Monday, July 03, 2006

The London Hospital

The London Hospital stands on the south side of Whitechapel Road in the very heart of Ripper territory. It had stood in this spot since 1757, and had been granted a Royal charter by George II the following year, although it's Royal title would not follow until 1990. In 1785 the first medical school in England was founded here, and by the late 1880's it was among the most important hospitals in the capital.

The hospital plays a large part in the story of the Whitechapel murders. Several of the medical students located here were among contemporary suspects, while another suspect who has emerged since, and who thrust himself into the investigation through articles written in the newspapers of the time, was an inmate here during the time of the murders. Also resident here at that time was Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, who had come here in 1886 after being befriended by one of the resident doctors, Frederick Treves, and who would continue to occupy rooms in the hospital until his death two years later at the age of just 27.

It was to this hospital that Emma Smith was brought on the morning of her attack, by the lodging house keeper Mary Russell. Along the way she told Russell the story of the attack and pointed out where it had occurred. On her arrival she was treated by the duty house surgeon, a Dr G. H. Hillier, who found that the wound to her peritoneum had developed peritonitis, which would result in her death the following day. The police, meanwhile, heard nothing of the attack until two days after her death, on April 6th, when they were informed by the coroner that an inquest was to be held.

No arrests were ever made, and on the face of it we have to accept Smith's story that she was attacked by three men, one of whom she described as being no more than 19 years of age. Almost certainly she was not a victim of Jack the Ripper, but her killing would later be connected with those crimes by the newspapers. And it has been suggested that Jack may have been a member of the gang who carried out the attack, and that his taste for blood could have stemmed from this incident.


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