Welcome to DrCrippen.co.uk
Dr Crippen is the most infamous murderer in Anglo-American relations and, on this website, you will be able to see a completely new appraisal of the case which, using archival material never previously published, now provides a coherent explanation for several otherwise inexplicable events that crystallised in 1910, as a consequence of dangerous undercurrents in the lives of the protagonists.
Yes - it was as far back as 1910 when Dr Crippen and Ethel Le Neve hit the headlines first with a sensational murder quickly followed by a trans-Atlantic chase that shocked and excited Edwardian society at a time when public appearances were paramount, regardless of what may have gone on in private.
The Edwardian Age had ended with the death of King Edward VII on the 6th May 1910 but he had typified the Age by having had notorious affairs with the actresses Lily Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt, and also by his invitation to Maud Allan to dance for him in private – at a time when she was shocking decent society by dancing on stage in her bare feet.
This site also presents a rebuttal of claims that Crippen was innocent of murdering his wife, an old chestnut recently revived.
Also, following the discovery of contemporary evidence not previously published, to present facts that might have adversely affected the judgement that Ethel Le Neve - Crippen's mistress or 'Wifie' as he called her - was 'Not Guilty' of being an Accessory after the Fact.
The material presented in this study has been obtained mainly from the British Archives (The National Archives) supplemented by researches into contemporary American records, complemented by an appreciation of the extensive literature that has been published on the notorious doctor and his mistress.
Please see our features section to identify areas of special interest such as previously unpublished material.
Your views and comments will be appreciated. Please contact us.
Summary of the case
On the 1st of February, 1910, Hawley Harvey Crippen, a 48-year-old purveyor of quack medicines, murdered Cora, his wife, in London, England. On her Death Certificate, Cora's age was given as 'about 34'. They were both Americans and they had been married for 17 years.
Crippen successfully disposed of most of his wife's body parts, including her bones, with the result that they have never been found but, curiously, he buried her remaining parts (heart, lungs, stomach, liver, intestines, etc.) under the coal cellar of their North London home at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden.
After Cora's sudden disappearance without having said any word to her friends, these friends then spotted Crippen socialising with his 27-year-old secretary, Ethel Le Neve, and as if that wasn't bad enough, it was also noticed that Ethel sometimes wore jewels and furs that belonged to his missing wife.
Wives are not famous for allowing their husband's secretary to wear their jewels and furs, so Cora's friends started asking awkward questions and none of Crippen's various explanations for her disappearance checked out.
Obviously, something was amiss and the Police were notified. The Police listened politely and, when they interviewed Crippen, he readily admitted that he had lied to Cora's friends about her whereabouts. The truth, he assured them, was that Cora had left him for another man and he simply wanted to avoid any scandal.
Then, inexplicably, Crippen panicked and fled the country with Ethel Le Neve in tow.
This prompted Chief Inspector Dew to organise a thorough search of Crippen's house where, eventually, the remains of Crippen's missing wife were discovered buried in the cellar.
Wanted Posters were issued and a hefty £250 Reward was offered.
£250 doesn't sound much these days but a re-measurement to present day values indicates a sum of around £95,000. See Re-Measuring 1910 Pounds.
Suffice it to say that the reward excited considerable interest and, inevitably, the newspapers also jumped on the bandwagon.
Crippen and Ethel, rather obviously disguised and travelling under assumed names as father and son, fled to Antwerp where they boarded a vessel bound for Quebec.
However, Henry Kendall - the ship's Captain - saw through their flimsy disguises, identified them as the likely fugitives and, using the relatively novel ship-to-shore radio, he communicated his suspicions to Head Office who passed the information through to the Metropolitan Police.
Crippen and Le Neve were promptly arrested and, after the paperwork had been sorted, they were returned to England.
Trial and retribution
They were then brought separately to trial:
• Crippen was found Guilty of murder and sentenced to death; and
• Ethel Le Neve was found Not Guilty of being an Accessory after the Fact.
After Crippen's Appeal was turned down, a Petition for Clemency was rejected by Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary in a Liberal Government.
Churchill was kept regularly up-to-date on the case, which was accompanied by a mountain of paperwork. As well as answering questions in Parliament, Churchill also had to decide such important issues as to whether or not Le Neve should be allowed to kiss Crippen when she visited him in jail.
Crippen was executed on 23 November, 1910.
Escape from justice?
That same day, Ethel went to Southampton where she boarded the 'Majestic' which was bound for New York. Once again, she travelled under an assumed name but this time she made good her escape.
Almost 12 months later, it was discovered that Ethel had systematically emptied Belle Elmore's Post Office Savings Account between the 15th April and the 17th June, 1910.
There had been 8 withdrawals, almost one a week, totalling £196.11.4. (At present day values, around £75,000.)
Had the Prosecution known about these offences earlier, they may have presented a stronger case against Ethel and that may then have jeopardised her chances of being acquitted as an Accessory after the Fact.
Or even if Ethel had been charged with these offences as an entirely separate issue and had she been found Guilty, she could have been facing a three-year jail sentence, probably with Hard Labour.
However, by going to the United States, Ethel had effectively placed herself outside British jurisdiction because, even though there was an Extradition Treaty, it was totally lacking in teeth.
After due deliberation, the Authorities decided not to take any further action with the result that Ethel had gotten away lightly.
Ethel Le Neve's Life Story was serialised over four weeks in Lloyd's Weekly News from the 6th to the 27th November 1910. Later, it was published in its entirety as a 64-page Octavo booklet.
These were key issues at the time and they still spark controversy. So, if you disagree with our findings, please let us know.
This appraisal uses archival material never previously published which, together with extensive research, now provides a coherent explanation for the events that crystallised in 1910, as a consequence of dangerous undercurrents in the lives of the protagonists.
Sourced from Filson Young's 'The Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen' (1920), Ethel Le Neve's Trial Transcript is a fascinating read because it indicates that (a) Le Neve suffered a miscarriage in 1909; (b) she had been searching for Belle Elmore's Bank Book; (c) Crippen had financial worries; (d) Crippen's concern for Le Neve would have ranked high among his motives for murdering his wife; and (e) in attempting to save Le Neve, Crippen had effectively confirmed the guilty verdict, already handed down. Le Neve's expert defence was led by the formidable F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead) and the Trial Judge, The Right Hon. Lord Alverstone - the Lord Chief Justice of England - was clearly sympathetic and considered her more Crippen's victim than his conspirator. (You will also find this new version more readable than Filson Young's original, thanks to a larger font size, the introduction of spaces and the correction of some eccentric punctuation.)
The 11 letters that Crippen wrote to Ethel Le Neve during his last 35 days' incarceration in Pentonville Prison (from 28 October to 22 November 1910) together with his 'Farewell Letter to the World' (published in Lloyd's Weekly News on 20 November 1910) are now re-published with new Editorial Comment based on information recently obtained. The letters are of interest because (a) they refer to the financial benefits that had either been offered or actually enjoyed as a result of their Celebrity status; (b) there is also a reference to Le Neve's miscarriage the previous year; and (c) they demonstrate that Crippen continued to protest his innocence through to the bitter end, thus countering media claims that he had made a Confession.
Many spurious claims about the Crippen Case have been made over the years, typically in some over-excited media. Two claims as to his Innocence, including a recent one supposedly based on DNA Analyses, are critically examined. If you are still in any doubt, please check out the rest of our site.
Our Timeline, which covers the critical events between 1909 and 1911, not only provides a snapshot of progress but it also illustrates the amazing speed with which Crippen was brought to justice. A mere 146 days from the 30 June 1910, when the police were presented with the escalating concerns of his wife's friends, through to the 23 November 1910, when Crippen met the Hangman. This included: his being hunted down; extradition from Canada to London; an Inquest; charges at the Bow Street Magistrates Court; Trial at the Old Bailey; an Appeal; and Winston Churchill's rejection of his plea for clemency. Contrast this with the excruciatingly slow progress of today's Justice systems in democratic societies!