Doctor Crippen: The Infamous London Cellar Murder of 1910

Doctor Crippen: The Infamous London Cellar Murder of 1910 by Nicholas Connell

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Authors: Nicholas Connell
    I was absolutely mobbed. Cameras were thrust in my face and I was practically at their mercy. I was importuned to say something, but I need hardly say that I refused.
    In passing I cannot refrain from saying that the whole affair was disgraceful and should and could have been avoided and I was fearful lest this should in any way mar the success of my mission. Fabulous sums were offered me for information and permission to take the photograph of Crippen and especially Le Neve in boys’ clothing.
    My refusal to do this and declining to give information has of course gained me many enemies, as I have it on the best authority that owners of papers are complaining that no statements & information are forthcoming through them from Dew.
    The result is that daily the most lying reports are published as to alleged statements made by me as to confessions etc. and indeed strange as it may seem, my life has been made a perfect burden.
    I am followed and questioned in the most shameful manner, and my every movement is watched, they even intrude into my hotel and force their questions upon me at meals, and every possible ruse has been adopted to break through the reserve I have maintained from the first.
    It has cost me a prodigious effort to continue to treat them with civility, but I think the fact of my having done so has annoyed them more.
    Dew requested that he be allowed to have a free hand when it came to arranging the return voyage and said that Crippen would never be left alone, no doubt fearing he might try to attempt suicide. He emphasised that Crippen and Le Neve would be kept entirely apart and expressed concern that heavy bribes might be offered by the press to the matrons in order to get to Le Neve.
    At the initial police court hearing, a crowd of 3,000 women blocked the entrance to the court in the fight for admission. All the available seats were occupied by women, with forty or fifty others standing. Crippen’s physical appearance came as a disappointment to the expectant spectators. He was not ‘the hypnotic marvel which cabled stories had held up. Instead, the cringing figure with stooped head gave the lie to expectations. Crippen whined where criminals with more backbone would have answered smartly and posed serenely. He rolled his swollen eyes and twitched his head.’ Le Neve was no more inspiring. She ‘leaned weakly upon the arms of her guards like one who had risen from a sick bed’ before fainting and being carried out. 9
    The hearing itself was a formality. Crippen confirmed his name and acknowledged he knew Le Neve and the reason they were there. He also stated he was an American citizen, a Catholic and that he would not fight extradition. The 1881 Fugitive Offenders Act meant that fugitives from British justice wanted for offences carrying a sentence of twelve months or more could be arrested on a warrant in any part of the British dominions. When caught, the fugitive would appear before a magistrate and if the evidence presented ‘raises a strong or probable presumption that the fugitive committed the offence’, they would then be sent to prison for fifteen days to allow them to appeal before being extradited. This is what happened with Crippen and it meant that he and Dew would miss the resumed coroner’s inquest in London.
    Dew had anticipated a stay in Canada after Crippen’s arrest. The intensity of the Canadian public’s feelings of revulsion towards Crippen came as a surprise to him:
    I had plenty of opportunities for sensing public opinion in Quebec. The people there were incensed against Crippen. They looked upon him as a monster in human form. By some he had already been judged and found guilty. The ghastly murder and mutilation of Belle Elmore, followed by his flight from justice with Miss Ethel Le Neve as his companion, had roused public feeling against him to fever point.
    It was the same the world over. I have never known anything like it.

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