Sunday, June 14, 2009


A remarkable story of an American railroaded by the British courts and his possible vindication:

The case of one of the most notorious murderers in British history, Hawley Crippen, is to be referred to the Court of Appeal, where the infamous doctor may secure a posthumous pardon 99 years after he was hanged.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has been secretly examining the safety of Dr Crippen's conviction and officials believe that senior judges should now decide whether he is innocent of the murder of his wife in 1910. Cases are referred to the appeal court if the commission feels there is a "real possibility" that the conviction will be ruled unsafe and quashed. At the centre of the case is DNA evidence that may establish the innocence of the American-born Crippen.

Lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano and leading QC James Lewis, acting for Patrick Crippen, a relative of the doctor, said they were told last Friday that the case would be referred to the court in a development that may make Crippen the victim of the longest miscarriage of justice in British history rather than a name that is a byword for murder most foul. Crippen was hanged and buried in the grounds of Pentonville prison after a jury found him guilty.

According to prosecutors at his Old Bailey trial in 1910, the homeopathic practitioner poisoned his unfaithful wife, Cora, dissected her body and buried the remains in the cellar of their north London home. Police found a corpse with no head, bones or genitals. Preparations are already under way to begin the exhumation of Crippen's body at Pentonville. Descendants of Crippen said yesterday that they were "90%" certain that the body would be ferried back to Michigan in the US, where the Crippens have a family burial plot. Lawyers claim that such a development might also reveal the contents of a series of letters apparently buried in his coffin and which purportedly reveal the "truth" behind the body in the cellar.


The chief justice, Lord Alverstone, directed the Old Bailey jury in 1910 with concerns over the gender of the corpse by saying: "Of course, if it was a man ... the defendant is entitled to walk out of that dock."

Lewis, whose prosecution cases include ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has agreed to represent Crippen in court. Crippen's place in criminal history is cemented by the fact that he booked a passage on a ship to Canada taking his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, disguised as his teenage son. The pair were recognised by the liner's captain, who famously used the new Marconi telegraph system to alert Scotland Yard.

A compelling case against the death penalty, if the evidence is accurate.

Update: But apparently not breaking news.

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