Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer who terrorized the streets of London more than a century ago, may have finally been identified by forensic scientists in Great Britain. Genetic tests published last week in the Journal of Forensic Sciences point to Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish barber and a prime police suspect at the time.
Jack the Ripper is thought to have claimed the lives of at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London between Aug. 31, 1888, and Nov. 9, 1888. No one was ever charged in the murders.
Kosminski has previously been named as a possible suspect, but this is the first time the supporting DNA evidence has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, according to Science.
The results come from a forensic examination of a stained silk shawl that investigators said was found next to the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes, the killer’s fourth victim, whose badly mutilated body was found Sept. 30, 1888. The shawl is stained with what is claimed to be blood and semen, the latter thought by some to have belonged to the killer.
Researchers compared fragments of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down solely from one’s mother, retrieved from the shawl with samples taken from living descendants of Eddowes and Kosminski to one of Kosminski’s living descendants, Science reported.
But critics say key details on “specific genetic variants” identified and compared between DNA samples were not included in the paper. They also have questioned whether the shawl is viable evidence, saying there is no proof it was ever at the crime scene, and that it might have been contaminated over the years.
Author Russell Edwards, who bought the shawl in 2007, gave it to Jari Louhelainen, an expert in molecular biology. Louhelainen and Edwards said that DNA led them to identify the killer as Kosminski, reports the Guardian.