Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jack The Ripper Finally Identified!

After all these years of speculation about his true identity, it seems that Jack The Ripper finally has a name.

It's been 126 years since the world's most famous, perhaps infamous is a more appropriate word, serial killer murdered and mutilated his fifth and final victim.  Mary Kelly was only 25 years old when her body was discovered on November 9, 1888, in London's East End Whitechapel neighborhood.

Theories about his identity ran rampant, including such candidates as a member of the royal family, a prominent surgeon, a famous artist, an American doctor, a Polish immigrant living in the neighborhood, and one case was even made for Jack The Ripper being a woman.  I find it interesting that most images of Jack The Ripper, whether drawings from that time or modern depictions, show him dressed in formal gentleman's attire including a cape and top hat.  A man dressed like that on the streets of Whitechapel at night in 1888 would definitely have been very noticeable to anyone living in the area.

Thanks to modern forensic science, a DNA match shows that Jack The Ripper is Aaron Kozminski, a Polish Jew who fled to London in the 1880s.  He died in Leavesden Asylum from gangrene at the age of 53.  Kozminski was one of the names on the list of strong suspects from the time of the murders but the police never had enough evidence to arrest him.

Russell Edwards, author of Naming Jack The Ripper (available as of September 9, 2014), bought a shawl in 2007 at an auction.  Even though the shawl came without provenance, he was told that it belonged to Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper's fourth victim, and had been found near her body.  After the auction he obtained a letter from the previous owner claiming his ancestor had been a police officer who was present at the murder scene and had taken the shawl.

Edwards handed the shawl over to Dr. Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analyzing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.  He tracked down a descendant of Catherine Eddowes and a British descendant of Kozminski's sister, both of whom agreed to provide DNA.  With a DNA match from the samples, the doctor stated that Aaron Kozminski was Jack The Ripper.

The evidence has not yet been independently verified.


Ashantay said...

Interesting - let the nay-saying begin! People who love unsolved mysteries, and those who have their own theories about the Ripper's identity are already howling in protest! But then, some people also believe we've never step foot on the moon...

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: You're right about the conspiracy theorists, they'll continue to speculate about the Ripper's true identity no matter how convincing the evidence is. It's the basic "my mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts".

Thanks for your comment.

JoAnne Myers said...

Thank you for the update on this case Samantha. I found it very interesting.

Samantha Gentry said...

JoAnne: These are interesting times to live in as far as science is concerned. So many mysteries from the past can and have been solved thanks to DNA. Look at all the people released from prison (some even from death row) who have been proven innocent by DNA.

Thanks for your comment.

Jacqueline farrell said...

Interesting story - here in UK we love anything to do with Jack but I hadn't heard this new version. TBH I think the connection with royalty is always going to be the one that grabs the most interest!

Samantha Gentry said...

Jacqueline: I did one of the Jack The Ripper walks/tours on one of my trips to England. Very interesting.

I think the ongoing fascination with Jack The Ripper far exceeds the borders of the UK. An infamous serial killer that people have been trying to identify for approx. 125 years. And, as you said, anytime you can connect something like this to royalty it ups the fascination factor several times. And especially when the royalty is the most famous and widely known monarchy in the world.

Thanks for your comment.