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Electronic Captures

In 1910, Guglielmo Marconi’s new invention, the wireless, was used for the first time to capture another murderer, Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen.

Crippen murdered his wife, buried her body under the flagstones of the cellar in their family home and told friends – and the police – she had run off. When Detective Inspector Drew of New Scotland Yard decided to investigate he found it was Crippen who had run off, with his lover, Ethel le Neve. Crippen was circulated as ‘wanted’, and soon the whole country was gripped with ‘Crippen mania’. Where was he? If you knew, call Whitehall 1212.

In fact, Crippen and le Neve were on board SS Montrose, bound for Canada. They travelled and dressed as father and son, but were spotted by an alert captain who sent the following wireless message to England:

“Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers…”

Detective Inspector Drew was dispatched from Scotland Yard on a faster ship, and arrested Crippen and le Neve at Father Point on the Canadian coast. Le Neve, who declared she knew nothing of the murder (so why was she dressed as Crippen’s son?), was acquitted. Crippen was hanged on 23rd November, 1910.