Feature: World's first telegram to catch notorious killer to be sold at auction

November 19, 2015 11:27 am 

LONDON, Nov. 12 — More than a century ago wireless telegraphy was the forerunner of today's e-mail as a means of global communication.

And on Saturday the original wired message that became the first in the world to send a notorious wife-killer to the gallows is to be auctioned.

That wireless telegram message sent in 1910 was crucial in the capture of a man who became infamous in British legal history, Dr Harley Hawley Crippen.

Crippen rose to infamy by allegedly poisoning and dismembering his unfaithful wife and hiding her remains under the cellar floor of their London home. His murder trial lasted five days and after being found guilty by a jury he was hanged at London's Pentonville Prison on November 23, 1910.

The world was gripped in the early 20th century by the dramatic pursuit of Crippen across the Atlantic Ocean as he fled aboard a liner with his young lover disguised as a boy.

The captain of the liner, the SS Montrose, recognised Crippen and his mistress aboard his ship and used the recently installed wireless telegraphy apparatus to alert police at London's famous Scotland Yard.

Captain Kendall's famous message that started the dramatic search said: "Have strong suspicions that Crippen, London. Cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers, moustache taken off growing a beard, accomplice dressed as boy, voice manner and build undoubtable a boy, both travelling as Mr & Master Robinson", signed Kendall.

The message sparked the dramatic transatlantic chase which started with Detective Chief Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard boarding the SS Laurentic, a faster ship than the Montrose. It enabled Dew to arrive in Quebec ahead of the Montrose to be sure of making his arrest.

The historic wired message from the captain is one of 13 wireless telegrams linked to the Crippen story being put up for sale Saturday by auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son in Wiltshire.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: "They are quite simply one of the most important collections of their type known and represent a watershed moment in the history of police/crime fighting, the first time a criminal was apprehended as a direct result of wireless telegraphy. The collection wires messages offer a unique perspective on this most dramatic of chases through the eyes of the main protagonists." They have been in the ownership of a private collector since 1974.

Dew's ability to arrest Crippen on Canadian soil was important as had he fled across the border into the United States, extradition would have been complicated.

Once aboard the Montrose, the Scotland Yard officer famously said: "Good morning Crippen, Do you know me, I'm Chief Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard. Crippen replied "Thank God it's over". The collection of telegrams is estimated to sell for around 18,000 U.S. dollars.

Also being sold are wireless telegrams sent by Guglielmo Marconi relating to Crippen's capture. Marconi invented wireless telegraphy, the then new wonder of the communication that ensured Crippen had his appointment with the hangman. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/RSM

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