Spotlight on… Aaron Kosminski

DATED: 28.03.16

Although the name did not come to light until 126 years after the murders took place, it was one that was in amongst hundreds of other original Jack the Ripper suspects. It is a name that was never declared officially but police memorandums from the time that have since been found, cast an accusatory glance in the direction of a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski.

While the number of Jack the Ripper suspects continues to rise even today, now and then one comes along that inspires researchers to make their case, detailing their reasoning as to why their suspect was the real Jack the Ripper. Recently, it was claimed the new DNA evidence linking Kosminski to the murder of Catherine Eddowes had been found, tying him to the rest of the Jack the Ripper killings.

The Background Information

Aaron Kosminski was born in 1865; a Polish Jew and hairdresser by trade, who ended up in Whitechapel with his family following an emigration from Russian Poland. Although he is thought to have worked sporadically, his medical records suggest he was institutionalised from 1891 with mental and eating disorders, aged just 26.

Kosminski was committed to a workhouse on a number of occasions due to his sporadic violent tendencies (brandishing a knife) before he was moved into Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. He was then later relocated to Leavesden Asylum in 1894. His notes suggest he heard many voices, much like a schizophrenic would. He was also paranoid with the fear of being fed.

He would often be found eating litter, and consistently refused to wash. His official record refers to self-abuse, but his eating disorders would severely affect his health before his death in 1919; weighing just under seven stone.

The Evidence

The shawl that was found at the murder site of Catherine Eddowes was bought at an auction and a DNA test was commissioned. Mitochondrial DNA was found to match female line descendants of both Eddowes and Kosminski; however, this evidence has never been submitted for peer review, and discrepancies have been noted regarding scientific accuracy.

Alongside this evidence, dated police notes stated that Kosminski lived close-by the murder sites in Whitechapel, and he was a paranoid schizophrenic who hated women and held strong homicidal tendencies.

There is also talk that Kosminski was identified by the only Jack the Ripper witness. The reason that this witness was never used was because they were also Jewish. It is known that one Jew cannot testify against another Jew, rendering the witness useless and the potential Ripper free to go about his gruesome business. Whether or not this witness existed, is strongly refuted amongst Ripperologists.

Additionally, many people believe that any DNA extracted from the shawl would be inadmissible as evidence due to the sheer number of people who had access to the item over the course of the 126 years, prior to testing.

The Confusion

There is a lot of confusion over Kosminski being one of the Jack the Ripper suspects.

Committed shortly after the last Jack the Ripper killing, a David Cohen – also known as Aaron Davis Cohen, was also detained in the Colney Hatch Asylum. Cohen was believed to have violent outbursts, with an antisocial and destructive personality. He was the same age as Kosminski but was reported to have died in 1889.

Author Martin Fido believed that Cohen was, in fact, a Jewish bootmaker named Nathan Kaminsky. He states that he was given the pseudonym because his name was too difficult to pronounce. Not only did Kaminsky have a very similar name to Kosminski, but he also fit the description of the Jack the Ripper killer; violent and mentally unstable. Kaminsky was believed to have contracted syphilis from a prostitute and was unable to be cured.

Because of the closeness of the names, ages and background, it is believed by Fido that naming Kosminski was, in fact, a case of mistaken identity. This would certainly explain the differing dates of death that have come from numerous sources.

What Do You Think?

Despite the supposed DNA evidence and early Police interest, there are still many people unsure of whether Aaron Kosminski could have been the killer. The Jack the Ripper suspects list is long and varied, and there is every possibility that this case will be one that will never be solved. After 128 years, it is highly likely, however; new profiling techniques and scientific advances materialise all the time, so we’re not calling this one, just yet.

Our Jack the Ripper tour takes place daily and explores the evidence, the suspects and the victims in depth. Discover more about the victims, visit the murder sites and bounce your theory ideas around with other Ripperologists and fanatics alike.

So, if you’d like to get to grips with the Jack the Ripper suspects and have a go at trying to solve this 128-year-old case, why not join us? We utilise the latest technology with Ripper-Vision to bring 19th century London back to life. We incorporate the latest criminal profiling technology to help you make up your mind as to who the killer was.

To book your place on our tour, please visit our website here, or contact us for further information.


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