New DNA evidence reveals the notorious 19th-century serial killer Jack the Ripper was 23-year-old Polish barber Aaron Kosminski, according to Science magazine. Kosminski was the prime suspect for the murders in the 130-year cold case, the crimes that gave birth to the 20th century, per the 1979 film Time After Time. All these years later, the Jack the Ripper has never been conclusively identified.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University write they have conducted “the most systematic and most advanced genetic analysis to date regarding the Jack the Ripper murders.” Two sets of DNA traces found on the original evidence match both Kosminski and Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper’s fourth victim. They also suggest the killer had brown eyes and brown hair, which coincides with eyewitness reports at the time.
Eddowes was killed on the night of September 30, 1888 in Mitre Square, Whitechapel. Her cheeks were ripped apart, and her uterus and kidney were removed. Rumors at the time suggested Jack the Ripper ate her kidney. The killer slit Elizabeth Stride’s throat an hour earlier. Jack the Ripper also removed Annie Chapman’s uterus. He would go on to disembowel Mary Ann Nichols and remove the heart of victim Mary Jane Kelly.
The DNA traces were found on a shawl found next to Eddowes’ body in 1888. It was stained with what was believed to be her blood. Author Russell Edwards bought the evidence at an auction in 2007 and gave it to biochemist Jari Louhelainen at Liverpool John Moores University for analysis. Louhelainen and David Miller, a reproduction and sperm expert at the University of Leeds David Miller, tested mitochondrial DNA from blood and sperm stains from the shawl. They claim the recent test of the samples of living descendants of the victim and the alleged killer showed a match.
“Finding both matching profiles in the same piece of evidence enhances the statistical probability of its overall identification and reinforces the claim that the shawl is authentic,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.” When the evidence initially linked Kosmisnki to the crime at an earlier test, it got complaints from geneticists who said they weren’t given enough details to fully evaluate the claim.
It’s claimed Kosminski lived 200 yards away from where Stride was found dead. Kosminski was admitted to an asylum in 1891, but he is not the only suspect on record. More than 100 different men have been tied to Jack the Ripper, sometimes on almost no evidence at all. George Chapman, who was also a barber, was a suspect. He was hanged for poisoning his wives. Thomas Neill Cream and Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, were also suspects.
It has never been proven that one person committed all the murders. They were initially tied together by the press reports of Victorian London. The world’s first celebrity serial killer may have been made up by Thomas Bulling, who sent a forged letter to Scotland Yard in 1888 when he was drunk.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.