Monday, February 21, 2011

Dr. Crippen, I Don't Presume

New evidence is leading to possible doubt of the guilt of Dr. Crippen, the first suspect caught via morse code.

The Detroit News: DNA undermines notorious murder case

DNA evidence is casting doubt on Crippen's guilt and reopening questions about a British murder on par with Jack the Ripper's exploits. Though there have always been skeptics of the case, the evidence discovered by a Michigan State University forensic scientist has created tension between Crippen's family, skeptics of the science and especially residents in the United Kingdom with deeply held beliefs.

The tests showed the torso found in the Crippen's basement, that led to his execution by hanging in November 1910, was not his wife after all:
Female ancestors were needed to examine the mitochondrial DNA, which is in the cells that are passed on through maternal lineage.

The results: No match between Turner's living descendants and the century-old evidence. A second testing produced the same results, and additional testing showed that the torso belonged to a male.

Foran's work was announced in 2007, but it wasn't until now that the science has been peer-reviewed and published. He said he had no personal interest in the results and no one paid him to do the study. In fact, the results startled him, he said.

"I was a little surprised because it is so widely accepted that the remains were Cora's," Foran said. "But the whole identification was based on this one scar. In this day and age, no one would accept that as being a positive ID."
Assumming the tissue samples were uncontaminated after all these years, the question then becomes whose torso was it, and what was it doing in the Crippen's basement?

Based on these tests, Michigan relatives of Dr. Crippen are trying to clear his name, have him exumed from the prison burial ground where he lies, and returned to Michigan for burial.

It is quite interesting how scientific development, in this case DNA analysis, are causing new uncertainties with previously established truths, and either helping to solve mysteries from history or deepen them.

In another historical footnote,Captain Kendall
, the man who sent the wireless transmission from his ship that lead to Crippen's arrest after Kendall spotted Crippen on board, was later appointed Captain of the liner Empress of Ireland. He and was her Captain when it went down in the St. Lawrence River in 1914 after being struck by the Storstad.

No comments: