Crippen's Curse


Henry George Kendall, born in January 1874, began his career in 1888 in sailing ships. In June 1901 he survived a shipwreck on the Newfoundland coast when he was an officer in the Lusitania, an earlier ship than the celebrated liner which was torpedoed and sunk during the First World War. Two years later he worked with Marconi to develop ship-to-shore radio before getting his first command in 1908.




















Captain Henry George Kendall

Within the next six years Captain Kendall would be in command of two ships, the SS Montrose and the RMS Empress of Ireland that had been owned by the Canadian Pacific Raiway Company. But Captain Kendall popularity would raise rapidly and fall just as quickly in the eyes of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company when he is involved with the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history and Captain Henry George Kendall would be forever written into maritime history.




















S.S. Montrose owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company

Commanded by Captain Henry George Kendall


By 1910, Kendall was appointed Captain Certificate Number 029896, of the Canadian Pacific Line’s 7,207-ton Montrose which was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and within months had become famous for his role in the arrest of Dr Crippen – the first time wireless had been used to capture a criminal. Dr. Crippen was one of the 20th century’s most notorious killers – and he was captured thanks to an eagle-eyed ship’s captain from Liverpool, Captain Henry George Kendall.





















Guglielmo Marconi

Inventor of the Wireless Telegraph

 Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen was the first criminal brought to justice thanks to wireless communication, in 1910 – nine years after Marconi demonstrated its use across the Atlantic. Dr. Crippen, who was American, and his mistress Ethel Le Neve, had fled London for Belgium on July 9, 1910, and, 11 days later, boarded the SS Montrose, bound for Quebec City, disguised as “Mr Robinson and son.” Police were in the meantime searching his home in north London where they discovered the dismembered body of his wife, late wife Cora Crippen, aka music hall singer Belle Elmore, buried in a cellar.























Cora Crippen

Who was dismembered by her husband Dr. Crippen


In a statement that Captain Kendall had made about the incident he said: “I sailed from Millwall Docks, London on the Montrose on July 14, 1910. On July 13, the Thames Police supplied me with a full written description of Crippen and Le Neve, wanted in London for murder, in which it was stated Le Neve might be dressed as a boy in a brown suit of clothes.


“The ship arrived in the river at Antwerp about midday on Friday July 15 . . . On Wednesday July 20 the passengers began to embark at 8.30am . . . Whilst waiting for my ship to sail from Antwerp I purchased a Continental edition of the Daily Mail and there saw the photos and descriptions of Le Neve and Crippen.


















Notorious Dr. Crippen

“Three hours after sailing my attention was attracted to two persons whom I now knew to be Crippen and Le Neve, by the supposed boy squeezing the elder man’s hand . . . When I saw the boy squeeze the man’s hand I thought it strange and unnatural and it occurred to me at once that they might be Crippen and Le Neve.



















Le Neve

Doctor Crippen's Mistress

“I wished them the time of day and took a keen observation of all points, and felt quite confident they were the persons wanted . . .

“On Thursday the 21st I sent for my chief officer and told him of my suspicions and directed him to keep the matter absolutely secret. I still kept Crippen and Le Neve under observation, and on the 22nd, Friday, I entered into conversation with Crippen regarding sea sickness amongst passengers, and the remedies which they carried for curing same.

























Cora Crippen Top Left Corner

Le Neve Top Right Corner

Dr. Crippen Center

“In answer to my observations he used some medical terms for certain remedies. I was then fully convinced that he was a medical man. I also noticed that Mr Robinson was flat on the bridge on his nose as described in Police Circulation, and that there was a deep mark on the nose as if caused by spectacles.


“I also noticed that Crippen spoke quietly in French to two French passengers opposite him, and the Police description mentioned that Crippen spoke French. I was then positively convinced that it was Crippen and Le Neve and told my Marconi operator to send the following message at once (to Scotland Yard): ‘Have strong suspicion that Crippen London Cellar Murderer and accomplice are amongst saloon passengers. Moustache shaved off, growing beard. Accomplice dressed as boy, voice, manner and build undoubtedly of a girl’. ”Crippen and Le Neve were arrested by Chief Inspector Walter Dew who made a transatlantic dash in a faster vessel, SS Laurentic, crossing from Liverpool to Quebec.



















Captain Kendell and Inspector Dew

Discussing the Crippen Case aboard the SS Montrose, 1910

The doctor allegedly told the officer: “Thank God it’s all over. The suspense had been too great. I could not stand it any longer. But before leaving the SS Montrose, Dr. Crippen proclaimed that Captain Kendall would suffer for this treachery.” Later they were brought to Liverpool before being sent for trial at the Old Bailey.


















Old Bailey

Where Dr. Crippen and his Mistress Le Neve were put on trail for the murder and dismemberment of Cora Crippen.




















Bank of England 250 Pound Sterling given to Captain Kendall for capturing Dr. Crippen



On October 5th, 1910 Captain Kendall received a 250 British pound sterling cheque which was drawn on the Bank of England made out to him only and had been signed by the British Home Secretary Winston Churchill. When Captain Kendall had been ask if he would share the reward he replied, " That he was unaware of any additional cheques and that his officers who had brought Dr. Crippen to his attention were always willing to do their duty. Captain Kendall never did cash the cheque but instead had it framed and hung on the wall of his cabin aboard the Empress of Ireland for years later when he became commander of the vessel.


Dr. Crippen was found guilty and was hung at Pentonville Prison on November 23rd, 1910. His Mistress, Le Neve has been acquitted of any wrong doing and board the White Star Majestic bound for New York in November 1910 hoping to start a new life which never happened. In 1916 she returned to England and took the name of Ethel Nelson for a short time then married her husband whose last name was Smith, they had a daughter and son together. Ethel lived to be 84 years old when she passed away with a heart attack.


Captain Kendall was rising like a new shinning star and eventually would take over the command from Captain James Anderson Murray who was then the captain of the Empress of Ireland.



Source: Liverpool Echo, David Zeni "Forgotten Empress" and Derek Grout "Empress of Ireland"