Kosminski was 23 when the murders took place, and living with his two brothers and a sister in Greenfield Street, just 200 yards from where the third victim, Elizabeth Stride, was killed. As a key suspect, his life story has long been known, but I also researched his family. Eventually, we tracked down a young woman whose identity I am protecting – a British descendant of Kosminski’s sister, Matilda, who would share his mitochondrial DNA. She provided me with swabs from the inside of her mouth. Amplifying and sequencing the DNA from the cells found on the shawl took months of painstaking, innovative work. By that point, my excitement had reached fever-pitch.
And when the email finally arrived telling me Jari had found a perfect match, I was overwhelmed. Seven years after I bought the shawl, we had nailed Aaron Kosminski.
As a scientist, Jari is naturally cautious, unwilling to let his imagination run away without testing every minute element, but even he declared the finding ‘one hell of a masterpiece’. I celebrated by visiting the East End, wandering the streets where Kosminski lived, worked and committed his despicable crimes, feeling a sense of euphoria but also disbelief that we had unmasked the Ripper.Share
Kosminski was not a member of the Royal Family, or an eminent surgeon or politician. Serial killers rarely are. Instead, he was a pathetic creature, a lunatic who achieved sexual satisfaction from slashing women to death in the most brutal manner. He died in Leavesden Asylum from gangrene at the age of 53, weighing just 7st.
No doubt a slew of books and films will now emerge to speculate on his personality and motivation. I have no wish to do so. I wanted to provide real answers using scientific evidence, and I’m overwhelmed that 126 years on, I have solved the mystery. (Read more.)