|Intl. Notebook||Sep 7 2014|
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a story in which it claims infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper has been identified through DNA testing. The analysis was performed on a shawl found by police on the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the Ripper’s canonical victims, killed on the same night as Elizabeth Stride in what is termed by Ripper scholars as “The Double Event.” The shawl had recently been bought at auction by an amateur sleuth and passed on to genetic experts, who took samples from the fabric and found matches to the DNA of descendants of Eddowes, and to the descendants of Aaron Kosminski, an original Ripper suspect who had been questioned and surveilled by police back in 1888.
The Mail has said the new evidence “puts to end the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity,” but we imagine independent corroboration will probably have to follow before that’s true. Kosminski was of Polish descent and had emigrated from the Russian Empire to London. Police reports from the time of the murder describe him as a serial masturbator, and indeed the Kosminski DNA sample from the shawl is thought to be semen, meaning that in the few minutes after the killing he both mutilated the corpse and ejaculated over it. Presumably more details will emerge in the coming days, but the announcement of Kosminski as the killer, if true, has to rank as one of crime history’s most significant, and may bring to a close one of its most baffling murder cases.
Update: That didn't take long. Various scientists and DNA experts say the genetic analysis done on the shawl was botched due to error of nomenclature. Instead of an extremely rare genetic match, DNA extracted from Eddowes' shawl actually matches that of most people of European descent. So forget everything we wrote above.
|The Naked City||Sep 30 2009|
One hundred twenty-one years ago today, residents of London began to understand that a serial killer was stalking the dark streets of Whitechapel and London. Jack the Ripper had killed before—he had murdered Mary Ann Nichols in late August, and Annie Chapman the second week of September. But when two more women died in the same night Londoners flew into a panic. A malevolent entity had beset their city and suddenly it was clear his thirst would not easily be slaked. The two murders were called “The Double Event.” While some historians feel they were unconnected, Ripper orthodoxy holds that the second murder occurred because the first was unconsummated. Which is to say, the Ripper was robbed of a chance to inflict his signature mutilation on the first victim because he was interrupted by a passerby, so he immediately went out and found a second victim to kill in the intricate method his compulsion demanded.
Less than an hour later Jack the Ripper found the privacy he sought—and another victim. Catherine Eddowes had spent the night of September 29 in the drunk tank at Bishopgate police station. The cops let her go just about the time Elizabeth Stride was being murdered not far away in Whitechapel. At 1:35 a.m. Eddowes was seen by three witnesses having a conversation with an unidentified male. Her body was found at 1:45, so police of the time and historians of today agree she was talking with the Ripper. In those ten minutes he walked with Eddowes to secluded Mitre Square, just inside the London city limits, then killed her, mutilated her, and removed her kidney. The kidney—or part of it—resurfaced along with a letter addressed to George Lusk, head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter bore a header “From Hell,” and the text boasted of how nice the missing piece of kidney tasted fried. The letter was signed: “Catch me when you can.” But neither Lusk nor anyone else managed it. And the killings continued.