Jack The Ripper -- We Still Do Not Know Who He Was

Dec 26, 2014 - by Marilyn Z. Tomlins - 0 Comments

In early September world media splashed the headline that Jack the Ripper had finally been identified by amateur sleuth, Englishman Russell Edwards. The latter, in his book, Naming Jack the Ripper, identified Jack the Ripper as a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski. However, our intrepid reporter, Marilyn Z. Tomlins, says Kosminski could not have been Jack the Ripper. 

By Marilyn Z. Tomlins

In London during the fall of 1888, it was cold and wet with thick fog descending over the narrow dimly-lit streets, alleys and squares. The weather, however, did not make life for the hundreds of thousands, most of them immigrants, living in London’s Whitechapel district, harder than it already was. For the majority of them unemployed or working at menial jobs for up to 18 hours a day for a weekly wage of five pennies, and living sometimes up to 12 in an unheated room without running water, or living in insalubrious lodging houses, the weather was their least concern.

Survival was what was on the minds of the immigrants, and this was so especially for the women, because at that time the men of Whitechapel considered a woman no different than their other "chattels" -- furniture, carts and horses for example --  and domestic violence was a common occurrence. Furthermore, as for many women prostitution was the only means of survival, they faced an added danger: being beaten up or being slashed with a knife by the men who paid them tuppence (two pennies) for satisfying their sexual demands.

That fall another danger also confronted the women of Whitechapel: Jack the Ripper.

One hundred and twenty-six years later and despite the investigations of thousands of Ripper enthusiasts -- “ripperologists” as they have become known -- many of them writing books claiming to know the identity of this killer, and indeed naming him, the debate over who was Jack the Ripper continues.

Russell Edwards’s book, Naming Jack the Ripper, over 300 pages in length,is a good read, and I was prepared to believe that he had indeed identified Jack the Ripper. Yet, despite headlines like "Jack the Ripper Named," "Jack the Ripper Unmasked," "Jack the Ripper Murder Mystery Solved," it was not long before not only “ripperologists” but also a number of renown scientists cast doubt over Edwards’s declaration that Jack the Ripper was “definitely, categorically and absolutely” Aaron Kosminski.

I then began to doubt it too.

Edwards’s investigation

In his book, Russell Edwards describes himself as from a “regular family” and growing up in a council apartment in a tower block in a tough area of Northern England. Having a wish to be his “own boss” he started off, aged 19, selling furry toys from market stalls. When this did not bring in money he moved down to the south where he went from job to job, once penniless and homeless and sleeping on a park bench. He did all the same enrol at the North London Polytechnic and then the Central London Polytechnic, studying management; after graduation he set up a software company. He left that company and set up another and got married and then he went to see the 2001 Johnny Depp movie, From Hell, and his interest in Jack the Ripper began.

In 2007 a friend told Edwards that an item of Ripper memorabilia was going to be sold at auction. The item was a shawl which, according to the auctioneer, and the media, had belonged to one of Jack the Ripper’s victims.

The shawl was described as having a Michaelmas daisy pattern.

Researching the flower on the internet, Edwards learned that Michaelmas is the Christian feast of Archangel Michael and that the feast day is celebrated in the Christian Orthodox churches: in the Orthodox churches in the West on September 29 and in those of Eastern Europe on November 8.

Edwards, knowing that three of the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper had been committed on those two dates,  had to have the shawl.

It must be pointed out that despite Jack the Ripper’s notoriety as a most vicious and depraved killer it is accepted that he had killed only five women, the “canonical five.”

Mary Ann Nichols -- body found on Friday, August 31;

Annie Chapman -- body found on Saturday, September 8;

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes -- bodies found on Sunday, September 30;

 Mary Jane Kelly -- body found on Friday, November 9.

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were therefore murdered on the day the Western Orthodox churches celebrate the Feast of Archangel Michael, and Mary Jane Kelly on the day the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate it.

The shawl’s asking price (Edwards does not reveal how much it was) was not met, and the item was withdrawn from sale, and a disappointed Edwards went home, but just to return to the auction house and to buy the shawl directly from its owner, a man named David Melville-Hayes. The latter, in his 70s, is the great-great-nephew of a policeman, Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson, who in 1888 was 41 years of age, had been on duty in Whitechapel on the night of the murder of Catherine Eddowes and had taken possession of the shawl which had been taken off her body. The story is that Simpson, liking the shawl, had asked the police officer in charge at the murder scene whether he could have it because he wanted to give it to his wife.  Mrs. Simpson apparently would not wear it, but the shawl had remained in the family and finally having become the property of Melville-Hayes he had given it to Scotland Yard’s museum -- the Black Museum -- to be put on display. First though, he had cut two pieces from the shawl and those he had given to a friend who had the two pieces framed. As for what was left of the shawl, Melville-Hayes, later of the opinion that the Black Museum was not displaying it properly, had taken it back.

The shawl was stained and in 2006 the television production company Atlantic Productions doing a documentary about Jack the Ripper carried out a DNA testing on the stains, but the result as Melville-Hayes had been told by the production company had been “inconclusive.”

Edwards, the shawls new owner, would have new DNA testing done on the stains.

The five murders

Each morning at around 3 o'clock those of Whitechapel’s inhabitants who had jobs would begin to set off for their workplaces.

It was just after 3:40 a.m. when one such inhabitant walking fast along a street named Buck’s Row in the northeast of Whitechapel saw what he thought was a piece of canvas lying on the sidewalk. In the half-dark, he stopped to have a look and saw that what he had taken for canvas was a woman. She was lying on her back, her dress pulled up to her waist and her eyes were wide open. Having called over another man who was also on his way to work, the two felt the woman’s hands and found them warm, but even without medical knowledge they could tell that she was dead: she had a large gash in her neck and a lot of blood on and around her. Domestic violence being rife in the area, and it not being unusual for a prostitute to have her throat slashed, the two pulled the dead woman’s dress down over her legs for the sake of decency and then went on their way to find a patrolling policeman.

It was the morning of Friday, August 31.

It was not difficult to identify the murdered woman because she was known in Whitechapel. She was Mary Ann Nichols, who, at 42, abandoned by the man with whom she had had five children, was a penniless alcoholic who had turned to prostitution.

How Nichols had spent the last 48 hours of her life was established. She had been drinking in the local pubs, and drunk and unable to pay the four pennies for a bed in the dormitory of a lodging house -- these were called dosshouses -- she was told to leave. Earlier that morning, as the clock on the local Christ Church struck the half hour after two she had been seen walking east towards where her body would be found. She was very unsteady on her feet.

The walk from where she had last been seen alive and where she was found dead would have taken her about half an hour. She was therefore killed between 3 and 3:40 a.m.

Under the bright lights of a mortuary room it was established that she had two slashes to her throat, several to her vagina and a cut which ran from her neck down to her groin. She had been stabbed in her face as well.

Eight days later, on Saturday, September 8, another prostitute was found dead with similar injuries and all -- the police, the media, the locals and the British -- said that the women had been killed by the same man.

 This second victim was Annie Chapman, 47. Her story was similar to that of Nichols. Separated from the man with whom she had had three children, an alcoholic and consumptive, she had turned to prostitution.

At 6 a.m. on that Saturday an elderly male resident of a narrow four-story brick building at No. 29 Hanbury Street, west of Buck’s Row, had come across Chapman’s body. The building, like the others on the street, consisted of rooms which were let out on a weekly or monthly basis. The street door of each of the buildings opened into an alleyway, and as tenants were coming and going at all times of the day and night, those street doors were never locked. As prostitutes knew that the doors would not be locked, they took their clients into the alleyways.

Also like Nichols, Chapman, having been told to leave a lodging house because she was unable to pay the few pennies for a bed for the night, had been seen walking the streets in the hours before her death. At 5 o'clock that morning, it being cold and rainy, she was seen in a pub drinking when a man said to have worn a “small skull cap” had called her out and she had left with him. The pub was near to where her body was found.

At 5:30 a.m. a woman had seen a man and a woman whom she recognised as Chapman, standing talking outside No. 29 Hanbury Street. She heard the man whom she described as looking about 40, 5’5” in height, dark, “foreign” looking and wearing a dark overcoat and a brown deerstalker hat, ask the woman, “Will you?” and the woman replying, “Yes.”

A few minutes later a resident of the building beside that of No. 29 had heard something fall against a fence which divided the two buildings and he heard a woman saying, “No.”

The first woman was certain of the time because she had seen the it on the clock of Christ Church.

At 7 a.m. according to the female owner of a pub close to Hanbury Street, a man with dry blood on the back of his right hand and below one of his ears and on his collar, had walked in and ordered half a pint of beer. He was, as she said, wearing a dark coat and a “brown stiff hat.”

As Chapman’s body was found at 6 a.m., her killing had taken place in the 30 minutes after 5:30 a.m.  The body lay at the dividing fence. As with Nichols, Chapman’s skirt was pulled up to her waist revealing that her abdomen had been cut open from her neck to her groin, and her throat had been cut.  A pile of intestines was draped over one of her shoulders, and some flesh lay over the other. Her head had almost been severed from her body.

Twenty-two days later, on Sunday, September 30, the bodies of another two women, also prostitutes, were found.

The first body that of Swedish-born Elizabeth Stride, 45, was found at 1 a.m. in a narrow alleyway south of where Nichols’s body was found, and the second, that of Catherine Eddowes, at 1:44 a.m. in an alleyway west of where Stride’s body was found.

By then the killer had become known as Jack the Ripper because four days previously, on Thursday, September 27, a letter written in red ink representing blood had arrived at the office of the Central News Agency in London signed “Jack the Ripper.” The salutation was “Dear Boss” and the sender wrote of how he kept on hearing that he had been caught. He continued, “I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.”  The police thought the letter, grammatically correct, was a fraud: It is now accepted that it indeed was and that it was written either by a journalist with the agency --Thomas Bulling -- or the agency’s manager -- John Moore -- in order to win publicity and thus readers.

Elizabeth Stride, born Elizabeth Gustafsdottir in Sweden, had arrived in London in 1866 where she had married an Englishman, John Stride. The marriage had broken up because of her drinking when, rowdy on the street, the police would lock her up until she had sobered up.

On Saturday, September 29, at 6:30 p.m. she had left one pub to go and drink in another. She had left that second pub in the company of a man who was described as 5’5” in height and who had a black moustache and “sandy eyelashes.” He wore a “morning suit” and a bowler hat.

 At 11:45 p.m. a Whitechapel resident had seen a woman whom he would later identify in the mortuary as Stride walk in the direction of the alleyway, Dutfield’s Yard, where her body would be found. The man and woman were kissing and at the end of the kiss, the man had said to the woman, “You would say anything but your prayers.” The man was described as middle aged, about 5’6”, rather stout, clean-shaven, decently dressed in a black coat and dark trousers and wearing a round cap with a small peak. The witness had watched the two walk off, both appearing sober.

At 12:35 a.m. a patrolling policeman, a William Smith, had seen a man and a woman stand talking in front of Dutfield’s Yard. He described the man as about 5’7” in height, about 28, wearing a black coat and a hard felt hat, and he wore a shirt with a white collar and also a tie. The man, said the policeman, had a small dark moustache and had a dark complexion. He carried something which was wrapped in newsprint.

At about the same time a third witness, a non-English-speaking Hungarian Jew named Israel Schwartz, had also seen the couple in front of Dutfield’s yard. Later, speaking through an interpreter, Schwartz described what he had seen. He had seen the man whom he described as about 30, 5’5” in height, fair-skinned, dark hair with a full face and a small brown moustache and dressed in dark clothes and wearing a black cap with a peak, pull the woman off her feet so that she fell down. She screamed three times. At that moment, as he would recount, he had seen another man watching the scene. This onlooker stood across the street, and the man with the woman, looking in that man’s direction, had shouted out the name “Lipski.” Schwartz, then getting scared, had begun to run, and so had the second man, which had encouraged Schwartz to run faster in order to get the hell out of the place.  The second man would fail to come forward to give evidence; he was in fact never identified.

 “Lipski” was a derogatory term for a Jew because in 1887, in other words the previous year, an Israel Lipski, a Polish Jew, had been hanged for the poisoning with nitric acid of a woman in Whitechapel.

Stride’s body, found at 1 a.m. which was about 30 minutes after Schwartz had seen a man hurling her to the ground, was unlike those of Nichols and Chapman because it was not mutilated, but like theirs, her throat had been cut.

Forty-four minutes later, at 1:44 a.m., another body was found.

The body of Catherine “Kate” Eddowes, 46 years old and most horribly mutilated, lay on a small, totally enclosed square, Mitre Square, half a mile to the west of Dutfield’s Yard.

The square fell within the beat of a policeman who, when he had passed that way at 1:30 p.m. had not seen anyone, dead or alive, on the square.

Eddowes lay on her back, her dress pulled up to her neck which had been cut so savagely that her head was almost severed from her body. Her eyelids had been slashed and the tip of her nose had been cut off and placed beside the raw wound. Her lower abdomen had been cut open and both her uterus and left kidney were missing.

A homeless drunk, Eddowes used to carry her earthly belongings which were mostly clothes and some small kitchen appliances with her, and that night she had done so again. The police making a list of what they were finding at the murder scene and indeed what clothes the murdered woman was wearing, noted that she was wearing an “extremely dirty” white cotton apron over her skirt and that a large piece had been cut from it.

That piece of white cotton, bloodstained, was found at 2:55 a.m. lying in a doorway a quarter mile away to the east, and on a wall above the doorway, written in white chalk, was the sentence: “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.”

Fearing that there will be anti-Jewish riots should the Londoners, who were already saying that Jack the Ripper was a Jew, read about or saw photographs of the writing, a police officer at the scene ordered it to be washed off. It duly was.

The shawl was not on the police’s list and according to Edwards they had not listed it because when the list was drawn up Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson had already taken it.

That night of Eddowes’ murder only one man had been seen with her. At 1:35 a.m. three men, all Jewish, had seen a man and a woman near to Dutfield’s Yard. Only one of the men could describe the man: he said he was around 5’9” in height, of medium build, had a fair skin, a small fair moustache and wore a greyish jacket and a grey cloth cap. He also said that the man had a reddish scarf or neckerchief knotted around his neck.

Forty days were to pass before there was another murder of a woman in Whitechapel, but during those days many letters were sent to the police and newspapers, the senders claiming to be Jack the Ripper.  A kidney was even sent to a man who had set up a vigilance committee and who was appealing to Queen Victoria to do something to have the killer apprehended and brought to justice.  The letter which accompanied the kidney was full of spelling and grammatical errors and blood-smeared. It could not be established whether the kidney was human, but some newspapers reported that it was part of the left kidney of a human being.

The murder had been committed in the early hours of Friday, November 9 and the woman Mary Jane Kelly, was again a prostitute.

Kelly, 25, Irish-born and described by those who knew her as pretty and having a big bust, had moved from Limerick to London in 1884 when she had begun to ply her trade first in a brothel and then on the street.  The widow of a mine worker, the man she had been living with in Whitechapel had left her nine days previously on October 30, but the two had remained on friendly terms and at 8 p.m. on the last day of her life -- Thursday, November 8 -- he had visited her in her room in a lodging house, Miller’s Court, on Dorset Street in northwest Whitechapel. Dorset Street was known as the worst street for crime in London. After the visit, Kelly had gone out drinking, and obviously looking for clients.

At 11:45 p.m. that night another prostitute and tenant of Miller’s Court, who was on her way out, had seen Kelly going into her ground floor room, No. 13. A man was with Kelly. The prostitute had greeted Kelly, asking her how she was but Kelly was so drunk that she could only manage to mutter, “Goodnight.” The man was described as about 36, 5’5” in height, had a blotchy face and side whiskers and a reddish moustache. He wore a dark overcoat which was described as shabby and a black felt hat.  He was carrying some quarts of beer.  She had watched Kelly and the man go into Room No. 13 and once the door was closed Kelly had started to sing drunkenly. On this woman’s return to Miller’s Court at 3 a.m. on what was then Friday, November 9, all was quiet in Kelly’s room.

Half an hour before that another tenant returning to her room had seen a man stand across the street from Miller’s Court. The man named Hutchinson and describing himself to the police later as a friend of Kelly said that at 2 a.m. of the morning of November 9 he had come across Kelly on the street and she had asked him whether he could lend her a sixpence (six pennies) which he could not do because he was penniless himself. He had then seen a man walk up to Kelly and the conversation of the two had gone as follows:

Kelly:  “Alright.”

 The man: “You will be alright for what I had told you.”

The couple had then walked to Kelly’s room, Hutchinson following, and he heard Kelly say to the man: “Alright my dear, come along, you will be comfortable.” Having seen the couple go into Kelly’s room, Hutchinson had walked off. His description to the police of the man he had seen was that he was about 35, 5’6” in height, pale face, dark eyes and eyelashes, and a moustache which curled up at the edges. He wore a long coat trimmed with astrakhan, a light waistcoat under a dark jacket, dark trousers, and a dark felt hat. On his feet were boots with white buttons. Hutchinson also said that the man wore a gold chain and a gold clip pinned to his tie, and he looked “Jewish,” and he was carrying a parcel.

At 10:35 a.m. Kelly’s naked and dead body was discovered on the bed in her room by an elderly man sent to get six weeks of overdue rent from her. He had knocked and when there was no answer he had looked through the window.

The body lay on the blood-soaked bed. The skin of the abdomen and the thighs had been cut away and the breasts had been cut off. The abdomen had been emptied and the uterus and kidneys placed under Kelly’s head and so too one of her breasts. The other breast and her liver lay between her feet, and so did her intestines. The skin of the abdomen and thighs were laid out on a table. Kelly’s face had been mutilated as the nose, lips, cheeks and eyelids had been partially cut away, and her neck had been slashed right to the bone.

As another Miller’s Court tenant had heard a woman’s voice shout, “Murder!” between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. it was estimated that Kelly had been murdered in those 30 minutes.

By then the “Whitechapel Case” was no longer a local story, but an international one. The women were being called the “Unfortunates” and the name “Jack the Ripper” was on lips across the globe.

Edwards’s DNA profiling

The shawl Edwards had bought from David Melville-Hayes, the great-great-nephew of Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson, was in two pieces.  The biggest piece was just over six feet long and just over two feet wide, while the smaller piece was two feet long and one and a half feet wide. The shawl’s right side was dark brown and the reverse side was golden brown, and at each end of the shawl was a two-foot long strip which had a reddish golden Michaelmas daisy design.

There were small stains, some of them dark, others resembling white dots, on both pieces of the shawl and Edwards began looking for a scientist who would not only check the shawl for DNA but would also execute DNA matching should he, Edwards, be able to find descendants of Catherine Eddowes and indeed of the Jack the Ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski. By then he had started to focus solely on Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper because the curator of the Black Museum, Retired Police Officer Alan McCormack, had told him that Kosminski was without doubt Jack the Ripper. McCormack had said to him: “I’ll tell you: The murderer was and always has been Aaron Kosminski.”

In 2011, still not having found the needed descendants and not having succeeded in having the stains on the shawls analyzed, Edwards made the acquaintance of Finnish scientist Dr. Jari Louhelainen. The latter, living since 2000 in England and Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology at Liverpool John Moore University as well as Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Helsinki, agreed to assist Edwards in his task, by then almost an obsession, to identify Jack the Ripper.

Dr. Louhelainen’s first analysis of the shawl was with infrared photographic instruments and next he used UV photography. The first identified the dark stains on the shawl as arterial blood and the second revealed that one of the stains possessed the characteristics of human semen. The stains were however too old to extract DNA from them so instead Louhelainen used what he called “vacuuming” in interviews. This is to use a special slender tube (pipette) filled with a special liquid to draw DNA from the shawl. However, the substance that could be drawn because of the age of the shawl and the stains was not the genomic DNA used today in criminal investigations but a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The problem was that mtDNA is inherited only from the mother, so it was imperative that the DNA extracted from the stains on the shawl was to be compared solely to that of a female descendant of Aaron Kosminski and a female descendant of Catherine Eddowes. 

Edwards’s research without financial assistance from anyone led him to a female descendant of Eddowes and a female descendant of Aaron Kosminski.

The mtDNA of the alleged female descendant of Eddowes, Englishwoman Karen Miller, matched the mtDNA found on the shawl.

Furthermore, the mtDNA of the alleged female descendant of Aaron Kosminski, who did not want to be named, matched that of the mtDNA of the semen stains on the shawl.  (She apparently lives in Australia.)

Edwards therefore had his Jack the Ripper, and as far as he was concerned, Jack the Ripper was, as Retired Police Officer Alan McCormack, Curator of the Black Museum, had told him, the Polish Jewish man, Aaron Kosminski.

Aaron Kosminski

Aaron Mordke Kosminski was born on September 11, 1865 in the village of Klodawa in Poland’s Kalish Province. The Polish people were at that time in revolt against Imperial Russia, Poland’s ruler and what was known as the “Great Emigration” of Poles was in full swing. Because of Imperial Russia’s anti-Semitism, and indeed that of Poland, the situation of the Jewish Kosminskis was extremely fragile, and in 1881, Aaron, 16 years old, the family immigrated to England. Aaron’s mother Golda, born Lubnowska, was by then a widow so she accompanied her children -- three daughters named Hinde, Blima and Malke, and two sons named Icek and Aaron -- the family settling in Whitechapel. Aaron first lived with the married Icek, then with his sister Blima and her husband Woolf Abrahams and then he and his mother moved in with the married Malke. In Whitechapel, Icek having anglicized his name to Isaac had started a successful tailoring business so that the family’s social status was described as “bourgeois.”

The Kosminski family’s reaction to the 1888 series of killings and to the anti-Semitism they were experiencing in their new country and which was increasing daily because of rumours in Whitechapel that Jack the Ripper was a local Jew, is not recorded, but after Icek had become Isaac, Aaron’s other siblings had also anglicized their first names. Isaac had even begun to use the surname Abrahams which was that of his brother-in-law Woolf, husband of Blima who had anglicized her name to Betsy.

In 1888 Aaron Kosminski was 23 years old and unmarried and as documents dating from the 1890s specified he was a hairdresser.

The first public mention of him was in December 1889 in two news reports, one in the Lloyds Weekly News and the other in the City Press. Aaron Kosminski, then 24, and unknown to the people of Whitechapel and indeed to the police, was arrested for walking an unmuzzled dog in the central London street of Cheapside, then a popular open-air market area. Rabies was rife in England and dogs had to be muzzled.  Appearing in court he defended himself by saying that the dog was not his and that he was therefore not the one who was responsible for muzzling the animal. He was fined but he refused to pay the fine because as it was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, he, as a Jew, as he said, was not allowed to handle money on that day. He returned to the courthouse on the Monday and paid the 10 shilling fine and the incident was over and Aaron Kosminski had yet again become just another resident of London’s infamous East End.

The next mention of Aaron Kosminski was in an official medical document. On Saturday, July 12, 1890 his brother-in-law Abrahams arrived with him at a workhouse, the Mile End Old Town Workhouse. A workhouse was a prison-like place. The inmates, as they were called, were people -- men and women, the latter often accompanied by their children -- who were unable to support themselves or who were layabouts not wanting to work, or indeed were mentally unstable and needed medical supervision. They had to adhere to a harsh timetable, rising at dawn and working all day at menial jobs, to be back in bed by 8 p.m. Wages were minimal and so was the food.

Three days later Abrahams was back at the workhouse to take Aaron back to his and Betsy’s home.

Seven months later on Wednesday, February 4, 1891, Abrahams re-admitted Aaron to the workhouse. The address given for Aaron was then that of his sister Matilda (formerly Malka) and her husband and, in the report of the workhouse’s doctor, Aaron was described as insane: he had attacked one of his sisters, presumably Matilda, with a knife, he heard voices which told him what to do and he only ate food he had picked up in the street believing that should he accept food from anyone he will be poisoned. Furthermore he “practised self-abuse” -- he masturbated which was at the time believed to drive the masturbator insane.

Three days later the workhouse transferred Aaron to the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in the North London Borough of Barnet. No reason for the transfer had been recorded but on arrival Aaron’s hands were tied behind his back.

Aaron remained a patient at Colney Hatch, his condition regularly assessed and recorded, so that we know that he was going from being a quiet and well-behaved patient to being demented and incoherent.

On Friday, April 13, 1894 Aaron was transferred to another mental asylum, the Leavesden Asylum For Imbeciles on a street named Asylum Road in Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire County. His mother was named his next-of-kin and the address given for her was again that of Matilda.

Twenty-five years later, on Monday, March 24, 1919 Aaron Kosminski passed away at Leavesden. He was 53 years old and the cause of death was given as “gangrene.” He weighed 96 lbs. On Thursday, March 27, he was buried in the East Ham Jewish Cemetery in Marlow Road in the district of East Ham, east of London.

Those of his family who were still alive and had not left London had the words May his dear soul rest in peace engraved on his tombstone.

Golda and Betsy had died in 1912 and Isaac would die in 1920 and Woolf in 1944. They were buried not in the East Ham Jewish Cemetery, but in another cemetery, the East Ham Plashet Jewish Cemetery.

Collapse of the DNA profiling

No sooner had world media splashed the breaking news that Russell Edwards had identified Jack the Ripper with DNA profiling as Aaron Kosminski, than an Australian “ripperologist” commenting on the website, casebook.com, under a pseudonym, pointed out that Louhelainen’s DNA profiling was scientifically erroneous.

Immediately, four DNA experts agreed with the Australian. They are: English Professor Sir Alec John Jeffreys of the University of Leicester who is the inventor of the techniques to establish DNA fingerprinting and profiling; Austrian molecular biologist Professor Walther Parson, head of the Institute of Legal Medicine of the Medical University in Innsbruck; Dutch Professor Mannis van Oven, of the forensic molecular biology department of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, and the Austrian Professor Hansi Weissensteiner of the Genetic Epidemiology Division of the Medical University in Innsbruck.

Another “ripperologist,” Englishman Richard Cobb who organizes Jack the Ripper conventions and conducts Ripper Tours, added his own voice. He told The Times of London that Karen Miller attended a three-day Ripper convention in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands in 2007 when the shawl was on open and unprotected display and that her family’s mtDNA could then have got onto it.

Edwards in the last two chapters (28 pages) of his book describes how Louhelainen had gone about isolating mtDNA on six stains on the shawl and then amplifying seven small segments from it to facilitate the analysis.

About these seven small segments Edwards would write in his book (Pg 205) and which the Australian “ripperologist” had quoted on casebook.com: “One of these amplified mtDNA segments had a sequence variation which have a match between one of the shawl samples and Karen Miller’s DNA only; i.e., the DNA sequence retrieved from the shawl did not match with control reference sequences. This DNA alteration is known as global private mutation (314.1C) and it is not very common in worldwide population, as it has a frequency estimate of 0.000003506, i.e., approximately 1 / 290,000.”

As Edwards continues in his book, Louhelainen made the above calculation using the database of the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck.

However, as the Australian “ripperologist” and the scientists pointed out the DNA mutation should have been 315.1C and not 314.1C, and that 315.1C was not rare but shared by 99% of ethnic Europeans. It meant that the mtDNA of the shawl would match that of 99% of people of European descent.

The scientists described Louhelainen’s error as one of “nomenclature.”

As for the analysis of the stain on the shawl said to have been human semen, its haplogroup, or collection of particular DNA sequences one inherits from a parent, was identified as T1a1 and so was the haplogroup of the unnamed Australian descendant of Aaron Kosminski.

Louhelainen in an interview with London’s The Independent at the time of publication of Edwards’s book and therefore before his analysis was rejected, had said:  “Because of the genome amplification technique, I was also able to ascertain the ethnic and geographical background of the DNA extracted. It was of a type known as the haplogroup T1a1, common in people of Russian ethnicity. I was even able to establish that he had dark hair.” As Edwards writes in his book, Louhelainen had told him that by saying “Russian” he was including Poland then under Russian administration.

Immediately after Loulehainen’s interview the scientists and historians were back pointing out that the haplogroup T1a1 is not found in Ashkenazim Jews -- Jews from Central and Eastern Europe -- and Aaron Kosminski having been from Poland would have been an Ashkenazim Jew. It is a haplogroup found predominantly in Caucasians people. The meaning of Caucasian in this context being geographical and not the former American racial clarification of a white-skinned person as “Caucasian.”

Also, as the experts pointed out, hair color has nothing to do with mtDNA and like all physical traits and medical disorders are determined by genes in the nucleus.

Accordingly, as the haplogroup on the shawl was T1a1 and Aaron Kosminski was an Askhenazim Jew, he could not be connected to the shawl.

More reasons why Aaron Kosminski could not have been Jack the Ripper

1.      The Shawl

We have only the word of Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson’s descendants that the shawl Mellville-Hayes had put up for auction had been taken off the body of Eddowes.

But was it, and was Simpson even at the murder scene?

The murders of Nichols, Chapman, Stride and Kelly were investigated by the Metropolitan Police (the Met) commonly known as Scotland Yard because the murders had occurred within the Met’s jurisdiction. That of Eddowes by the City Police because it had occurred within the square mile heart of London under the jurisdiction of the City Police.

Simpson was with the Met but as its police had joined those of the City Police at the scene of that night’s murder, it is probable that he had been sent to Mitre Square that night.

The story according to his descendants was that he was on “special duties” that night and that he had discovered Eddowes body. In fact, he had not discovered the body and writers who had studied police records of the time failed to find his name listed with those police who had been at the murder scene that night.

Is it so impossible that Simpson, as an act of self-aggrandizement, had made up the story of the shawl?  He was already 41 years of age, an age which at that time meant that someone was “aged,” yet he was still only an acting sergeant. He would retire around 1893, in other words about five years later and this means that he was indeed at the end of his career.

Furthermore, is it so impossible that Simpson had bought the shawl cheaply -- it was second hand and soiled -- at a market stall on his way home at the end of his shift?

What is certain is that we have no proof that the shawl had been taken off the body of Eddowes.

2.      The Michaelmas daisy design

To a Jew, and Kosminski was a Jewish man, Archangel Michael and the celebration of his name-day would have had no significance. Therefore, there can be no connection between the daisy design on the shawl and the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.

3.      The shawl’s age and its country of manufacture

Edwards had been unable to establish the shawl’s age and where it had been manufactured.  Without knowing the date, even an approximate one of its manufacture, and in what country this had been, there is no proof that either Eddowes or her murderer had the shawl on their person that night of the murder of Eddowes.

4.      The dates of the murders

·         The murder of each of the five women took place during the hours of the Jewish Sabbath and what is more Chapman was killed during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

An observant Jew which Aaron Kosminski was as he refused to handle money on the Sabbath would not have left his home where his family, which included his aged and widowed mother, would either have been preparing for the traditional Sabbath meal or were already at table. Also, on those nights he would have gone to the synagogue with his brothers and brothers-in-law.

·         As for Rosh Hashanah, it revolves around the synagogue more than any other Jewish holiday.

On the Jewish calendar, on Thursday, September 6, 1888, the year 5649 had begun: it was the first day of the three-day celebration.

Chapman was killed in the early hours of Saturday, September 8, the Shabbat Shuvah, which is the Shabbat which occurs between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and which is a day of reflection before the Day of Atonement of Yom Kippur.  It is a day Jews spend in the synagogue and concentrate on the Torah, to pray and attain forgiveness for sins of the old year and to start the new one with a clean slate.

It is therefore inconceivable that a practising Jewish man would have gone out killing on such holy days for a Jew.

·         Aaron Kosminski had severe mental problems as we know from the reports of the asylums of Colney Hatch and Leavesden, but apart from having threatened one of his sisters with a knife, there had been no episodes of physical acts of violence reported by the two asylums.

Yet, if he were Jack the Ripper, he would not have been able to refrain from killing in the 20 months between the murder of Kelly on Friday, November 9, 1888 and his admittance to the Mile End Old Town Workhouse on Saturday, July 12, 1890? He was indeed a free man in those 20 months.

5. The addresses

From Aaron Kosminki’s admission to the Mile End Old Town Workhouse and to the asylums of Colney Hatch and Leavesden we know the Whitechapel addresses of his siblings and of his mother, and we also know that he had moved from sibling to sibling, at times his mother moving with him.

The addresses were all within a few minutes walk to where the five women had been murdered.

Would Aaron -- indeed any Whitechapel resident -- have run the risk of killing on his doorstep so to speak and of being recognized in the company of the woman he was about to murder?

6. The Kosminskis’name change

Edwards gives importance to Isaac Kosminski having changed his surname to Abrahams and Golda having done so too. Such a name change can not be interpreted as Aaron’s brother and his mother wishing to separate themselves from him because he was Jack the Ripper.

It was not extraordinary for Jews settling in a new country to have anglicized their first names and their family names. They did so in order to make it easier for officialdom in their new countries to spell their names, yet some also did so in order to hide their Jewish parentage and ancestry. For example the family name Sladowski had become Slade, and when a surname had begun with an O an apostrophe was inserted between it and the next letter, the holder then being able to claim Irish descent.  Like the surname Olinski had become the Irish O’Linn.

Aaron himself had explained to the police at the time of his arrest because of the unmuzzled dog that he sometimes used the surname Abrahams because Kosminski was hard to spell. Indeed, the surname was often spelled Kozminski.

7. Aaron lying in a different cemetery than his family

Edwards also gives significance to the graves of Aaron Kosminski’s family not being in East Ham Jewish Cemetery with that of Aaron. Then, as indeed today, a deceased is buried in a cemetery closest to the place of residence of his or her family.

At the time of Aaron’s burial his address was given as that of Matilda's which was in the district of Bow, east of London.

East Ham Jewish Cemetery was also east of London and it was five miles from the district of Bow.

8. No physical description of Aaron Kominski

“Witnesses” had seen four of the five victims in the company of a man within minutes of the murder of that victim.

Rarely did the description given by one “witness” match that given by another. 

Thus, the men were described as follows:

  • Age: middle-aged; about 40; about 35; about 34 or 35; about 30; between 25 and 30; about 28.
  • Height: 5’; 5’5”; 5’6”; 5’7”, about 5’; no taller than 5’; 5’9”.
  • Build: stout; broad shouldered.
  • Complexion: fair; pale; dark; had a blotchy skin.
  • Face: clean-shaven; had a moustache described as black; brown; dark; fair; reddish; “carroty”; turned up at the edges.
  • Hair: fair; black.
  • Eyes and lashes: dark; fair.
  • Clothes: long dark overcoat buttoned up; long dark overcoat hanging open; shabby overcoat; overcoat trimmed with astrakhan; morning suit; greyish jacket; dark trousers; light waistcoat; shirt with blue cotton collar; tie with golden horseshoe pin; long golden chain hanging over chest; reddish scarf or kerchief knotted around the neck.
  • Hat: brown deerstalker (the fictional private investigator Sherlock Holmes wore one); black billycock (bowler hat); hard felt hat; soft felt hat; dark felt hat; dark felt hat turned up in the middle; cap with a small sailor-like peak; grey cloth cap; small skull cap.
  • General appearance: looked Jewish; looked foreign (this meant Jewish); shabby; genteel; affluent.

The above descriptions were not only contradictory but would have fitted more than half of the men then in Britain and almost all the men of Whitechapel.

Furthermore, as Aaron Kosminski had an eating problem, he would not have been stout.

Therefore, we have no idea what Aaron Kosminski looked like.

For that matter, we have no reliable description of what Jack the Ripper looked like.

Without reasonable doubt

Seeing we have no physical description of Aaron Kosminsky, and the only misdemeanor he had committed was that he had not muzzled a dog he had taken for a walk, he cannot be identified as Jack the Ripper.

Therefore, in 1888, like indeed too today, with exactly what we have on Aaron Kosminski, in other words no DNA, no court would be able to establish without reasonable doubt that he was Jack the Ripper.

 Accordingly, despite my admiration for the dedicated work Edwards had put into trying to identify Jack the Ripper, I say that we still do not know the identify of the man who had slaughtered the five “Unfortunates.”

So it will remain unless someone somewhere finds in a box in an attic a document yellow and brittle with age written by an ancestor confessing to having been Jack the Ripper.

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