On 6 August 1888, the body of a 35-year-old prostitute, Martha Tabram, was found in London with her throat cut, stomach ripped open and intestines gutted. On 31 August, another prostitute, Mary Ann Nichols, was killed. Then four more murders, as like as two peas, followed that case. The criminal received his infamous nickname for such murders – Jack the Ripper. The crimes were committed between eleven o’clock at night and four o’clock in the morning on the deserted streets of Whitechapel and surrounding areas. All but one of the victims were prostitutes. Despite the emergency measures taken by the police, the perpetrator was not found. The identity of Jack the Ripper has become the subject of fierce debate. Various versions have been put forward:
- a madman who took revenge on prostitutes for contracting syphilis from one of them;
- a certain Irish doctor, “master of occult sciences” and, of course, a misogynist. He was also believed to have been involved in the assassination attempt on President Lincoln in 1865;
- the impressionist painter Walter Sickert who dedicated a series of paintings to the murdered London courtesans;
- the Russian doctor and agent of the tsarist secret service Konovalov who arrived from Paris where he was suspected of murdering a maid.
None of the many versions received absolute confirmation.
The legend of the bloody maniac has grown into rumours and has come down to our days. The nickname of Jack the Ripper has become a household name.
Igor Dzhokhadze. The criminal chronicle of mankind.
In 2001, English businessman Russell Edwards bought a ticket to the film “From Hell” starring Johnny Depp. He just wanted to kill a couple of hours of free time. As a result, he found a hobby for the rest of his life… Retold by Hollywood screenwriters, the story of Jack the Ripper left Russell with so many questions that he turned from a typical office monkey into a private detective – to figure out how everything really happened.
Russell Edwards did not seem to bother that this mystery had been worked on by dozens of detectives on Her Majesty’s service and by thousands of enthusiasts for more than a hundred years. For an enthusiastic person, as for a mad dog, distance and time do not matter.
Russell studied the archives, went through thousands of historical sources. However, the first six years of the “investigation” predictably ended in failure. Until in 2007, he came across a shawl up for auction. The shawl allegedly belonged to one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes.
The very story of the shawl was already suspicious. Its owner was a descendant of the sergeant of the London Police Amos Sampson. Supposedly, he persuaded his superiors to give him the shawl from the scene of the crime. He wanted to make a gift to his wife, a dressmaker. Maybe in the XIX century it was normal to give their women evidence from the scene of a crime… Then the miracles continued. The authorities gave the shawl to the sergeant. His wife carefully put the gift in the chest of drawers and did not touch it anymore. The chest of drawers itself passed as a family heirloom from generation to generation. The shawl had not even been washed in more than a hundred years! And now the next descendants decided to disassemble the chest of drawers and auction the things off.
It would be unwise to assume that they had any evidence that this shawl had been taken from Catherine Eddowes, the Jack the Ripper’s victim. Chances that it would be true were one in a million. However, Russell Edwards outbid the others obsessed with the Jack the Ripper mystery at auction and bought the shawl…
The shawl contained both the victim’s own blood and traces of the killer’s DNA. A series of complex examinations carried out by an authoritative scientist Jari Louhelainen from the University of Liverpool allowed to prove that the traces on the shawl belonged to Aaron Kosminski – a Polish emigrant who lived near the scene of several murders and worked as a hairdresser. During the investigation, Kosminski was listed as one of the three main suspects. He was even monitored around the clock. But in the end, his guilt could not be proved. Kosminski was declared mentally ill. He was on the list of suspects which was based mainly on guesses and conjectures, indirect coincidences and suspicions. In 2006, according to the evidence contained in the preserved archival records, a sketch of the maniac was made. According to nineteenth-century witnesses, the alleged killer wore dark clothing, a felt hat like Sherlock Holmes, a mustache and a valise.
- Three messages from Jack the Ripper were lost from the archives. It is not known for sure whether they were lost or deliberately stolen. In 1988, a century later, the killer’s first letter was anonymously returned to the London Police Department.
- Among the contenders for the identity of the Ripper was the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh. This version was put forward by Dale Larner, the author of the book “Vincent Alias Jack”. The researcher compared the facts of the artist’s life with the chronology of the murders. The coincidence of handwriting elements, images in paintings, the madness of Van Gogh were cited as evidence.
- One of the suspects was the grandson of Queen Victoria – Albert Victor. In particular, because he conducted an obscene lifestyle. However, at the time of the death of the third and fourth victims, the descendant of the Queen was absent from the country.
- The object of suspicion was a mathematician and author of books about Alice’s adventures – Lewis Carroll. The writer came under the sights of researchers due to the similarity of handwriting and a sophisticated manner of speech. Ripperologists found anagrams in his texts that allegedly indicated the author’s involvement in brutal murders.
Police Officer John Plimmer, who worked for 31 years at Scotland Yard, is sure that the killer from Whitechapel was the Russian surgeon Alexander Fedorchenko. He pointed to the fact that they made up a psychological profile that matched information about Fedorchenko. Indirect evidence that proved the detective’s version was that Fedorchenko professionally knew anatomy, he had surgical experience and medical instruments. He lived in Whitchapel. Prostitutes trusted the doctor and were not afraid to get closer to him. Fedorchenko was questioned at Scotland Yard and released due to lack of evidence. He hastily left the country. John Plimmer even went to Bulgaria to meet the famous clairvoyant Vanga. He supposedly put a handkerchief taken from the scene of one of the Ripper murders in Vanga’s hand. She said that the Ripper had seven victims on his account and after London he continued his atrocities in Poltava. In Poltava special archive Plimmer got a criminal case on the maniac Alexander Fedorchenko. It appeared that he was accused of killing several women in Ukraine. He did not surrender to the local police and hanged himself in a rented room before his arrest.
President of the Union of Criminalists and Criminologists
Igor M. Matskevich
Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova