Hawley Harvey Crippen was born in Michigan in 1862. After studying in Michigan, London and Ohio, where he attended both the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College and the Cleveland University of Medicine and Surgery, he qualified as a homeopathic doctor in 1884 and began working for a pharmaceutical company. In 1887 he married a nurse, Charlotte Jane Bell, but she died in 1892 just three years after giving birth to their son Otto. After placing Otto with his parents Crippen moved to New York, where he married his second wife Kunigunde Mackamotzki, who was also known as Belle Elmore or Cora Turner.
In 1897 the couple moved to London where Crippen unsuccessfully attempted to exploit the market for mail order patent medicines. In the following years he worked for a number of companies including The Aural Remedies Company, Yale Tooth Specialists and Drouet's Institute for the Deaf. At Drouet's he employed a typist called Ethel Le Neve, who was also his mistress.
On 17 January 1910 Crippen ordered five grains of a sedative, hyoscine, from a chemist, which he collected two days later. Cora Crippen disappeared at the end of the month. By mid March Le Neve had moved in to the Crippen household and was calling herself 'Mrs Crippen'. He told Cora's friends that she had gone to America to visit relatives and had subsequently become ill and died, but they were suspicious and contacted the police. Detective-Inspector Walter Dew interviewed Crippen in July, when he admitted to lying about his wife. He told Dew that she had left him for another man and was living in Chicago, and that he had lied in order to avoid any scandal. Dew was satisfied with this explanation and a brief search of the house had found nothing suspicious. However, when Dew returned the following day to clear up a few matters, both Crippen and Le Neve had disappeared. A thorough search of the premises then uncovered partial human remains under the coal cellar floor. Later these were found to contain large amounts of hyoscine and were identified as being the remains of Cora Crippen.
An international manhunt for Crippen and Le Neve was undertaken. Henry Kendall, the Captain of the SS Montrose grew suspicious of two passengers travelling from Belgium to Canada as father and son, and relayed his suspicions to London via Marconi telegram. Walter Dew then travelled to Canada by a faster ship where he arrested Crippen and Le Neve and brought them back to Britain to be tried separately for murder. This was the first time that wireless telegraphy had been used to apprehend a criminal.
Crippen was found guilty of the murder of his wife and hanged on 23rd November 1910 at Pentonville prison.