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Jack the Ripper Mystery May Be Solved through DNA Testing

September 9, 2014
Author Russell Edwards and Jari Louhelainen, a molecular biology professor at Liverpool John Moores University claim to have solved the 126-year-old mystery surrounding the identity of Jack the Ripper, which is the pseudonym of a serial killer who murdered at least five women in East London in the late 1800s.

Edwards bought a shawl that was found near the body of one of the victims – Catherine Eddowes – at an auction. He then worked with Louhelainen to conduct a DNA test on the shawl, which was found to contain DNA from the victim’s blood as well as DNA from the killer. Edwards claims to have found a match with a descendent of Aaron Kosminski, who was an original suspect in the case.

Dan Krane, a DNA analysis expert and professor of biological sciences at Wright State University, quickly pointed out that the case cannot be closed without more information in this USA Today story.

"From a criminal law perspective the chain of custody leaves a lot to be desired," Krane said, meaning that for this to stand up in a court of law there would need to be documentation that established where the shawl was at all times and who has had access to it.

While DNA testing may or may not identify the most notorious serial killers of all time – such as Jack the Ripper – the technology is increasing vital to the criminal justice system. DNA is being used with strong accuracy when biological evidence is available, and clear suspects who are wrongly accused and convicted of crimes.

While there are different types of DNA testing, Louhelainen used mitochondrial DNA testing in this particular case. Mitochondrial DNA can be found within eukaryotic cells that convert energy from food into adenosine triphosphate, which can then be used by cells.

The good news here is that this case raises awareness for DNA technology and its application within the criminal justice system. For more on this story, check out The Daily Mail story.