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John . . . and Jack?

John . . . and Jack?

In October 1988, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of London’s Whitechapel murders, John Douglas was asked to appear on a two-hour live television special entitled “The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper.” The program, broadcast from Los Angeles and hosted by British actor, writer and director Peter Ustinov, presented a number of the known suspects and presented evidence to help several experts evaluate the best candidate.

Several of the candidates suggested included the “sexy” ones: Royal physician Sir William Gull and Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Edward Albert, Duke of Clarence. But John ended up focussing on a Polish Jewish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski, who ended his life in an insane asylum.

This past week, the British Mail newspaper announced that a shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth victim, has been linked by mitochondrial DNA to  Aaron Kosminski.

How about that?

We have neither personally examined the shawl nor reviewed the work of Dr. Jari Louhelainen, the molecular biologist and DNA expert at Liverpool John Moores University, who conducted the exacting tests. Dr. Louhelainen has stated that he was able to match up arterial blood residue on the shawl to a descendant of Eddowes and semen deposits to a descendant of Kosminski’s sister. The critical point is that the test connected the semen deposit to having come from someone of Eastern European Jewish origin. Given what we know so far, we are gratified by the finding, since John’s conclusion was based strictly on profiling.

But it may not be that simple.

For our book The Cases That Haunt Us, we thoroughly reviewed and investigated the Ripper murders and evaluated all of the reasonable or semi-reasonable suspects. I visited all of the crime scenes and discussed the cases with several homicide detectives from Scotland Yard, including John Ross who, after his distinguished investigative career, became the curator of Scotland Yard’s celebrated “Black Museum,” at which I spent considerable time.

Working with Mr. Ross, I became convinced that while no suspect was ever officially identified or apprehended, the Metropolitan Police knew the Ripper’s identity. I won’t go into all the reasoning here, but it is detailed in The Cases That Haunt Us, as well as the logic behind Kosminski as a suspect.

I also got in touch with Martin Fido, the British literary scholar who is one of the world’s leading experts on Jack the Ripper and the author of the authoritative Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard. I was gratified to learn that Mr. Fido, who is now a professor at Boston University, agreed with our conclusions that the police knew the Ripper’s identity and agreed with John’s profile. But Fido had done meticulous research of his own, including the records of every prison and insane asylum of the time and had come to a startling and compelling discovery: that the individual several police officials identified as Aaron Kosminski was actually another Polish Jewish immigrant, also evidently insane, named David Cohen. To go further, that may not even have been his real name; it may have been a “John Doe” the police used to refer to unidentified Jews. At any rate, the profile remained exactly the same.

Confusing? To be sure. But it has been a murky and confusing case from the beginning.

In the years since the publication of The Cases That Haunt Us, we stuck by our guns amidst all of the “new” and competing theories, including Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed, which posited what we considered the preposterous notion that Jack was actually Victorian painter Walter Richard Sickert.

It’s too soon to tell how Dr. Louhelainen’s work will affect the insatiable field of “Ripperology,” but it certainly adds a new dimension. And to echo  what we wrote in The Cases That Haunt Us more than a decade ago, it may be impossible to be certain of the true identity after all these years, but the behavioral evidence as to the type of individual he was is plentiful and compelling. Therefore, we are prepared to declare that Jack the Ripper was either the man known to the police as Aaron Kosminski/David Cohen, or someone very much like him.

11 Responses to So Was John Right After All?

  1. mdricex says:

    I seriously question the validity of both the methodology and the assumptions/conclusions reached by this Dr. I do agree that the type of offender who committed the first three ripper murders was more like Kosminski’s character as opposed to the diabolical genius some have jack the ripper pegged as being, but I think there were also other factors going on that have not been taken into consideration, including the Thames Mysteries, black market organ trade, and political and economic factors related to the Whitechapel area real estate. I also am of the opinion that the person who murdered Mary Kelly was not the same person who murdered Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes, and (probably) Elizabeth Stride. The factors and behaviors involved in the mutilation and murder of Mary Kelly denote a passionate rage, an intimacy, an emotional component that would have taken much time and interaction to develop. Unlike the others, in the case of Mary Kelly the behaviors suggest (to me anyway) a definite preexisting relationship and an organized offender.

    M.D. Rice

  2. watson says:

    John’s profile seemed right on to me, as usual. Suspect Kosminski seemed best. It wasn’t sexy and the Royal family’ were never involved but it fit and plays out.
    The down and out prostitutes of London’s West Chapel were a victim of a down and out White Chapel male bum, no one else.
    Not sexy, but true.

  3. joe5348 says:

    Do serial killers who mutilate bodies have a different profile than serial killers who do not?

    • Zeno says:

      It depends upon if the mutilation is before or after death. Before is the work of a sexual sadist. Someone like the Ripper who did post mortem mutilation is not. He is a disorganized lust murderer. Of course Mark and John will tell you this is a oversimplification. It probably also depends on the type of mutilation,MO,etc.

      • It is an oversimplification, but you’re on the right track, Zeno. The mutilations in the Ripper case, particularly as they progressed from crime to crime, certainly showed a mentally ill individual who was progressively decompensating.

      • Zeno says:

        The type of mutilation was a form of neutering the women. At least that is what I have read from various sources. Maybe that act is not a sign of a murder of psychosis by itself but it is often seen in that type of killer. Is that correct?

      • I agree, Zeno. Also, the “From hell” letter, which we believe to be the authentic one, included a piece of a kidney. This guy was clearly psychotic and well capable of this type of mutilation, which we equate to an attempt to obliterate the identity and personality of the victim.

  4. Robyn M says:

    This is incredible news! What luck to have been reading your book at the time this comes about. Bravo Mr. Douglas!

  5. Zeno says:

    This is very exciting news. This results still have to been to independently verified. However assuming that they are then this at the very least disproves anyone in the royal family being involved in the murders. And it very likely means it was that it was
    a local Whitechapel resident given the ethnic background of that time.

  6. Cornerstone says:

    Brilliant! A true validation for the science of profiling.

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