Results from new DNA analysis may point to the identity of Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer who murdered and butchered at least five women in London during the late 1880s.
The evidence reportedly came from a blood-stained shawl that belonged to one of the Ripper's victims, Catherine Eddowes. Genetic tests published this week provide strong evidence that Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish barber living in London, could be the killer, Science Magazine reported.
Dr. Jari Louhelainen, a molecular biology lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and Dr. David Miller, a reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, published their research in the Journal of Forensic Sciences where they reported that they applied "novel, minimally destructive techniques" to recover samples from stains on the shawl.
Author Russell Edwards approached Louhelainen and Miller to help him solve the case. Edwards became fascinated with the murders after watching a film about Jack the Ripper. His research led him to Eddowes' shawl, which he bought at an auction in 2007. Edwards took the shawl to Louhelainen and Miller, who used new methods of extracting mitochondrial DNA from the fabric and matching it with DNA they obtained from Eddowes' and Kosminski's family members. Their findings led them to believe they had solved the mystery.
"The mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA] profiles of both the victim and the suspect matched the corresponding reference samples, fortifying the link of the evidence to the crime scene."Kosminski was reportedly always one of the prime suspects, but police never had enough evidence to convict him of any of the murders thought to be committed by Jack the Ripper, CBS News reported. Critics of the newfound information claim that more evidence is needed to officially close the case. Specifically, experts say the public needs more information about the relatives of Eddowes and Kosminski, from whom DNA was reportedly taken to help find a match, according to Science Magazine. Louhelainen and Miller claim the Data Protection Act, a U.K. privacy law, prevents them from revealing any information about anyone involved in their study.
Critics also claim that there is no conclusive evidence that the shawl was ever found at the scene, and if it was, it could have been contaminated over the years, CBS News reported.
While Kosminski was never charged with the murders, he was declared mentally ill and committed to asylums for the rest of his life. He reportedly died in Leavesden Asylum when he was 53.