Jack the Ripper has finally, conclusively, definitely been identified (again). 126 years after the murders that shocked the world, we’ve finally found our man (or woman). Was it Scotland Yard? Was it the CIA? Was it rediscovered CCTV footage taken an amazing 54 years before CCTV was invented? No, it was “armchair detective” Russell Edwards who has just published Naming Jack the Ripper. Edwards used DNA from a shawl to positively (?) identify Aaron Kosminski as the killer. Public interest in Jack the Ripper has never really waned and we have a good selection of the books published; both non-fiction (I’m using that term loosely) and fiction including the acclaimed Ripper Street TV series. I’ve read them all and here is my list of the top 5 Jack the Ripper suspects, from least to most preposterous:
- Renowned artist Walter Sickert was called out by mystery writer Patricia Cornwell in the optimistically named Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed. Cornwell used DNA from some Ripper letters to prove that Sickert was Jack the Ripper. To my mind, she just proved that maybe he wrote some Ripper letters, or maybe not, testing DNA that old can be problematic.
- Another artist, Frank Miles, was accused in Thomas Toughill’s The Ripper Code, although you may have already known this if you’d read The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde helpfully left some clues to Miles true identity encoded alien-messages-in-pyramids-style in the tome. If you think that is crazy enough to be higher up on this list, you have obviously not read many Jack the Ripper books.
- If you are going to be name a random historical figure as a serial killer, why not aim high? Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward has been named in numerous volumes but Melvyn Fairclough’s The Ripper & the Royals is the one you can pick up from our libraries.
- Tony Williams had a esteemed distant-ancestor, Sir John Williams. Sir John was a successful obstetrician, doctor to the royal family and founded The National Library of Wales. Tony did a bit of research and found a smoking-gun in the Library archive, well actually it was a rusted-scalpel. Many extrapolations later and Uncle Jack was the result. I really thought that was the low-point until the next title appeared…
- On the plus side, someone realised there was no way Sir John Williams could be Jack the Ripper, on the negative side, they think it is his wife. Poor Mary Williams, all she did was get married to a book-loving doctor and now she is named as a Ripper suspect. At least they didn’t have children, because if I was one of there descendants I would be pretty peeved about the whole thing.
Will we ever know the truth about the identity of Jack the Ripper? If I did, I wouldn’t write it in this blog post. As the above titles show, there’s money to be made and no lack of publishers ready to print any crazy theory someone is willing to propose.