John R. Houk
© September 9, 2014
As a lover of mystery novels from my early teens, especially the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie mysteries intrigued me in those early teen days. Thus one of the notorious unsolved murders of the late 19th century appended to a rapist-slashing serial killer has especially intrigued me – Jack the Ripper.
Despite the Jack the Ripper intrigue I am definitely not an expert Ripper-ologist. This is evidenced in my gullibility that Prince Albert Victor the Duke of Clarence and Avondale and grandson of Queen Victoria was Jack the Ripper. Most Ripper-ologists have debunked Prince Albert Victor was old Jack. I liked Prince Albert Victor for the serial killer because it made sense to me that only a murderer with powerful connections could keep Scotland Yard from finding such a brutalizing killer that terrified White Chapel residents. Couple the fact that White Chapel in the 1880s was a location within London where dubious and nefarious characters resided or worked. If a connected person was a murderer, Scotland Yard would be discouraged from investigating powerful and/or wealthy people committing crimes in White Chapel. But as I said the relatively young Prince has been exonerated as a killer.
There is a huge list of theories as to who Jack might have been as you can tell from the Wikipedia link I used connected to Jack the Ripper. Below is the Wikipedia prime suspects:
I found out yesterday that the 1.3 of the Wikipedia list – Aaron Kosminski – is believed by Russell Edwards to be THE Jack the Ripper. Edwards is a British businessman and armchair detective that is releasing a book entitled, “Naming Jack the Ripper”. Here’s a video with the Edwards point of view that he has proven Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper:
Posted by Pan Macmillan
Published on Sep 7, 2014
New crime scene evidence.
A stunning forensic breakthrough.
The killer revealed.
Bringing together ground-breaking forensic discoveries – including vital DNA evidence – and gripping historical detective work, NAMING JACK THE RIPPER constructs the first truly convincing case for identifying the world’s most notorious serial killer.
In 2007, businessman Russell Edwards bought a shawl believed to have been left beside the body of fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. He knew that, if genuine, the shawl would be the only piece of crime-scene evidence still in existence. It was the start of an extraordinary seven-year quest for Russell, as he sought to authenticate the shawl and learn its secrets. He had no idea this journey would take him so far.
After undergoing extensive forensic testing by one of the country’s top scientists, the shawl was not only shown to be genuine, stained with Catherine Eddowes’ blood, but in a massive breakthrough the killer’s DNA was also discovered – DNA that would allow Russell to finally put a name to Jack the Ripper . . .
Order your copy of NAMING JACK THE RIPPER now.
Russell Edwards the author and genetic expert Dr. Jari Louhelainen are convinced the DNA shows that Kosminski’s DNA was on the shawl of prostitute murder victim Catherine Eddowes. However, other Ripper-ologists are far from convinced.
Alan Boyle writing for NBC News gives good reasons to think twice about Russell Edwards’ claim pertaining to Kosminski:
Does DNA analysis prove conclusively that a deranged Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski was behind the famous “Jack the Ripper” murders of the 19th century? The claim has stirred up a hue and cry among professional and amateur sleuths who have been following the case for decades — proving only that the evidence is far from conclusive.
But the chain of evidence would never hold up in a court: It’s based on fresh analysis of DNA recovered from a century-old bloodstained scarf linked to one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes. Edwards’ scientific collaborator, Jari Louhelainen of Liverpool John Moores University, has linked some of the DNA from the stains to the genetic signature of Eddowes’ distant relatives. Another DNA signature, purportedly attributed to semen on the scarf, was linked to relatives of Kosminski.
Ripperologists have known about the scarf, as well as Kosminski’s status as a suspect, for years. The new twist has to do with the DNA tests. “There’s kind of a ‘CSI Effect’ going on,” Ryder said. “People hear ‘DNA,’ and they think it’s 100 percent solved.”
It’s not solved, as Ripperologists are only too happy to point out in the Casebook forum.
One of the reasons for the controversy has to do with the limitations of the DNA test that was used. Louhelainen could recover the genetic signature only from mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, rather than the nuclear DNA that serves as a unique identifier.
MtDNA is passed down from a mother to her children, and many people can share the same mtDNA signature. The signature linked to Kosminski, T1a1, is a relatively common subtype. Thus, the determination doesn’t mean much unless the signature can be narrowed down to a rarer subtype, or unless additional evidence can be brought to bear (as was the case for identifying the remains of Russia’s Czar Nicholas II and his family).
A larger question has to do with the scarf’s history: It’s been open to contamination for decades, and it’s not even clear that it was really left behind by Eddowes (or her killer) after the 1888 murder. “In the community of so-called experts, it’s not really considered evidence,” Ryder said.
Another ‘Case Closed’ moment?
Then there’s the fact that Kosminski doesn’t match up all that well with descriptions of the killer by contemporary witnesses. He was just 23 years old and reportedly slight of build. In contrast, witnesses have described a heavier-built, somewhat older man as skulking around the scenes of the crimes.
Kosminski has long been on the list of usual Ripper suspects, thanks largely to references to a “Kosminski’ in the writings of investigators, but many modern-day Ripperologists are doubtful he could have pulled off one of history’s most infamous strings of serial killings.
“If it actually was Kosminski, this guy was a borderline raving lunatic,” Ryder said. “This was not a criminal mastermind by any means.”
Ryder said the latest claims were reminiscent of another “Case Closed” moment in the tale of Jack the Ripper — the time in 2002 when crime novelist Patricia Cornwell declared that Victorian-era painter Walter Sickert was the killer, based in part on mtDNA analysis of a licked stamp.
Since then, a string of other suspects (including a woman dubbed “Jackie the Ripper”) have had their time in … READ ENTIRETY (Was It Aaron Kosminski? Jack the Ripper DNA Claims Get Ripped; By ALAN BOYLE; NBC NEWS; 9/8/14, 2:48 pm)
In an Us vs Th3m article criticizing Russell Edwards and the Kosminski theory of the Jack the Ripper identity there is a list of specific reasons:
The Mail could exclusively reveal the killer to be… an Eastern European immigrant.
Typical bloody Poles, coming over here, stealing the jobs that could have been done by our hard-working British serial killers…
So, is that right? Has one of the greatest mysteries in forensic science just been solved by the newspaper than claimed that bread both cures and causes cancer?
Probably not. And here’s why…
Reason #1: The Source
The Mail claims that DNA analysis has identified Polish barber Aaron Kosminski as being Jack the Ripper. Which is great news. Those are the sorts of the results that would definitely be published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal, right?
Well… Sort of. They come from an article written to promote the publication of a new book, Naming Jack The Ripper by Russell Edwards, which is published tomorrow and costs £16.99.
Reason #2: The Shawl
All of the valuable DNA evidence came from the shawl that Mr Edwards is holding above. So what do we know about the shawl?
· It’s not a shawl Look at it. It’s not a shawl. It measures 8 feet by 2 feet. Unless Catherine Eddowes was a thin, rectangular woman of incredible height, it’s not a shawl.
· Catherine Eddowes didn’t own it As Mr Edwards points out, the day before she was murdered, Catherine Eddowes had to pawn her own shoes, so she was unlikely to have a finely-wrought shawl of Michaelmas daisies to hand. Mr Edwards think that Jack the Ripper gave it to Catherine before murdering her on it, and leaving it as a deliberate clue.
So it’s a shawl that’s not a shawl that was never at the crime scene that wasstolen by a policeman who was also never there whose wife was so disgusted by it that he preserved it in a fashion good enough to collect forensic evidence from over a century later.
Reason #3: The Process
Okay, leaving aside the questions over the contamination of the sample and the small issue of peer review, surely the evidence is clear?
Except it’s not quite that simple. Because there was no nuclear DNA available from the sample, the researchers were forced to work from mitochondrial DNA, which can show common maternal ancestors, but isn’t much use for identifying individuals within a group.
The slow rate of mutation for mtDNA means that there are only mutations about every 40 generations or so, so when you have a perfect match on mitochondrial DNA, that means that the two samples shared the same maternal ancestor within the last 40 generations roughly. Or 1,000 years.
Even given all the other questions, all the results tell us is the descendants of Catherine Eddowes and relatives of Aaron Kosminski shared a common maternal ancestor at some point since Macbeth made himself king of Scotland.
Reason #4: The Samples
Even if we leave aside all the questions raised above, we should probably acknowledge that, as Catherine Eddowes was a prostitute, finding traces of semen on her clothing is not evidence that the person who produced that semen killed her. Unless you have a weird theory that Jack the Ripper gave Eddowes the shawl only to promptly murder her.
No, and there’s evidence that Kosminski was historically considered as a suspect precisely because he was a Jewish Pole.
What we have learned was that there is an unverified possibility, using a sample of dubious provenance, that suggests that the relatives of both Catherine Eddowes and Aaron Kosminski shared matrilineal ancestors with … READ ENTIRETY (Are YOU Jack The Ripper? No. And neither’s Aaron Kosminski; By UsVsTh3m.com Staff; UsVsTh3m.com; 9/8/14 5:00pm)
So is Aaron Kosminski the Jack the Ripper or is the mystery still to be solved? I don’t know if even time will tell. Choose your favorite theory.
Here are some bibliographical links in no particular order of significance, date or decisiveness: