Leneve – Baby Name Inspired by a Fugitive

Ethel Le Never
Ethel Le Neve on a Wanted Poster
© The National Archives (UK)
The curious name Leneve debuted on the SSA’s baby name list 105 years ago…then disappeared.

  • 1912: unlisted
  • 1911: unlisted
  • 1910: 7 baby girls named Leneve
  • 1909: unlisted
  • 1908: unlisted

A similar spike can be seen in the SSDI data:

  • 1912: none
  • 1911: 6 people named Leneve
  • 1910: 16 people named Leneve
  • 1909: none
  • 1908: none

Where did the name Leneve come from all of a sudden in 1910?

We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s start with the murder.

On July 13, 1910, the remains of a body thought to belong to music hall singer Belle Elmore (legal name Cora Crippen) were found in the basement of her home in London. Belle had been missing since February.

The main suspect was her husband, Hawley Crippen, a homeopathic doctor who had fled to Belgium several days earlier with his young lover, Ethel Le Neve.

A warrant for the arrest of Crippen and Le Neve was issued on July 16.

The pair — disguised as father and son, and using the surname Robinson — boarded a Canada-bound steamship in Antwerp on July 20.

The captain of the ship was suspicious of the pair, so he telegraphed the boat’s owners, who in turn telegraphed Scotland Yard.

A London police officer boarded an even faster steamship headed for Canada on July 23.

Fascinatingly, Crippen and Le Neve were not only unaware that they were being trailed by the London police on another boat, but they also didn’t know that newspapers around the world had picked up their story and that millions of people were reading about the dramatic transatlantic race, day by day, as it occurred.

The faster ship reached Quebec first, and the officer was able to intercept and arrest the fugitives on July 31. (This makes Crippen and Le Neve the first criminals to be apprehended with the assistance of wireless communication.)

The next month, the pair sailed back to England. They were tried separately.

Crippen was found guilty. He was executed by hanging on November 23.

Ethel Le Neve was acquitted. She promptly left for New York.

To this day, no one knows exactly whose remains were in that basement in London, how they got there, and who was to blame for it all.

But we do know that Ethel Le Neve (often written “Leneve” in U.S. newspapers) was a fixture in the news in mid-1910. This is no doubt what boosted the rare name Leneve onto the baby name charts for the first and only time. Leneve was the top one-hit wonder name of 1910, in fact.

Ethel was back in London by 1915. She eventually got married and had two children. She died in 1967, never having revealed to her children that she “had once been the world’s most famous runaway.” (They found this out in the 1980s, after being contacted by a crime historian.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Leneve?

Sources: Local history: Transatlantic murder mystery plays out in 1910 Scranton, London, Marconi Catches a Murderer (Futility Closet podcast), The Execution of Dr Crippen, Inside story: last refuge for a killer’s mistress

One thought on “Leneve – Baby Name Inspired by a Fugitive

  1. I would have liked it a bit (for its sound, look and modernistic touches) had I not heard about the lover of a fugitive, but that’s just me (lol).

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