An amateur sleuth in England claims to have discovered the identity of one of history’s most notorious serial killers, Jack the Ripper. Between 1888 and 1891, the killer terrorized London’s Whitechapel district, murdering prostitutes and igniting one of the greatest murder mysteries in history. He was never caught, and has haunted our collective imagination ever since. An English businessman, Russell Edwards, using DNA, identifies the killer as Aaron Kosminski.
Edwards bought a shawl that was supposedly found near the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims. Edwards had the shawl tested for blood and semen. The DNA was too degraded by the passage of time for microsatellite analysis, but Dr. Jari Louhelainen, a senior molecular biology lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, matched the mitochondrial DNA from the blood to a descendent of Eddowes, using a technique he developed for extracting genetic material from cloth. The DNA evidence also points a finger at Kosminski. Kosminski was long considered one of the main suspects for the crimes. He lived in the areas where they occurred and was known for his severe mental illness and his misogyny. In addition, the crimes of the original Ripper stopped after he was committed to a mental institution. DNA evidence is famously suspect. According to forensic consultant Dr. Carol Mayne,the letters should stand for Do Not Assume because “It is not as infallible as people think.” So it remains to be seen if Edwards’ claim is correct. We may never know the Ripper’s identity.