ISSUE 16, January 2006
Historic: Sherlock Holmes incarnate
Travel: In the Footsteps of the Incas
Sport: Batting for England
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Supreme Grand Chapter: First Grand Principal's speech and Committee of General Purposes
Royal Masonic Girls' School: Stories in windows
Specialist Lodges: Brotherhood of the Angle
    Napoleonic Wars: A Mason's Word
International: Macedonia: New Grand Lodge consecrated and Enthusiasm unbound
Grand Lodge: Development of Freemasons' Hall
Masonic Rebels: Rise and fall
Bristol Museum: A Phoenix from the Ashes
Freemasonry and Religion: United in diversity
Library and Museum: Most glorious of them all
First Aid: Masons learn to shock
Education: The Third Degree and Forthcoming events
Masonic Charities, Letters, Book Reviews, Gardening

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

© Private Collection, Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Art Library

Portrait of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, taken by Elliott & Fry

The arrest of Dr Crippen and Ethel le Neve on the Montrose from Le Petit Journal of 14 August 1910
    If there ever was an incarnation of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, it would undoubtedly be Bernard Henry Spilsbury, the medical detective. He did more for the advancement of forensic medicine than any man in history, particularly in the application of the science in its legal context to the criminal courts of justice.
    Through a highly eventful and fulfilling medical career, Spilsbury found, or maybe created, time for full-fledged Masonic activity in several Lodges and Orders. Coincidentally, some of the accused involved in his cases were also Freemasons. Sadly, he suffered personal tragedies and the added burden of the repugnant actions of others finally led him to take his own life on 17 December 1947.
    Bernard Spilsbury, born in Bath in January 1877, could trace his family association with medicine as far back as the late 17th century. His disciplinarian father, James Spilsbury, and his churchgoing mother, Marion Joy of Stafford, moved to Leamington in 1876, where their four children were born.
    Bernard was the eldest and destined to become a doctor, not least because it was the wish of his father – and his father was a strong-willed man. With his brother Leonard and sisters Constance and Gertrude, Bernard was tutored until the age of 12, when the family moved to London. He went to Leamington and then Owens College and is recorded to have been ordinary in sport and mediocre in his academic studies.
    He grew to become a handsome man, more than six feet in height, quiet and cheerful and always well dressed. In 1893 he was admitted to Magdalen College, Oxford to read Natural Science in preparation for his entry in 1899 to St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. His father’s gift of a new microscope led Bernard to switch from general practice to pathology, and he never looked back.
    Forensic medicine at this time was not only in its infancy, but still treated with suspicion and even contempt by the medical and legal fraternity. Three key men, all doctors at St Mary’s Hospital, were the pioneers and founding fathers of the new science: Dr A P Luff, William Wilcox and A J Pepper. It was this group that Bernard Spilsbury joined and with them wrote history in this particular field of medical discipline.
    It was two years after his marriage to Edith Thorton that Spilsbury took on the mantle of chief pathologist at St Mary’s from his mentor, Dr Pepper. Now well-known in the medical community, it was the Crippen case in 1910, a landmark in forensic medicine, that made him a household name.
    Hawley Harvey Crippen was born in Michigan in 1862 and came to England as a doctor in 1907. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison on 23 November 1910 for the murder of his wife, Kunigunde Mackamotzi, who went by the name of Belle Elmore. Early that year Belle had disappeared. Crippen’s mistress, Ethel le Neve, who was seen wearing Belle’s clothes and jewellery, overtly and shamelessly took her place. To enquirers as to the whereabouts of his wife, Crippen claimed she had returned to the United States.
    Following the rumours of Belle’s disappearance, the pair fled on the SS Montrose to Canada, Ethel le Neve disguised as a boy. When the police returned to search their house, they found mutilated remains of a body hidden in the basement. Telegraphic despatches with descriptions of the fugitives led to the arrest of the couple on 31 July 1910 – the first such arrest with the use of the new wireless system.

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