Once again, Jack the Ripper has been identified. The evidence is compelling. The story fits. It has to be him. This time, sleuths are using genetic evidence, no less, to back their claims. DNA from blood and seminal stains on a victim’s shawl matched the suspect’s. Aaron Kosminski, who lived near Whitechapel, ended his days in an insane asylum after carving up Unfortunates and confounding Scotland Yard. Jack the Ripper was a Jewish Polish barber who had fled the anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia and washed up in London. Or was he?
In the century since the brutal Whitechapel murders, the face of Jack the Ripper has changed features several times. In Patricia Corwell’s Portrait of a Killer — Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, he is Walter Sickert, the avant garde artist who left clues to his dark obsession in his paintings. But other accounts trace the murders to the royal household itself, alleging that Victorian London’s most terrible secret lay in the heart of power. In Frank Speiring’s Prince Jack, he is none other than Prince Albert Victor, driven to savagery after he contracted syphilis. In Stephen Knight’s Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, he is Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria’s physician, who killed with surgical precision and Free Masonic zeal. In some accounts, Jack was in fact Jill the Ripper, a midwife who was hanged for stabbing her lover’s wife and child.
The killer who held London in the grip of terror has spawned a cheerful, if bloodthirsty, industry. For 126 years, Ripperologists have been working overtime, scanning case files, grisly relics from the murders, photographs and the letters allegedly written by Jack himself to find that one crucial detail everyone else had missed. But after decades of speculation, does anyone really want to put the mystery to rest? Perhaps not. As long as his identity remains a secret, the Ripper walks, flitting through pools of gaslight, his face half in shadow, stalking the streets of London into eternity.