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Is Crippen’s ghost terrorising residents in Holloway?

PUBLISHED: 15:26 28 December 2014

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. Pic: PA

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. Pic: PA

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Bumps in the night, ghostly Edwardian shadows appearing from nowhere and a general sense of terror – more than 100 years on, is Islington’s most notorious murderer still terrorising residents?

Margaret Bondfield House, which stands on the site of 39 Hilldrop CrescentMargaret Bondfield House, which stands on the site of 39 Hilldrop Crescent

In 1910, Dr Hawely Harvey Crippen murdered his wife Cora Crippen at their home in Hilldrop Crescent, Holloway. He poisoned her ,dismembered her remains and buried her limbless, headless corpse in the cellar at number 39.

He wrapped the cadaver up in pyjamas bought from Selby’s department store, in nearby Holloway Road.

The Gazette at the time reported the incident as follows: “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.”

Dr Crippen’s escape across the Atlantic with his mistress Ethel le Neve, dressed as a boy, and the subsequent police chase captured the imagination of the public worldwide.

He was apprehended in Canada, said the be the first man caught via wireless telegraph, when the captain of the ship recognised the pair from their police descriptions.

He was found guilty after a trial at the Old Bailey and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison later that year.

Islington Council knocked down the premises, with its grisly secrets, in 1951 and built Margaret Bondfield house – a block of ten flats – on the site.

But ever since resident have complained of spooky goings-on, sightings that continue to this day.

Anne Heathfield, 71, who lives in Margaret Bondfield house, said: “It’s quite frightening.

“Some people hear noises in the night. Sometimes seeing shapes in the room and all that. You ask anyone round here they’ll tell you.

“It’s not as bad as it used to be – years ago it was terrible.”

Ms Heathfield has lived in the block for years, initially with her mother.

“In her day we heard a lot more. She was in the Gazette about it many years ago,” she said.

“It’s creepy. When my mum moved in here I came and helped her sort everything out. While we were doing it, we saw a shadow move past the front room window.

“It was wearing a black hat and had a cape, really old fashioned. We ran out but no-one was there. It was awful.

“Just the other week I was in bed when I heard this ‘knock, knock, knock’ at the window.

“It wasn’t at the bedroom window, it was somewhere else in the house. I couldn’t just lie there, I went to look around, but there was no one there.

“It’s frightening when you’re on your own, but you get used to it. You just have to get on, don’t you?”


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