A month and a day after his conviction , Hawley Crippen was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London. To modern eyes the whole process seems incredibly accelerated: Crippen's murder trial lasted just five days, even though some complex forensic evidence had to be considered; the jury only deliberated for 27 minutes before returning to the courtroom to give their verdict; and the hanging took place 32 days after the case ended.
Crippen protested his innocence to his dying day, though his primary concern seemed to be that his lover Ethel should not be found guilty in her separate trial. She was acquitted.
In his time Crippen was seen as a cold-blooded killer. His middle class existence, and the quiet suburban home at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, gave the affair added piquancy, and he is still a byword in the English language for a murderer. But modern examination of the evidence which convicted him, human remains found in his pyjama jacket in the coal cellar, shows the tissue was from a man, and it is conjectured that this may have been planted to assure the beleaguered police of a conviction. It was not so many years since that they had been made to look stupid by Jack the Ripper , and one of those on the Crippen case had been a central figure in the Ripper investigation. The Crippen saga was just as notorious and very much in the public eye.
Other evidence had been suppressed by the police, notably that a woman similar to Cora Crippen had been seen taking luggage from the house shortly before her 'disappearance'. And Cora had certainly tried to empty their savings account at this time too. Years later a singer using a stage name similar to one used earlier in her career by Cora was recorded as lodging at the house of Cora's sister in the USA.
As far as Crippen is concerned, this is now idle speculation, and has been for a century. On the morning of November 23 1910 John Ellis, the Rochdale -born executioner, despatched Crippen with his usual professional care. Crippen's descendents in the USA have asked he be pardoned, and have petitioned for his remains to be returned to America. It may be that the case did not close when the trap door opened beneath Hawley Crippen's feet. And the legend assuredly lives on.
More famous dates here
7977 views since 23rd November 2007