Emma Smith

It was in the early hours of the morning of April 3rd 1888 that the generic series of killings known as the Whitechapel Murders began.

At around 1.30am on April 3rd 1888, Emma Elizabeth Smith was making her way along Whitechapel Road when she noticed that she was being followed by a gang. Hurrying her pace she turned right along Osborn Street. To her disquiet the gang did likewise and continued to follow her.

As she drew level with its junction with Wentworth Street and Brick Lane, the gang pounced, robbed her of her meagre possessions and money, and then subjected her to an attack that was both brutal and terrifying.

Terrified, bruised and in considerable pain, poor Emma staggered back to her Common Lodging House at 18 George Street, arriving there at some time between 4am and 5pm.

The deputy lodging house keeper, Mary Russell and a fellow lodger, Annie Lee were alarmed by her evident distress and they persuaded her to go with them to the nearby London Hospital.

Here she was attended by a doctor who she told that she had been attacked by a gang of youths the youngest of which was aged around 18.

As it transpired her injuries were very serious indeed and she slipped into a coma and died of peritonitis at 9am on 4th April 1888.

The police had no idea about this brutal attack until they were notified on the 6th April that an inquest into Emma Smith’s death was to be held the next day.

At the inquest Chief Inspector West, of H division of the Metropolitan Police, stated that he had he had no official information on the case and that the police were only aware of what had happened “through the daily papers.”

The Coroner, Wynne Baxter, who would later preside over the inquests into the deaths of several of Jack the Ripper’s victims,  opined that it would be”… impossible to imagine a more brutal and dastardly assault” and the jury, following his direction, returned an immediate verdict of “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”

Although it is highly unlikely that Emma Smith was a victim of Jack the Ripper, her death is significant in that, following her murder, the police opened a file which they called the “Whitechapel Murder” file and, by the end of that year it would have become the Whitechapel Murders file and would contain the names of the five acknowledged victims of Jack the Ripper.

So today in 1888 the Whitechapel Murders actually began.

Watch our short video on the Victims of Jack the Ripper below.