Supper With The Crippens

(First published by Orion Books 2005)

Book cover for Supper With The Crippens by David James Smith

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Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen lived with his wife, a music-hall variety performer called Belle Elmore, among the suburban villas of north London where he had set himself up in the fashionable business of homoeopathy.

After supper with friends of 31 January 1910, Crippen killed Belle with poison and dismembered her body. He buried some of her remains beneath the brick floor of the coal cellar.

It is assumed that Crippen killed for the love of his mistress, his secretary Ethel Le Neve. They began living together as man and wife, but under intense suspicion they ran off to Europe disguised as father and son and boarded an ocean liner, the SS Montrose, to Canada. When Belle’s remains were found the story became a national – and international – scandal. Chief Inspector Dew chased the couple across the Atlantic and was himself pursued by the world’s press, whose conduct was shocking even by today’s standards. Crippen was finally arrested in the captain’s cabin of the Montrose and brought back to England, with Ethel, for trial at the Old Bailey. Ethel was acquitted of being an accessory to the crime, while Crippen was convicted of murder and hanged.

David James Smith has uncovered substantial fresh evidence that explodes popular myths surrounding this notorious crime. Here for the first time is the truth of the case: a dark, psychological drama in which class and desire and social ambition become powerful motives for murder, and the popular belief in a young woman’s innocence of the crime is destroyed.


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See David James Smith…

Jon Venables: What Went Wrong
BBC 1, 10.35
Thursday, April 21st, 2011