London, United Kingdom
Sunday, 15 April 1888
Outrage, Robbery, and Murder.
A case investigated at the London Hospital last week by the coroner for East Middlesex, Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, disclosed the most shocking details of an outrage, accompanied by robbery, and resulting in murder. - According to the evidence of Mary Russell, the deputy-keeper of a common lodging-house in George-street, Spitalfields, a woman named Emma Eliza Smith, described as "an unfortunate", who had lived 18 months in the house, left home on Monday evening in her usual health, and returned between four and five next morning suffering from terrible injuries. The woman told witness that she had been shockingly ill-treated by some men and robbed of her money. Her face was bleeding and her ear was cut. Witness took her at once to the London Hospital, passing through Osborne-street on the way, near a spot close to the cocoa factory (Taylor's), which Smith pointed out as the place where the outrage had been committed. Smith seemed unwilling to go into details, but said she was badly injured in the region of the abdomen. She did not describe the men nor give any further account of the occurrence to witness. - In reply to the coroner, the witness declared her belief in the truth of the statement. The victim might have had some drink, but was not so drunk as not to know what she was saying. - Dr. G. H Hillier, the house surgeon in attendance on Tuesday morning, when the deceased was brought in, corroborated the evidence of the last witness as to the intoxication. She had probably been drinking, but was not intoxicated, and knew what she was about. The description of the injuries was horrible. When admitted to the hospital about five a.m. the patient was bleeding. A portion of the right ear was torn, and rupture of the peritoneum and other internal organs, recently caused, led him to believe that the injuries had been caused by some blunt instrument, which, as the peritoneum itself had been perforated, must have been used with very great force. The account given of the occurrence by the unfortunate woman to the doctor was that about half past one on Tuesday morning, when near Whitechapel Church, she saw some men approach, and she crossed over the road to avoid them, They followed, assaulted her, robbed her of all the money she had, and then committed the outrage. She was reticent with regard to the details but distinctly denied having addressed the men in solicitation. She could not tell whether it was a knife or what instrument had been used. There were two or three men, one of them looking like a youth of about 19. The patient died on Wednesday about nine a.m. of peritonitis, set up by the injuries inflicted. - In reply to questions from the coroner and the jury, the doctor said he had no doubt whatever that death had been caused by the wounds. He had found the other organs generally in a normal condition. The deceased stated that she came from the country, but said had not seen any of her friends for ten years. - Another woman subsequently examined as a witness deposed to seeing Emma E. Smith about a quarter past twelve on Wednesday morning near the Burdett-road, talking to a man dressed in dark clothes with a white neckerchief round his neck. She, the witness, had been assaulted a few minutes before seeing Smith, and was getting away from the neighbourhood, where there had been some rough work that night. Two fellows had come up to her, one asking the time and the other striking her on the mouth, and both then running away. She didnot think the man talking to Smith was one of her assailants. - The last witness, Mr. John West, chief-inspector of police of the H Division, aid he had no official information of the occurrence. He had questioned the constables on duty in the Whitechapel-road at the time, but none of them had either seen or heard any such disturbance as that indicated in the evidence on their beat, nor had seen anyone taken to the hospital. He would make inquiries as to Osborne-street in consequence of what had transpired at the inquest. - The coroner, in summing up, said that from the medical evidence, which must be true, it was perfectly clear that the poor woman had been murdered, but how it had come about there was not the slightest evidence to show. - After a short consultation a verdict of wilful murder against some person of persons unknown was returned by the jury.
The state of our London streets at night is an old subject and a sore one. It cannot be said that at any time within memory of living man their condition has been particularly creditable to the greatest capital in the world. Still, there certainly was a time, and that not very long ago, when things were very much less disgraceful than they are now. The seamy side of London life which is revealed to anybody whose homeward way lies through Regent-street or Piccadilly at midnight is positively shameful. Cases (one in particular our readers will remember which is not yet decided) are continually arising of riot and assault by women as well as men; and the police are powerless to prevent solicitation and annoyance. The reason is that since the "Cass Case" the constables have orders to arrest no women for solicitation unless they are actually given in charge, a step which is not always easy or safe to take. The consequence is that it is impossible for any decent man to go quietly along without being accosted, and perhaps assaulted, by women and their male companions. This must be altered and the absurd order to the police rescinded. Otherwise there will be nothing done but to form a strong vigilance committee to obtain evidence in a sufficient number of cases to strike terror into these evil birds of the night. At present respectable people are practically at their mercy.