This week, an amateur detective named Russell Edwards claimed to have discovered the identity of arguably the most infamous serial killer in living history, Jack the Ripper.
Between the years of 1888 and 1891, a string of murders took place in the area of Whitechapel, London. Eleven women were found brutally attacked on the streets; with at least five of these killings attributed to Jack the Ripper. The name originated via a letter that was distributed in the Whitechapel area, claiming to have been written by the murderer. However, most believe that the letter was a hoax, possibly by the media, to heighten the hype amongst the public. The killer was thought to have anatomical knowledge, as he removed the internal organs from at least three victims. The word ‘ripper’ was used in the name due to the horrific and brutal way that the bodies were mutilated.
One of the five murders linked with Jack the Ripper was of Catherine Eddowes, killed in 1888. By the body, a shawl was supposedly found by a policeman. 14 years ago, Edwards bought the shawl at an auction, and together with molecular biologist Dr. Jari Louhelainen (Liverpool John Moores University, England) investigated the molecular traces on the garment. Dr. Louhelainen could not analyse the DNA due to the condition of the shawl, but instead analysed mitochrondrial DNA (mDNA) from blood stains. He found that it matched to a descendent of the victim, Catherine Eddowes. He also analysed traces of semen that were present, and matched the DNA in cells present with a descendent of Aaron Kosminski; who was a barber in Whitechapel at the time of the murders. He was reportedly known for being mentally ill and misogynistic, and died in a mental institution in 1919. He has long been suspected of being Jack the Ripper, particularly because of the fact that the murders stopped once he was committed to the institution.
However, the evidence is far from conclusive. Of the eleven murders, only five are speculated to have been performed by Jack the Ripper. It is possible that the murder of Eddowes was not actually done by ‘Jack’, and instead done by Kosminski; imitating him. Also, Kosminski’s family owned a clothing shop, and so traces of his DNA could have gotten onto the garment that way. Apparently, the reason Kosminski was locked away in the mental institution was because of his obsession with masturbation, and so clothing from their shop may have had, unfortunately for the buyers, traces of his semen on.