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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Ethel Le Neve

By Ethel Le Neve:
Little more than three months ago, I was an obscure typist, earning my living like thousands of other girls in the city; all I wished was happiness, not notoriety.
My life bad been spent in modest surroundings, and gladly would I have avoided the searching light of publicity. About my early days there is very little to be said. Until I was seven I lived at Diss, in Norfolk, my native place. From Diss we moved to London, and here we settled. When I left school I soon had thoughts of earning my own living. One of our intimate friends happened to be a shorthand teacher, and it pleased him to give lessons both to my sister and to myself in stenography and typewriting.

When my sister was proficient as a shorthand typist she obtained an engagement at the Drouet Institute. Here I joined her. Very soon afterwards came Dr. Crippen, who was fated to influence my life so strangely. For some reason the doctor took kindly to us, and almost from the first we were good friends. But really he was very considerate to everybody. I quickly discovered that Dr Crippen was leading a somewhat isolated life. I did not know whether he was married or not. But one day a friend of his called at the office. My sister and I were taking tea with the doctor, which we ourselves had prepared.
“I wish I had someone to make tea for me,” said the friend. Whereupon the doctor, with his customary geniality, pressed him to stay, and during the chat over the tea cups mention was made of the doctor’s wife. When the friend had gone my sister asked the doctor whether he was really married.
“It would take the lawyers all their time to find out,” was the mysterious reply. That was all he said.
When her sister left to get married, Miss Le Neve took her sister’s place as Dr Crippen’s private secretary. I felt very lonely. Dr Crippen, too, was very lonely, and our friendship deepened almost inevitably. He used to come to see me at home. All this time the wife was shrouded in mystery But one day she turned up in the flesh for the first time. That was, I suppose, about six years ago, when I was still at the Drouet Institute. Her coming was of a somewhat stormy character. I was leaving the office for lunch when I saw a woman come out of the doctor’s room, and bang the door behind her. She was obviously very angry about something.
“Who is that?” I said in a whisper to Mr William Long.
“Don’t you klow?” he said. “That is Mrs. Crippen.”.
”Oh, is it?” I said, with some surprise.
After that I quickly realised Dr Crippen’s reluctance to speak about his wife. He was obviously not happy. Not long afterwards Mrs. Crippen paid another visit to the office which might have ended tragically. There were more angry words, and just before she left I saw the doctor suddenly fall off his chair. I ran to him as he lay on the floor. I believed that he had taken poison. He told me that he could bear the ill treatment of his wife no longer. However, I managed to pull him round with the aid of brandy, and we did our best to forget the painful incident. I think it was this, more than anything else, which served to draw us closer together.
On the question of Dr Crippen’s condition on the day following the Martinetti dinner and the supposed murder, Miss Le Neve proceeds: On 1st February – the day upon which, according to the case for the Crown, Belle Elmore died – Dr Crippen appeared at the usual hour at the office, which was at Albion House, New Oxford street, where he now carried on a dental practice – in partnership with Mr Rylance. If he had really just come from committing a dreadful crime, if he had administered, that poison called hyoscin to his wife, and if he had left her dead body alone at the house, it is certainly remarkable that outwardly, at any rate, he was his own calm self.
Surely we, who knew him so well, and every expression his face would have noticed at once if he had shown, the slightest agitation. Speaking on the flight to the Continent, Miss Le Neve mentions that it was she who suggested the pawning of the jewels. Having missed the train to Harwich, they went for bus ride to Hackney, after she had put on her boy’s clothes. Dr. Crippen had cut her hair in London. She had it cut again in Brussels, where they went to see all the sights together.
“In spite of being dressed as a boy,” she said, “I was just a girl, full of high spirits, and generally pleased at this exploration of a foreign city.” Our journey to Quebec was determined in a quite accidental way. Dr. Crippen had an idea of getting back to Hull, crossing over to Liverpool, and getting away to America from that port. But one day when we were wandering about we saw an advertisement of the Montrose steaming from Antwerp to Quebec. Dr. Crippen. said, “That is what we will do. Let us book berths on the Montrose, and go over to Canada.” We inquired at the shipping office on 17th July, and learnt that the Montrose would leave Antwerp on the 20th. We left Brussels, therefore, on the 19th, spent the night at Antwerp, and caught the boat in the morning.  It was without the slightest sensation of nervousness that I stepped, on board the big steamer in my boy’s clothes.
If I had known of the frantic search that was being made for us. I should nave understood that we were very badly prepared for a secret voyage. Our lack of luggage was in itself calculated to betray us. We only had with us the one handbag which we had brought from Hilldrop Crescent. As for myself, I had nothing beyond in a boy s suit – not even an overcoat. The doctor was wearing his grey frock coat, and his soft white hat. I think it was as this time that he left off his glasses. The main features of the rest of this romantic affair are public property.

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