In 2007, businessman Russell Edwards bought a Victorian shawl at an auction. The shawl had been taken by a policeman from the murder scene of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes in 1888. Since then (apart from a few years in Scotland Yard’s Black Museum) it had been safely stored away by the direct descendants of that policeman.
In his book, Naming Jack the Ripper, Edwards details the years of dedicated historical and scientific research that has gone into proving without doubt that Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.
This research coupled with cutting-edge DNA testing undertaken by leading forensic geneticist, Dr Jari Louhelainen have linked the shawl with the descendants of Kosminski and his victim. Crucially, DNA taken from blood and semen stains on the shawl matched the descendants of both Catherine Eddowes and her killer.
Three years of scientific analysis of the shawl was combined with the search for the descendants of Catherine Eddowes and the man who Russell Edwards (and others, including police officers who originally investigated the case and Scotland Yard), suspected was Jack the Ripper. In the end, it was DNA coding that confirmed the authenticity of the shawl and the identity of the killer.
At the same time, findings by LJMU lecturer and molecular chemist, Dr Fyaz Ismail, who tested the blue dye on the shawl using nuclear magnetic resonance, suggested that the shawl was Russian and predates the murders. This backed up Russell Edwards’s theory that the shawl, which was of particularly fine quality, belonged to Kosminski and not to Eddowes, who was unlikely to have owned such a costly item. The region of Poland where Kosminski lived was under Russian control and would have traded with its neighbour.
Additional research focussed on samples of the seminal fluid from the shawl. Dr David Miller, Reader in Molecular Andrology at the University of Leeds managed to find the cells from which the DNA was isolated. All that remained was for Russell Edwards to find a descendant of Kosminski through the female line.
The woman Russell traced, with the help of genealogists, offered samples of her DNA to make the crucial comparison. Seven years after Russell Edwards had bought the shawl, they finally had a match: Dr Jari Louhelainen matched DNA from the semen stains on the shawl to the descendant of Aaron Kosminski.