Not So Fast: Jack The Ripper DNA In Doubt

New DNA evidence has revealed the identity of Jack the Ripper as Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski, a primary suspect at the time of the 1888 murders. However, doubt has been cast on the Jack the Ripper DNA findings of amateur sleuth Russell Edwards and his forensics specialist Dr. Jari Louhelainen. Despite their confidence, many questions remain.

“I wanted to provide real answers using scientific evidence,” wrote Russell Edwards at the Daily Mail UK. “I’m overwhelmed that 126 years on, I have solved the mystery.”

Except it’s not quite that neat and tidy. There are still many questions about how Edwards and Louhelainen got to their answer of Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. If scientific evidence is really their source, it must stand the scrutiny of the scientific method. The Independent spoke with the inventor of the DNA fingerprinting technique Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who cast some doubt on the identity of the famous London murderer.

“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants and its power of discrimination,” Sir Alec said. He concluded, “No actual evidence has yet been provided.”

Doubt surrounds the source of the DNA evidence, a shawl that was allegedly found by the body of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes. Russell Edwards bought the shawl at an auction in 2007 despite there being doubt over the shawl’s origins. Eddowes occasionally resorted to prostitution to pay her rent, and wasn’t likely to own something quite so nice. There isn’t even proof that it was hers at all, save for a letter Edwards obtained from the previous owner stating that a police officer at the crime scene took it home for his wife. The oddly morbid gift was then supposedly stored away, getting passed down in the family, without ever having been washed for 126 years.

Edwards and Louhelainen also claim they tracked down descendants of both Eddowes and Kosminski to match the DNA of her blood and his semen found on the shawl. Since Jari Louhelainen has not published his findings in any scientific journals, no one can attempt to duplicate his process or verify his findings, raising doubt in the scientific community. They may really have discovered Jack the Ripper DNA, but there is nothing to confirm this.

Despite all this doubt, they could very well be right. Aaron Kosminski has always been one of three top suspects in the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Metro has republished hand-written notes by Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Donald Swanson that concludes “Kosminski was the suspect.” Unfortunately, they just didn’t have the evidence at the time to formally pin him as Jack the Ripper. Kosminski had a history of mental illness, and by 1891 was committed to an insane asylum, where he stayed until his death at age 53 in 1919.

This is far from the first time the identity of Jack the Ripper has been “revealed.” Some of the more extreme theories include it was a woman and that he never existed at all. With over 100 theories to the mystery, there’s doubt this Jack the Ripper DNA revelation will put an end to the myth.

[Image credit: The Sun]