It was a month later, in April 1888, that attitudes began to change. In the early hours of the morning on the 3rd April 1888, prostitute Emma Smith was viciously attacked by a gang at the Wentworth Street junction of Osborn Street - the "dirty, narrow entrance to Brick Lane," according to John Henry Mackay, in The Anarchist, written in 1891.
They robbed her of all the money she had, subjected her to a savage beating, and violently thrust a blunt object into her vagina.
As with Ada Wilson and Annie Millwood, Emma Smith survived her initial attack and even managed to stagger back to her nearby lodging house at 18 George Street. Here several of her fellow lodgers became alarmed by her bleeding face, cut ear, and evident distress.
They persuaded her to go with them to the London Hospital on Whitechapel Road. Unfortunately the assault had been extremely vicious, and although Emma was able to tell the doctor who attended her what at happened, Peritonitis soon set in and she died at 9am on 4th April.
The first the police knew of the murder was on the 6th April when they were informed by the Coroner's Office that an inquest into Emma Smith’s death was to be held the next day.
At that inquest Chief Inspector West, of the Metropolitan Police's 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, he said, questioned the constables on the beat, but none of them appeared to be any wiser than he was.
The Coroner, Mr. Wynne E, Baxter, decreed that the woman had been "barbarously murdered" and opined that it was "impossible to imagine a more brutal and dastardly assault," and the jury willingly followed his suggestion that they should bring in an immediate verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."
Emma Smith probably wasn’t a victim of Jack the Ripper, indeed the fact that she was able to tell the attending doctor that she had been attacked by a group of men, suggests she was attacked by one of the so-called High-Rip gangs that preyed on the district’s prostitutes.
This was evidently the conclusion that the police came to at the time, and this belief would influence their line of enquiry in the early days of the hunt for Jack the Ripper.
But the death of Emma Smith was significant in one major respect. It was with her killing that the police opened their file on the Whitechapel Murders, a file that would, by the end of that year, encompass the crimes that have passed into history as the Jack the Ripper Murders.
Sheffield Evening Telegraph 5th April 1888
York Herald 6th April 1888
Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper 8th April, 1888