Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ripper unraveled

Businessman Russell Edwards believes he has unmasked the identity of Jack the Ripper. During the notorious killer's reign of terror in East London in 1888, a scarf was found next to the body – and soaked in the blood – of one of his victims, Catherine Eddowes. At the scene, ácting Sergeant Amos Simpson got permission from his Scotland Yard superiors to take it home to his seamstress wife. She never used or laundered it and the scarf passed down in the family from Mary Simpson to Eliza Smith to Eliza Mills (later Hayes) and then to her son David Melville-Hayes. Melville-Hayes loaned it to the Crime Museum, but it was not put it on display because of the lack of proof of its provenance, so he reclaimed it and sold it at auction in 2007. Self-proclaimed armchair detective Edwards was the high bidder, and has since had the shawl analyzed by molecular biologist Jari Louhelainen of Liverpool John Moores University, who was able to lift mitochondrial DNA that matched that of Karen Miller, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the victim. But Louhelainen was also able to extract mitochondrial DNA from fluids on the scarf left by the killer and matched that to a living descendent of the sister of a long-held suspect. Jack the Ripper was mentally ill Polish Jew Aaron Kosminski (MORE HERE). But for all those who are of mixed emotions about this mystery coming to an end, biologist Dan Krane of Wright State University, an expert in DNA analysis, cautions, "From a criminal law perspective the chain of custody leaves a lot to be desired."

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