Crippen heads grisly top 10 of criminal investigations

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The Independent Online

Hawley Harvey Crippen, the first criminal to be arrested because of an alert raised by a wireless message, heads a top 10 of crimes solved by British police published yesterday.

Also on the list, which spans 110 years, are Reggie and Ronnie Kray, Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper and John Christie, the serial sex killer of 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill.

Dr Crippen was hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, convicted of murdering his wife in 1910. After killing her and hiding the remains in the cellar of his London home, the American-born doctor tried to escape to Canada with his lover, Ethel Le Neve, dressed as a boy.

But he was caught after Henry Kendall, the captain of the SS Montrose, on which Crippen and his lover were fleeing across the Atlantic, recognised him. He was arrested by a detective who made a transatlantic dash in a faster vessel.

Taking second place in the Police Review list is Colin Pitchfork, the first criminal to be arrested and charged using DNA fingerprinting.

In November 1983, a hospital porter on his way to work discovered the body of Lynda Mann, 15, who had been strangled and raped the previous evening. A semen sample was taken from her body but there were no further clues until 31 July 31 1986, when Dawn Ashworth, 15, a schoolgirl, disappeared, also in Leicestershire.

Her body was found less than a mile from where Lynda Mann met her death and tests confirmed detectives were hunting a dual killer.

A breakthrough for police came a year later after a massive operation to DNA test every local male between the ages of 16 and 34. A woman reported overhearing a pub conversation in which a man said he had been bullied by his colleague Pitchfork to take the test on his behalf. Police immediately arrested the two men and found Pitchfork's genetic barcode matched the semen samples taken from the girls.

Third place goes to Christie, a serial murderer. Police made a series of grim discoveries when they searched his home in west London. The bodies of three women were hidden in a bricked-up pantry while the corpse of his wife, Ethel, was hidden beneath the floorboards. There were also human bones in the garden. Christie's conviction in 1950 for 13 murders was secured after scientific evidence provided a link to a tooth crown belonging to one of his victims.

Sutcliffe is in fifth place. He was caught by officers in his car with Olivia Reivers, the prostitute he intended to be his 14th victim.They discovered Sutcliffe was using false plates on his Rover and took him in for questioning.

His conviction in 1981 at the Old Bailey led police to establish the Holmes database, which enables police to share information between forces.

Solved crimes

1. Dr Crippen
2. Colin Pitchfork
3. John Christie
4. Peter Sutcliffe
5. Donald Neilson
6. Ronnie and Reggie Kray
7. The Great Train Robbers
8. John Haigh
9. Edwin Bush
10. The Millennium Dome Robbers