Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Emma Smith

April the 3rd was a Tuesday that year. The banks had been closed the day before as part of Easter Holiday. People had a little extra money on them. It was an old neighborhood, the large houses the main remnant of the days when it had been fashionable. The French who had built them had moved out to the country. The Irish had come, and then the Jews. The jobs had gone. The big old houses built by and for wealthy merchants had been carved up into rooms.

In the early hours of the morning, Emma Elizabeth Smith was assaulted and robbed on the corner of Osborn Street and Brick Lane. No one knew much about her. There was something in the way she talked that hinted at a cultured and educated life; she might have once been well off. Someone said that she had two children, a son and a daughter who lived in another part of town. Even though she had been injured, she managed to walk the block to her rooming house at 18 George Street. She told Mary Russell that she had been attacked by three men, one a teenager. With the help of another tenant, Annie Lee, Russell took Smith to hospital where she was treated by surgeon George Haslip. Smith fell into a coma and died the next morning.

Two days went by before the police were notified. At the inquest, Dr. G. H. Hiller found that she had  been brutally raped  with a blunt object which ruptured several internal organs. The police report described her clothing as being comprised of rags so dirty that it was impossible to tell if there had been fresh tears in them. The official cause of death was listed as peritonitis. The police investigation noted that though she was poor and friendless, every effort was taken to find her assailant. Smith and been a prostitute. She was most likely attacked by her pimp or a gang of pimps as intimidation or for refusing to follow orders, they decided.

Several months later detective Walter Dew developed another theory. On the 7th of August, the day after another bank holiday, Martha Tabram was murdered in the same neighborhood. She was a prostitute and had been stabbed many times. At the end of that month, Mary Ann Nichols was murdered. A reporter from the Star may have talked to Walter Dew for the paper soon began to note theories similar to his: all three women had been prostitutes, all in their mid 40's, all from the same area, their murders thought to be the work of gangs of pimps. Perhaps the deaths were the work of the same person.

It was 1888, and in the slums of London, the legend of Jack the Ripper was born.


Anonymous said...

Poor sad creatures that ended their lives at the hands of that monster. The worst part, he got away with it.

Austan said...

And to this day, the curious- even Johnny Depp- are trying to work out who the Ripper was.