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Dr Crippen: Notorious Islington killer’s family want body exhumed

PUBLISHED: 11:20 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:45 03 January 2020

Dr Hawley Crippen with Ethel Le Neve, his alleged accomplice, during their trial for murder.  Crippen was found guilty and executed at Pentonville and Ethel Le Neve was acquitted. *  Dr Crippen - the first criminal to be arrested following an alert raised by a wireless message - heads a Top 10 list of arrests by British police. Dr Crippen was hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, after being convicted of murdering his wife in 1910. After killing her and hiding her remains in the cellar of his London home, the American-born doctor tried to escape to Canada with his lover, Ethel Le Neve, who was dressed as a boy. But Crippen was caught after Henry Kendall, the sharp-eyed captain of the SS Montrose, on which he and Ethel were fleeing across the Atlantic, recognised him and alerted Scotland Yard. He was arrested by a detective who made a dramatic trans-Atlantic dash in a faster vessel. The Top 10 list, released to coincide with the 110th birthday of Police Review, was compiled by Jan Berry, chairman of the Police

Dr Hawley Crippen with Ethel Le Neve, his alleged accomplice, during their trial for murder. Crippen was found guilty and executed at Pentonville and Ethel Le Neve was acquitted. * Dr Crippen - the first criminal to be arrested following an alert raised by a wireless message - heads a Top 10 list of arrests by British police. Dr Crippen was hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, after being convicted of murdering his wife in 1910. After killing her and hiding her remains in the cellar of his London home, the American-born doctor tried to escape to Canada with his lover, Ethel Le Neve, who was dressed as a boy. But Crippen was caught after Henry Kendall, the sharp-eyed captain of the SS Montrose, on which he and Ethel were fleeing across the Atlantic, recognised him and alerted Scotland Yard. He was arrested by a detective who made a dramatic trans-Atlantic dash in a faster vessel. The Top 10 list, released to coincide with the 110th birthday of Police Review, was compiled by Jan Berry, chairman of the Police

PA Archive/PA Images

Descendents of one of Islington’s most infamous killers are calling for his body to be exhumed from Pentonville Prison and reburied in USA.

Inspector Dew,(centre, bowler hat) who arrested Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen and his accomplice Miss Ethel Le Neve on board the SS Montrose at sea, attends at the Old Bailey for the start of the case. London 1910. Picture: PA ImagesInspector Dew,(centre, bowler hat) who arrested Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen and his accomplice Miss Ethel Le Neve on board the SS Montrose at sea, attends at the Old Bailey for the start of the case. London 1910. Picture: PA Images

Dr Hawley Crippen was found guilty of poisoning his wife, Cora, before dismembering her and burying her beheaded corpse in the coal cellar of their flat in Hilldrop Crescent in 1910.

Now, 110 years later, Dr Crippen's relatives in Ohio have reportedly written to prime minister Boris Johnson requesting for his remains to be transported to the States so he can be reburied among family members. The Daily Telegraph published the claims on January 1, claiming to have read the letter to the PM. Mr Johnson was formerly paid £275,00 a year to write a weekly column in the paper.

It claims Patrick Crippen, a retired marketing exec and descendent of the killer, has written to Mr Johnson and justice secretary Robert Buckland arguing his ancestor is innocent and should be returned to Dayton, Ohio, for proper burial.

The Gazette has approached people thought to be related to Dr Crippen's for comment.

Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (right) leaving the liner Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (right) leaving the liner "Montrose" escorted by Inspector Walter Dew, after he was arrested at sea for the murder of his wife, Belle Elmore. Liverpool 1910. Picture: PA Images

In 1910 we reported on Mrs Crippen's body being found, stating: "Hilldrop Crescent is a quiet suburban place, although in the inner ring of the Metropolis, and reasoning specifically, it would be the last spot one would have dreamt of for the scene of a sordid murder.

"Here it was - in this unlikely quarter - that the corpse of a beautiful woman was dug up.

"Here it was that detectives silently came and went; here came eminent professors and official photographers and here came a coffin to bear ways a woman's mangled remains."

Hawly and Cora Crippen moved from Jersey City to England in 1900 and, when his wife vanished a decade later, he claimed she'd moved back across the pond and died in California.

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Dr Crippen had hired Ethel Le Neve as a typist in 1900 and allegedly entered into an affair with her in 1905. But, after Ms Crippen's disappearance, Ms Le Neve moved into the Hilldrop Crescent flat - and concerned friends alerted the police soon after.

Police visited the flat and questioned Ms Le Neve and the couple fled the country the following day.

The duo were subject to an international manhunt, and they were caught while travelling the SS Montrose passenger ship. She was dressed in disguise as a boy and they were pretending to be father and son.

It was during this voyage from Belgium to Canada that the ship captain Henry Kendell recognised Dr Crippen from a news report and telegraphed back to London.

A faster ship was dispatched and the pair were both arrested on suspicion upon arrival in Canada, Dr Crippen for murder and Ms Le Neve as an accessory after the fact. It was reported to be the first person a suspect had been caught using the newly invented wireless telegram transmitter.

They were tried separately at the Old Bailey, where a jury found Dr Crippen guilty of murdering his wife in just 27 minutes on October 22, 1910.

In a contemporaneous court report of the sentencing Dr Crippen told the Lord Chief Justice: "I still protest my innocence".

But, in his sentencing remarks, the judge said: "On the ghastly and wicked nature of the crime I will not dwell. I only tell you you must entertain no expectation or hope you will escape the consequences of your crime."

A large crowd outside the Old Bailey reportedly booed Dr Crippen as he was escorted from the court in a prison van.

But scientists, such as forensic and clinical toxicologist John H. Trestrail have posthumously pushed for a rehabilitation of Dr Crippen's reputation, claiming to have "unquestionably proven he was convicted in error".

He has argued: "A poisoner wants the death to appear natural so he can get a death certificate. This is the only case I know of where the victim was dismembered, it doesn't make any sense." In the 1910 trial, the decomposing body of Mrs Crippen was identified by a scar to its torso, and the homeopathic doctor was also found to have brought a quantity of the drug that killed her. But, a century later, Mr Trestail enlisted the help of Prof. David Foran, a forensic scientist at Michigan State University, who carried out new tests on the scarred body. Prof Foran studied the DNA and compared it with grandnieces of Mrs Crippen. He claimed the genes were not a match, and that the presence of a "Y" chromosome means the corpse is that of a dead male. But critics say this research lacks credibility because it hasn't been peer reviewed and the study has yet to be published in full.

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