Cora Crippen alias Belle Elmore in a stage leaflet

39 Hilldrop Crescent (since demolished).

Dr. Crippen's house site
This modern block of flats stands on the site of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, where Dr Crippen's house once stood. The same tree remains in the foreground and is still flourishing.

Crippen and his wife Cora settled in London in 1890, where he worked for a patent medicine company at Albion House, New Oxford Street. In the late summer of 1905, the Crippen’s moved from their West End home to the more run-down area of Tufnell Park, buying a semi-detached house at 39 Hilldrop Crescent. By this time Cora was working in the music halls around Camden Town and was well known by the stage name of Belle Elmore. She had taken a few lovers, and they showered her with gifts and money. One of her lovers was much younger than her and was entertained a few time in front of her humiliated husband at 39 Hilldrop Crescent. It was around this time that Dr Crippen started an affair with his typist Ethel le Neve, who had worked for him since 1903.

The ghastly remains of Mrs Crippen in the coal cellar.

On the afternoon of 2nd February 1910, Mrs Crippen failed to attend her regular meeting of the Music-Hall Ladies Guild, at the Albion House office room, loaned to them by Dr Crippen. Neighbours had been told by Dr Crippen that his wife had returned to the United States on February 2nd, to attend to business. A short time later he was saying she was seriously ill with pneumonia, and later still that she had died and had been cremated near San Francisco, with her ashes sent on the way back to him. Friends were not satisfied with this explanation and on June 30th New Scotland Yard was informed of the disappearance. Crippen was interviewed soon afterwards, he admitted that he had told a pack of lies and that he had quarrelled with his wife, who had now left him. He thought she had gone back to the States.

Miss Le Neve dressed as the boy Robinson on the deck.

Chief Inspector Walter Dew was sent to investigate further with Detective Mitchell, on Friday, 8th July. On arrival at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, they were greeted by a French maid and Ethel le Neve, who wore a brooch belonging to Mrs Crippen. Ethel claimed to be the housekeeper; agreeing to accompany the Inspector to Albion House, to be interview along with Dr Crippen.

The following day Dr Crippen and Miss Le Nove, who he had told friends they were now married, left Hilltop Crescent for the last time at 1 pm.

On the 14 of July 1910, at the vacant house at number 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden Town, a startling discovery was made in the coal cellar under the front doorsteps. Beneath the flagstones there was found the mutilated remains of the unfortunate victim, the body having been cut up, and large pieces of flesh were lying about in various directions.

*The body later identified as Mrs Crippen the American wife of Dr Harvey Hawley Crippen.

Crippen calling himself Mr Robinson, and dressing his typist girlfriend up as his sixteen-year-old son, John, they got two tickets on the Canadian Pacific Company steamer the "Montrose" which left London for Montreal on the 14th July, stopping the next day at Antwerp. The "Montrose" was a slow steamer going from Europe to Canada, with a top speed of twelve knots per hour, her masts were newly fitted with wireless installation for Morse code. Once it was discovered the two were aboard, Scotland yard went into action, informing the captain that Crippen was a passenger on board. The Canadian police were notified and for ten days Crippen and his companion were trying to avoid detection, not realising the police were giving chase, and how through much publicity, the world was aware of them both. As the ship docked in port, Inspector Dew, disguised as a ship's pilot, effected complete surprise with the shout "I WANT YOU, CRIPPEN". They were both arrested and brought back to London, England to face trial at the Old Bailey.

The post-mortem examination was carried out by Dr Wilcox, his findings were that Mrs Crippen was poisoned with Hyoscin, the first and only time this poison had been used to murder. It has a salt and bitter taste that could be hidden in tea, coffee, beer or spirits. Dr Crippen and Le Neve were tried separately, Crippin for murder, Ethel Le Neve as an accessory after the fact. Dr Crippen was found guilty of the murder of his wife and was sentenced to death. Whereas Miss Le Neve was found not guilty of being an accessory after the fact and was freed. Dr.Crippen was executed on November 23rd at 9 am in Pentonville Prison. This was the first time that the wireless telegraph was used to catch a murderer on board ship.

*Postscript to the above account.

Recently for the first time, files have been opened to the public. Forensic investigations have revealed from DNA samples of surviving flesh tissues still held at The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. These seem to reveal the remains from the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, were of a male, without genetic traces of the same family gene. Other things to be considered with this new revelation, if true; why didn't Cora make it known to the authorities if she was still alive and well? At the time everyone was aware of this murder case, the trial, the verdict, the sentence of death given to Dr Crippen. Also, if as suggested, the articles of clothing found in the cellar along with the body were planted by the police inspector, why would he risk his reputation if Cora had been still living and free to come forward at any time, thus proving the clothing were planted? More questions than answers.

London Time

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