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Hawley Crippen became the first criminal to be caught with the aid of wireless communication when police arrested him in 1910 for murdering his wife.
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Born in Michigan in 1862, Hawley Crippen gained international fame in 1910 when he fled England with his lover after murdering his wife, Cora. Authorities apprehended him after learning by telegram he was on a boat to Canada, making him the first criminal to be caught with the aid of wireless communication. He was later hanged in London.
Hawley Harvey Crippen was born in 1862, to Myron Augustus Crippen and Andresse Skinner Crippen, in the town of Coldwater in Michigan. The family were prosperous, owning a dry goods store that enabled them to live a comfortable life, but Crippen was nevertheless raised with a strict Protestant work ethic.
Pursuing a childhood interest in medicine, Crippen graduated from the University of Michigan, before pursuing an M.D. degree at Cleveland's Homeopathic Hospital. On completing his studies, he moved to New York, where he met and wed an Irish nurse named Charlotte Bell. They had one son together, named Otto, but Charlotte died suddenly of apoplexy in January 1892, leaving Crippen a widower, with a young child. Unable to cope, he persuaded his parents, now living in California, to take care of Otto, and he remained working in New York, where he met Cora Turner, who became his second wife in September 1892.
Cora was of Baltic descent and, when she was born in Brooklyn in 1873, her immigrant parents had named her Kunigunde Mackamotzki, a name she later changed to Cora Turner. She left home at 16, and parlayed her considerable sexual charms into acting and vocal lessons to advance her theatrical career. When Crippen met her, she was 19 years old, and an aspiring performer and opera singer. Her stage name was Belle Elmore, and she was an unlikely pairing for the Protestant, mild-mannered Crippen. He was dazzled by her larger-than-life show business persona; she, by his title of M.D., and the suggested wealth that the it promised.
Shortly after their wedding, America's fascination with the fashionable practice of homeopathy waned considerably, and Belle found herself with a living standard below that which she had expected. Most importantly, money for dramatic lessons dried up, and a nationwide economic depression closed many theatres, taking Belle's dreams of stardom with them.
Crippen was forced to take a job as a consultant for a homeopathic mail order business, Munyon's Homeopathic Remedies, which proved a shrewd decision: mail order businesses were booming, and Crippen's intelligence and work ethic impressed his employers. By 1895 he was the Philadelphia area general manager for the company and, in 1897, he was charged with opening the company's first overseas offices, in London.
Belle remained in Philadelphia initially, pursuing her acting lessons and a string of amorous affairs, courtesy of Crippen's newfound prosperity. When she finally arrived in London, she pursued her stage career there with equal vigor, although her talents were scant, by all accounts. She lived the theatre life, at Crippen's expense, but her career was sporadic, at best, and the couple grew ever further apart.
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