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Filet of bitch

I don’t know why the Daily Mail floated this story to the top yesterday — it’s a couple of years old — but I hadn’t heard it and we were talking murderers. This is one of the most famous.

Hawley Crippen was a henpecked American doctor living in London with his horrible wife. She disappeared in 1910. When questioned, he told the police she had run off with a man and he was too embarrassed to admit it to their friends.

Then he vanished with his mistress.

So Scotland Yard dug up his cellar and found…a big, amorphous mass of rotting belly skin and a hair curler wrapped in his pajama top.

At trial, the pathologist swore the skin belonged to his wife because it had a recognizable scar. He was hanged.

The case is famous for two things: it was Bernard Spilsbury‘s first major court appearance (if forensic pathologists had rock stars, he’d be the first and biggest). And it was the first case to involve the telegraph wireless, as Crippen was breathlessly followed across the Atlantic by the paper-reading public rather like an Edwardian white Bronco.

Welp, somebody recently dug out the microscope slide of the supposed scar and had some DNA testing done. Not only is the skin not that of Mrs Crippen, it’s not even a woman (the things they can tell from DNA these days).

If you’re interested, you can watch an hour-long PBS program about it online.

I’m not persuaded by the toxicologist’s explanation, but I truly don’t know what to think about the new evidence. One thing we certainly agree on, though — I’ve always thought it exceedingly strange that a man would successfully dispose of all the bones, organs and limbs of his victim and then give up and bury a big, nasty slab of belly skin wrapped in his own PJ’s under the floor next to the kitchen.

January 18, 2011 — 10:11 pm
Comments: 28