Strange History

Jack the Ripper finally identified? Scientist has DNA evidence

jacktheripperOne of the greatest mysteries of the last century and a half has been the identity of Jack the Ripper.  The Ripper terrorized the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, murdering 5 prostitutes before his reign of terror finally stopped.  He was never caught and he was never identified.  Since the Autumn of 1888, speculation has run rampant about the possible identity of the killer.  Now, one armchair detective and a scientist believe they have solved the crime using modern forensic techniques.

According to the Daily Mail, the killer was none other than Aaron Kosminski, a polish hairdresser who was one of the six original suspects.

The story of the discovery begins when 48 year old businessman Russell Edwards bought a shawl at auction that was believed to belong to Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims, and was purportedly found near her body.  He then enlisted the help of Dr. Jari Louhelainen, an expert in genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.  Dr. Louhelainen was able to extract DNA from the shawl and compare it to descendants of both victim and alleged killer and got a perfect match.

So, the mystery of Jack the Ripper is solved.  Or is it?  I do have one question about this evidence.  If you read the Daily Mail article all the way through, including the book excerpts below the main article, you will find this quote:

Under UV photography, a set of fluorescent stains showed up which Jari said had the characteristics of semen.

This quote here make me skeptical and is what will stop this from being a conclusive finding.  Why?  Because Catherine Eddowes was a prostitute in 1888 London.  The semen found on her shawl, while proven to be Kosminski’s, doesn’t positively conclude that he was her killer.  He just may have been a client of hers prior to her murder.

The article does address this, in roundabout fashion.  Take this quote, once again from the book excerpt:

Most Ripper experts dismissed it when it came up for auction, but I believed I had hit on something no one else had noticed which linked it to the Ripper. The shawl is patterned with Michaelmas daisies. Today the Christian feast of Michaelmas is archaic, but in Victorian times it was familiar as a quarter day, when rents and debts were due.

I discovered there were two dates for it: one, September 29, in the Western Christian church and the other, November 8, in the Eastern Orthodox church. With a jolt, I realised the two dates coincided precisely with the nights of the last two murder dates. September 29 was the night on which Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were killed, and November 8 was the night of the final, most horrific of the murders, that of Mary Jane Kelly.

I reasoned that it made no sense for Eddowes to have owned the expensive shawl herself; this was a woman so poor she had pawned her shoes the day before her murder. But could the Ripper have brought the shawl with him and left it as an obscure clue about when he was planning to strike next? It was just a hunch, and far from proof of anything, but it set me off on my journey.

So, is it possible that Aaron Kosminski was the actual Jack the Ripper?  It is very possible.  Am I personally convinced?  I’m not sure.  It is a fact that Kosminski was locked in a mental asylum and the murders stopped.  It is also fact that Kosminski was identified by a witness as the Ripper but was released due to lack of evidence, prior to being committed.

In the end, I’m not 100% sure that Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.  Be sure to read the full article on the Daily Mail‘s site.  It is a fascinating read, to be sure.

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