Monday, 9 April 1888
Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the East Middlesex Coroner, held an inquiry on Saturday at the London Hospital respecting the death of EMMA ELIZABETH SMITH, aged 45, a widow, lately living at 18, George-street, Spitalfields, who, it was alleged, had been murdered. Chief Inspector West, of the H Division of Police, attended for the Commissioners of Police. Mrs. Mary Russell, deputy keeper of a common lodging-house, stated that she had known the deceased for about two years. On the evening of Bank Holiday she left home at 7 o'clock, and returned about 4 or 5 the next morning in a dreadful state. Her face and head were much injured, one of her ears being nearly torn off. She told the witness that she had been set upon and robbed of all her money. She also complained of pains in the lower part of the body. Witness took her to the hospital, and when passing along Osborne-street the deceased pointed out the spot where she was assaulted. She said there were three men, but she could not describe them. Mr. George Haslip, house surgeon, stated that when the deceased was admitted to the hospital she had been drinking but was not intoxicated. She was bleeding from the head and ear, and had other injuries of a revolting nature. Witness found that she was suffering from rupture of the peritoneum, which had been perforated by some blunt instrument used with great force. The deceased told him that at half past 1 that morning she was passing near Whitechapel Church when she noticed some men coming towards her. She crossed the road to avoid them, but they followed, assaulted her, took all the money she had, and then committed the outrage. She was unable to say what kind of instrument was used, nor could she describe her assailants, except that she said that one was a youth of 19. Death ensued on Wednesday morning through peritonitis set up by the injuries. Margaret Hayes, living at the same address as the deceased, deposed to seeing Mrs. Smith in company with a man at the corner of Farrant-street and Burdett-road. The man was dressed in a dark suit and wore a white silk handkerchief round his neck. He was of medium height, but witness did not think she could identify him. Chief Inspector West, H Division, stated that he had no official information on the subject, and was only aware of the case through the daily papers. He had questioned the constables on the beat, but none of them appeared to know anything about the matter. The Coroner said that from the medical evidence, which must be true, it was clear that the woman had been barbarously murdered. It was impossible to imagine a more brutal and dastardly assault, and he thought the ends of justice would be better met by the jury recording their verdict at once than by adjourning to some future date in the hope of having more evidence brought before them. The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown." The police are making every possible inquiry into the case, but up to yesterday had not any clue to the persons who committed the outrage.