London, United Kingdom – “Who was Jack the Ripper?” After 126 years, one of the most notorious mysteries has apparently been cracked. A new study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences claims Aaron Kosminski, a 23 year-old Polish barber and one of the six key suspects commonly cited as Jack the Ripper, was indeed the man behind the grisly Whitechapel murders of 1888.
The study said that DNA found on the shawl of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims – Catherine Eddowes – is a close match for a current living relative of Kominski. The shawl reportedly contained seminal fluid, which was tested by study co-author Dr. David Miller, of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds.
“I was able to identify body cells that were consistent with the presence of seminal fluid on the shawl and which enabled us to match DNA with the descendants of one of the suspected killers, Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski,” Miller said in a University of Leeds press release. Miller and study co-author Dr. Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University, were also able to test mitochondrial DNA from a blood stain on the shawl, which was a match for the DNA of Karen Miller, a descendant of Eddowes.
Between August 31 and November 9, 1888, Jack the Ripper is believed to have murdered at least five women, all of whom were believed to have been sex workers, slashing their throats, removing some of their internal organs and leaving their mutilated bodies in alleyways in the Whitechapel district of London.
The grisly and mysterious nature of the murders, as well as extensive newspaper coverage at the time, bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper. At the time, although a witness claimed to have seen Kominski attacking one of Jack the Ripper’s victims with a knife, police lacked clear evidence and never made an arrest. Kominski died of gangrene in an institution in 1919.
With the murders never officially solved, the legend surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory, and there are now over one hundred hypotheses about the Ripper’s identity. The term “ripperology” was even coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases.
In his 2014 book Naming Jack the Ripper, self-proclaimed armchair detective and “ripperologist” Russell Edwards, from North London, had already claimed that Polish barber Kominski “definitely, categorically and absolutely” was the man behind the murders.
The Whitechapel murders have inspired many works of fiction, including Marie Belloc Lowndes’ 1913 novel The Lodger, Stephen Knight’s 1976 work Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, Peter Barnes’ satiric 1968 stage play The Ruling Class, and the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, which was later adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp, and where Jack the Ripper is played by *SPOILERS*.