Jack the Ripper: Mystery solved?

  • 07/09/2014

An amateur sleuth is claiming to have solved one of history's greatest crime mysteries, naming a Polish-born hairdresser as the real Jack the Ripper.

Businessman Russell Edwards, with assistance from genetic scientist Jari Louhelainen, is pointing the finger at then 23-year-old Aaron Kosminski, saying groundbreaking DNA analysis has proven his guilt beyond all doubt.

He makes the claim in his new book Naming Jack the Ripper.

The Ripper killed five women in East London during the autumn of 1888, and was never caught. Kosminski was a suspect at the time, but never charged; he was committed to an insane asylum in 1891, where he lived out the rest of his days mostly in peace.

Edwards' interest in the case was sparked by the 2001 Johnny Depp film From Hell. After doing much of his own research and getting no closer to solving the mystery than anyone else had, in 2007 he purchased a blood-spattered shawl linked to the crimes and passed it onto Dr Louhelainen for testing.

Dr Louhelainen, a senior lecturer in molecular biology, used newly developed techniques to extract and analyse genetic material left on the shawl. He found the blood matched DNA belonging to a descendant of one of the Ripper's victims, who had agreed to provide a sample.

He also found traces of semen, the DNA matching that belonging to a descendant of Kosminski's sister.

"The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 percent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 percent fragment of DNA," Dr Louhelainen told newspaper the Daily Mail. "On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 percent match."

"Amplifying and sequencing the DNA from the cells found on the shawl took months of painstaking, innovative work," said Edwards. "By that point, my excitement had reached fever-pitch. And when the email finally arrived telling me Jari had found a perfect match, I was overwhelmed. Seven years after I bought the shawl, we had nailed Aaron Kosminski."

The evidence doesn't end there – Dr Louhelainen's team also found what they believe to be kidney cells belonging to one of the Ripper's victims, and a pattern on the shawl linked it to an archaic Christian feast celebrated on two dates coinciding with the last two Ripper murders.

Edwards and Dr Louhelainen say testing also proved the shawl was coloured using dye made in Eastern Europe, where Kominski grew up, and that the killer's DNA suggested he had Russian Jewish ancestry.

But some experts remain sceptical, saying the new research is still no smoking gun.

"I've seen the same headline many, many times before," Donald Rumbelow, former curator of the City of London Police's Crime Museum, told Radio NZ.

"There was a very detailed list of what was found at the scene… there is no mention of the shawl."

According to Edwards, the shawl was picked up by a policeman investigating the scene of the final Ripper murder, and handed down the generations until it ended up at Scotland Yard's Crime Museum in 1991. But the Yard wasn't sure it was genuine, and in the 10 years it owned the shawl, never put it on display.

Mr Rumbelow says the policeman who allegedly found the shawl was based in north London, and likely wasn't even at the scene of any of the Ripper murders, which occurred around Whitechapel in the city's east.

But the biggest problem he has with Edwards' theory is the timing of the murders and Kosminski's eventual committal.

"The man was insane. He was not committed to an asylum until February 1891, which means that if he was Jack the Ripper, from November 1888 when the last murder was committed to February 1891 he was out on the streets and he committed no further murders or acts of violence."

For Mr Rumblelow, who also runs a Ripper tour service in London, the mystery remains unsolved.

"There's something like over 200 people now that have been named as Jack the Ripper, and yet when you look at the evidence, there's not evidence to put one of them in a magistrate's court for a preliminary hearing as Jack the Ripper. The evidence simply does not exist."

3 News

source: newshub archive