Sunday, September 7, 2014

DNA finally identifies Jack the Ripper

I was intrigued to find out that newly-discovered forensic evidence has finally identified Jack the Ripper.  The Mail on Sunday reports:

It was March 2007, in an  auction house in Bury St Edmunds, that I first saw the blood-soaked shawl ... It was said to have been found next to the body of one of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, and soaked in her blood.

. . .

Its owner, David Melville-Hayes, believed it had been in his family’s possession since the murder of Catherine Eddowes, when his ancestor, Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson, asked his superiors if he could take it home to give to his wife, a dressmaker.

Incredibly, it was stowed without ever being washed, and was handed down from David’s great-grandmother, Mary Simpson, to his grandmother, Eliza Smith, and then his mother, Eliza Mills, later Hayes.

. . .

Dr Jari Louhelainen is a leading expert in genetic evidence from historical crime scenes, combining his day job as senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University with working on cold cases for Interpol and other projects. He agreed to conduct tests on the shawl in his spare time.

The tests began in 2011, when Jari used special photographic analysis to establish what the stains were.

Using an infrared camera, he was able to tell me the dark stains were not just blood, but consistent with arterial blood spatter caused by slashing – exactly the grim death Catherine Eddowes had met.

But the next revelation was the most heart-stopping. Under UV photography, a set of fluorescent stains showed up which Jari said had the characteristics of semen. I’d never expected to find evidence of the Ripper himself, so this was thrilling, although Jari cautioned me that more testing was required before any conclusions could be drawn.

. . .

Luckily, a woman named Karen Miller, the three-times great-granddaughter of Eddowes, had featured in a documentary about the Ripper’s victims, and agreed to provide a sample of her DNA.

Jari managed to get six complete DNA profiles from the shawl, and when he tested them against Karen’s they were a perfect match.

It was an amazing breakthrough. We now knew that the shawl was authentic, and was at the scene of the crime in September 1888, and had the victim’s blood on it. On its own, this made it the single most important artefact in Ripper history: nothing else has ever been linked scientifically to the scene of any of the crimes.

. . .

Eventually, we tracked down a young woman whose identity I am protecting – a British descendant of [Aaron] Kosminski’s sister, Matilda, who would share his mitochondrial DNA. She provided me with swabs from the inside of her mouth.

Amplifying and sequencing the DNA from the cells found on the shawl took months of painstaking, innovative work. By that point, my excitement had reached fever-pitch. And when the email finally arrived telling me Jari had found a perfect match, I was overwhelmed. Seven years after I bought the shawl, we had nailed Aaron Kosminski.

. . .

Kosminski was not a member of the Royal Family, or an eminent  surgeon or politician. Serial killers rarely are. Instead, he was a pathetic creature, a lunatic who achieved sexual satisfaction from slashing women to death in the most brutal manner. He died in Leavesden Asylum from gangrene at the age of 53, weighing just 7st.

There's much more at the link.  It's an amazing detective story from both an historical and a scientific perspective.  Worthwhile reading.



JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

Peter, while this is is very facinating to anyone with an interest in the Ripper case, I must point out that even if the semen found is Kosminski's, it DOES NOT PROVE he was the killer. Poor Catherine Eaddows was a woman of the streets,at a time when the East End of London resembled the black bole of Calcutta, and a prostitute. It's entirely possible the semen residue was left by Kosminski as a customer of Saddles, not her killer.

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

^^customer of Eaddows^^