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One of the greatest mysteries of all time has (allegedly…) been solved. The world has another new solution to the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, and we can thank Albert and Allen Hughes’ 2001 film From Hell for inspiring one armchair detective to finally crack the 126 year old case.
A new article at THR reveals that Russell Edwards, author of the upcoming book Naming Jack the Ripper, first got interested in the brutal murders of five (and possibly more) prostitutes in London’s Whitechapel district back in 1888 after watching the 2001 film based on an Alan Moore graphic novel.
"When my involvement in the 126-year-old case began, I was just another armchair detective, interested enough to conduct my own extensive research after watching the Johnny Depp film From Hell. It piqued my curiosity about the 1888 killings when five — possibly more — prostitutes were butchered in London's East End."
In the film, Johnny Depp plays a detective working the case alongside a young prostitute (Heather Graham). The clues eventually lead the mismatched duo to an unlikely ending point, with a Ripper who sits in a position of privilege and power.
Unfortunately, fans of the film will be disappointed to learn that Edwards’ conclusion as to The Ripper’s identity doesn’t match the one reached in the film. Instead, Russell Edwards’ new book presents another popular suspect as the definitive Ripper: Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski.
Kosminski has long been listed among the multitudes of Ripper suspects (which really means nothing when one considers the sheer magnitude of men who’ve been linked to the crimes at one point or another throughout history), and Edwards says his DNA proof confirms the young hairdresser was the man who held all of London in terror, and is still whispered about today. Kosminski died in a mental institution in 1919.
Edwards’ claims hinge on mitochondrial DNA evidence procured from the shawl of Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. The author acquired the shawl worn by the prostitute and had it tested against a descendant of Eddowes and Kosminski and found it to be a match.
Naturally, solving such a high profile case (which is being used to promote a book…) has caused some to question the veracity of Russell Edwards’ conclusions. Several prominent Ripperologists have noted that the shawl was never listed amongst Eddowes effects, others have pointed out that it’s been handled by countless people through the intervening years, making contamination possible, and still others have noted that the DNA results have not yet undergone the scrutiny of peer review. So, while we may have compelling evidence about just who the Ripper was, it’s a bit early to say that the case has been definitively solved.
Whatever the outcome is, it’s interesting that a Hollywood film inspired a viewer to undertake his own efforts to solve one of history’s most crime sprees. See? Watching movies doesn’t rot your brain, after all.