Aaron Kosminki is perhaps one of the most well-known Jack the Ripper suspects, in part thanks to the recent DNA analysis and investigation of a shawl that allegedly belonged to the fourth Ripper victim, Catherine Eddowes. With the modern scientific evidence being branded as unreliable and case files from the actual police investigation inconclusive, how reliably can we claim that Aaron Kosminki was Jack the Ripper?
Who Was Aaron Kosminski?
Believed to have been born in Russia in 1865, Aron Mordke Kozminski – known later as Aaron Kosminski – was a Polish Jew who emigrated with his sisters when he was just 15 years old. Initially, he moved to Germany before eventually travelling to London, England where he took up residence in the slums of Whitechapel. Kosminski worked sporadically as a barber but is believed to have been heavily reliant on support from his family.
In July 1890, he was admitted to Mile End Old Town Workhouse before being released just three days later. However, he was admitted again in February the following year, following claims that he had been exhibiting threatening behaviour with a knife towards women. He spent a short time here before a transfer to Colney Heath Lunatic Asylum, before being moved again to Leavesden Asylum in April 1894.
Known to hear voices and have a fear of eating or drinking anything from others, Kosminski was paranoid and emaciated before and during his incarceration - this was in addition to his outright refusal to wash. He was just 53 years old when he died of gangrene in February 1919.
At the time of the Jack the Ripper killings, Kosminski was 23 years old, believed to have a poor grasp of English and slight of build thanks to his peculiar eating habits - which is a stretch from the late 30-40 something stocky male that many described the Ripper as being; so, how did he find himself named as one of the suspects on the biggest murder investigation of all time?
Was Aaron Kosminski Jack the Ripper?
Although not officially named as a suspect by police investigating the Jack the Ripper killings, the name Kosminski has cropped up multiple times over the years.
Firstly, Chief inspector Swanson was also a firm believer that Kosminski was a prime Jack the Ripper suspect. Alongside this, ‘Kosminski’ – no first name - was noted in memos written by Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten in 1894; in his notes, he described Kosminski as a Polish Jew of low-class with a hatred of women and homicidal tendencies.
In addition, the name Kosminski also appeared in the memoirs of the Assistant Commissioner Sir Robert Anderson in 1910, based on Kosminski’s violent outburst with a knife that led to his arrest and detainment in the workhouse (and subsequently Colney Hatch Asylum). However, this evidence comes under scrutiny at this point as Anderson went on to say that Kosminski died shortly after this arrest , despite it being believed that Aaron Kosminski died many years later in 1919.
Assistant Commissioner Anderson also made claims that Kosminski was identified as Jack the Ripper by a witness who was unable to help a prosecution because he was unable to testify against a fellow Jew, although this was never verified.
The biggest piece of evidence that points the finger firmly as Aaron Kosminski, however, has to be the discovery of a stained and bloody shawl that was found at the murder scene of the Ripper’s fourth victim Catherine Eddowes. After allegedly being removed from official police evidence and handed down through the family, the shawl was bought at auction by author Russell Edwards in 2014, who immediately commissioned a DNA test to be undertaken at the hands of Dr Jari Louhelainen. The initial results were met with scepticism as they lacked peer reviews, however, they were re-run again in early 2019 by Liverpool John Moores University and University of Leeds which corroborated the fact that mitochondrial DNA was present which matched descendants of both Catherine Eddowes and Aaron Kosminski.
Here, the legitimacy of the shawl is then brought into question, as no such item was ever recorded as being found with the body or as part of Eddowes’ personal effects.
What Do You Think?
Despite the questions surrounding the evidence, many still believe that Aaron Kosminski was, in fact, the true Jack the Ripper.
While there are positives and negatives to the suspicions that Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper, we may never know for certain. Many police documents from the official investigation were never found and the doubts over the shawl remain, but Kosminski was indeed around and living in Whitechapel at the time of all of the Ripper murders – with no alibis and violent outbursts likely.
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