True Crime Sunday: Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen (Part 2)

Welcome back to True Crime Sunday! This week we’re going to take a closer look at the trial and some recent developments related to last week’s case.

Last week we looked at the case of Dr. Crippen who was tried for the murder of his wife, Cora, and convicted. Not long after his wife’s disappearance, he brought his mistress to the house to live with him and she started wearing the wife’s clothes and jewelry. After suspicion landed on him, he and his lady fled and prepared to set sail for Canada. It is on their voyage they were caught.

A torso was found in the cellar of the doctor’s house, and a key piece of evidence came from it. Supposedly, a scar on the abdomen identified the torso as belonging to the doctor’s wife.

At the trial, a pathologist testifying for the prosecution said he couldn’t be certain if the torso belonged to a man or a woman. The defense claimed that the couple had only been in the house since 1905, and the state of the body suggested it could have already been there when they moved in. They also claimed that the scar was actually folded tissue and that it had hair follicles, which a scar wouldn’t have.

This case has caught the attention of people throughout the years. One later theory arose that Dr. Crippen was performing abortions at his home, and the torso belonged to a patient who died during the procedure.

In 2007, another look was taken at the case of Dr. Crippen by a Michigan State University forensic scientist. He said that the tissue sample used in the case was not from Cora Crippen. DNA samples were taken from great-nieces for comparison, and it was found that the samples did not match. There was also a Y chromosome test performed, and the results showed that the sample came from a male.

This may be seen as a breakthrough in the case, however, there are arguments against these new findings. A journalist for The Times said that the Y chromosome results are unreliable since the test was so new at that time. Some also argue that since birth certificates were uncommon at the time, there’s no way to know if the great-nieces are really relatives of Cora Crippen.

A distant relative of Dr. Crippen has sought to use this evidence to exonerate him posthumously, however the U.K.’s Criminal Cases Review Commission decided in 2009 that the Court of Appeals would not hear the case.

Given the interest still present in this case and the technological breakthroughs, it’s possible we will know one way or the other what happened in this case. For now, it seems Dr. Crippen is still believed to be responsible for his wife’s disappearance.

Thank you for joining me this week. What case shall we look at next week? There’s one way to find out…

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