Russell Edwards believes he has unmasked Jack the Ripper
The author tells Anna Behrmann how he teamed up with a top scientist to analyse DNA evidence on a shawl said to belong to one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, leading to a book he claims has solved the great mystery and found the true serial killer.
Russell Edwards, a businessman from Merseyside, is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he has found the identity of Jack the Ripper through DNA samples, and he goes to painstaking lengths to prove it in his book.
As a penniless student, Edwards lived in Tufnell Park, prowled the streets of Camden and patronised the all-night bagel shop in Brick Lane. For 14 years now, he has been involved in an all-consuming quest to find out the true identity of Jack the Ripper, having become fascinated by the shadowy figure who once paced the streets of East London in the late 19th century.
“I realised that for 10 years of my life I’d been in and around Brick Lane and all the Ripper murders happened one road parallel,” the 49 year-old says.
“It’s this need to know,” he continues. “It’s this very specific journey that when you get on, it’s very hard to get off. It’s thrilling really – the day-to-day up and downs.”
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While conspiracy-theorists and respected scientists alike have questioned his findings, Edwards believes that he has definitively unmasked the killer as Aaron Kosminski, already one of the main suspects in the case. Kosminski was an East End Jew, whose family had fled to London following the pogroms in Poland.
Edwards’ investigation gathered pace in 2007, when he bought a Victorian shawl at an auction, which was believed to have been left beside Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. The shawl was still stained with blood.
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Edwards tracked down the descendants of Eddowes and Kosminski. Teaming up with molecular biologist Dr Jari Louhelainen, he found that the DNA sequences of the descendants matched DNA samples from the shawl.
“The first person I went to tell was the great-great-great granddaughter of the fourth murder victim, who gave me her DNA,” Edwards says. “She held me very tightly and she thanked me – now she knows who it was.”
Edwards might be keen to stress the scientific evidence behind his findings, but he is also dedicated to telling the stories of the victims.
The five victims of Jack the Ripper are said to have been prostitutes, but Edwards says that this was not the full story.
“They were unfortunates, living a day-to-day existence. In the morning they would go and find a daily job, like needlework or selling matches or flowers. If they couldn’t find any work, they were forced to sell their bodies for four pence.” (This was the price per night for the common lodging houses, or ‘doss houses’.)
Edwards says that the famous blood-splattered shawl had been taken by Sergeant Amos Simpson, who was on duty the night of the murder. He gave it as a present to his wife. She was apparently repulsed by the token, and the shawl was hidden away.
Jack the Ripper experts have tried to pick holes in Edward’s story, saying that the shawl must have been touched and handled by many people over the years – diluting, or even discrediting, any carefully-gathered DNA evidence.
But Edwards remains confident that the serial killer was Aaron Kosminski. “I’ve got my closure, now I’ve proved who it was,” he says. “The people who obfuscate the story are the people who want to perpetuate the myth.”
Naming Jack the Ripper is published in paperback by Pan and is available for £7.99. Edwards runs true crime tours of Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel . To book, visit thejacktheripperexperience.co.uk