Jack the Ripper was an infamous murder who went on a killing spree in 1888. The five victims were all prostitutes in Whitechapel London’s East End, a poor and bleak area. Jack didn’t just kill his victims – he also mutilated their bodies and removed internal organs before fleeing off into the night.
Despite his notoriety, little is actually known about Jack the Ripper, and historians can’t agree on his identity. Allegedly he sent various letters to the police taunting them and his killing spree came to an end before he could be found. The mystery around the case has spurred endless speculation.
In the aftermath of the murder, over 500 suspects from all walks of life were investigated. One of the more surprising suspects was no other than Prince Albert Victor. It might sound far fetched, but if rumours going around at the time are true, he might have had some dirty secrets to cover up.
The stories about the Prince certainly depict him as an interesting character. Some say he struggled in school, was deaf, or had a learning disability. But the main allegation being he was gay, a pretty major deal back then because it was illegal.
In 1889, police shut down a male brothel and allegedly discovered one of the clients had a connection with Prince Albert. There was another rumour that he got syphilis from a prostitute in the West Indies. After catching syphilis, the disease was said to spread to his brain and make you insane. Since a prostitute had given him the infection that was ruining his life, he became determined to seek his revenge on all prostitutes in the world. And thus, Jack the Ripper was born.
Unfortunately, there are two major reasons why this theory probably isn’t true. Firstly, there’s no evidence he actually ever had syphilis, or went to a brothel for that fact. Secondly, he wasn’t even in London when the murders were happening. The Royal Family kept records of their activities and the documents prove Albert was traveling outside of London at the time.
One of the main suspects is a Victorian painter called Walter Sickert. The only evidence linking to the killings is his own strange art work – paintings of women that looked like autopsies of victims, and one of his paintings named ‘Jack the Ripper’s bedroom.’ A US crime writer was convinced he was actually Jack the Ripper and tried to prove the case.
If you’ve doubts about Sickert, then here’s another suspect – Dr Thomas Neill Cream. Unlike the other guys, he confessed to being Jack the Ripper moments from his death. Cream was a physician sentenced to be hanged for an different murder. We know very little about him and there’s zero evidence that links him to the case. He also happened to be in prison when the murders took place.
Our final suspect is Mary Pearcey. Another convicted murderer, Mary was accused of murdering her lover’s wife. Arthur Conan Doyle suggested it could have could easily have been a woman pretending she was a midwife who carried around bloody garments. And I guess Mary fit the bill for him because she was the only convicted female murderer at the time.
Somebody who many people actually suspect is Jack the Ripper is Aaron Kosminski. Kosminski moved to England in 1881 after fleeing from his native Poland and lived close to the area where Ripper murders were carried out. We don’t know much about Aaron, but he was one of the prime suspects and eventually died in an lunatic asylum. Like a lot people back then he ticked a lot of boxes for a potential serial killer.
The next part of the story fast forwards 100 years later when a victims shawl was bought at an auction in 2007. It turns out that the acting Sergeant at the scene of the death took the only piece of forensic evidence in the entire Jack the Ripper escalade. For some crazy reason he thought his wife would appreciate the shawl as a gift. As you’d expect, his wife wasn’t too pleased.
The item never returned to the police station – instead it passed through the family for generations until it eventually sold at an auction. The buyer eager to solve the mystery hired a personal molecular biology expert to analyze
who the DNA belonged to. The pioneering techniques saw the use of genetic tests on the shawl to match samples to living relatives of the subjects.
Allegedly results revealed DNA of a living relative of Kosminski were on the shawl. Tests that studied the appearance of the DNA suggested the killer had brown hair and eyes – matched the one reliable witness statement the police had collected of a potential sighting
In the eyes of the guy who bought the shawl, the case had been solved. Prince Albert and Walter Sickert weren’t Jack the Ripper. Aaron Kominski was. Some have squashed his claims, saying the shawl has been touched by many people over the years and can’t be used reliably as evidence. But all in all, it seems like a fair assumption. The British Royal Family may not have been behind the Jack the Ripper murders, but they’re still a strange bunch.
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