Sunday, April 23, 2017

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 almost 129 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.

For over a century 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.  After seeing a documentary about the search for Jack The Ripper's true identity, I was leaning toward the American doctor as the culprit—Francis Tumblety was an Irish-born American medical quack who earned a small fortune posing as an Indian Herb doctor throughout the United States and Canada. He was in England at the time of the murders and when he returned to the U.S., the London murders stopped.

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 (released in 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 post - thanks!

Sara Walter Ellwood said...

I think Jack the Ripper is one of the most fascinating historical mysteries. I'm glad a name has finally been put to the man behind the murders.

Roni Denholtz said...

Very interesting!

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: I think Jack The Ripper has always been an interesting subject. Through books, movies, and documentaries the question of his true identity has been kept in the public eye for decades.

Thanks for your comment.

Sandra Tilley said...

Even after 129 years, just the name, Jack the Ripper, still evokes terror. Although I'm glad they've identified him, knowing his identity doesn't make him any less scary.
Love your thought-provoking posts!

Samantha Gentry said...

Sara: I think from the beginning Kozminski was the most obvious candidate to be Jack the Ripper and it turns out he was the guilty one. And that's the difference between reality and fiction. :)

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Roni: I think the Jack The Ripper murders will continue to be a subject of fascination for decades to come even with him finally being identified. Of course, now it can move into the conspiracy theory category with speculation about his accomplice and/or who had the truth and covered it up at the time.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Sandra: You are so right...even knowing his identity does not make him any less scary.

Not only the actual person, but also the concept of the character will be fodder for fiction writers/film makers for years to come.

Glad you enjoy my blog posts. Thanks for your comment.

C.B. Clark said...

Another interesting post. Jack the Ripper's identity has long been questioned. Good to know we finally have the culprit identified. Sounds like he met a fitting end as well.

Samantha Gentry said...

C.B.: I saw some pictures of Kozminski (drawings) and if they were even remotely accurate, he was one scary looking guy. Yep, a fitting end.

Thanks for your comment.

Hebby Roman said...

Great post! Very interesting, as I've watched countless documentaries on who Jack the Ripper was. I, like you, at one time, was convinced he was the quack doctor, too, because they made such a big deal out of the precision of how "Jack" cut up his victims. Then, I became convinced the guy was someone who did autopsies, another program. Anyway, though, from the earlier programs, I also remember this Kozminski and thinking he was probably the one. But some of the latter documentaries were so convincing. I had always wondered if anyone would ever find some DNA evidence. It's amazing that nothing was saved from the last murder he did, where the entire room was turned into a butcher shop, so to speak. Ugh. Scary stuff. Will be interesting to see if there is an independent collaboration, too.

Samantha Gentry said...

Hebby: I always thought Kozminski was the obvious/logical choice...therefore, it couldn't possibly be him. I was looking at the who dunit part from a writer's pov. If you're writing a mystery, the person who did it can't be that obvious. But Jack The Ripper was real life, not a novel.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Hebby: I forgot to include in my comment: I thought Kozminski was the obvious candidate, but turned my attention to Tumblety as my choice for Jack.

Janice Seagraves said...


Samantha Gentry said...

Janice: Glad you found my blog interesting.

Thanks for your comment.