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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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The information was passed immediately to Inspector Dew at Scotland Yard,
Fortunately for Dew, another White Star liner, the SS Laurentic, was due to leave Liverpool for Quebec the following morning; a faster ship, she would actually arrive at her destination before the SS Montrose. The thrill of the transatlantic chase gripped the media, and newspapers were full of stories about the love triangle, covering the lives of Belle, Ethel and Crippen, and plotting the progress of each ship,
as the Laurentic steadily made ground on the Montrose.
The Laurentic reached Quebec the day before the Montrose, as scheduled. When the Montrose reached Father Point, on July 31, 1910, and prepared to take pilots on board to guide the ship into dock, Dew boarded the vessel, disguised as a pilot, and arrested Hawley Crippen and Ethel le Neve. He was able to do thisin his capacity as a Scotland Yard detective, carrying out his duty within British territorial waters. Had Crippen decided to sail straight to the United States instead of Canada, Dew would have had no jurisdiction over Crippen, a US citizen, within United States territory.
Crippen and Ethel were tried separately, in October 1910, in London.
Crippen's trial for murder commenced on October 18, 1910, and he hampered any hope of building a decent defense, by refusing to allow Ethel to stand as a defense witness. His only concern seemed to be the protection of her reputation. He might have avoided execution had he chosen to plead guilty, introducing testimony of Belle's serial adultery, but he pleaded not guilty, and was mercilessly bullied by the prosecutor, who emphasized the lies told to the Ladies' Guild and the police, and the concealment of the crime.
On October 22, 1910 the jury returned a verdict of guilty, after only 27 minutes of consideration. The presiding judge, Lord Alverstone, sentenced Crippen to death by hanging.
On October 26, the trial of Ethel Le Neve began at the Old Bailey, on charges of being an accessory to murder, after the fact, and a fugitive from justice. Lasting only one day, her defense successfully painted a picture of an innocent young woman merely following the instructions of her lover, and she was found not guilty, after only 12 minutes of deliberation by the jury.
An appeal of Crippen's sentence was refused, and his execution was set for November 23. Ethel visited Crippen in prison every day, and followed each visit up with a letter.
When he was executed at Pentonville Prison in London, on November 23, 1910, he requested that the letters, and a photograph of Ethel, be buried with him. He also bequeathed his estate to her.
On the day that he was executed, Ethel left the country by ship, bound for New York; from there she traveled to Toronto, where she worked as a secretary for 5 years, before returning to the UK, where she married and settled in Croydon. She died in 1967 at 84.
Given the publicity surrounding 39 Hilldrop Crescent, it is unsurprising that the house remained empty for most of the next 30 years.
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