Fascination with the Mind of a Murderer

Aaron Kozminski, Jack the Ripper?

Aaron Kozminski – Jack the Ripper?

Aaron Kozminski – Jack the Ripper?  A business man, an amateur sleuth and now author, Russel Edwards,  claims to have DNA evidence that  “definitely, categorically and absolutely” identifies Kozminski as the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

I have been fascinated with the Jack the Ripper case for as long as I can remember.  Why?  I am not exactly sure.  I have always had an insatiable curiosity about the weird and unusual.  I feel compelled to understand why certain people are driven to commit unspeakable acts.  I suppose that curiosity is what led me to complete a degree in Psychology and is also why I adore a well-crafted murder mystery.

The Jack the Ripper case has all the above elements – a deranged mind at the heart of a 126 year-old murder mystery.  Many sleuths, both professional and amateur have speculated on the identity of the Ripper.  Patricia Cornwell, in Portrait Of A Killer Jack The Ripper Case Closed, provides convincing evidence that painter Walter Sickert was the White Chapel murderer.  The movie, From Hell, with Johnny Depp, implicates Sir William Gull, physician to the Royal Family in a complicated conspiracy to protect the Royals from scandal.  I am a fan of the TV show, Criminal Minds.  I am at once horrified and intrigued by the mind of a serial killer.  What creates a serial killer or are they born as one?  What state of mind or biological make-up of the brain allows them to commit such horrifying acts of cruelty?

Compelling Evidence can have Weaknesses

The evidence provided by Russel Edwards in his identification of Aaron Kozminski although compelling is flawed. Jack Pemment, a neuroscience graduate from the University of Mississippi, states in his article, “What Would We Find Wrong in the Brain of a Serial Killer?”: “A common characteristic of schizophrenics, however, is to have jumbled and confused thoughts, which when considered in light of cold, calculated, and premeditated murders, it is harder to merit schizophrenia as a driving force behind serial murder.”  Kozminski, a Polish, Jewish immigrant was known as schizophrenic, delusional and incoherent.  Is it likely that he would have been able to kill and escape detection in this state? Pemment also suggests that very few if perhaps only one serial killer (Richard Chase, the Vampire of Sacramento) have been identified as schizophrenic.  In the case of Richard Chase, he was caught, red-handed so to speak, a month after his murders began.  My understanding of the typical serial killer is one of the charming, intelligent, outwardly self-assured man (usually) who quite often carefully plans and executes his murders.  There is usually a cooling off period in between these murders.  I find it unlikely that Kozminski, also viewed as an imbecile, would have the ability to plan his murders to escape detection.

Mitochondrial DNA was used by Liverpool John Moores University expert Dr Louhelainen to examine a scarf Edwards states he bought at an auction.  The scarf was apparently found at the scene of Catherine Eddowes murder.  However, it was never recorded into evidence as having been found at the scene.  Dr. Louhelainen used  a new technique he developed to analyse trace amounts of mitochondrial DNA found on the scarf.  Mitochondrial DNA analysis has been used as evidence in cold cases where the nuclear DNA is degraded or in insufficient quantities for proper analysis.  Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother’s side of the family only.  It remains virtually unchanged from one generation to the next so your mitochondrial DNA is identical to your mother’s, your mother’s mother and so on.  Thousands of people related to the same woman can share the same mitochondrial DNA.  Therefore, unlike with nuclear DNA analysis, unique identifications are not possible.  Dr. Louhelainen was able to find a maternal relative of Catherine Eddowes and confirm a mDNA profile that matched mDNA found on the scarf.  He was also able to find a maternal relative of Aaron Kozminski and able to find a mDNA profile that matched another sample of mDNA found on the scarf.  So, has it been determined beyond doubt that the scarf found belonged to Catherine Eddowes and more importantly that Aaron Kozminski was her killer and thus the elusive Jack the Ripper?

Aaron Kozminski – Is he Jack the Ripper?

Some key points to consider:

  • the scarf has been touched by possibly many hands over its 126 years; no chain of evidence, therefore, no way to tell who touched it and if they might have been maternal relatives of Eddowes and Kozminski
  • all that can be concluded from the evidence is that at some point in time maternal relatives of both Eddowes and Kozminski touched that scarf.
  • if the scarf was found by Eddowes body and removed secretly by an officer at the scene, could Kozminski simply have been a past client of Eddowes?
  • finally, Dr. Louhelainen’s results have not to date been published in peer reviewed journals so credibility is further suspect
Jack the Ripper remains an iconic figure today, and perhaps is seen as the forerunner of the serial killers that society has had to deal with since.  — Dave Musgrove

There are reasons to support Russel Edwards’ claim.  If the results are found to comply with strict scientific protocol, it is damning that DNA matching a relative of Aaron Kozminski was found on the scarf.  He was a prime suspect in the case.  He was thrown into a mental asylum after the murders stopped although claims vary as to how long Kozminski roamed the streets of Whitechapel after the last Ripper murder.  However, there appear to be stronger doubts surrounding this amazing claim of Russel Edwards.  Kozminski from all accounts was schizophrenic – a rare conditions for a serial murderer.  The shawl was handled by far too many people to make the DNA analysis reliable and lastly the results of the mDNA identification were not published in reputable scientific journals and they were not subjected to peer review leading the results to be very suspect.

 

 

Sources

FBI.  Mitochondrial DNA.  Laboratory Services. September 18, 2014.

Pemment, Jack.  What Would We Find Wrong in the Brain of a Serial Killer?  April 5, 2013.  Blame the Amygdala:  Psychology Today.  September 18, 2014.

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