More than a century after Jack the Ripper killed at least five women in London, the murderer’s identity remains one of true crime‘s greatest mysteries. So when a DNA study that claims to have cracked the case began circulating, the serial killer’s nickname was once again all over the internet. However, it’s unfortunately starting to look as though answers are still out of reach.
Yesterday, March 18th, several outlets reported that a new study used DNA evidence to link a man named Aaron Kosminski to the murders. Kosminski was a 23-year-old Polish barber at the time of the attacks, and he has long been considered a suspect in the case. This conclusion was reached in a study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, which analyzed DNA from stains on a shawl that is said to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes, one of Jack the Ripper’s victims.
But some scientists pointed out that the study is deeply flawed.
Adam Rutherford, the presenter for BBC Inside Science, tweeted that the study didn’t actually present any new findings. He noted that the same evidence had been analyzed in a 2014 book and later in an article in the The Mail on Sunday. At the time, Rutherford wrote, he had also discussed the study on an episode of BBC Inside Science, during which the author of the analysis had admitted that it wouldn’t be accepted in modern-day court.
Aside from the fact that the 2019 study merely rehashed an old analysis, Rutherford pointed out that “the provenance of the shawl is comical and would not be believable by even the most lazy historian.” He went on to explain that in the decades since the alleged owner’s death, the shawl had been handled by so many people that the DNA evidence on it was likely contaminated.
He concluded by writing that the study was “terrible science, and terrible history.”
Turi King, a professor at the University of Leicester and one of the geneticists who helped sequence King Richard III’s DNA, also took issue with the study.
Historian Fern Riddell, who works as a historical consultant for the BBC and Amazon series Ripper Street, also called out the study as “bullshit” and noted that the shawl might not even have belonged to Eddowes.
Sorry true crime fanatics—looks like this mystery remains unsolved…for now.