A Whitechapel Atrocity March 1888

Mention the phrase “Whitechapel atrocity” today – or even the “East End atrocity” – and the chances are that most people will think that you are referring to the Jack the Ripper murders.

However, the crimes of Jack the Ripper were, sadly, far from the only such diabolical acts that occurred in Whitechapel in 1888.

Indeed, horrible as the Whitechapel murders were, there were other crimes occurring that, on reading about them, still have the ability to arouse feelings of pity for the poor victims and anger, bordering on rage, for the perpetrators.

One such case was reported in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, on Sunday, 25th March, 1888:-


“Teresa Smith, 22, of 88, Catherine’s-buildings, Cartwright-street, Whitechapel, was charged on remand at the Thames police- court, on Tuesday, with ill-treating her illegitimate child, Henry Smith, aged four years.

Mr. J. G. Waters prosecuted for the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The evidence of a witness named Annie Edwards was reported the previous week.


In cross-examination, she now stated that, about four days before the accused was arrested, the little boy came into the witness’s room and asked for the loan of a rasp.

The next morning the witness went into the prisoner’s room.

The accused went outside, and, during her absence, the witness turned up the child’s clothes and saw that the skin had been scraped, as if from a rasp. His back was bleeding.

When the mother came in the witness asked her. “Whatever did you do this for?” and she replied, “Because he took a piece of sugar out of the basin.”


The boy was carried forward, and Mr. Williams the magistrate’s clerk said that he had so improved that it was difficult to believe him to be the same child.

An attendant said that the child had gained two pounds in weight during the past week.


Charles Edwards, of 89, Catherine’s-buildings, Whitechapel, father of the last witness, deposed that on one occasion he saw the accused take the child by the roots of the hair and throw him from the door to the window – a distance of about 20ft.

The witness said to her, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” She replied, “I can’t serve him bad enough.” On that occasion the child cried out, and seemed to be in great pain.


He had known the prisoner had ill-used her son for a long time, he had spoken to her about the ill-usage.

Mr. Saunders:- “As a humane man did you take any action in the matter?”

Witness:- “I did not. I am very much to blame in the matter.”

Mr. Saunders:- “I should think so. You must be a cruel-hearted man. It is contrary to human nature. Stand down.”

Mr. Saunders again remanded the accused.”


The Diss Express provided an update on the case in its edition of Friday, 6th April, 1888:-

“Teresa Smith, aged 22, of 88, Catherine-buildings, Cartwright-streel, Whitechapel, has been again charged, on remand, with ill-treating her illegitimate child, Henry Smith, aged four years.

The facts of the case have already been fully reported, and an officer of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stated during the last week that the child had increased two pounds in weight.

When the prisoner was arrested by Constable Don she said, “Do not believe it. They are making it up for me.”

On examining the room, however, found blood stains the wall and the right hand side of the washstand.

Mr. Saunders then committed the prisoner for trial.”


The Renfrewshire Independent reported on the outcome of Teresa Smiths final court appearance in its edition of  Friday, 20th April 1888:-

“Teresa Smith was indicted at the Middlesex Sessions, before Commissioner Kerr, for having most cruelly assaulted Henry Smith, her son, aged five years, to which she pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Frank Lemon appeared for the prosecution on behalf of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The prisoner was undefended.


According to the evidence of Dr. Gabe, of 16, Mecklenburgh-square, and Dr. M’Nish, of Dock-street, Whitechapel, the boy on examination was found to be very badly nourished and neglected and was suffering from a wound on the left side of the head, caused probably by a fall.

There was a bruise on the right side of the head and sores. On the left side and all over the infant’s body and feet were scars.

There were, in addition, some old wounds on the knees.

Superintendent Brook, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, gave evidence that at present the infant weighed over thirty-three pounds, whereas on being examined by Dr. M’Nish his weight was only twenty-five-and-a-half pounds.


The jury convicted the prisoner.

Replying to his lordship, the police-constable who had charge of the case said that he had made inquiries, and had found out that three weeks after the birth of this infant it was taken away by a man, who himself was seized with illness and laid up in hospital.


In passing sentence his lordship observed that under the indictment the defendant was liable to five years’ penal servitude, and it would be difficult to say that that would have been too much for her.

She had grossly ill-used this poor child, and it was difficult to imagine that the injuries inflicted could have been perpetrated by any being but a fiend.


It was of no use to expostulate with a person of her description, and the only difficulty the bench had was as to the punishment.

She would have to go to gaol for 18 calendar months.”