Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images. Hawley Harvey Crippen and Ethel Le Neve. Photograph by Arthur Bennett, 1910.
The Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen Case
Back in the Edwardian era, the frenzied search for a fugitive went a little differently. Take the case of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, whose brazen escape in the wake of a murder accusation prompted a thrilling transatlantic police chase and capture on the high seas. It was the world’s first case of arrest-by-wireless-telegraph, and, though the technology worked a little slower, was no less enthralling for police, the media, and members of the public who followed along.
July 15- 30, 1910: Murder-suspense stories don’t get much better than that of Dr. Hawley H. Crippen, an American living in London who ran off with his secretary after killing his wife and burying her body in the cellar in a particularly gruesome fashion – original newspaper accounts said that most of her bones were missing.
Here’s a thumbnail of the sensational case: Crippen, who lived with his family in California as a young man, led a fairly nomadic life in the medical profession, spending time in Los Angeles, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Brooklyn, N.Y., Philadelphia and Toronto.
Somewhere in his wanderings, he met vaudeville actress Belle Elmore, known “for her good looks and laughing disposition,” who was born Kunigunde Makomarkski and used the names Cora and Corrine Turner, according to Elmore’s sister.
The Crippens went to England and since 1908 had lived at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, North London. Dr. Crippen was involved in a rather mysterious business that kept him away from home and he became involved with his secretary, Ethel Clara Le Neve, whose name was spelled many ways in the old newspapers.
In April 1910, Dr. Crippen wrote to a letter to his in-laws, saying that his wife had died in California during a sudden, unexpected trip to arrange an inheritance of some property. Another of Dr. Crippen’s letters, advising a theatrical guild of his wife’s death, aroused suspicions because he misspelled her last name as Ellmore instead of Elmore and guild officials contacted investigators.
Dr. Crippen disappeared after an initial police interview and investigators thoroughly searched the house, discovering a mutilated body covered with quicklime in the cellar. Police began hunting Dr. Crippen and Le Neve, receiving many clues before determining that they were on a ship headed for America.
Newspaper readers were tantalized by a race across the Atlantic between the ship carrying the fugitive couple and Inspector Walter Dew of Scotland Yard. On July 29, 1910, Dew arrived in Father Point, Quebec, to intercept the ship carrying the fugitives.
The Times published an interview with Crippen’s father, M.A. Crippen, who was living at the Veranda Apartments, 3rd and Flower streets in Los Angeles. The Times also tried to interview Crippen’s son Hawley, who was staying with in-laws at 1612 Holmby Ave.
Sitting in front of the home and armed with a Winchester rifle, Hawley Crippen’s father-in-law, J.C. Herwick, said: “No, sir, my son hain’t heerd a word about his pa, ner he ain’t goin’ to be pestered by no reporters. I don’t read the dirty sheets, ner he ain’t goin’ to talk with any of ther dirty newsgetters, so you kin just dust yourself right along or you’ll get into trouble,” according to The Times.
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