Dr. Crippen wanted to get rid of the wife so that he could marry an attractive typist, Ethel Le Neve. He used his knowledge of medicine to destroy most of her body, and buried the remains under the concrete floor in the cellar. He then announced that he was visiting relatives in the United States and, later, that she had died there. The death notice was published in the paper. Dr. Crippen also raised a good deal of money selling her jewellery and other valuables.
He might have got away with the crime if a suspicious neighbour had not asked Scotland Yard to investigate. Inspector Drew called on Dr. Crippen and asked routine questions which caused Crippen to panic. He went to Brussels with Ethel Le Neve, disguised her as a boy, and booked a passage to Canada on the S.S. Montrose. It sailed from Antwerp on July 20, 1910.
Captain Kendall of the Montrose became suspicious of the pair about two hours after they had been at sea. Ethel Le Neve was supposed to be Crippen’s son, but he saw them holding hands on the boat deck. Captain Kendall then turned detective, and his written account is amusing. He noticed that Dr. Crippen’s “son” ate like a woman, and not like a young boy. Furthermore, “his” trousers were very tight around the hips, and a split in the back had been fastened with pins! He made Dr. Crippen laugh so that he could see if he had false teeth.
After two days at sea, Captain Kendall radioed Scotland Yard that he felt certain Dr. Crippen and Ethel Le Neve were among the passengers (the first time wireless was used to track down a criminal). Inspector Drew and Sergeant Mitchell were rushed across the Atlantic in the S.S. Laurentic, and boarded the S.S. Montrose at Father Point, off Rimouski, Quebec. Crippen and Miss Le Neve were arrested on July 31 and taken back to London for trial. Crippen was convicted and hanged at Pentonville Prison, although protesting his innocence to the end. Ethel Le Neve was defended by a famous British lawyer, Lord Birkenhead, and was acquitted.
Interesting, eh? Yeah, I thought so too. Now that I’ve given you the basics, you probably want to learn more. Okay, I’ve got a few places that I can suggest. There’s a great site I found just a few weeks ago, the Murderpedia.org; and then there’s another very interesting site at Mark Padfield.com that merits at least a look; Another great site is the BBC News Magazine; And finally, I recommend a visit to The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913. From these pages, you should be able to get even more information.
- Cracking the Crippen case (thehindu.com)