Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Radio Sgnalled the End of the Line for Dr Crippen

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Radio Sgnalled the End of the Line for Dr Crippen

Article excerpt


Thunderstruck By Erik Larson (Doubleday, [pounds sterling]17.99) uUuUuUuU.

DR CRIPPEN'S neighbours and associates thought him a mild-mannered fellow, just 5ft 4in tall and "docile as a kitten", in the words of his boss.

But then he blotted his copybook by murdering his overbearing wife, removing her skin so that it "lay in a pile, like a coat dropped to the floor" before filleting her body and leaving the flesh to rot in the cellar.

Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen was born in Michigan in 1862 to a well-to-do family. Quack cures were all the rage then, and he soon prospered, selling cures for lumbago.

In 1897 he was posted over here on a high salary to head his company's London office in Shaftesbury Avenue. By this time he had married Cora, a volatile woman with the yearning, but not the talent, to be an opera star.

Instead, she put her energy into buying fancy pink clothes and decorating her house in pink: pink pillows with pink tassels, pink wallpaper, pink bows hanging off pink frames, and pink ostrich feathers scattered everywhere. She also began casting the glad eye at gentlemen callers.

One night in 1910, Mrs Crippen disappeared into thin air or, rather more accurately, into the cellar, in lots of little pieces. Dr Crippen informed his wife's colleagues in the Music Hall Ladies Guild that one of her relations had fallen ill so she had had to rush back to America.

But some of her friends thought it odd that she

had sent no message, and that Dr Crippen's young secretary, Ethel le Neve, could now be seen in Mrs Crippen's furs and jewels. So two of them paid a visit to Scotland Yard, where Chief Inspector Walter Dew took up the case.

Crippen must have sensed that Inspector Dew was unconvinced with his explanation because he immediately shaved off his moustache, removed his telltale spectacles and fled to Europe. …

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