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Shawl Analysis

Forensic analysts say they've homed in on the identity of Jack the Ripper, the serial killer that murdered five women in London in 1888 within a span of a few months, ScienceInsider reports, adding that they've named Aaron Kosminski, who was a suspect at the time.

ScienceInsider adds that the researchers analyzed blood and semen samples from a shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper's fourth victim. Liverpool John Moores University's Jari Louhelainen and the University of Leeds' David Miller report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences that they generated mitochondrial DNA profiles thought to be from the victim and the killer as well as some genomic DNA. They report that the mtDNA profiles match ones from Eddowes' and Kosminski's descendants, respectively. Phenotypic analysis of SNP data — such as alleles linked to hair and eye color — matched some of the more reliable descriptions of the killer, the researchers note.

The researchers' analysis is "unlikely to satisfy critics" as the paper leaves out some details, as mitochondrial DNA analysis can only exclude a suspect, and as there are still questions about the provenance of the shawl, ScienceInsider notes.