Who was the murderous London doctor who fled with his lover after his wife’s disappearance?

We are working with the Museum of London, which on Friday opens its fascinating new Crime Museum Uncovered exhibition.

It will feature objects from the Met Police’s Crime Museum – with the crime museum open to police professionals and invited guests only, many of the exhibits will be on public display for the first time.

This week we are running a special series of case files looking at five of London’s most notorious crimes which will feature in the exhibition. We continue with Dr Crippen.

Who was involved?

Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, his mistress Ethel Le Neve and his wife Cora Crippen, who was also known by her music hall stage name, Belle Elmore.

Where and when did it happen?

Holloway, north London, 1910.

What happened?

Cora Crippen’s friends last saw her alive on January 31, 1910 at the Crippens’ home in Hilldrop Crescent, Holloway. Two days later Dr Crippen’s mistress Ethel Le Neve delivered a note from Cora to the Music Hall Ladies’ Guild resigning as its treasurer. Written in Dr Crippen’s hand, it claimed Cora had been called away to America. In March Dr Crippen told her friends she was ill and then that she had died.

By early July, Cora’s friends were suspicious enough to go to Scotland Yard. Inspector Dew questioned Dr Crippen, who then admitted inventing Cora’s death to cover his humiliation at her leaving him for another man. Dew left, satisfied with this explanation, but when he visited Dr Crippen’s office three days later, the doctor and Ethel had disappeared.

A search of Dr Crippen’s house revealed human remains wrapped in a pyjama top belonging to Dr Crippen, with an abdominal scar matching an operation that Cora had undergone.

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How was the case solved, what was the outcome?

An international appeal for the fugitives resulted in a ship’s captain telegraphing Scotland Yard from his vessel to report his suspicions about two passengers. Inspector Dew boarded a faster ship and on July 31 arrested Dr Crippen and Ethel in Quebec. The doctor was found guilty of murdering Cora. Insisting on Ethel’s innocence until the end, he was hanged at Pentonville Prison on Wednesday, November 23, 1910. This was the first time a ship’s wireless technology had been used to help catch a suspect.

What made it such an infamous case?

Cora’s murder sparked massive public excitement as there were several elements which fascinated the public - a music hall singer, a twice-married man, a quack ‘doctor’ and the thrill of the new technology used to capture the criminal.

Which exhibits from the case will be on display at Crime Museum Uncovered?

Exhibits on display include hair samples, curlers and pyjama fragments found with Cora’s remains, the spade used by Dr Crippen to bury Cora, a warrant for Dr Crippen’s arrest, courtroom sketches from the trial by William Hartley, a sensational booklet from c1910 entitled Full Account of the Crippen Horror and the telegram sent from Inspector Dew confirming Dr Crippen’s and Le Neve’s arrest.

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The Crime Museum Uncovered runs from October 9 to April 10. Click here for ticket information and more details

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