Our boy Aaron.

Holy Crap! I never thought anyone would write those words, let alone me! Using ground breaking Mitochondrial DNA testing the first truly solid link ever establish to the Ripper killer has been found. Now I know there are a lot of people out there just trying to knock this one down, but it’s really very solid if you go through the numbers.

So who is our prime suspect now? Well, actually, it’s the original police suspect, a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski.  At the time of the murders Kosminski was a 25-year-old unemployed chronic self-abuser, with schizophrenic delusions. For all you genteel people out there who don’t understand what I mean by chronic self-abuser, I mean he couldn’t stop ballin’ the jack, you know, polishing the ole flag pole……

So what’s the break? Wheres the brave new evidence that damns the late Mr Kosminski? It all comes down to a piece of evidence that has been long disputed: The Michaelmas Daisy Scarf. This scarf was found with the body of Catherine Eddowes on the early morning hours of the 30th of September, 1888. Taken from the scene of the crime by a well meaning copper (DNA evidence being absolutely useless in 1888), the scarf has always seemed a mythical or at least very puzzling piece of evidence, as it was far too fine and expensive an object for a prostitute who had pawned her shoes for drink earlier on the day she was murdered. But there next to the body was as fine a scarf as any prostitute of the day would ever hope to see, and spilled on the scarf was blood, presumably Eddowes’ own, and something else a bit more sinister:  semen left over from the assailant.

Now it’s well known that Kosminski was seen and later correctly identified in a line-up as having been fleeing the scene of the murder just minutes after it occurred, and the police were very convinced that Mr Kosminski was their man. But alas, without harder more substantial evidence the case against Aaron Kosminski never really materialized.

Michaelmas Scarf

Pointing out the Semen!

Years later, however, the scarf was purchased by Russel Edwards, known Ripperologist and an ‘armchair detective’ whoyearned to name the killer once and for all. Using new recent methods in DNA testing pioneered by Dr Bryan Sykes, Edwards was able to link the blood on the scarf definitively to Eddowes through family descendants. This, of course proves the provenance of the scarf as a genuine Ripper artifact. But why Kosminski, aside from the evidence of eyewitness Joseph Lavender, who identified Kosminski fleeing the scene? The semen, people! Never forget the semen; it’s the key to everything.

The semen was tested using the new breakthrough DNA method which examines Mitochondrial DNA (mDNA). The amazing thing about mDNA is that unlike nuclear DNA which changes slightly from parent to child, mDNA never changes, it is a permanent link which binds a family unit together. Dr. Sykes used it in his study of human tribal descendants for his book “The 7 Daughters of Eve,” and Mr. Edwards used it to prove the ejaculate on the scarf was indeed Aaron Kosminski’s.

So what are we left with here? Either Kosminski is walking down the street, finds a corpse and decides to jack it into the fancy ladies’ scarf he just happened to have on him; OR he was the Ripper, he found the girl, raped and murdered her, wiped himself off with the scarf he planned to leave as taunting evidence, and was seen fleeing the scene in either case.

For extra nerd points, revel in how Edwards cracked the case of the anachronistic scarf.  It has long been tagged as the ‘Michaelmas Daisy Scarf’, because of the distinctive floral pattern.  For the average secular 21st century slob, those are just words – they look like ordinary daisies.  But Michaelmas, the feast of the Archangel, had special meaning for a Cockney in the Victorian era:  it was a bank holiday.  And guess what day it fell on?  The date that Eddowes was found in the street, September 30th.  Certainly, you say, that ties the scarf to the murder – Eddowes was wearing the  scarf to celebrate the holiday.  But remember, she had no finery.  So why would someone else (presumably Kosminski) drop it at the scene, smeared with all sorts of bodily fluid?  As it turns out, there is a second date for Michaelmas as well – in some churches, it was celebrated on November 9th.  For any of you fellow armchair detectives out there – November 9th is the date of the last canonical ripper murder, that of Mary Jane Kelly.  Not only did Kosminski want us to know he chose the holiday on purpose – he left the police a clue about his next escapade.  (Of course, policing being what it was in 1888, the only information the police gleaned from this was that it was a pretty scarf, worthy of taking home to one’s sister instead of locking up as evidence, and storing in a lovely box for more than a century without a proper semen-removing wash.)  Truly, it is the little-blue-dress Clinton scandal of the 1880s.

jack_the_ripper_from_hell_letterThe DNA evidence opens up entirely new lines of questioning related to the Eddowes murder.  One is the ‘From Hell’ letter that was turned in just after the killing, which was sent with a piece of (allegedly) Eddowes’ kidney.  As we uncover new ways to mine old DNA, it would be a fascinating thing to see if Kosminski could be linked definitively to that letter.  Unfortunately, as with most pieces of physical evidence relating to the murders, the letter has since disappeared.   Perhaps more mysterious is the bit of Eddowes’ apron, also smeared with bodily fluid, that was found near some graffiti on nearby Goulston street.  It’s clear that Kosminski, bearer of  fancy holiday murder scarves, didn’t believe in leaving his semen around lightly, so it’s quite possible that he chose that piece of graffiti consciously, or even wrote it himself.  The graffiti message, never copied down properly but amounting to something like, ‘The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing,’ has always baffled Ripperologists for its conscious Antisemitism and seeming unrelatability to the murders.  Finally naming Kosminski as the most likely candidate sheds a possible murky light:  a Jewish immigrant who had fled particularly brutal pogroms (Jewish murders) in Poland, living in Whitechapel (a center of anti-Jewish hatred in London), to say that he had probably experienced some trauma is hardly going out on a limb.

So what happened to Kosminski? Scotland Yard, without physical evidence, couldn’t push too hard for fear of Antisemitic riots if they dragged Kosminski in. But by 1890 he had become so unstable, his family could no longer hide his violent tendencies. After threatening his sister’s life with a knife (that’s not Ripperish, huh?) They were forced to have him committed. Interesting how the murders ceased after he was imprisoned in a mental institution. Kosminski died in 1919 having never regaining his freedom.

Sorry folks, it looks like the Ripper didn’t get away in the long run…..

I had a bit of help writing this article from my amazing wife, who interestingly enough, probably knows more about the Ripper than just about anyone reading this article!

image source: [TheDungeon][FindAGrave][WhiteChapelJack]