That DNA Evidence Identifying Jack the Ripper Was Wrong After All

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Last month, the notoriously dubious Daily Mail announced it had finally unmasked Jack the Ripper with DNA evidence. Now, in what's not that much of a surprise, it seems this all may have been a mistake. The scientist in the investigation made multiple errors, according to the Independent, the most damning of which is he counted wrong.

The DNA, which came from a shawl owned by one of Jack the Ripper's victims, supposedly pinpointed Aaron Kosminski, a then 23-year-old polish barber, as the infamous murderer. The businessman who owned the shawl, Russell Edwards, and the forensic scientist who did the study, Jari Louhelainen, claimed to have matched an extremely rare mutation in the DNA to that of one of Kosminski's descendants.


Except...the mutation they found wasn't rare at all. The Independent talked to several genetics experts, including the father of DNA fingerprinting, who confirmed a very basic error. (Members of the crime forum were actually the first to notice it.) Louhelainen reported he had found a mutation called 314.1C. But the mutation should actually have been named 315.1C according to the standard forensics naming practices, and it is exceedingly common—in 99 percent of people of European descent in fact. At this rate, pretty much anyone in Europe could have been Jack the Ripper.

The Independent also details how Louhelainen appears to have made a decimal error, exaggerating the rarity of that mutation by 10–and that's on top of misidentifying the mutation in the first place. And so it's still anyone's guess who the real Jack the Ripper was. [The Independent]


Top image: Illustrated London News/Wikimedia Commons