Crippen in the Clear?

For ninety-seven years, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen has been known as one of England’s notorious murders. Even as recently as this year, the Crippen case took center stage in Erik Larson’s book THUNDERSTRUCK, but there have been many, many fictional and non-fictional treatments of Crippen, the murder of his wife Cora, and his escape by ship with his lover before capture.

But now Michigan State University’s Forensic Science Program claims Crippen may be innocent after all:

Back in 1910, it was forensic evidence that brought Crippen down. Now,

David Foran, a forensic biologist and director of MSU’s forensic

science program, partnering with clinical and forensic toxicologist

John Harris Trestrail III, managing director of the regional poison

center in Grand Rapids, is combining state-of-the-art DNA analysis with

solid sleuthing to show the remains buried in Crippen’s basement

couldn’t have been his wife.

“This  can’t be Cora Crippen,” Foran said. “We’re certain of that.”

Why? Because mitochondrial DNA extracted from the nearly century-old slide that helped convict Crippen was tested, compared with a descendant of Cora Crippen, and there was no match.

“We took a lot of precautions when doing this testing,” Foran said.

“We just didn’t stop. We went back and started from scratch and tested

it again. The DNA in the sample is different from the known relatives

of Cora Crippen.” And for John Boyne, whose 2004 novel CRIPPEN suggested a different theory altogether, the DNA testing comes as no surprise but doesn’t clear things up by a long shot:

“I don’t think the DNA evidence has cleared anything up,” he said. “There were suggestions Crippen could have been an abortionist and the body in the cellar was one which went wrong. He still dressed his mistress as his son and fled. He obviously had something to hide.

“Dr Crippen is one of those mysteries that will never be solved.”

Likely not, if only because of my favorite axiom that all the suspects are dead anyway, but the debate will certainly rage on for quite some time…