NEWSPAPERS are wonderful, fluid things. Sometimes it is exciting get swept along on their current; other times it brings a tear to the eye.

Yesterday was a case in point. I was editing the paper as the boss was away on yet another junket. Early morning the Corus story broke, 1,700 jobs which, as the evening wore on, became a ripple effect of 4,000. Devastation.

All week in my spare moments I'd been working on what I consider to be a great little tale that I intended to occupy the main feature page. But I had no choice as editor than to boot my own piece of triviality off the page and get someone to write something knowledgeable about the economic fallout. And so my wonderful, honed, refined story got slashed from 1100 words to 600. As I entrusted no one else to do such a delicate job, I did it myself. It felt like cutting deep into one of my own children's breasts!

But the beauty of a blog is that it can ride again. Here, in its entirety (within reason), with pictures, is the story of the opening of Bishop Auckland Hippodrome and the star Lil Hawthorne's role in one of the most notorious and sensational murders of the 20th Century.

====================================== ONE hundred years ago tomorrow (that's Sunday, December 6, 1909), Lil Hawthorne topped the bill at the opening night of the Bishop Auckland Hippodrome. The well-known and popular comedienne wowed the 1,800 people crammed into the theatre with her sketches and songs fresh from the West End of London.

But less than two months later, Lil was starring in an even bigger drama: one of the most notorious murder mysteries of the 20th Century.

Lil at the Hip was a big gig in Bishop in 1909. Shed been on the stage for nearly 20 years, first with her sisters back home in America and then over here for ten years as a solo artiste.

Her highlight was when she appeared with a trayful of dolls suspended from her neck. She would hand the dolls to the audience while singing her hit: Take it home and give it to the baby. Her other signature tunes were Lucy Loo, and Tessie, You Are The Only, Only, Only.

She was booked to open the Hippodrome in Railway Street now a bingo hall by Signor Rino Pepi, the great theatre impressario who also ran music halls in Darlington, Middlesbrough and Shildon.

But despite all this, Lil is still best known for her role in the murder of Belle Elmore.

Belle was another American music hall artiste making a living on Britains thriving Edwardian theatre circuit. In 1906 she and her close friend Lil became founder members of the Music Hall Ladies' Guild.

Belle was an exotic creature with many male partners. Her real name was Kunigunde Mackamotzki a mix of Russian, Polish and German but off-stage she went by her married name of Cora Crippen.

Her husband was an American homeopath, Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen.

It was a letter from Dr Crippen that first alerted Lil to the mystery. He wrote to the Guild announcing Belles resignation as treasurer because shed suddenly been called back to the States.

On February 5 two months after her stint in Bishop Lil called on the Crippens house 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Holloway, north London to persuade her friend to re-think.

There was no answer. The house was in darkness.

Lils worries and music hall gossip grew until February 20 when she attended the Music Hall Benevolent Institution Dinner at the Criterion Hotel in London. In walked Dr Crippen, who was now claiming Belle had suddenly died in the US, and on his arm was his young secretary, Ethel Le Neve.

And, noted Lil with surprise, Ethel was wearing items of Belles jewellery.

As luck would have it, the following month Lils stage engagements took her across the Atlantic. With her manager-husband, John Nash, she tried to trace her friend at the American end.

But there was no sign of her, living or dead.

Lil returned to London in June and confronted Dr Crippen in his office. His answers were so unsatisfactory that she went to Scotland Yard who searched the house in Hilldrop Crescent.

Nothing was found. In fact, Inspector Walter Dew was inclined to believe Dr Crippens story that hed been so deeply embarrassed when flirtatious Belle left him for her lover, a prize fighter called Bruce Miller, that hed invented the story about her dying.

Dr Crippen was in the clear. But he was feeling the heat. He feared the police were onto him, and so went to lie low in Brussels with his lover.

This sudden flight reignited Insp Dews interest. He resumed his search. This time, beneath the cellar floor, he found human remains.

Not many remains, admittedly. No head, no limbs and no organs.

But enough, including a scrap of stomach skin on which there was a distinctive scar. Lil was one of Belles close friends who knew that a few years earlier Belle had had her womb taken out, scraped clean and put back in. This scar proved that the remains belonged to Belle and that Lil had been right all along.

The sensational news of the police hunt for a murdering doctor grabbed the headlines. In panic, Dr Crippen and Ethel disguised themselves he threw away his spectacles, shaved off his moustache and grew a beard; she cut her hair and dressed in boys clothes and fled Belgium aboard a liner, the SS Montrose, bound for Quebec.

The captain of the liner, Henry Kendall, became suspicious of his first class passengers listed as Mr John and Master Robinson.

I happened to glance through the porthole of my cabin and behind a lifeboat I saw two men, he later told police. One was squeezing the others hand.

He invited the odd couple to dine at his table and noticed a mark on the bridge of Mr Johns nose as if he were a habitual glasses-wearer, and that safety pins on Master Robinsons clothes prevented them revealing his feminine curves.

Using one of the first Marconi wireless transmitters to be installed on a liner, the captain sent a telegram to Scotland Yard. It read: Have strong suspicions that Crippen, London cellar murderer and accomplice, are among saloon passengers.

SS Montrose was three days out but still had 11 to sail. Insp Dew leapt aboard a faster liner, the Laurentic, which overtook the Montrose.

In the St Lawrence River, Insp Dew disguised himself as a tug pilot and came aboard the Montrose. He strolled up to Mr John, proffered his hand and removed his pilots hat.

"Good afternoon Dr Crippen, remember me?, he said.

Crippen stared in disbelief at the policeman who had searched his house, before offering up his wrists to be cuffed. He said: "Thank God it's over. The suspense has been too great. I couldn't stand it any longer."

Crippen was whisked back to England and into court. The police said he had poisoned Belle with hyoscine hydrobromide a day or two before Lil had first knocked on the door. He had burned her bones in the back garden, dissolved her organs in acid in the bath and had thrown her head overboard in a handbag on a daytrip to France.

It took the jury just 27 minutes to find him guilty, and as Lil was such a principal witness she was awarded 100 compensation for missing her bookings including a week in Stockton while attending court.

Crippen, the first murderer to be convicted by use of radio was hanged in Pentonville Prison on November 23, when Bishop Auckland Hippodrome had not even celebrated its first birthday.