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United Kingdom Biotech Crime

New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper 135

It surely won't be the last theory offered, but a century and a quarter after the notorious crimes of Jack the Ripper, an "armchair detective" has employed DNA analysis on the blood-soaked shawl of one of the Ripper's victims, and has declared it in a new book an unambiguous match with Jewish immigrant Aaron Kosminski, long considered a suspect. Kosminski died in 1919 in an insane asylum. The landmark discovery was made after businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl at auction and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes. Using cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material and compare it to DNA from descendants of [Ripper victim Catherine] Eddowes and the suspect, with both proving a perfect match. (Also at The Independent.) It's not the first time DNA evidence has been used to try to pin down the identity of Jack the Ripper, but the claimed results in this case are far less ambiguous than another purported mitochondrial DNA connection promoted by crime novelist Patricia Cornwell in favor of artist Walter Sickert as the killer in a 2002 book. Update: 09/07 16:03 GMT by T : Corrected Sickert's first name, originally misstated as "William."
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New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper

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  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @09:29AM (#47845853)

    Jack the Ripper was a fucking Jedi?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Saysys ( 976276 )

      Jack the Ripper was a fucking Jedi?

      No, He was a human with a mother.

      From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

      In humans, mitochondrial DNA can be assessed as the smallest chromosome coding for 37 genes and containing approximately 16,600 base pairs. Human mitochondrial DNA was the first significant part of the human genome to be sequenced. In most species, including humans, mtDNA is inherited solely from the mother.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tshawkins ( 1239974 )

      Jack the Ripper was a fucking Jedi?

      Ohhh come on, we all know he was a godamm sontaran, who else could it have been. Jedi where never anywhere near 18th centry london, sontarans however, whole different kettle of fish... thats where Strax keeps sneaking off to. Dont belive all that bollocks about a mate called Archie from Glasgow.

      • I'm sorry, but Strax has a firm alibi. He was off playing with his grenades or training his laser monkeys.
    • Maybe, but he was under telepathic influence regardless. Red Jack Red Jack Red Jack
  • by Anonymous Coward

    did anyone stop to consider this guy was just a john?? he was emaciated and couldn't have had the strength or energy to overpower these hookers...

  • by smoothnorman ( 1670542 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @09:50AM (#47845955)
    it's probably after the link somewhere, but one useful explanation in this summary would be why DNA analysis of the blood:

    employed DNA analysis on the blood-soaked shawl of one of the Ripper's victims, and has declared it in a new book an unambiguous match with

    wouldn't just reveal the identity of the victim. ("y'see, it was a man's- blood!" "y'see the ripper had cut 'imself shav'n that morning" "y'see the worker girl she had 'er own knife a'course")

    • It's not the bloody that's allegedly the perpetrator's, but semen found on the shawl. I'm surprised nobody else replying to you seems to have done their homework either.

  • forensic 'science' (Score:5, Informative)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @09:54AM (#47845981) Homepage Journal
    This is where I think we get in trouble with forensic science. Certain things, like finger prints and DNA, can exonerate a suspect but we have seen enough analysis around here to know that it is a fallacy to think that these things prove guilt. it only proves guilt if we assume the probability of guilt is 100% initially. When comparing the sample to a database, random error can create a match under certain common circumstances.

    So we can say that DNA evidence is part of a chain that can lead to guilt, and if we assume the known suspects represent the total population of possible suspects, then if the DNA exonerates all other suspects, then there is a case to be made for guilt, but that is a lot of caveats. As we have seen in many cases, obvious suspects are ignored because the authorities jump to quick conclusions. As said, DNA is good for exonerating people, not convicts them.

    • by penix1 ( 722987 )

      It is a chain. One that is used to build a strong case against an individual. It was Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional character Sherlock Holmes that said, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Another Holmes quote which applies here is, "It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment."

      To be true to the fist quote you would need physical evidence from the other victims to compare DNA. You would have to a

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        In 1987, Ripper author Martin Fido searched asylum records for any inmates called Kosminski, and found only one: Aaron Kosminski.[15] At the time of the murders, Aaron apparently lived either on Providence Street or Greenfield Street, both addresses of which are close to the sites of the murders.[16] The addresses given in the asylum records are in Mile End Old Town, just on the edge of Whitechapel.[17] The description of Aaron's symptoms in the case notes indicates that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and
        • by TarPitt ( 217247 )

          There was also an eyewitness who saw him leave a bar with a prostitute hours before the prostitute was horribly murdered. The eyewitness refused to testify in court.

          Story I heard was that the police were very sure this was the guy, but knowing they couldn't convict, they arranged to have him locked up in an insane asylum. The murders then abruptly stopped.

          Source: Recent "Jack the Ripper" tour in London. Not peer reviewed.

          • There is also the fact that Kosminski's personality profile fits that of a serial killer, he had a deep hatred of women, and he was a butcher (and had a knife that matched the cuts). Being a Polish Jew, Kosminski was a likely match for the person who left the 'Jewes' graffiti. This being the case, and with the already prevalent anger against Jews and immigrants in the wake of the murder and the news of the graffiti, it seems likely that the police actually knew they had their man, but did not want to prosec

    • Agreed. You can't compare to a database of a million individuals. In this case, though, it seems the person fingered was already one of a small number of those suspected. That would eliminate the statistical argument in this particular instance.
    • DNA is good for exonerating people, not convicts them.

      With respect to a single match.

      Now if his DNA shows up on multiple ripper victims then DNA can be good for determining culpability.

    • 'This is where I think we get in trouble with forensic science. Certain things, like finger prints and DNA, can exonerate a suspect but we have seen enough analysis around here to know that it is a fallacy to think that these things prove guilt. it only proves guilt if we assume the probability of guilt is 100% initially. When comparing the sample to a database, random error can create a match under certain common circumstances.'

      However, in this case, they were comparing not against a database of millions,

    • When comparing the sample to a database, random error can create a match under certain common circumstances.

      The match has to be plausible.

      The false positives that so agitate the geek are likely to be discarded very early on.

      Because they simply won't make sense when you look at the suspect's age, sex, physical condition, proximity to the victim, proximity to the crime scene and so on.

    • The trouble we get in this case is the chain of custody of the evidence. The fact that it past through the hands of a man long obsessed with the case who probably a favorite suspect and theory he would like to be proven correct about. Also, with the new book he stands to profit quite a bit from this evidence being discovered. Good chance it would be thrown out in a court of law, doubt it will stand up to the other "armchair detectives" (who else really cares that much anyway) who believe it to be one of the
    • Certainly it's easier to DISprove something with DNA than it is to prove something, but at a certain point reasonability MUST take a seat in the courtroom as well.

      Are you actually asserting that
      - his blood was proved to be on her shawl
      - he happens to be insane, with homicidal tendencies ...yet that's just coincidental?

      Is there a non-zero chance that these things could be true and him not be Jack the Ripper? Yes.
      Is that chance infinitesimal and not really worth seriously considering? Also, yes.

    • A bit too late to convict anyone at this point don't you say?

      There are problems with many of the forensic methods used. However, eyewitness testimony is even less reliable. The way humans recall events from episodic memory is seriously flawed. Forensic evidence is always circumstantial evidence, and should always be treated as such. That's in addition to any flaws on a particular method.

      As pointed out here, this man was suspected of being the ripper before there was any DNA evidence. DNA evidence just makes

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @10:07AM (#47846023)
    This is slightly off-topic, but why this?

    ...businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl...

    Why do they throw his age in there? Why does it matter? Is that in any possible way related to the story? I'm not calling out this story in particular, I see this all the time. I'd like to know the motivation behind the trend.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2014 @10:21AM (#47846093)

      It gives you an idea of what generation he is, and therefore what social experience he may have wrt the subject at hand.

    • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @10:26AM (#47846123)

      This is slightly off-topic, but why this?

      ...businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl...

      Why do they throw his age in there? Why does it matter? Is that in any possible way related to the story? I'm not calling out this story in particular, I see this all the time. I'd like to know the motivation behind the trend.

      My first thought when I heard he had the bloody shawl was that he was the Jack the Ripper. Who else would have such a gruesome souvenir? But, then I saw that he was only 48 and not 148, so I now know it wasn't Edwards after all.
      That little fact saved me a lot of time from writing a "I know who Jack is" book. Unless the 48 not 148 was a typo.

    • The more correct facts, however irrelevant, the salesman (journalist) can fit in their marketing (article) the more likely we are to buy the product (story) and not notice any mistakes or inconsistencies.

    • Probably for the same reason that they mentioned that Jack the Ripper was Jewish. They weren't picking on Jews or old people; they merely wanted to include interesting details. At least, I hope that's the reason.
    • by rkww ( 675767 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @11:06AM (#47846383)

      Why do they throw his age in there?

      His age is part of his identity; it helps ensure that friends and family of e.g. businessman Robert Edwards, 33, know the story doesn't refer to 'their' Robert.

    • because businessmen and politicians are people. As opposed to scientists and engineers (who are only named in the press based on their nationality, place of residence, and employer name rather than their actual human characteristics).
    • This is slightly off-topic, but why this?

      ...businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl...

      Why do they throw his age in there? Why does it matter? Is that in any possible way related to the story? I'm not calling out this story in particular, I see this all the time. I'd like to know the motivation behind the trend.

      I'm going to speculate that you probably don't get much dead-tree journalism in your diet, which is why you seem to think this is some kind of trend. This was Journalism 101 prior to the advent of HTTP. Journalists used the 5 W's -- who, what, when, where, and why -- to establish a consistent framework for their audience. Including the individual's age helps establish the who and (possibly) the why part of the context for the audience. Unfortunately, the context-free environment made possible by HTTP ha

  • You uneducated buffoon, Timothy!
  • Bullshit claim. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @10:26AM (#47846125) Journal

    There was no blood other than the victims on the shawl. And even that was only determined to match through mitochondrial DNA.
    What they claim to have matched "definitely, categorically and absolutely" to the murderer are "traces of semen thought to belong to the killer".
    Traces of semen. On the clothes of ONE of the victims. Who was a prostitute.

    Clearly, "Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt."
    Non-believers perpetuating myths? I'm not sure that's how it goes.

    From TFA:
           

    A blood-stained shawl belonging to one of the Ripper's victims bought at an auction in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in 2007 was used as the basis for the research.
    As well as being soaked in her blood, it was found to have traces of semen thought to belong to the killer.
    Mr Edwards said: âoeI've got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case.
    âoeI've spent 14 years working on it, and we have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was.
    "Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now - we have unmasked him."

    BUT WAIT! There is more... it is once again mitochondrial.
    In other words...

    Critics, however, have pointed out that the DNA comparisons focused on mitochondrial DNA, which could be shared by anything from between 1% and 10% of the population, so it was hardly unique to Sickert.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

    It was impossible to extract DNA from the stains on the shawl using the method employed in current cases, in which swabs are taken. The samples were just too old.

    Instead, he used a method he called âvacuumingâ(TM), using a pipette filled with a special âbufferingâ(TM) liquid that removed the genetic material in the cloth without damaging it.
    As a non-scientist, I found myself in a new world as Jari warned that it would also be impossible to use genomic DNA, which is used in fresh cases and contains a humanâ(TM)s entire genetic data, because over time it would have become fragmented.

    But he explained it would be possible to use mitochondrial DNA instead. It is passed down exclusively through the female line, is much more abundant than genomic DNA, and survives far better.

    Making it exactly as valid as the Walter Sickert "evidence" from postage stamps.

    • Like the one just below...

      Concentrating on the ethnicity of that POLISH immigrant sure will bring more clicks to the topic.
      After all... We haven't had a nice flame war since that last "Misogyny. Misogyny everywhere." story.
      But that was just about women and games and there aren't enough REAL lunatics interested in that.

      We all know, real loonies is where the clicks are.
      So we clearly need the next one to be racial-ethnic-religious with all tangential conspiracy theories as a bonus. And lest we forget... Palest

      • So we clearly need the next one to be racial-ethnic-religious with all tangential conspiracy theories as a bonus. And lest we forget... Palestine, Gaza, West Bank, Israel.

        Well, Jack the Ripper's ethnicity is relevant to the story. The sentiment at the time was that the Ripper's crime was so heinous that he must have been an immigrant since no British person would commit such heinous crimes. The Ripper's ethnicity would be relevant to that sentiment. Similarly for his religious affinity. There was some g

        • Well, Jack the Ripper's ethnicity is relevant to the story. The sentiment at the time was that the Ripper's crime was so heinous that he must have been an immigrant since no British person would commit such heinous crimes.

          First off, now is not "at the time".
          Nor is any rationale provided for why would such labeling be of any importance now, nor why would ANY ethnic or religious attributes be relevant to either murders or the identification of the murderer EVER.

          There was never any evidence or testimony of any ethnic or religious identity of the murderer.
          Nor were murders ever explained as a religious or ethnic ritual - other than in completely made up conspiracy theories involving everything from royal family, through obligator

          • First off, now is not "at the time".

            How very curious! I wonder why you singled (well, doubled) out ethnicity and religion. Why not sex? What I mean to say is that you had no invective to spend on their identifying Jack the Ripper as a man, nor their identification of his victims as women. Jack the Ripper was a man "then and not now," and his women were victims "then and not now." By your logic that shouldn't have been mentioned. Nor did you decry the listing of their professions. The Ripper as a murd

            • How very curious! I wonder why you singled (well, doubled) out ethnicity and religion. Why not sex?

              Now you're just being a troll.
              Same reason I didn't "single out" height or weight - IT IS NOT THE ISSUE BEING DISCUSSED.

              What you are doing is called ignoratio elenchi. [wikipedia.org]

              His religious affiliation is relevant because it erodes the theory that Kosminski was the murderer, and that he wrote anti-Semitic graffiti near where the evidence was found. His ethnic affiliation is relevant because it credits all the people who had teased that out of the evidence, and discredits those who opposed the idea.

              Which is still completely unrelated to the case as it was back then BECAUSE - it does not relate to the case in any way.
              Not as evidence for or against ANY OF THE SUSPECTS, not related to victims OR the murders.
              Again, it relates ONLY for conspiracy theorist who have an axe to grind with Jews.
              And we know who they are because...

              I suppose that's because the evidence of their murders weren't found near anti-Semitic graffiti suspected to have been written by the murderer.

              Aaaaand that's

              • Same reason I didn't "single out" height or weight - IT IS NOT THE ISSUE BEING DISCUSSED.

                Neither was ethnicity or religion, yet you seemed to find it suitable for discussion. Let me make it plain: In an article about Jack the ripper, the author mentioned the alleged perpetrator's religion, ethnicity, sex, and vocation. You became incensed at his listing the alleged perpetrator's religion and ethnicity, but find his sex and vocation beneath discussion. Why?

                Which is still completely unrelated to the case a

    • Ah, I had thought the claim was to have a more specifically identifiable form of DNA, without that, this can only be considered a minor bit of evidence for one suspect. I still say we don't even have that for several of the others, but this is not really conclusive.

  • That's DNA, not DVD.

  • I just read somewhere that the DNA evidence so far points to some unnamed woman, who is thought to have masqueraded as a midwife.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 07, 2014 @12:17PM (#47846825)

    1. The blood on the rag was the female's and the semen on the rag was Aaron's.
    2. This doesn't necessarily prove that Aaron was the Ripper, just that he was there. It's possible that someone else killed her and left her for dead. Then Aaron walking by found the corpse and masturbated on it. He was known to have been a sicko who did unspeakable things.
    3. There is a strong case that it was Cohen because he was specifically linked to murders of prostitutes, and the crimes stopped the same year he was confined to the asylum.
    4. There's some suggestion that Cohen was an alias the Asylum used because Aaron's last name was too difficult to pronounce. It may have been the same man.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday September 07, 2014 @02:22PM (#47847631) Homepage Journal

    Using cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material

    I hear Jack the Ripper also used cutting edge techniques.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is nothing in the story as published that in ANY WAY identifies Jack the Ripper.

    Even if every word published is true and the science stands up to every scrutiny, all it really shows is that a man and a woman who lived in/worked in/frequented the same areas came into contact at least once during the period between 1888 and 1891 in which Jack the Ripper was active.

    It shows NOTHING more than that.

    Anybody who thinks it does either hasn't read the article (no, they definitely DON'T have a series of hi-res

  • Redjac will next strike in 2105 on the Martian Colonies.

    (Did a search and could not find the obligatory Star Trek reference in this posting.)

  • If true, that would invalidate Alan Moore's theory...
    I'm not knowledgeable enough about the era or the facts to have a definitive opinion about the validity of his interpretation, but I do have to say that if the next-to-last victim was using the name of the last victim for her nickname (as Moore says), it is indeed a strong indication that the murders were not random.

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