17 October 2007

Hawley Crippen is Innocent OK

Well it is unlikely that we will see similar graffiti over the east end but forensic scientists are now suggesting that Doctor Crippen may be the victim of a miscarriage of justice....


Doctor Crippen was convicted and executed for the murder of his wife Cora Turner. The case (a relatively mundane case in itself imho) is remarkable for the use of wireless telegraphy in his capture. Following the apparent murder and dismemberment of his wife, Crippen and his lover Ethel le Neve had boarded the SS Montrose, posing as father and son. A suspicious captain recognised Crippen and alerted the police. An officer taking a faster vessel was able to arrest Crippen as the Montrose entered the St Lawrence River.


Nearly a century later a team of American forensic scientists have compared mitochondrial DNA from the remains presented at the trial with samples taken from Cora Crippen's surviving relatives. The results show that the exhumed body could not have been Cora Turner’s.


Police had found mutilated remains at Crippen’s house. The head and bones had been removed. According to toxicologist John Trestrail, poisoners rarely inflict external damage on their victims. "It is so unusual that a poisoner would dismember the victim, because a poisoner attempts to get away with murder without leaving any trace. In my database of 1,100 poisoning cases, this is the only one which involves dismemberment," he said. The discrepancy prompted him to re-examine the evidence in the Crippen case. Working with a genealogist, Beth Wills, he set about finding Mrs Crippen's surviving family. The team tracked down three distant relatives in California and Puerto Rico and compared their DNA with some obtained from samples presented at Crippen’s trial.


If the body did not belong to Cora Turner then who is it? One of Dr Trestrail's hypotheses is that Crippen was performing illegal abortions and that the body could have resulted from a botched procedure. So what happened to Turner? Was she actually murdered by Crippen but her body remains undiscovered somewhere? Or could she have returned to the US and lived under an assumed name? Ten years after the trial, a singer with the name Belle Rose (similar to Turner’s stage name of Belle Elmore) name was registered as living with Cora's sister in New York. Records show that the same woman entered the US through Ellis Island from Bermuda in 1910 shortly after Mrs Crippen disappeared. Of course this could well be a coincidence.


I have no idea whether this is sufficient to exonerate Crippen. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a posthumous pardon. It’s still an interesting twist in this case, albeit nearly a century too late to save him from a date with the hangman.

12 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Creepy. It does sound as if the woman who turned up in New York was Cora. Where does that leave Evans, I wonder, if it turns out Crippen didn't do it?

jams o donnell said...

Do you mean Timothy Evans? He was pardoned posthumously for his convistion but that was in relation to REg Christie.

Sen. Peter Higham Paul said...

Guilty as sin. I ran a post in my early blogging days in two parts about all this. He showed no sign later that he was not guilty, beyond his plea. Although it is true she would ahve taken some filleting, at that size.

jams o donnell said...

He probably did kill her James but it seems that the body they found wasn't his wife so it seems. I doubt anyone will ever get to the bottom of it unless the DNA tests were utterly fucked up!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Maybe Cora was pissed that her husband had a lover and she set it up to look like a murder?

I don't know. I'm no Agatha Christie. But this is a fairly interesting case. There used to be a show on PBS where they did historical forensic stuff to prove and disprove different things like Columbus and his men bringing syphillis over to the Indians and the hallucinatory-causing wheat blamed for the Salem witch hunts.

jams o donnell said...

I love those programmes EWBL. The Salem One may have been a co-production with a British station. I remember seeing it on the old Secret History strand on Channel 4, I'm sure

Anonymous said...

I saw a show today on Crippen, I then went online to see what other information was out there. Let me start with the question do I think he did it...yes. His actions speack much louder than the evidence, pawning the jewelry, heading to France then to Canada,lying about his wife dying in California, having your mistress dress and pretend she is your son,..that is warped to even think.
Question, the DNA it is 97 years old, the procedures in place back in 1910 are far different than what is in place now. The chain of custody must be questioned, how was it stored, is it really the same slide, is it really Cora Crippen's?? Also I find it fascinating that they say there is a Belle Rose living with Cora’s sister in New York, yet never mention the sister's first or last name or where in New York. Run the name Belle Rose through the 1920 census index for New York City and none of the Belle Roses listed have their occupation as singer, theater nothing, we have wife, teacher, factory work etc. So I question is what they stated about the Belle Rose in 1920 a fact or just something someone made up to say hey look here is another thing pointing to his innocence. I noticed the researchers spent time searching out her grand nieces, nieces (relatives) for the DNA test, yet if they truly suspect that this Belle Rose is Cora Crippen, why did they not trace her down first. Supposedly she was found in the 1920 census which gives you all kinds of information, estimated birth year, occupation, place of birth, next step would have been to find her in 1930, social security death index, all kinds of ways to follow someone. Wouldn’t it be easier to compare Belle Rose’s DNA with the relatives DNA? Belle Rose's DNA would be more recent and less compromised. Then if the DNA is a match you can prove that she, Cora Crippin, in fact did not die…but trying to say that 97 year old DNA is the proof that this man is innocent is crazy. First, anyone who knows a little bit about genealogy and family research has learned through experience that several people who were “family” were in fact not really Daddy’s kids. It is amazing how many children were born after only 6 months of marriage…some were really the father’s child, others, their “fathers” were simply a safety net against the child being labeled a bastard. Why has no one put forth her father and mothers name?? Simple marriage records, 1880 census etc. would show a lot of information, when her parents were married in comparison to her birth. I would be proving a lot more of who she was, then trying to claim that Dr. Crippen is innocent. What they have now wouldn't wash in a court of law.
I read what information they have put out about the claim of his innocence, what strikes me more is the lack of information they haven’t put out….just a thought…

Anonymous said...

Even if Bella Rose was Cora, you have to ask the question why she stood by and watched Crippen be executed?

Anonymous said...

It seems that the genealogist who did the research misread Belle's occupation, which was actually "Designer", and misinterpreted the statement of her age, which was actually 29, not 48.

So "Belle Rose" doesn't actually fit Cora Crippen in any respect.

Anonymous said...

For further details, see:
http://forum.casebook.org/showthread.php?t=939&page=12

jams o donnell said...

Thanks Anonymouses for your comments. You all make excellent points

tu anciana abuela said...

Didn't the police find poison in the body?

That doesen't fit with somebody dead as result of an abortion. (excuse my poor english)