1910: Michigan-Born Doctor Hawley Crippen Hanged in England

When:
November 23, 2020 all-day
2020-11-23T00:00:00-05:00
2020-11-24T00:00:00-05:00

Hawley Crippen, a Michigan-born homeopathic doctor who became the first criminal caught using wireless telegraph, boarded a ship to escape the manhunt for him in England, on July 20, 1910.

He was accused of poisoning and dismembering his wife, a showgirl named Cora (a.k.a. Belle Elmore), then stuffing her down in the basement. Then, Crippen, who had attended the University of Michigan, and his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, tried to make their way to Canada, poorly disguised as father and son.

However, the captain of the ocean liner the SS Montrose noticed that they looked like the “wanted” photos of the infamous couple in the newspaper and used the ship’s wireless to send word back to England that the pair was aboard. Scotland Yard investigators rushed to board a faster ship to beat the pair to North America.

Crippen and his paramour were arrested on July 31, just as the lovers were to disembark in Quebec.

They were tried in London. A jury found the Coldwater native guilty after 27 minutes of deliberation, and he was hanged the following month, despite his protestations of innocence. Le Neve was acquitted.

For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “This week in Michigan history: Hawley Crippen tries to escape murder charge in England”, Detroit Free Press, July 20, 2014.

For more information, see “MSU Forensic Scientist Proves That Britain’s Most Notorious Murder Was Innocent”, Red Tape Blog, November 26, 2007.

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