Why the Jack the Ripper Case Hasn’t Really Been Solved
Jack the Ripper has been an undying legend since the serial killer famously rampaged through Whitechapel, London between 1888 and 1891, before mysteriously vanishing, with no later crimes committed. With a rampant cult scene, numerous books, films, and TV shows dedicated to his name, and hundreds of people obsessed with discovering who Jack the Ripper was, it’s hardly a surprise that eventually, someone would step forward with a name. On the 6th of September, Russell Edwards and Dr. Jari Louhelainen stepped forward with evidence found in a scarf found at one of the crime scenes, to say with absolute positivity that the man behind the Whitechapel murders is none other than Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant and Jew. The declaration is based of of DNA material found on a shawl belonging to Catherine Eddowes, the second Jack the Ripper victim.
The Daily Mail article, which can be found here, went on to state the techniques used by Dr. Louhelainen in recovering enough DNA evidence to nail the killer, but if you don’t feel like reading the somewhat long winded and repetitive piece, we’ll rehash it briefly here.
The Scientific Method
Edwards and Louhelainen state that they first finished the initial standard testing to date and confirm the authenticity of the shawl in 2011. These tests confirmed that the shawl was in fact 120 years old, and of northern European origin. Later UV light tests showed that the bloodstains on the shawl were consistent with arterial spatter, which further leads to proof that the shawl is a genuine Jack the Ripper artefact, and the only bit of forensic evidence that still remains. Louhelainen also claimed to find traces of seminal liquid on the shawl, consistent with a man’s ejaculation.
Because 120 year old DNA is almost impossible to trace using today’s modern DNA methods, which use genomic DNA, but mitochondrial DNA, which is used in dating and recognizing skeletons and long-deceased persons. Using a technique called ‘vacuuming’, which Louhelainen developed using a liquid and a vacuum to suck the DNA out of the cloth, he was able to collect, and then sequence enough of the DNA to make a positive match. The pair tracked down relations of Catherine Eddowes to get a dna sample, and then, convinced that Kosminski was in fact the perpetrator, tracked down a relation of his through his sister in order to get a swab of her DNA. They found a 90 and then a 100% match leading them to state that Kosminsi is in fact, Jack the Ripper.
Why We’re Not Convinced
Catherine Eddowes was the second Jack the Ripper victim, found mutilated on Hamburry Street in Whitechappel. Kosminski was, at the time, living with his family on Greenfield Street, a scant 200 yards away from the murder. While the incriminating evidence of ‘seminal fluid’ was found on the shawl alongside Eddowes blood, the evidence is, to say the least, circumstantial. One explanation is that Eddowes was known to be a sometime prostitute, and after pawning her shoes the day before, may have been seeking out clients, and Kosminski, a known ‘masturbator’ would have been a prime client.
They also made a couple of claims about Kosminski’s status as a suspect, claiming him as one of the most suspect, when in fact, he’s hardly mentioned in the archives, only brought up once, where it is believed he was accidentally mistaken for the similarly named violent asylum resident, David Cohen a.k.a. Kaminski.
Other issues with the definite naming of Jack the Ripper as Aaron Kosminski include that the information has so far, not been subject to peer review. Rather than publishing in a scientific journal, it was published on the Daily Mail, which, while being a fine source of the news, is not especially well known for double checking scientific facts.
Because the shawl is over 120 years old, has been handled by numerous people, and even reportedly spat on by witnesses, it’s also diicult to say that the DNA evidence found in the shawl is 100% accurate.
We’re not saying that Kosminski isn’t the killer, and we’re not saying that Edwards and Louhelainen did not do a very fine bit of research, which they did. However, with the only evidence being circumstantial, putting Kosminski at her side sometime that night, it says nothing about whether or not he actually killed her.