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Dr. Crippen
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Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged for the murder of his wife, Cora Henreitta Crippen, in 1910. He is of interest for a couple of reasons. First, Walter Dew, who worked the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, was the detective to track him down and arrest him. Indeed, Dew's memoirs are entitled I Caught Crippen. Originally published in 1938, I Caught Crippen is now out of print, but an annotated (and much more affordable) annoted edition is available from Mango Books. Second, Dew was able to catch Crippen thanks to wireless telegraph. Erik Larson's Thunderstruck alternates the stories of Crippen and Guglielmo Marconi much in the same way The Devil in the White City combined H H Holmes' biography with the story of the Colombian Exposition.

Crippen was born in 1862 and attended both the University of Michigan Homeopathic Medical School and the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College. When his first wife died, Crippen turned their two-year-old son over to the care of his parents. He married his second wife, Corrine "Cora" Turner - a music hall singer whose stage name was Belle Elmore - two years later. The couple moved to England in 1897 where Cora pursued her stage career and apparently a number of affairs.

Crippen was not qualified to practice medicine in England and he lost his job as a patent medicine distributor in 1899. At his new position as manager of Drouet's Institution for the Deaf, he hired a typist named Ethel Le Neve. Crippen and Le Neve began their affair by 1905, the year in which the Crippens began taking in lodgers for aother source of income. Cora had an affair with one of these lodgers, so Crippen retaliated by officially taking Le Neve as his mistress in 1908.

The last time anyone could recall seeing Cora was at a party at their home on January 31, 1910. Crippen told everyone that Cora had left him and returned home to the States, and later added that she had died. Le Neve, meanwhile, moved in with Crippen and began wearing her clothes and jewelry. When suspicions were cast upon Cora's disappearance and Walter Dew interviewed Crippen, the doctor changed his story and said he had lied about his wife's death in order to hide the fact that she had left him for one of her lovers. Dew performed a quick search of the house and was apparently satisfied that this new story was the truth, although Crippen and Le Neve panicked and fled. After one night at a hotel they boarded a ship bound for Canada.

This suspicious behavior meant that Scotland Yard performed three more searches of the house and, during the last search, uncovered a human torso buried under the brick floor of the basement. The rest of the body was never recovered, and as recently as 2007 the identify of that person has been contested. At the time, however, it was concluded that the torso belonged to Cora and that Crippen had murdered her.

Meanwhile on the ship Le Neve had disguised herself, apparently poorly, as a boy. The ship's captain recognized the couple as the fugitives and made use of the ship's wireless transmitter to alert the British authorities. Dew boarded a faster ship and met a surprised Crippen in the St Lawrence River, confronting Crippen in Canada so that he would not have to be extradited from the States. Crippen surrendered willingly enough, apparently relieved that he had been caught and did not have to continue wondering when this day would come.

Thanks to the wireless telegraph, newspapers all over the world - even those printed on other ocean liners - were able to keep up with the story and follow the trans-Atlantic chase. These headlines were, of course, not published on the ship where Crippen and Le Neve were passengers, although the captain was clearly aware of them.

During the trial the identity of the torso was contested, since it was impossible to determine whether it belonged to a man or a woman. The prosecution argued it must belong to Cora due to an identifying scar, while the defense made the case that it was no scar but a mere fold of tissue. In spite of this lack of positive identification, the jury needed only 27 minutes to declare Crippen guilty. He was hanged on November 23.

Le Neve was charged with being an accessory after the fact and acquitted. At her request, her photograph was buried with Crippen.

Crippen's guilt has frequently been questioned largely because of the lack of identification of the person whose torso was found in his house's basement.
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