Russell Edwards claims Aaron Kosminski, a 23 year-old Polish immigrant who ended up dying in an asylum, was "definitely, categorically and absolutely" the man behind the grisly killing spree in 1888 in London's East End.
Edwards said a blood-stained shawl he bought in 2007 after an auction in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, held vital DNA evidence which led him to the killer.
"I've got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case,” he said. "I've spent 14 years working on it, and we have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was.
"Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now — we have unmasked him."
Case closed? Not nearly, say many skeptics.
For starters, the claimant behind this big reveal, Russell Edwards, is the latest in a long line of authors hawking books in which they claim to have definitively identified the "real" Jack the Ripper, and so Edwards' announcement was timed to publicize his forthcoming book Naming Jack The Ripper. This is a commercial effort, not a case of an impartial, solid, evidence-based forensic or historical discovery being announced through publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Moreover, the claim for Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper is based on a DNA analysis of a shawl said to have been taken from the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper's victims. But the provenance and integrity of that shawl are far from certain:
Richard Cobb, who runs Jack the Ripper conventions and tours, told the Times that the shawl had been touched by many people over the years, which made any DNA samples less reliable.
"The shawl has been openly handled by loads of people and been touched, breathed on, spat upon," Cobb said.
The UK newspaper The Independent also noted that:
When other labs have worked on the ancient DNA of important samples, such as the DNA extracted from Neanderthal bones or the remains of the Romanovs, the last Russian royal family, they have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the possibility of cross contamination.
They have also worked on “blind” samples to ensure they do know which sample they are analysing in order to avoid unwitting prejudice, and have even carried out duplicate blinded experiments in two different laboratories to replicate each other’s work.
None of this, as far we know, has been done in this case. Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique 30 years ago.
“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator's descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided,” Sir Alec told The Independent.
In any case, as Sir Alec pointed out: “If I remember correctly when I visited the Black Museum at New Scotland Yard, Kosminski was long regarded as by far the most likely perpetrator.”