More than a century after perhaps the most famous serial killer's brutal murder spree, which shocked London and left at least five women dead, researchers believe that they have confirmed the identity of Jack the Ripper.
The researchers were able to isolate the DNA of one Aaron Kosminski from a blood-soaked shawl left at one of the Ripper's crime scenes. Kosminski was a Polish immigrant and local barber who lived in the Whitechapel area where the murders took place. Kosminski was admitted to an insane asylum in 1891 and allegedly expressed interest in tasting human flesh. Police at the time suspected Kosminski, along with a host of other individuals, yet there was never enough evidence to prove the Ripper's identity.
Until now, it seems.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University conducted DNA testing of a bloody shawl connected to the third and fourth murders, those of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, both of which occurred on the night of September 30, 1888. In a paper published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, they compared the results with DNA from Kosminski's living descendants and were able to confirm a direct match.
This is not the first scientific analysis to name Kosminski as the Ripper. In 2014, author Russell Edwards claimed to have used similar DNA testing to prove Kosminski's guilt, but his analysis was never published in a peer-reviewed journal and was therefore met with great skepticism. The new paper is a step towards broader acceptance of Kosminski as Ripper, although some scientists still feel that the work is less than perfect.
Specifically, scientists question why markers that were isolated and accepted as matches are not fully described and are instead shown as a chart marking overlaps. The paper's authors claim that revealing the genetic sequences would violate privacy laws in the United Kingdom. Their critics say the type of DNA used (mitochondrial, which is passed on by a person's mother) does not pose a privacy issue.
Whatever the case, it seems certain that debate over Jack the Ripper's identity will continue, even with DNA evidence that seems to prove that one suspect is the killer.
Anywhere from 5 to 18 women (and possibly a young boy) were murdered by Jack the Ripper in 1888 in Whitechapel, London. Police were never able to solve the grisly crimes, which included mutilated bodies and missing organs, as well as a letter left to police (the infamous "from hell" letter) in which the Ripper admits to eating the organs of his victims. It was long theorized that the only reason the killings stopped is because the Ripper was either killed or imprisoned. Kosminski was sent to a work house in 1890, then admitted to an insane asylum in 1891. Of course, the confirmed Jack the Ripper killings came to an end in 1888–although some claim that murders as late as 1891 were also committed by the Ripper.
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