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Sir Bernard Spilsbury shields
his face from photographers
as he arrives at an inquest
The couple were separately accused and tried at the Old
Bailey and Crippen was found guilty. Ethel le Neve was
acquitted. Bernard Spilsbury’s evidence, extracted only
from a piece of skin from the victim’s belly, was instrumental
evidence in the conviction of Crippen. More important,
Spilsbury’s demeanour as he gave evidence through the
trial impressed his many colleagues. His official status as
police pathologist in England was established.
He was celebrated for his evidence at many sensational
murder trials, which were popularised by their headline titles:
The Brides in the Bath and the Brighton Trunk Murders
among many others. Meanwhile, Spilsbury continued his
lectures and tutorship at St Mary’s until he had a minor
dispute with a colleague who had been impolite. Spilsbury
took umbrage and demanded an apology, which was refused.
The dispute was brought before the Court of Governors,
who totally exonerated Spilsbury, but it was too late and,
with considerable reluctance, Spilsbury resigned and left
St Mary’s Hospital in 1920.
He was received with enthusiasm – as he would have
been at any hospital – as lecturer on Morbid Anatomy and
Histology at St. Bartholomew’s hospital. Although the
move to Bart’s did not change his busy routine of lectures,
demonstrations and assistance to coroners and the police,
he now joined the Craft.
He had previously resisted invitations by his many fellow
doctors to become a Freemason. It may have been the change
of environment and an awareness of the antiquity of Bart’s,
the oldest hospital in England, that may have induced, maybe
inspired him at the relatively late age of 44, to do so and he
took to Freemasonry with enthusiasm.