The identity of Britain's most mysterious and infamous serial killer barber may finally have been nailed down, a whopping 126 years after Jack the Ripper terrorized Whitechapel, East London, committing at least five grisly murders during the autumn of 1888. So who exactly was he?

Catherine Eddowes


It's possible Jack the Ripper's identity has finally been revealed through the use of modern forensic science. With the help of a shawl found on the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of Jack's victims, scientists were able to analyze the DNA in blood left on the shawl and semen also left by the killer.

Dr. Jari Louhelainen

World-renowned genetic evidence expert Dr. Jari Louhelainen examined Eddowes's shawl. Louhelainen used cutting-edge technology to extract the DNA from the shawl and compare it to the DNA from Eddowes, the suspected Jack the Ripper, Eddowes's descendants, and one of the descendants of the suspected Ripper's sisters.

Aaron Kosminski

NBC News

The compared DNA was a match to a suspect, identifying Jack the Ripper as Aaron Kosminski, a young Polish man who was just 23 years old at the time of the murders.

"If it actually was Kosminski, this guy was a borderline raving lunatic," Stephen P. Ryder, executive editor of "Casebook: Jack the Ripper," told NBC News. "This was not a criminal mastermind by any means."

The Killings


In that fateful fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper killed his victims in a number of disturbing ways. He allegedly went after female prostitutes living and working in the East London slums, cutting their throats before he mutilating their abdominal and genitals, and even preserved one of his victim's kidneys.

Five Canonical Victims


Ripper's canonical five victims include Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, with others suspected. Emma Elizabeth Smith was robbed, sexually assaulted, murdered and mutilated on April 3, 1888. Martha Tabram, was stabbed 39 times on August 7. Local officials and reporters were disturbed by the lack of an obvious motive, savagery, and close proximity of the murders. Neither have been definitively tied to Ripper.

Bumbling Police Investigation

John Tenniel/Wikimedia Commons

During the official investigation, officials interviewed more than 2,000 people, but were criticized for their incompetence in finding the killer. In this cartoon featured in "Punch" magazine, the police involved in the Jack the Ripper investigation are ridiculed for being mismanaged and inept, essentially "searching blind."

Speculation Over Jack's Identity

wikimedia commons

Pictured is the cover of the September 1888 issue of "Puck" magazine. Due to the murders being committed in one localized area and around weekends and public holidays, many suspected that Jack the Ripper was an employed local. 

The police agreed that the murders had been committed by a single killer, perhaps a butcher or a physician due to the dismemberment of the corpses, though others strongly disagreed on the grounds that the mutilation had been too shoddy work to be considered "professional." 

Letters From the Killer

National Archives/wikimedia commons

Police and newspapers received hundreds of letters in regards to the case, including some from people who claimed to be Jack the Ripper himself. Jack was not the first serial killer to ever have existed, but he was the first to create such a widespread, worldwide media frenzy, resulting in hundreds of theories over his identity, while simultaneously drawing attention to the poor living conditions in London's East End.

Crackpot Theories

Mary Evans Picture Library

Some of the crazier Jack the Ripper theories implicate people such as author Lewis Caroll, who allegedly had created anagrams in his work alluding to his imagined crimes. Others suspected Jack was in fact a woman, "Jill the Ripper," who disguised herself as a man to avoid being caught and was thought to be a midwife, thus having intricate anatomical knowledge. Liverpool cotton merchant, James Maybrick, was also theorized to have been the Ripper after alleged copies of his "diaries" confessing to the crimes surfaced in 1992.

Some suspected that Jack the Ripper never even existed.

More Than 100 Suspects

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

With Aaron Kosminski identified, perhaps the 100-plus Jack the Ripper suspects can now rest easily in their graves, knowing that the world no longer sees them as the gruesome East London serial killer. Suspects range from post-Impressionist painter Walter Sickert, to Queen Victoria's own grandson, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence.

Mystery Solved...

So the mystery of Jack the Ripper that has haunted scholars, theorists and investigators for over a century has finally been solved, more or less. We still don't know exactly what motivated Polish hairdresser Aaron Kosminski, but we do know that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and hallucinations and had been in and out of mental asylums since 1891 until his death in 1919.

It might not be the romantically shocking ending that history buffs and obsessed "Ripperologists" have craved for years, but at least now we know the truth.