DNA evidence has uncovered the identity of Jack The Ripper, and it’s none of the romantic suspects – such as the Queen’s surgeon Sir William Gull, or artist Walter Sickert.
The most infamous serial killer in history has been identified as a relatively underwhelming Polish madman called Aaron Kosminski, who was committed to a mental asylum at the height of the Ripper hysteria.
Kosminski was actually a suspect at the time of the murders, even named by Chief Inspector Donald Swanson in notes the policemen made, but as the myth and legend of the murders grew over more than 125 years, so too did the list of more fanciful suspects.
The breakthrough came when a scientist, using cutting-edge technology, matched DNA evidence on a shawl found at one of the crime scenes with descendants of Kosminski.
Dr Jari Louhelainen, a Finnish expert in historic DNA, was brought in to study a shawl found with Catherine Eddowes, the second-last ‘confirmed’ victim of the Ripper, whose body was discovered in Mitre Square on September 30.
Aaron Kosminski was born in the Polish town of Kłodawa, then part of the Russian Empire, in 1865. He emigrated to England with his family in 1881, moving to Whitechapel.
He set himself up as a hairdresser but it is clear that he was suffering psychological problems, with latter-day case notes saying he had been ill from 1885.
The murders attributed to Jack The Ripper began in 1888. Anywhere between five and 11 murders of women in and around the Whitechapel area have been linked to the Ripper.
The five relatively undisputed murders – of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly – happened between August 31 and November 9 1888. The 126th anniversary of Chapman’s murder is on Monday (September 8).
The police file on the murders also point to the mutilation deaths of Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, the ‘Pinchin Street torso’ and Frances Coles – Coles being the last to die in February 1891.
In February 1891, Kosminski was forcibly put in Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, and he remained in asylums until his death in 1919, aged 53.
While it can be argued that it is hardly conclusive evidence that Kosminski was the Ripper (the DNA of a Whitechapel resident on the belongings of a known Whitechapel prostitute merely proves Kosminski met Eddowes at some point), it does put Kosminski closer to a Ripper victim than any other suspect in the century-old case.