– Aaron Kosminski

Aaron Kosminksi is the man most likely to be the suspect named by two high ranking police officials, and described (though not named) by a third.  Sir Robert Anderson named a Polish Jew as being the Ripper in his 1910 memoirs; sometime later, Donald Swanson wrote notes in his personal copy of Anderson’s book naming the Polish Jew suspect as Kosminski.  And then there’s the Macnaghten memoranda, in which the name Kosminski appeared for the first time, along with two other names, as a likely suspect.

The problem with Aaron Kosminski (assuming Aaron is the Kosminski named by both Swanson and Macnaghten, although no other candidates for the suspect ‘Kosminski’ have been found), is that, while either named or inferred to by three high ranking officials, none of their writings tally completely with what we know of Aaron Kosminksi.  In his marginalia, Swanson wrote that the suspect died shortly after being committed to Colney Hatch asylum (shortly after the murders) – Aaron didn’t die until 1919, over thirty years after the last generally accepted Ripper murder, and even then he died in Leavesden asylum, not Colney Hatch.  In his memoranda, Macnaghten stated that Kosminski had a great hatred of women and strong homicidal tendencies.  By all accounts, Aaron was a harmless imbecile, rarely, if ever, violent.  And rather than being admitted into an asylum in 1889 as Macaghten wrote, Aaron wasn’t placed until 1891 (which also begs the question, if he was in the streets for almost two years after the last murder, why did the murders stop?).

However, there are still details in the three men’s writings that do tally with Aaron Kosminski – namely that he was a Polish Jew, that he lived in Whitechapel at the time of the murders, that he was sent to his brother’s house after being identified by a witness (Aaron did have brothers who lived in Whitechapel), and of, course, the name Kosminski that was named by two out of the three men.

So, was Aaron Kosminski the man suspected by Anderson, Swanson and Macnaghten?  Were they all referring to the same suspect, but simply got some of their facts mixed up with other cases?  Or were they completely muddled in every way, confusing suspects and in reality, they had no idea who Jack the Ripper really was?

It’s difficult to say.  According to both Anderson and Swanson, their suspect was positively identified by one a witness (possibly Joseph Lawende, maybe Israel Schwartz or even Joseph Levy), but, upon learning the suspect was also Jewish, the witness refused to testify against him.  If this story is true, then it’s a startling piece of evidence, effectively saying that the Ripper was positively ID’d, but that since no charges could be brought against him, his identity couldn’t be made public.  But was this identification as positive as Anderson and Swanson made it out to be?  It should be noted that in 1891, when Frances Coles was murdered in similar circumstances to the Ripper murders, a witness in the Ripper case (possibly the same witness who refused to testify against a fellow Jew) was apparently brought out to look at the main suspect in the murder (the witness gave a negative identification).  Now, if the Ripper had already been positively ID’d, and was locked away in an asylum, why bother bringing out the witness for another identification?  It does seem to weaken the idea of the Ripper being identified and known by the police.

Also, Aaron wasn’t known to be violent, nor harbour any homicidal tendencies.  This doesn’t preclude him from being the Ripper, but it’s not a ringing endorsement either, and it doesn’t tally with what Macnaghten wrote about his suspect.

So, what we’re left with is a muddled account of a suspect who may or may not be the man the three officials were referring to in their writings (maybe the men were actually talking about someone else being the Ripper, say David Cohen or Hyam Hyams, and, due to the passage of time, got mixed up and had the name Kosminski in their heads by mistake).  However, if Aaron was the man they were talking about, then he is a suspect we should take seriously, despite the fact he was a harmless imbecile (not to mention out on the streets for almost two years after the last canonical murder).  Because a suspect named by three high ranking officials should always be given weight when talking about an unsolved murder case.

Candidacy of Aaron Kosminski: ***½ (out of 5)

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Published on November 7, 2010 at 11:11 am  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. well it seems that this guy has now been Scientifically proven to be jack the ripper in all the papers…dna matching him from edowws shawl….cant despute dna evidence hey.

    • It’s hardly scientifically proven, Dexter. There’s major issues with the provenance of the shawl; the fact that the shawl was never recorded as being at the crime scene nor part of Eddowes’s belongings, as well as the fact that PC Simpson was never recorded as being anywhere near the crime scene (he was a Met officer, and Eddowes was murdered on City ground). Then there’s the issue of contamination with the shawl, and that it’s so far only been linked through mtDNA, not nuclear, which is far less specific. A lot more independent tests need to be done and the findings verified by the scientific community. As it stands, it’s simply a piece of fabric that has no known link to the crime scene, supposedly taken by a policeman with no known link to the crime scene, and that the mtDNA blood and semen profiles don’t rule out the possibility that they came from Eddowes and Kosminksi – or from people who share the same mtDNA profiles. And even if the DNA was somehow matched specifically with both Eddowes and Kosminksi, that still doesn’t mean that Kosminksi killed her, let alone he was Jack the Ripper. Believe me, I’d love to see this case solved, but I remain highly skeptical with these latest developments.

  2. If Kosminsky is NOT the Ripper, then the odds of all the variables aligning in this way are vanishingly small. You would have to believe that DNA from a semen stain found on the same piece of cloth that contained the blood of a Ripper murder victim was a perfect match to the person who JUST HAPPENED TO BE THE PRIME SUSPECT at the time.


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