JACK THE RIPPER WALKING TOUR
EMMA SMITH - MURDERED APRIL 1888
The Jack the Ripper Walking Tour continues a little further along Whitechapel High Street from the White Hart Pub at its junction with Osborn Street.
The church of St Mary's (the Whitechapel) was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War and an open park (more or less opposite the entrance to Osborn Street) now occupies its former site.
In 1888 Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road (which Whitechapel High Street becomes alongside the open park) featured in the last tragic hours of a local prostitute by the name of Emma Smith.
Emma Smith was forty-five years old at the time of her murder. She was a widower and a prostitute, who could also be quite belligerent when drunk and who, as a result, frequently sported a black eye along with various other cuts and bruises.
As with almost all Jack the Ripper's victims she led a somewhat transient existence around the district's Common Lodging Houses.
For about a year and a half prior to her death she had been living at a Common Lodging House in George Street, close to Brick Lane. Each evening at around 6pm or 7pm she would set out from her lodgings and spend the night plying her trade around the neighbourhood. She'd return to the lodging house in George Street in the early hours of the morning.
At 6pm on the Bank Holiday Easter Monday, April 3rd 1888, she, as per her regular routine left the lodging house and set about soliciting in the neighbourhood.
In the early hours of the 4th April 1888 she was seen in Fairance Street, Limehouse, talking to a man who was dressed in dark clothing and who was also wearing a white scarf.
Some four hours later she staggered into her lodging house in George Street, with a bloodied face, a cut ear and with her woollen shawl pressed between her legs to try and staunch the blood flow from an injury from which she would later die.
According to her own account she had been returning home, no doubt the worse for drink, when three or four youths began following her as she walked past Whitechapel Church.
They continued to follow her as she turned right into Osborn Street and stopped her when she reached the junction of Brick Lane and Wentworth Street. Here she was beaten and raped and a blunt object was viciously thrust in to her vagina, tearing the perineum. Having assaulted her, they robbed her of the meagre contents of her purse and then hurried off, leaving her to die on the street.
It says a lot about the sheer determination of this poor woman that, despite having been beaten and raped and sustaining an injury that must have left her in agony, she got to her feet, removed her shawl from her shoulders, used it to stem the blood which was undoubtedly pouring from her torn perineum, and then she resolutely staggered back to her lodging house on George Street.
Here the deputy keeper and another lodger were astonished that she had even made it that far and quickly rushed her to the nearby London Hospital.
Although she was lucid enough to give the doctor who attended to her a detailed account of what had happened she soon slipped into a coma and died shortly afterwards.
Emma Smith probably wasn't a victim of Jack the Ripper. Indeed, the fact that she was able to tell the doctor who treated her that she was attacked by three or four youths suggests that she was more than likely to have been a victim of one of the area's "High-Rip" gangs that then preyed upon the local prostitutes.
But her death is of significance to our Jack the Ripper Walking Tour in that, following her murder, the police opened a file which they titled "The Whitechapel Murder" file. By the end of 1888 that file would be "The Whitechapel Murders" file and contain the names of the five acknowledged victims of Jack the Ripper.
So Emma Smith's is the first name on the file that encompasses the wider list of crimes known as "The Whitechapel Murders."