ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Dr Crippen who poisoned his wife, caught by telegraph!

Updated on July 10, 2012
Dr Hawley Crippen
Dr Hawley Crippen | Source

Dr Hawley Crippen was the first murderer to be caught using the then, novel technology of wireless telegraphy.

Crippen was born in 1862 in Coldwater, Michigan, USA. He qualified as a doctor in the Homeopathic Hospital in Cleveland and subsequently moved to New York where he met and married a student nurse of Irish extract, Jane Bell. The couple had their first child in 1889 but tragedy struck in January 1892 when Jane, who was pregnant, was suddenly taken ill and died of a stroke at the age of 33.

Later in the same year, Crippen met and married a music hall “wannabee”, 19 year old Cora Turner who performed under the stage name of Belle Elmore. In April 1897 Crippen moved to London, followed some five months later by Cora. On his arrival in London he started a business selling patent homeopathic medicines as his American qualifications were not recognised as sufficient to practise in the United Kingdom. The young couple moved home several times as their income increased and in 1905 they moved to their rented home at Hilldrop Crescent. The marriage was believed to be stormy; and there were suggestions that Cora brought home her admirers, especially when Dr Crippen was called back to the United States on business.

Belle Elmore , Crippen;s wife in a theatrical pose
Belle Elmore , Crippen;s wife in a theatrical pose | Source

In 1906 Crippen started an affair with his secretary Ethel Le Neve who was some twenty years younger than him. Crippen poisoned his wife with hyoscine after a dinner party, the only time a murder has been recorded using this drug. Cora’s body was buried in the cellar of their home at Hilldrop Crescent and Crippen told Cora’s many friends and admirers that she had gone abroad. He then told them that she had died on 23rd March 1910 in California and had been cremated. Cora’s friends were suspicious, especially as she had not told them she was going away; and became even more suspicious when Ethel Le Neve moved into Crippens home and started to openly wear Cora’s clothes and jewellery. A Mr Nash visited the police, stating why he found Cora’s disappearance so strange, and the case was handed to Inspector Walter Dew at Scotland Yard. Dew interviewed Crippen and Le Neve on 8th July 1910. Crippen told the Inspector that he had made a story up because his wife had left him for another man and he was too embarrassed to tell others about this. Dew seemed to accept this account but had niggling doubts as to why Cora Crippen had travelled so lightly, leaving the majority of her clothes behind and why the secretary was wearing one of Cora’s broaches.

The digging team outside Hilldrop Crescent. Inspector Dew is the man in the bowler hat
The digging team outside Hilldrop Crescent. Inspector Dew is the man in the bowler hat | Source

Crippen and Le Neve decided to leave the country and two days later when the police returned to Hilldrop Crescent they found the house to be deserted. A human torso was found buried in the cellar without head or limbs, but with scar tissue identical to an operation scar that Cora Crippen was said to have.

Inspector Dew immediately sent out word and descriptions of Crippen and Le Neve, in order to apprehend them. The couple who had fled the England via Belgium, boarded the SS Montrose and were making passage to Canada. The couple had attempted to disguise themselves. Crippen had shaved off his moustache and Le Neve had taken the identity of a 16 year old boy and thus they travelled as John Philo Robinson and son who was supposedly ill and travelling to Quebec to benefit his health.

The captain of the SS Montrose, Henry Kendall, recognised Crippen from his photograph in a newspaper and telegraphed the ship’s owners who telephoned Scotland Yard. The SS Montrose was the first ship to be fitted with the new wireless technology. Three days after the embarkation of the SS Montrose, Inspector Dew set sail on a much faster ship the SS Laurentic and on the last day of July he boarded the SS Montrose in disguise as harbour pilot and arrested both Crippen and Le Neve. As Canada was still a British Dominion it was possible for Dew to arrest Crippen and transport him back to London without an international warrant, which would have been needed had Crippen arrived in America.

SS Montrose, subsequently sank in 1914
SS Montrose, subsequently sank in 1914 | Source

The trial of Dr Crippen started on 18th October 2010 at the Old Bailey London. He was indicted on one count of wilful murder of Cora Crippen otherwise Belle Ellmore. At his trial it was clear that he could neither produce his wife nor prove that he had taken any steps, such as contacting relatives to find her. At his trial Crippen was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Ethel Le Neve was the subject of a second trial and was found “not guilty” of being an accessory after the fact. She left England dressed in mourning on November 23rd 1910, the day that Crippen was hung. She returned to England, married and had a family, to whom she never mentioned that her former lover had been a murderer.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)