A DNA forensic investigation published by two British researchers identifies Jack the Ripper as Polish barber Aaron Kosminski.
According to the study, semen stains found on a shawl that was near the body of the killer’s fourth victim match Kosminski, who was a suspect at the time of the investigation. Kosminski would have been 23 at the time of the killings.
Who is Kosminski? What do we know about him? Read on.
1. The Study Conducted Testing of Blood and Semen Found on a Shawl near the Body of Catherine Eddowes
The genetic testing done for the study came from blood and semen found on a shawl that was near the body of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. Eddowes body was found on September 30, 1888.
NBC writes, “… the shawl referred to in this paper is the only piece of physical evidence known to be associated with these murders.” They go on report, “Through analysis of fragments of the victim and suspect’s mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down solely from one’s mother, researchers were able to compare that with samples taken from living descendants of Eddowes and Kosminski.”
In their abstract, the authors write that they used minimally destructive techniques followed by phenotypic analysis to arrive at their conclusions.
The study also contains an analysis of the killer’s appearance, stating that he had brown hair and brown eyes. These features match those of reliable witness statements about Kosminski.
2. Kosminski Was Previously Named a Possible Suspect
Kosminski was first named a possible suspect in the Jack the Ripper case over 100 years ago.
Edwards, who is the researcher behind the claim that Kosminski is Jack the Ripper, is from Barnet, north London. He became captivated by the murder years ago and has been investigating it in his spare time ever since. Edwards first published his theory of the killer’s identity in 2014. In his book, Naming Jack The Ripper, he states that he purchased the shawl used in the study at an auction in 2007.
“I’ve got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case,” Edwards is quoted by The Guardian as saying. “I’ve spent 14 years working on it, and we have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was.”
Edwards goes on to say that back in the day, Kosminski made a list of police suspects, but there was not enough information against him to bring him to trial.
Once he obtained the shawl, he enlisted the help of expert molecular biologist Jari Louhelainen to identify the killer.
3. Kosminski Was a Polish Barber
Kosminski came to England from Poland in the 1880s, attempting to escape persecution by Poland’s Russian rulers. He worked as a barber in Mile End Old Town when the murders took place.
It is believed that Kosminski immigrated to England with his sisters’ families. His mother joined the family in 1894.
CaseBook writes of Kosminski’s childhood, “Thus as a boy, Aaron would have lived in a crowded environment, characterized by extreme poverty and oppression, most likely an urban ghetto, or perhaps outside the city in a ‘shtetl’ or small town.”
They go on to write that as a teenager, there was widespread anti-semitism in Russia which would have likely had an effect on Kosminski as a young boy.
4. Kosminski Was Institutionalized in an Insane Asylum
In 1890, Kosminski was placed in a workhouse due to his “insane behavior”. He was eventually transferred to the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. One witness claimed he threatened his sister with a knife.
He stayed in the asylum for three years before being admitted to the Leavesden Asylum.
According to a research paper titled, “The Case of Aaron Kosminski: Was He Jack the Ripper?”, Kosminski’s mental illness was characterized by auditory hallucinations, a fear of being fed food by other people, and a refusal to wash.
In 1899, Kosminski is believed to have died of gangrene in the leg.
5. Kosminski’s Believed London Address Was Close to the Murders
It is believed that at the time of the murders, Kosminski lived on Providence Street or Greenfield Street– both of these addresses were close to the Ripper murders. This data was obtained by Ripper author Martin Fido who searched asylum records and only found one Kosminski– Aaron.
In 1888, Jack the Ripper is believed to have taken the lives of at least five women in the Whitechapel district of London. The murders were characterized by slashed throats and removal of the internal organs.
Edwards is quoted by The Guardian as saying, “Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now – we have unmasked him.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everyone believes Edwards’ theory is correct. Richard Cobb, who runs the Jack the Ripper conventions and tours, points out to The Times that the shawl has been touched by many people over the years, making the DNA sample less reliable.
Edwards has pushed back, saying the shawl has never been washed.