There is a lot of hype surrounding the unmasking of Jack the Ripper, the mysterious killer responsible for the gruesome murders of at least five women in East London in 1888.

 

The case has gone over a century without being definitively solved, but now amateur detective and historian Russell Edwards has come forth claiming to have positively identified the Ripper as Polish Jewish immigrant Aaron Kosminski, based on DNA evidence from a blood-stained shawl that allegedly belonged to one of the Ripper’s victims.

 

However, it’s a bit of a déjà vu moment, taking us back to just a few years ago, when best-selling novelist Patricia Cornwell confidently claimed that through extensive examination of various pieces of evidence, including DNA matching like in Edwards’ claim, she was able to positively identify Jack the Ripper as painter Walter Sickert.

 

Clearly Edwards wasn’t convinced by Cornwell’s claims for he continued searching for answers; however, are Edwards conclusions any more legitimate than Cornwell’s? Edwards findings regarding the shawl are interesting, but the shawl in question is over 100 years old, and it hasn’t exactly been treated as a piece of evidence to be preserved for analysis.

 

As stated by Stephen P. Ryder, editor of “Casebook: Jack the Ripper,” not only is the actual origin of the shawl somewhat questionable, but the limitations of the DNA evidence, as well as the fact that the shawl had been handled by countless people leading up to the point when it ended up in Edwards’ possession, are all major cracks in the foundation of Edwards’ claim.

 

With Edwards’ conclusion being based only on one piece of circumstantial evidence, we have to ask ourselves why we are willing to accept an allegation in this case that would never hold up in a modern day courtroom. If Kosminski was on trial today for these murders, would the evidence Edwards is presenting be enough to convict him?

 

Perhaps one of the reasons we are so quick to accept Edwards’ claim, or Cornwell’s before him, is because the case of Jack the Ripper has gone from being a murder investigation to a murder mystery.

 

With this shift in rhetoric, and the fact that none of the potential culprits are living or can be harmed by a wrongful accusation, it’s easy to throw names around without adhering to important evidentiary standards, or considering the implications of these accusations.

 

We have become so distanced from the actual crime and no longer looking for a culprit; we are looking for the ending to a story, one which we know will captivate a wanting audience. The quest to unmask the ripper, has turned into a race to see who can solve the mystery first.

 

The race continues as people and media outlets around the world rush to be the first to break the news of the most recent developments in the story. Yet, due process has disappeared along the way, and we’ve lost a certain level of value and credibility in the stories we’re circulating.

 

Edwards’ theory is certainly compelling, and what he is suggesting here is worth investigating further, but ultimately the “case closed” attitude regarding his claim may be premature.

 

How convinced are you with Russell Edwards’ claim that Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or shoot me a tweet @tamarahoumi