Dr. Crippen on The Closer is named after an eerie killer whose murder case made history

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: October 9, 2018, 12:06PM

There's something curious about The Closer's original medical examiner, whose name causes true crime fans in the know to feel their skin crawl. On The Closer, Dr. Crippen, played by James Avery, is a thorough M.E. who tries his best to be patient with Brenda's pushiness, but often just can't help but bug his eyes out in frustration at her. You can hardly blame him, since Brenda does things like interrupt his insights to phone the F.B.I. for answers he's about to provide. His character added a curmudgeonly spirit to The Closer for its first three seasons, but there's a darker history to how he got his name.

In the real world, there was a real Dr. Crippen. He was an actual doctor who in 1910 was hanged as a murderer, convicted of killing his wife. This Dr. Crippen had married a singer, Cora Turner, who was publicly untrue to him, flaunting a series of affairs, including with the tenants they lodged in their home. One day, she just disappeared. According to Dr. Crippen, she ran off with a lover. The police believed his story, but as if Edgar Allan Poe's Telltale Heart pounded within his own chest, the doctor ran away anyway, taking his new girlfriend with him and boarding a ship to flee to Canada.

This suspicious action gave the police reason to search his house again. They wouldn't find the torso in his cellar until the fourth time through. The rest of the body was never found, but a piece of Dr. Crippen's pajamas was discovered in the remains, so it was decided it was the body of his missing wife. Police sought their fleeing suspect, but they had no idea he was out on the high seas.

Meanwhile, Dr. Crippen and his girlfriend sat aboard ship in apparently very poor disguises. The ship's captain first noticed that Dr. Crippen's mustache didn't really attach to his beard. Then he took a look at his companion, his girlfriend dressed as a young boy. The captain recognized the build of a woman under the clothes of a boy. It didn't take him long to figure out he was housing fugitives.

Leaving not a moment to waste, he used the ship's wireless transmitter to send a telegraph to the police, who boarded their own ship that actually beat Dr. Crippen's to Canada's shores. It's been noted that had the doctor and his girlfriend decided to ride third class, they probably would never have been seen at all. Instead, Dr. Crippen was arrested promptly, upon which he said, "Thank God it's over. The suspense has been too great." The moment made history, as Dr. Crippen in handcuffs became the first suspect caught through the use of wireless technology.

Later on, Dr. Crippen's story would become the subject of controversy, as new technologies allowed for new consideration of DNA evidence attached to his case. Not only did these new investigations throw into question whether Dr. Crippen had killed his wife, but it also seemed to show that the torso they dug up from his cellar actually belonged to a man. In that way, the story of Dr. Crippen is still shrouded in mystery, a case no closer in history could definitively solve.

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