In the early hours of the morning of Tuesday the 3rd of April, 1888, a widow by the name of Emma Elizabeth Smith was attacked at the junction of Brick Lane and Wentworth Street.
Although she survived the attack, and managed to struggle back to the lodging house at which she was residing on nearby George Street, her injuries were severe, and fellow lodgers at the lodging house persuaded her to go with them to the London Hospital on Whitechapel Road.
At the Hospital she was treated by Dr. George Haislip, who she told that she had been attacked by a group of men, the youngest of which was aged around 19.
As it happened, her injuries were far more severe than any one at first thought, and it wasn’t long before peritonitis set in, and, having sunk into a coma, she died on the morning of Wednesday the 4th of April.
OUR VIDEO ON THE MURDER OF EMMA SMITH
We have made a video that tells the story of what little was known about the life of Emma Smith and of the events that led up to her murder.
A GANG RELATED CRIME
Given that Emma told the doctor that she had been attacked by a gang, it seems almost certain that she was not a victim of the killer who, in the early October of 1888, would become universally known as Jack the Ripper.
Indeed, the evidence points to the fact that she was a victim of one of the Whitechapel gangs – sometimes referred to as “High Rip” gangs – who were very active in the area at the time, and who were known to target lone prostitutes to rob them of their meagre earnings.
Indeed, the police, once they became aware of her murder, certainly did attribute the attack on her to one of these gangs.
THE FIRST WHITECHAPEL MURDER
However, there is a significance to her death which does in a way link it to the Jack the Ripper crimes.
In the aftermath of her murder the police opened an investigation and called the file the “Whitechapel Murder.”
By the end of 1888, that file would have become known as the “Whitechapel Murders” file, and it would include the five victims that are now generally believed to have been the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper.
So, although Emma Smith almost certainly was not a victim of Jack the Ripper, hers is the first name to appear on this generic police file that covered all the murders, and which continued to include victims until the murder of Frances Coles, which took place on Friday the 13th of February, 1888.