Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1910, Dr Crippen was convicted of murder.

Dr Crippen was a physician who murdered his overbearing wife and tried to escape to Canada with his mistress, disguised as a boy, but was apprehended when a new-fangled radio message was passed across the Atlantic.

Hawley Crippen was an American patent medicine salesman who called himself a doctor. He was married to Corinne Elmore, a strident woman, who continually henpecked her husband and flagrantly had affairs with other men. In 1900, the Crippens moved to London, where Crippen took up a position with a pharmaceutical company.

In 1910, Corinne mysteriously disappeared. Crippen told everybody that she had gone home to America and afterwards added that she had died. Crippen’s lover, Ethel le Neve, moved in with Crippen and even wore Corinne’s clothes and jewellery. The police investigated, and searched the house but found nothing. Being under suspicion, Crippen and Ethel fled for Canada on the SS Montrose. The police searched the house again and this time found body parts belonging to Corinne.

Scotland Yard alerted all vessels by the novel system of ‘wireless telegraphy’ and the captain of the Montrose, immediately recognised Crippen and reported back that he was travelling with a boy, who he suspected to be Ethel in disguise. Detectives travelled on a faster White Star liner and, arriving before the Montrose, arresting Crippen and Ethel as they disembarked.

At the Old Bailey, it was revealed that Crippen had murdered Corinne, sawn up the bones and burnt them in the kitchen stove. The organs had been dissolved in acid in the bathtub, and the head placed in a handbag and thrown overboard on a day trip to Dieppe. Crippen was convicted and hanged at Pentonville, but Ethel was acquitted.

Crippen was buried in the grounds of Pentonville Prison, with a photograph of Ethel in the coffin. What remained of Corinne’s body was buried at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery. [High Road, East Finchley, London N2 9AG]

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