It seems the identity of one of history’s most notorious serial killers has been solved – at least according to British businessman and author, Russell Edwards, of Naming Jack The Ripper. From what started as a hobby, Edwards found himself set on a path to uncover the mystery surrounding the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper.
This mystery, of course, has produced countless theories – in addition to books, movies and other works of fiction. The suspects had also been quite diverse, and included: a Jewish shoemaker; Prince Albert Victor; the Duke of Clarence; Walter Sickert, the post-impressionist painter; and William Gladstone, the former Liberal Prime Minister.
During the autumn of 1888, Jack the Ripper, terrorised the impoverished streets of Whitechapel in East London with his horrific serial killing of at least five women. And until now, there has been no proof in identifying the murderer behind the butchery.
DNA evidence currently reveals that one of the key suspects, who was actually kept under police surveillance until his entry into an insane asylum, was the killer. This evidence came from a shawl – said to be found by a police (Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson) at the scene of Catherine Eddowes’ murder. The shawl was later taken to Amos’ home and passed down in his family for generations. The shawl eventually reached descendant David Melville-Hayes, who, in 1991, gave it to Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum. They, however, kept it in storage due to doubts of its provenance until 2001 when David reclaimed the shawl and had it exhibited at the annual Jack the Ripper Conference.
The Shawl ultimately ended up with Edwards, who purchased it at an auction and later enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a Finnish senior lecturer in Molecular Biology at Liverpool John Moores University. He is also a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.
With the aid of recent cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen uncovered that the shawl contained DNA from both the victim and the murderer. He was also able to extract the 126-year-old DNA from the shawl and compare it to descendants of, not only the victim, but also the suspect – and both verified a perfect match.
According to Dr Louhelainen – the scientific techniques for examining DNA samples had only recently progressed to a level capable of solving the mystery – stating that “only now, in the last ten years, would this have been possible.”
The killer is revealed to be Jewish Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski, a hairdresser who lived in Whitechapel at the time of the murders. He would have been 23 at the time, and had arrived with his family in 1881 England – fleeing persecution from Russian authorities. He later died in Leavesden Asylum from gangrene at the age of 53.