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Has mtDNA identified Jack the Ripper?

“Ripperology” is quite a confused subject and at least a dozen suspects have been conclusively “identified as the Whitechapel fiend. Nevertheless, this article and the book detailed within, if taken at face value, uses the scientific techniques that identified Richard III, Jesse James, Nicholas II and others to claim to solve the East London riddle once and for all.

The critical case is that of the fourth definite, or “canonical”, victim: Catherine Eddowes, who was slain in the early hours of Sunday 30 September 1988 and found in Mitre Square, about an hour after the discovery of Elizabeth Stride. Eddowes’ apron, found nearby, is the first exhibit here and the second is a silk shawl (below left), apparently found by her body and heavily bloodstained. Russell Edwards, who wrote the article in question, located the shawl at an auction in Bury St. Edmunds in 2001 and contacted Jari Louhelainen, a senior biology lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and crime buff.

Jack the Ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski

First, they traced Eddowes’ great-great-great granddaughter and the multiple-great-niece of leading suspect Aaron Kosminsky (right), who was, in September 1888, a 23 year-old Polish Jewish hairdresser in East London that month, later to die in a lunatic asylum in Colney Hatch, where he was admitted in 1891. Importantly, both of these living relatives were related strictly through the female line and the mtDNA of both matched the blood on the apron and semen on parts of the shawl, thus seemingly demonstrating beyond peradventure that their respective Victorian relatives had both left bodily fluids on them.

Sadly, Edwards and Louhelainen’s research is yet, five years after publication, to be peer reviewed. If it were, we would need look no further for “Jack” as Kosminski briefly entered a workhouse in 1890 and was committed to Colney Hatch (left) the following February.

Here, however, is the counter-argument, quoting Paul Begg and Dr. Turi King, disputing the connection between Eddowes and the shawl, the genealogy and the significance of the DNA match. In summary, Kosminski cannot be eliminated by Edwards and Louhelainen’s research, nor can he yet be identified as “Jack” with forensic certainty. This BBC documentary points towards him in other ways.

George III revealed

This documentary, presented by Robert Hardman of the Daily Mail, unveils some of our longest-serving King’sgeorgeiii secrets, such as a draft abdication letter after American independence was achieved. It also discusses his health issues in greater detail. Until recently, it was thought that he suffered from porphyria, a physical disease that Mary Stuart carried to her descendants but now it appears that he was afflicted by some form of insanity and was aware of it in the early stages. Hardman tells us that George, as a prolific writer, is likely to have appreciated the many scientific and georgetechtechnological advances that followed his reign.

We are also told how, at the onset of his reign, he micro-managed his royal duties, possibly wearing out his formidable mind. Just like Henry VI, George III had an early attack, in 1782 when his favourite son died and the letter was drafted, but recovered within months, only to lose that mind irrevocably at a later stage. Fortunately, George had several adultoldgeorgeiii sons, the eldest of which could serve as Regent, whilst he stumbled around unaware, either mentally or visually, of his granddaughter Charlotte’s death in childbirth or of her cousin’s birth. At least he knew about the “discovery” of Australia.

Here  is a link to the recently released “Georgian Papers Online”, now part of the Royal Collection and here is Hardman’s original article.

Myths Being Revived

I have been watching the BBC’s ‘The Hollow Crown’ with interest, as I have never actually seen the whole of Shakespeare’s Richard III and none of Henry VI (Parts I and II). At first I was appalled at Benedict Cumberbatch’s grotesquely exaggerated portrayal of Richard, but consoled myself by thinking that at least, because people will see that it bears no factual resemblance to his actual spinal condition, it might serve to distance the Bard’s Richard from the real man.

I was to be sadly disillusioned, however, on reading an article published by The Mail On Sunday. It basically states that the production team researched people with “curvature of the spine” and how they would have looked if unable to have it corrected “In order to make the depiction of Richard more accurate.” They also state that:

“Until recently it was assumed Shakespeare had exaggerated Richard’s disability to make him appear more monstrous. That theory was undermined by the discovery of the King’s body in Leicester in 2012”

Read the whole article and  see the depiction for yourself here.
And here is the man with the same curvature showing how Richard would have actually looked. Spot the difference!
Dominic in body armour
I have already complained in the following terms:

“I have seen a report in the Mail on Sunday concerning Benedict Cumberbatch and his portrayal of Richard III in The Hollow Crown. (‘Benedict’s really got the hump’). Towards  the end it states: ‘In order to make the depiction of Richard more accurate, Mallett and Cumberbatch studied the medical histories of those who had curvature of the spine and had not been able to have the condition corrected. Until recently, it was assumed that Shakespeare had exaggerated Richard’s disability to make him appear more monstrous. That theory was undermined by the discovery of the King’s body in Leicester in 2012, and tests showed that he suffered from scoliosis’.

While you may be reporting what the BBC have told you, and while it is correct that Richard suffered from scoliosis, this categorically does not equate to him having a hunchback. If your reporter had done any independent research at all into the condition, they would see that a scoliosis is a sideways curvature, which would not have manifested as a hump in a normal standing position. The only outward sign of the condition would have been one shoulder appearing higher than the other (which is how he was indeed described by contemporaries). As a Registered Osteopath, I am in a position to give an expert opinion on such matters. As a Ricardian, I am appalled that all the hard work we are doing to try to rehabilitate Richard’s reputation can be undermined in this way. Shakespeare’s Richard did have a hunchback, true, but to say that this is an accurate physical depiction of Richard is false and misleading. The public will think that if Richard’s spine was as Shakespeare described (which it isn’t), his character must be too. This prosthetic was obviously used for shock value. Fair enough, but it should be distanced from the real Richard III. There was a ‘body double’ found who had an almost identical curvature of the spine to Richard’s and a documentary made on Channel 4 showed how he could fight, ride and move perfectly normally and, clothed, you wouldn’t know he had the condition. (I have personally met the young man in question and can vouch for that being true). Incidentally, Shakespeare’s (and Cumberbatch’s) depiction of Richard having a withered arm and a limp is also false: Richard had neither. Please publish a correction as soon as possible; it might seem a trivial thing to you but many people really care that Richard was unjustly maligned and it means a lot to us. I would be happy to comment further if you would like to contact me and get an expert opinion instead of sensationalist nonsense.”

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