Cribb is called in when doubt emerges over the guilt of a murderess who is due to hang shortly


(novel), (adaptation)


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Miriam Cromer
David Ashford ...
Simon Allingham
Gerald Sim ...
Inspector Waterlow
Elizabeth Burger ...
Barbara Bolton ...
Susie Blake ...
Lottie Piper
Judith Honeycutt
Dorothea Davenant
Laurence Payne ...
Howard Cromer
Geoffrey Larder ...
Josiah Perceval
James Warrior ...
James Berry
Ursula Mohan ...
Sarah Berry
Alan Dobie ...
Ernest Hare ...
Mr. Justice Colbeck
Alick Hayes ...
Clerk of Court


Miriam Cromer,wife of society photographer Howard,admits to poisoning her husband's assistant,Josiah Percival, who was blackmailing her over saucy photos for which she posed years earlier. She is to be hanged and her likeness immortalised at Madame Tussaud's waxworks as is that of the hangman Berry. Inspector Jowett believes there is doubt as to her guilt as she could not have had access to the poison cabinet and asks Sergeant Cribb to investigate. He begins by establishing that her husband's alibi is not water-tight and attempts to track down the other girls who posed with her. One,Judith Honeycutt,died of the same poison that killed Percival,and the other,actress Lottie Piper,tells Cribb that the photographer involved had an affair with Judith,disappearing after her death. Cribb believes that that photographer is Miriam's husband who killed Judith and who now goes on the run. Has he framed Miriam or is she self-sacrificingly altruistic? Or has a clever plot been arranged between ... Written by don @ minifie-1

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Crime | Drama | Mystery



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13 April 1980 (UK)  »

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A touch of Lipski and Maybrick, and a dash of James Berry thrown in
1 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In 1889 Mrs. Florence Maybrick was charged and convicted of poisoning her husband James a cotton-broker from Liverpool). The trial was not very good - the evidence was questionable and the judge (Sir James Fitzjames Stephen) was suffering from a nervous breakdown and gave a good summation if they had been trying Florence for adultery, but a lousy one for a homicide case. Florence's death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. She was released in 1904 (her life never was able to be salvaged - she died in great poverty in a shack in Connecticut in 1941).

Before his nervous breakdown Sir James had been the judge at another poisoning case (in 1887) of an immigrant named Israel Lipski, who apparently poisoned a married woman named Miriam Angel in her apartment in Batty Street, London. Israel was found under the victim's bed, apparently having taken some of the poison too. He was convicted, but he claimed that two other men killed Miriam, and poured the poison down his throat to frame him. The newspaper editor William T. Stead pushed for a reinvestigation. Pressure mounted. Justice Stephen met with Home Secretary Henry Matthews. They went over the evidence, and appear to have been willing to give Lipski the benefit of the doubt, when word got to them that Lipski (after a discussion with his Rabbi) confessed. Lipski hanged. The most recent study of the case (Martin Friedland's THE TRIALS OF ISRAEL LIPSKI) concludes that the confession was a questionable one.

Just two more elements to add to this. The famous wax museum, Madame Tussaud's, has it's "Chamber of Horrors" room with statues of infamous killers. Also included are some of England' executioners. The plot of the novel is that Tussaud's is planning a tableau of Miriam's execution by James Berry. James Berry was the public executioner from 1883 to his resignation in 1892. He wrote a book of memoirs so we know more about his experiences. He also became an outspoken critic and opponent of capital punishment, due his experiences. Yet he did enjoy the notoriety of the job, and in the plot is preening himself for being immortalized at Tussaud's with Miss Cromer.

Miriam Cromer's trial in early 1888 (prior to the Whitechapel Killings) is the major murder trial of the year. The wife of Howard Cromer (a photographer) she was arrested by the local police inspector (Waterlow) after she confesses to killing Cromer's assistant with poison (the chemicals used for photographic development). She claims the deceased was making sexual advances on her. Her husband is on record as saying he caught the assistant and Miriam together several times, and his wife was flustered, while the assistant quite silent each time. So the trial is rather quick - the whole case is that Mrs. Cromer killed to protect her good name from a scoundrel who wanted her body. That is not a really good defense in Victorian justice, so she is sentenced to death. But it is a good enough defense to get public sympathy built up for Miriam.

A wave of public sympathy is forcing the Home Secretary to wonder if clemency is not to be given here. Matthews contacts Chief Inspector Jowett, who contacts Cribb and Thackeray. And they start a reinvestigation, first going to Waterlow. The Inspector is going to retire soon, and admits that as Mrs. Cromer confessed he saw no real reason to fully investigate every aspect of the case. So Cribb and Thackeray have to start from scratch. Soon they are contacting Howard Cromer, and he is rather careful in his statements, supportive of his wife, but not going beyond a certain point regarding the events of the fatal day. It soon becomes noticeable that Cromer and the assistant were not very friendly with each other - in fact, if Miriam had not confessed, Howard would have been the suspect.

Cribb also finds that a close family friend, Simon, seems to know more than he is saying regarding the behavior of the deceased and Miriam, and Howard. He verifies the low opinion of the deceased that most people have, but he is fuzzy on details regarding the discovery of the deceased's body and the position of Howard and Miriam on the day of the murder (but keep in mind, perjury is not involved here - neither Howard, nor Simon, ever testified at Miriam's trial - only Miriam did when her confession was read).

The only person who is speaking up for the deceased is his girlfriend, Lottie Piper. First she knows that the deceased never was interested in Miriam for a sexual encounter (he was too deeply involved with Lottie). But secondly the deceased kept mentioning something he knew about Miriam.

Cribb meets with Miriam, and is impressed by her total strength of character, and coolness under the pressure of the death cell. We soon realize that Miriam is fully informed (by Howard and Simon) of what is going on in terms of public opinion and the authorities concerning her sentence. In fact, in those scenes she acts more like a general giving orders to two aides as to what to do next. Soon afterward Howard flees his photography studio/home and goes to parts unknown.

Miriam is told somebody has been even looking carefully at the clothes on the wax figurine of Miriam at Tussaud's - from the description she thinks it is Cribb, which suggests he has his doubts. Actually it is not Cribb - it's Berry, examining where he and his subject will stand.

I will not go further into the plot, but suffice it to say that in the end a kind of justice triumphs in several ways.

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