Emily Smith Attacked

The Pall Mall Gazette, on Tuesday, 22nd November, 1892, published an article which began with a headline that posed a question that people had been dreading since the Whitechapel murders appeared to have ended:-



The Morning today contains a startling story of the attempted murder and hairbreadth escape of a young woman in a dark lane in Whitechapel, under circumstances strikingly analogous to those in which several of the Whitechapel atrocities of two and three years ago were perpetrated.

The description of the would-be murderer tallies so closely with that already in the possession of the police that Scotland-yard has taken up the hue and cry once more, and in consequence of the extraordinary story which has been related to them they have renewed their search for the notorious Jack the Ripper.


It was on Guy Fawkes’ night [November 5th] that the outrage was attempted, according to the circumstantial statement made to the police by the young woman who was assailed, and which is reproduced in the Morning.

The girl’s name is Emily Edith Smith, alias Norton, of 3, Bingfield-street, Caledonian-road, but recently living at 30, Fitzroy-street, and described as eighteen years of age, of good education, quietly dressed, and respectably connected.

A sketch showing Emily Smith and the location where the attack took place.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 3rd December, 1892. Copyright, The British Library Board.


She was walking down Cheapside towards St. Paul’s about 5 P.M. It was raining, and there was a slight fog.

When opposite No. 41, which is Lockhart’s coffee house, a tall man accosted her with the words “Good night, Nellie.” She did not reply, but he followed her and asked her to have a cup of tea. After some hesitation she accepted the invitation, and he took her through Bucklersbury into Lombard-street and thence to Fenchurch-street, where he turned into a narrow passage to a low coffee-house.


Here the man suggested that Smith should accompany him to his offices at Upton Park. They went out and entered an omnibus at Aldgate, alighting at the corner of Commercial-road.

She was unacquainted with the locality, and asked “Where they were now?”

The man replied, “This is Whitechapel.”

The girl answered, “Oh! then, this is where the girls were murdered.”

“Pshaw, not girls,” said the man deprecatingly, “old women, you mean. They were better out of the way.” This was said in so quiet a manner that but little attention was paid to it by the girl.

At the corner of Commercial-road East, they entered a tramcar and drove to the George IV. tavern, and alighting there turned down Sutton- street, E., and visited a beerhouse, which is but a few yards down the street on the left-hand side.

In the beerhouse, where the man asked for a small soda for himself; because, as he stated, he never drank anything stronger, the girl, for the first time, closely observed her companion.


He was tall and thin, looking like a consumptive, with high cheek bones, his face being pale. He stood over 5 ft. 9 in., wore a hard bowler hat, had very dark hair, though his moustache, which was curled at either end, was of a sandy tint. He had very peculiar eyebrows, meeting over the nose, and the ends turning up towards the temples.

She would seem to have taken particular notice of his eyes. These she described as odd and light, almost to squinting, one being a lightish brown, and the other a bluey grey. He had a strange habit of blinking them, but they sparkled and were piercing.

His face, excepting the upper lip, was closely shaven. Both the “dog” teeth showed decay cavities, but only when he laughed. His forehead seemed rather square, and though speaking English well, he struck her as being a foreigner.

She did not notice either his collar or neck-tie, but took a close look at his clothes. He wore a short, single-breasted jacket coat of a black roughish material, and grey trousers with a stripe pattern in blue running through them. He had a very uncommon sort of watch-chain, consisting of a number of small squares strung on to a centre connecting plain chain; but she did not see his watch. He wore no rings, and the girl observed no peculiarity about either his hands or boots.

He walked with a military gait, treading firmly; spoke like an educated person, and carried neither cane nor umbrella. His cuffs were white.


After leaving the beerhouse, the man conducted his companion to a long, narrow passage known as Station-place, where a hoarding has been built round some railway works.

The girl said that she would not venture further, but the man urged that his offices were at the end of the passage. They were standing at an angle of the hoarding, and they could not be seen even in clear weather. A street lamp some few feet away, projecting from the opposite wall, shed but the faintest glimmer of light.

“Let us go on a bit further,” said the man.”

“I will not,” replied the girl.

“Then I’ll settle you now,” answered the man quietly.

He caught the girl by the back of the collar of her dress and dragged her into the dark angle of the hoarding.

They were face to face.

A sketch showing the attack on Emily Smith.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 3rd December, 1892. Copyright, The British Library Board.


He made to twist her round so that her back might be to him, and at that moment the girl saw a knife in his hand. Where he got it from she cannot say, nor can she explain how he opened it. But she has described, and drawn, as well as she can, the blade of the knife.

It was, she said at Scotland-yard, about nine inches long, and curved to a point, but not a sharp point.

The authorities have put it down as something like a gardener’s pruning-knife.

She furnishes this description from the momentary glance she obtained of it as the man tried to swing her round.


The girl gave “one big scream,” and, raising her right knee with all the power she could command, dealt the man a violent blow in the lower part of the abdomen.

The man released his hold, and agonizingly exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” then made a dive at the girl with the knife, but, missing her, he stumbled forward.

The girl, screaming loudly, rushed into Sutton-street, where two women endeavoured to ascertain from her what had happened.

The man was not seen again.


This eventful story was, says our contemporary, told to Inspector Frank Froest and Sergeant Freeman at Scotland-yard last Thursday evening, when they had the girl under examination for three hours.

The girl’s statement, covering ten foolscap pages, was placed before Sir Edward Bradford on Saturday last; and yesterday the girl went over the ground again with Sergeant Bradshaw, and pointed out all the places to which she had been conducted by her assailant.

The description of the man coincides with that which the police authorities have always held to be the appearance of the criminal for whose arrest they sought so eagerly two years ago.

The description is one that was furnished in connection with the murder of one of the women in Whitechapel by a fruit-stall keeper.

Another point of significance is that in this case, as in all of the Whitechapel outrages, the passage into which the woman was lured has both an entrance and an exit.

Further inquiries into the matter are being made by Mr. Donald Swanson, the Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department.


On inquiry at the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard this morning a representative of the Pall Mall Gazette was informed that it was true that the girl Smith had related the story told in the Morning.

He was informed, however, that the authorities had received literally hundreds of similar statements, and that they did not attach any more importance to the story reported today with so much circumstantial detail than to others sent to Scotland Yard from time to time.

The mother of the girl has told a reporter that so far as she is able to confirm the story it is true.”