Intl. Notebook Sep 7 2014
A RIP IN TIME
History’s most storied serial killer finally identified.

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.

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The Naked City Sep 30 2009
FROM HELL
Jack the Ripper’s double dip and letter from the inferno.


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.
 

The first victim, Elizabeth Stride, was found at 1:00 a.m. in Dutfield’s Yard, in Whitechapel. The yard was a gated area ringed by several businesses and a few residences. Imagine a small parking lot. The gates were kept closed at night, but not locked. This made it easy for residents to access the yard, and for policemen on their nightly beats to inspect it, but it was also unlit. A Pall Mall Gazette article from 1890 described the site: “When you push open the gate it is as dark as Erebus; when the gate is pushed back there is an effectual screen from any prying passer by.” When Stride’s body was discovered blood was still flowing from her slashed throat. She had been slain minutes—or seconds—earlier, and the man who had stumbled over her body later told police that, though he could see nothing because the yard was pitch black, he believed the killer was still there.

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.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 28
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
October 27
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
October 26
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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