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September 8, 2014

Has Jack the Ripper Been Found Through DNA?

A few days ago the Daily Mail UK published an article written by Russell Edwards. Mr. Edwards believes he has found the true identity of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer responsible for  at least five grisly murders in Whitechapel in East London during the autumn of 1888.

The story is compelling. Mr. Edwards owns a shawl said to have been found on or near the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper's victims. One of the policeman who investigated the murder in 1888 took the shawl home to his wife and she immediately packed it away, unwashed.

The shawl was passed on from one generation to the next until  2007 when the current owner at that time decided to auction it off.  Edwards, a self-confessed amateur detective, bought the shawl and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analyzing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes. His credentials are top-notch in his field.

Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material and compare it to DNA from descendants of Eddowes, resulting in a perfect match. Thus the shawl was proven to be Eddowes, which answered questions about its provenance.

DNA samples from what Dr. Loouhelainen believed to be semen on the shawl were then compared with a descendant of the sister of the prime suspect, again with a perfect match as the result. Mr. Edwards believes this new DNA evidence proves conclusively that Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who had fled to London with his family, escaping the Russian pogroms, in the early 1880s, was Jack the Ripper. Edwards'  book Naming Jack the Ripper will be published by Sidgwick & Jackson today, September 9th. 

Some questions spring to mind - why did they not test descendants of all the suspects in case another match was found? How do they know that Mr. Kosminski's semen was found at the scene because he was a customer of Ms. Eddowes, rather than her murderer? 

I will almost certainly purchase the book in hopes of reading more details of the analysis of the DNA sample. Although the shawl is not listed in the inventory of items found on Catherine Eddowes or in her room, I do not find that too unusual. I suspect the police officer who supposedly asked permission to keep the shawl, may have taken it home with him before the inventory was taken - with or without permission of his superiors. What did intrigue me was the listing of a skirt patterned with Michaelmas daisies. The same design of Michaelmas daisies occurs on the shawl.

Continue reading full details at WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Jack the Ripper unmasked: How amateur sleuth used DNA breakthrough to identify Britain's most notorious criminal 126 years after string of terrible murders


Jennifer Shoer said...

Sounds like this will be an interesting read. It makes me wonder though how the descendant of a sister of the main suspect could have been a 'perfect' match. Must have been a good match as even siblings aren't perfect matches. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention!

Michael Harris said...

I do hope this is the answer finally.

Jenn- Your Growing Tree said...

I have read a few articles on this book and the DNA testing etc, and the part I find funny/interesting is seeing the difference in tone in articles and comments. People coming from a genealogy background/point of view seem to be more leery of the evidence and DNA testing. We are so used to not taking things from the surface and having to dig

We will just have to read to book for ourselves to see the full evidence and reasoning :)