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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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He then sent a telegram to the Martinettis, the couple with whom he and Belle had shared their final meal, on March 24, 1910, saying that Belle had died. Crippen also disappeared for a short break to France with Ethel, which seemed unduly hasty, given the recent death of his wife.
The Ladies' Guild pressed Crippen for details of Belle's funeral on his return; he claimed she was being cremated in the United States. As a Catholic, Belle would not have countenanced cremation so,
armed with all the evidence they had amassed over the previous two months, they approached Chief Inspector Walter Dew at Scotland Yard, laying out their suspicions. He claimed that there was too little evidence with which to proceed.
Undaunted, they continued their investigations, discovering that no boat had sailed to the United States on the day Belle was supposed to have left, and no one named Crippen had died in California on the day claimed in the telegram. Dew was forced to respond to the allegation, and he visited Crippen at home on July 8, 1910, questioning him about the death of his wife. Crippen admitted candidly that he had invented the story of her death: Belle, he claimed, had left him for another man, and he was merely trying to avoid the scandal and humiliation. Dew decided that he believed the story, and left.
Crippen, unaware of the good impression he had made on Dew, panicked. He told Ethel of Dew's visit, and persuaded her that they would need to leave the country for a year, until the scandal surrounding Belle's desertion had died down. They traveled to Antwerp the following day, to catch a boat bound for Quebec, in Canada.
On a routine follow-up visit to Crippen's dental practice, on July 11, Dew discovered that Crippen and Ethel had disappeared. He returned immediately to Hilldrop Crescent, to find that the maid had been dismissed, and was in the process of preparing the house for an extended absence. Dew organized an extremely thorough search of the premises, conducted over two full days, which finally unearthed the rotting remains concealed beneath the floor of the cellar. A medical examination of the remains of the torso found an operation scar, which enabled them to identify the remains as Belle Crippen. They also discovered the presence of hyoscine. On July 16, an arrest warrant was issued for Hawley Crippen and Ethel Le Neve.
The case made huge headlines in England, and the story, with pictures of the fugitives, was carried in European newspapers as well. Crippen decided that they would be best traveling incognito, and he boarded the SS Montrose in Antwerp,bound for Canada, on July 20, 1910, traveling as Mr. Robinson, with Ethel disguised,rather poorly, as his young son. Unfortunately for them, the Captain of the Montrose, named Kendall, took a local newspaper with him, on the day of departure,containing pictures of the fugitives. Ethel's poor disguise drew attention;looking more closely, Captain Kendall recognized the similarity between the odd couple and the fugitives and, on July 22, sent a wireless telegram to the White Star Line in Liverpool, claiming that Crippen and Ethel were on board.It was the first time that this new means of communications was used in the apprehension of a criminal.
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