The Mail on Sunday today reported that Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who fled to London in the 1880s, was Jack the Ripper.
Russell Edwards, 48, describes how he bought a shawl, found by the body of the Ripper's fourth victim Catherine Eddowes, at an auction house in Bury St Edmunds. He wrote in the paper: "There was no evidence for its provenance, although after the auction I obtained a letter from its previous owner who claimed his ancestor had been a police officer present at the murder scene and had taken it from there."
He apparently handed the shawl on to Dr Jari Louhelainen, a senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University. Edwards says Louhelainen proved that the shawl was genuine by tracing a descendent of Catherine Eddowes, who agreed to provide a DNA sample.
They then apparently compared samples with a British descendant of Kosminski's sister, whose identity is being protected. They were, according to Edwards, a match.
He wrote in the paper: "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 7 stone."
The tests have not been independently verified, but this is not the first time evidence has pointed to the suspect. In 1987, annotations by chief inspector Donald Swanson, who headed the Ripper investigation, were discovered in his copy of the 1910 autobiography of his boss Sir Robert Anderson, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police. The notes named Kosminski as a suspect.
A series of doubts have been raised about Edwards' claims. Above all, they question the provenance of the shawl (to quote UsVsTh3m: "It’s a shawl that’s not a shawl that was never at the crime scene that was stolen by a policeman who was also never there whose wife was so disgusted by it that he preserved it in a fashion good enough to collect forensic evidence from over a century later.")
The DNA testing method has also been questioned. The Independent notes: "Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique 30 years ago."