LONDON - Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on a shawl, claims a sleuth in a book out on Tuesday.
The true identity of Jack the Ripper, whose grisly murders terrorised the murky slums of Whitechapel in east London in 1888, has been a mystery ever since, with dozens of suspects that include royalty and prime ministers down to bootmakers.
But after extracting DNA from a shawl recovered from the scene of one of the killings, which matched relatives of both the victim and one of the suspects, Jack the Ripper sleuth Russell Edwards claims the identity of the murderer is now beyond doubt.
He says the infamous killer is Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish emigre from Poland, who worked as a barber.
Edwards, a businessman interested in the Ripper story, bought a bloodstained Victorian shawl at auction in 2007.
The story goes that it came from the murder scene of the Ripper's fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, on September 30, 1888.
Police acting sergeant Amos Simpson, who had been at the scene, got permission from his superiors to take it for his dressmaker wife - who was subsequently aghast at the thought of using a bloodstained shawl.
It had hitherto been passed down through the policeman's direct descendants, who had stored it unwashed in a box. It briefly spent a few years on loan to Scotland Yard's crime museum.
Edwards sought to find out if DNA technology could conclusively link the shawl to the murder scene.
Working on the blood stains, Doctor Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular at Liverpool John Moores University, isolated seven small segments of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down through the female line.
They were matched with the DNA of Karen Miller, a direct descendant of Eddowes, confirming her blood was on the shawl.
Meanwhile stains exposed under ultra-violet light suggested the presence of seminal fluid.
Doctor David Miller, reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, managed to find cells from which DNA was isolated.
With the help of genealogists, Edwards found a descendant of Kosminski through the female line, who offered samples of her DNA.
Louhelainen was then able to match DNA from the semen stains to Kosminski's descendant.