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DNA 'unmasks' Jack the Ripper

SERIAL KILLER? Kosminski was a Polish barber who lived near the murder scenes.


    Sep 09, 2014

    DNA 'unmasks' Jack the Ripper


    JACK the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on a shawl, claimed a sleuth in a book out today.

    The true identity of Jack the Ripper, whose grisly murders terrorised the murky slums of Whitechapel in East London in 1888, has been a mystery ever since, with dozens of suspects that include royalty, prime ministers and bootmakers.

    But after extracting DNA from a shawl recovered from the scene of one of the killings, which matched relatives of both the victim and one of the suspects, Jack the Ripper sleuth Russell Edwards claimed the identity of the murderer is now beyond doubt.

    He said the infamous killer was Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish emigre from Poland, who worked as a barber.

    Mr Edwards, a businessman interested in the Ripper story, bought the bloodstained Victorian shawl at an auction in 2007.

    The story goes that it came from the murder scene of the Ripper's fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, on Sept 30, 1888.

    A policeman who had been at the scene got permission from his superiors to take it for his dressmaker wife.

    It had hitherto been passed down through the policeman's direct descendants, who had stored it unwashed in a box. It spent a few years on loan to Scotland Yard's crime museum.

    Mr Edwards tried to find out if DNA technology could conclusively link the shawl to the murder scene.

    Working on the bloodstains, Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University, matched mitochondrial DNA on the shawl to the DNA of Karen Miller, a direct descendant of Eddowes.

    Another expert, David Miller, reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, managed to find cells from seminal fluid on the shawl, from which DNA was isolated.

    With the help of genealogists, Mr Edwards found a descendant of Kosminski, who offered samples of her DNA.

    Dr Louhelainen was able to match DNA from the semen stains to Kosminski's descendant.

    For Mr Edwards, this places Kosminski at the scene of Eddowes' gruesome murder.

    Eddowes, 46, was killed on the same night as the Ripper's third victim. The prostitute was found with her throat cut and her body disembowelled. Her face was also mutilated.

    Kosminski and his family fled the imperial Russian anti-Jewish pogroms and emigrated to East London in the early 1880s. He lived close to the murder scenes.

    He was believed to have been questioned by police, but the lack of incriminating evidence then meant the police had little option but to release him.

    He entered a workhouse in 1889, where he was described on admission as "destitute". He was discharged later that year but soon ended up in an asylum, where he died from gangrene on March 24, 1919.

    Some have cast doubt on Mr Edwards' findings. The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, meaning the claims cannot be independently verified or the methodology scrutinised.