London: Bury St Edmunds plays role in solving Jack the Ripper mystery
PUBLISHED: 09:08 08 September 2014 | UPDATED: 10:14 08 September 2014
The central role of a west Suffolk town in solving one of the country’s greatest crime mysteries has come to light.
In a new book Russell Edwards reveals how seven years on from purchasing a blood-soaked shawl after an auction at Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds he has solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper is.
It has been one of the greatest puzzles of all time, but thanks to developments in forensic science the name of the murderer can finally be revealed.
Jack the Ripper was the unidentified serial killer who murdered at least five women working as prostitutes in London’s East End in 1888.
A long line of men have been suspects – including royalty and a Jewish shoemaker – but no-one has ever been held accountable.
Mr Edwards, a self-confessed armchair detective, claims Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old Polish immigrant, was “definitely, categorically and absolutely” the man behind the grisly killing spree.
After purchasing the shawl in 2007, Mr Edwards, 48, from Barnet, north London, enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University.
Using cutting-edge scientific techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract DNA samples from the fabric, which was allegedly found by the body of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes.
Dr Louhelainen was then able to compare it to the DNA of her descendants and that of Kosminski’s– who was a suspect at the time – and, writing in the Mail on Sunday, said he is satisfied that it has been established – as far as it possibly can be – that Kosminski is Jack the Ripper.
Mr Edwards’ book, Naming Jack the Ripper, is being published tomorrow and the story was broken by the Mail over the weekend.
Auctioneer Edward Crichton, from Lacy Scott & Knight, put the shawl under the hammer in March, 2007.
On the latest revelation, he said: “We are thrilled it seems to have drawn a line under it, which is great.”
Mr Crichton said it was an “incredibly unusual” auction item and at the time the firm carried out as much research as it could into its origins.
The catalogue from March 2007 advises interested parties to carry out their own research before bidding due to the controversy surrounding the shawl’s past.
Cataloguer Helen Robson, who researched the item, said: “It was just fascinating really. It was something that’s been deliberated about virtually since the murders happened so I didn’t really feel there would ever really be a definitive answer, it was just another clue thrown into the story.”
She said it was remarkable what Dr Louhelainen had gleaned from the fabric due to the amount of people who had already handled the shawl.
Mr Crichton said Mr Edwards had contacted the auction house a few years ago to say he was making progress and he was “going to crack it”. “And he has,” Mr Crichton added.
Mr Edwards said: “I’ve got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case. I’ve spent 14 years working on it, and we have definitively solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was.
“Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now – we have unmasked him.”
Victim’s blood-stained garment was destined for the bonfire
Had it not been for the mother of David Melville-Hayes the Jack the Ripper mystery may never have been solved.
Speaking from his Clacton home, the 78-year-old explained how his mother Eliza Hayes – whose maiden name was Mills –had stopped her sister Irene from burning the shawl on a bonfire in Walton-on-the-Naze.
He said: “She was about to throw it on a bonfire and my mother just happened to be there at that time and asked if she could have it, and Irene said ‘take it’. And that’s how it ended up with my mother.”
He understands the shawl – which has been the key in uncovering who Jack the Ripper was – came into his family via police officer Amos Simpson who is believed to have been on surveillance duty when Catherine Eddowes was murdered.
He passed it on to a London seamstress, Mr Melville-Hayes’ great-grandmother Mary Simpson, who was understood to be one of his relatives.
“But she never wanted to use it because it had rather morbid connections,” said Mr Melville-Hayes, who worked in the antiques trade before retiring.
He said the shawl then came to be in the possession of his grandmother Eliza Mills (maiden name Smith), who was from Lavenham but moved to Walton-on-the-Naze, before being handed down to her daughter Irene Owens (maiden name Mills). When Mr Melville-Hayes came to own the item after his mother passed away in 1997 he did not wish to keep it.
“I just didn’t like the idea of having it in the house,” he said. “If anyone wanted to look at it I would show them and the whole room seemed to go cold. I thought the best thing I could do was to sell it.
“I chose to go to Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds because Amos Simpson was actually born at Acton.”
The blood-stained shawl sold for about £5,200 in March, 2007.
Alleged killer fled Russian persecution and ended his days in a London lunatic asylum
The mystery of Jack the Ripper had baffled people for 126 years.
More than 100 suspects have been proposed, many theories have been hotly debated and countless books have emerged on the case.
Names from Queen Victoria’s grandson –Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence –to the former Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone have been bandied about, but six key suspects have been commonly cited in connection with these brutal killings, known as the ‘Whitechapel murders’.
One of those six was Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jewish immigrant who, fleeing persecution in his Russia-controlled homeland, came with his family to England in 1881 and lived in Mile End Old Town.
He was admitted to a string of lunatic asylums, where he died in 1899 of gangrene in the leg.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Russell Edwards said Kosminski had always been
one of the three most credible suspects, but police did not have enough evidence to convict him.
As for the victims, the murders of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly are generally agreed to be the work of a single killer, known as Jack the Ripper, while a number of others have been linked to the Ripper to varying degrees.
No-one was ever charged for these horrific attacks that took place in an impoverished part of 19th Century London.
• Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards is published by Sidgwick & Jackson, priced £16.99.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East Anglian Daily Times. Click the link in the orange box below for details.