LIVE SCIENCE: Questionable Science in a Famous London Cold Case

The Questionable Science Behind the New Jack the Ripper Claim


By Laura Geggel, Associate Editor Live Science

Did the analysis of a silk shawl just provide a major clue in one of London’s coldest cases, the identity of Jack the Ripper?

No. It doesn’t. Not at all. That’s according to two experts, a geneticist and a Ripperologist (a Jack the Ripper historian), who spoke with Live Science about the new study.

In fact, this study has so many holes in it — including the provenance of the shawl, contamination of genetic material on the shawl, and the methods used to analyze this genetic material — that it’s a wonder it was published at all, said Turi King, a reader in genetics and archaeology at the University of Leicester, who was not involved in the study. [10 Biggest Historical Mysteries That Will Probably Never Be Solved]

Jack the Ripper is notorious for killing and mutilating five women in London in just three months during 1888. According to the new study, a silk shawl was found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, a victim killed by Jack the Ripper during the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 1888.

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  1. Yes, I saw that too, and although circumstantial it was quite compelling. My question always was: if the murdered woman was a prostitute (officially or unofficially, don’t make any difference) then to find a sample of semen there is not surprising, and the pool of suspects could be very large, depending on trade! So even if the shawl’a provenance is 100% genuine, there is no reason to infer that the biological sample (cough) is that of Jack the Ripper. Don’t you think?

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