For well over a century, the identity of Jack the Ripper, the most notorious serial killer of the Nineteenth century, has remained a mystery. Yet a new study claims to have used DNA analysis to reveal the man behind the brutal slayings.
According to a study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the man known as Jack the Ripper is likely Aaron Kominski, a 23-year-old barber of Polish descent who lived in London at the time. At least five women, all of whom were believed to have been sex workers, were murdered during Jack the Ripper’s 1888 three-month killing spree in London’s East End.
The authors of the study said that DNA found on the shawl of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims is a close match for a current living relative of Kominski.
The shawl belonged to Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, who was murdered in September 1888. 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.
Some researchers have taken issue with Miller and Louhelainen’s theory, claiming that there is no evidence that the shawl was ever present at a Jack the Ripper crime scene and that mitochondrial DNA provides inconclusive evidence linking Kominski to Jack the Ripper’s murders. But this is not the first time that Kominski’s name has been floated around as a potential suspect. Investigators’ notes from the time make reference to a “Kominski,” and a witness once claimed to have seen Kominski attacking one of Jack the Ripper’s victims with a knife, though the witness later refused to testify. With no evidence, police never made an arrest, and Kominski died of gangrene in an institution in 1919.
Analysis of Eddowes’ shawl later indicated that the material was too fine to have been worn by a sex worker during that time period. Further analysis concluded that the fabric was likely made near St. Petersburg, Russia, and it would not have been out of the realm of possibility for Kominski, who was born in an area of Poland that was under Russian control at the time, to have bought and worn the scarf for himself.