Crippen, jewels, and Adam and Eve

This day in London’s history: on 23rd November 1910 Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged at Pentonville Prison, having been found guilty of killing his wife. He was the first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless communication. There are theories that the American Crippen, a homeopathic doctor and a salesman of patent medicines, did not actually kill his wife or, if he did, it was accidental.

In any event, Crippen fled with his young lover, Ethel Le Neve, after the mysterious disappearance of his wife. This raised suspicion and the police found human remains buried in the cellar of Crippen’s house at Hilldrop Crescent in Holloway. The remains consisted only of some flesh from a torso, and the the head, limbs, and skeleton were never found, but it was enough to have a warrant put out for his arrest.

Crippen had booked a transatlantic passage with Le Neve disguised as his son; the eagle-eyed captain of the Montrose recognized the fugitives and telegraphed to Scotland Yard. Chief Inspector Dew took a faster liner, met them in Canada, and arrested them.

There is an Adam and Eve Court off Oxford Street; the court once housed the pawnbroker’s shop (no longer standing) where, in 1910, Crippen pawned his wife’s jewels; this was one of the acts that would eventually lead to his capture.

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