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Who Is Aaron Kosminski? New Details About The Man Identified As Jack The Ripper

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Who is Aaron Kosminski? New Details About The Man Identified As Jack The Ripper

While it may seem like our culture's obsession with true crime only picked up steam recently, the truth of the matter is that armchair detectives have existed for a very long time. In fact, some attribute our obsession with solving the unsolvable on one infamous case in particular: the story of Jack the Ripper. 

While "Jack's" crimes were perpetrated in 1888 it continues to fascinate both amateur sleuths and professionals alike. That's why when recent news broke of a development in the case, everybody turned their attention to Jack once more. DNA evidence has been found that has identified the killer as one Aaron Kosminski.

But who is Aaron Kosminski, and how does he fit into the story? We're about to break it all down! 

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1. The Crimes of Jack The Ripper 

For generations, the crimes of Jack the Ripper have fascinated and baffled authorities and amateur crime solvers alike. This killer who primarily operated in the poverty-ridden London neighborhood of Whitechapel has also been called the Whitechapel Killer and the Leather Apron (we'll talk about where that second one came from a little later on, don't you fret). 

The killer known primarily as Jack was only active for one year, 1888, though there have been other crimes committed in the same area that some believe could also have been committed by Jack. The serial killer specifically picked out female victims, most of whom were prostitutes. He had a very specific method for killing his victims. First, he would slit their throats, and then he would perform some sort of abdominal mutilation. The fact that internal organs were removed from at least three of the victims of the Ripper led police at the time to speculate that the killer was likely someone with knowledge of human anatomy. 

There were two letters that were central to the development of this case and how it was perceived by the public then and now. The first letter was where the name "Jack the Ripper" came from, a letter most likely invented by the newspapers of the time to drum up sales claiming responsibility for the crime was signed with that name. The nickname of Leather Apron didn't come from a letter, it actually came from the prostitutes of Whitechapel who had identified a suspect who often wore such an item of clothing.  The second letter was one sent to Scotland Yard and is commonly referred to as the "From Hell" letter. This one was believed to actually be from the killer and it contained part of a kidney from one of his victims. 

While there are several crimes that various people attribute to Jack, there are five victims, known as the canonical 5, that are established as having being murdered by Jack. Their names are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.

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2. Aaron Kosminski Identified 

For decades, countless suspects have been implicated in the crimes. Some were reasonable and others, like the theory that Jack was sent out by Queen Victoria to silence prostitutes who slept with the heir to the throne, or that Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll was responsible, are more the terrain of conspiracy theorists. But now DNA has been used to name the killer and surprisingly he was one of the earliest suspects of the crime at the time, too: Aaron Kosminski. 

The Journal of Forensic Science reports that Aaron Kosminksi, a polish barber has been linked to the crime via DNA. According to Mental Floss: "Ripperologist Russell Edwards asked researchers from the University of Leeds and John Moores University in Liverpool to analyze a blood-stained silk shawl thought to have belonged to Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. The item, which Edwards owns, has been a primary piece of evidence in the murder investigation for years. In 2014, Edwards published a book in which he claimed Aaron Kosminski's DNA had been found on the garment, but his results weren't published in a peer-reviewed journal."

At the time of the crimes, barbers weren't just men who cut hair. They were also the neighborhood's doctors, meaning that he would have had at least a basic understanding of anatomy. The researchers are the heart of the project have shared that they used infrared and spectrophotometry technology to match blood and semen stains on a shawl worn by Eddowes found at the crime semen to ancestors of both Kosminksi and Eddowes. Kosminksi was one of the first suspects of the crimes, but police at the time didn't have enough evidence to prosecute. 

3. Experts Aren't Sure 

While many people view DNA evidence as being totally irrefutable, the truth is that just isn't the case. Or at least, that isn't necessarily the case when it comes to identifying Jack definitively. One of the main points of contention people have is from the shawl itself. The shawl was reportedly picked up by a police officer at the scene of the Eddowes murder, but that has been under serious debate. Some folks believe that the shawl is actually much newer than that, which casts a pall of doubt over this identification of Kosminksi. 

Then there's the issue with the DNA itself. A "match" in this sense doesn't mean that the blood comparisons taken from relatives is the only match that could turn up. You see, they tested mitochondrial DN, and many, many people have identical mitochondrial DNA, making the returns from the shawl less cut and dried than people might think. 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr