Let’s go back to where it all began; it was in the month of April exactly 128 years ago that the first victim of the Whitechapel Murders – which, collectively, included the Jack the Ripper victims – was killed. The name of that victim was Emma Elizabeth Smith.
In her mid-forties, allegedly leaving behind two children, she had turned to prostitution in order to survive; however, it is believed that her life was quite different from this career change ten years earlier.
A Little Background
Emma Smith’s life was tragically cut short in a murder that is now believed to have been the first of eleven in the Whitechapel area in 1888. Due to the sparsity of police records, very little is known about Emma’s life.
It was noted that she probably came from a background of money and privilege because of how she carried herself and the way in which she spoke. She was held in high regard amongst acquaintances, which is rare for people in her line of work.
It is believed that Smith was a widow, or had left her husband due to unknown circumstances. She was reported to have had two children, a girl and a boy, who lived in Finsbury Park but had little to no contact with their estranged mother. All ties were cut when she moved to the East End of London. Reports indicate that Emma said she had to turn to prostitution to survive.
At a time when Queen Victoria reigned, prostitution was rife across London. Extremely poor living conditions were as equally prevalent and, as such, alcohol was the medication of choice for many who had to live the hard life to get by.
The First Murder
On the night of April 3rd, Emma Smith is thought to have left home at around 6 pm to walk the streets in search of customers. Before the night was over, she had been beaten, robbed and viciously assaulted by up to four males. Any money she had on her person was stolen, and she was left for dead. Incredibly, she managed to walk herself home, stemming the flow of blood from her injuries as she walked. Her lodging manager rushed her to the hospital, where she fell into a coma and died the following day.
Before she fell unconscious, Emma told doctors of her attackers. However, despite the police’s best efforts, the perpetrators of this crime were never caught.
While many speculate that this murder made Smith the first Jack the Ripper victim, it is much more likely that it was gang related. As such, it is only linked through its inclusion as the first of many murders in the Whitechapel district. With this death almost five months before it is believed that Jack the Ripper killed his first victim, in an area that was previously devoid of such high numbers of suspicious deaths; the Smith murder is a significant prelude to the Ripper killings.
Our daily tour takes place from Aldgate East station and covers the Canonical Five Jack the Ripper victims, as well as other important deaths that make up the Whitechapel Murders. Join us for an in-depth look at the victims, the murder scenes, the suspects and much more.
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