oa South African Family Practice - What is hyoscine N-butylbromide? : review

Volume 57, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



At 9 am on the 23rd of November 1910, Dr Harvey Hawley Crippen, an American who had originally trained as a homeopathic doctor, was dispatched to the next world by public hanging in London's Pentonville prison for murdering his minor-celebrity singer wife, Belle. In court, he was described as "quiet, mild and polite, a docile husband and an apparently entirely unremarkable person." His wife appeared to be "a blowsy, heavy-drinking nightmare, vain, bullying and promiscuous." Nonetheless, after she had been missing for some time and suspicions were raised, parts of the unfortunate Mrs Crippen's dissected body were found hidden under their coal cellar, along with traces of poison. Dr Crippen was arrested when he tried to escape to Canada by passenger liner with his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, who had disguised herself (unsuccessfully) as a young boy. The British public was entranced with this story, one which was peppered with glamour, intrigue, murder, adultery, conflict, a high-speed transatlantic chase and pharmacology: Dr Crippen's poison of choice was hyoscine.

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