Has A Stained Shawl Unmasked Jack The Ripper's Identity?

A stained shawl appears to point toward a man named Aaron Kosminski, but not everyone believes he committed the infamous 1880s London murders.

By Gina Tron
Jack the Ripper

Genetic testing has been solving plenty of decades-old cold case murders, but could the technology also lead to the identity of Jack the Ripper, one of the most infamous serial killers ever, who was responsible for terrorizing London over 130 years ago?

Some forensic analysts say yes.

A test published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences last week claims that Aaron Kosminski is the elusive Jack the Ripper. He was a 23-year-old Polish barber and was indeed a suspect at the time.

It is believed that Jack the Ripper killed at least five women in London during a three-month period in 1888.

“We applied novel, minimally destructive techniques for sample recovery from forensically relevant stains on the evidence and separated single cells linked to the suspect, followed by phenotypic analysis,” the study’s abstract states.

The evidence is a stained silk shawl found next to the mutilated body of one of the victims: Catherine Eddowes. It is believed that the killer’s semen was on that shawl, according to CBS News.  The tests compared fragments of DNA from the shawl and compared them to samples taken from living descendants, according to Science Magazine. One such living person is a descendant of Kosminski, while the other is a descendant of the victim Eddowes.

However, skeptics aren’t totally convinced that this new test confirms the killer’s identity. The specific genetic variants identified are not included in the paper, according to Science Magazine. Furthermore, critics say there is no evidence the shawl was at the scene and added that it could have become contaminated sometime between 1888 and now. And then there's the question of who is behind the testing.

Author Russell Edwards had purchased the shawl at an auction in 2007 before turning it over to science for these tests, according to CNET, and Edwards has an upcoming book coming out called, "Naming Jack the Ripper.” The same shawl was tested in 2006, a year before Edwards bought it, which resulted in inconclusive results, according to the documentary, “Revealed: Jack the Ripper: The First Serial Killer."

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