Who Was Jack The Ripper

History Uncovered Episode 108:
Jack The Ripper, Episode 6: Who Was The Whitechapel Murderer?

Published March 8, 2024

From a humble barber to a British royal, these are the suspects in the notorious murders of Jack the Ripper.

Following the death of Jack the Ripper’s fifth canonical victim Mary Jane Kelly, police surgeon Thomas Bond mused about who the killer could be. He said: “The ­murderer must have been a man of physical strength and of great coolness and daring… he is quite likely to be a quiet, inoffensive looking man probably middle-aged and neatly and respectably dressed.”

That description could have fit most men in London. But Jack the Ripper would have had other attributes as well. The killer must have been someone who knew the area of Whitechapel enough to navigate it in the dark. Indeed, he must have been someone who fit in so well with the locals there that he didn’t draw any attention to himself even at night or in the early morning.

Identity Of Jack The Ripper

Public DomainThe race to discover Jack the Ripper’s identity began with the discovery of his first victim Mary Ann Nichols, depicted here in September 1888.

And though Jack the Ripper’s anatomical knowledge — or lack thereof — has been debated, he must have understood the human body to some degree. He certainly understood it well enough to remove organs from some of his victims, as he did in the murders of Annie Chapman and Catherine Eddowes. And he had the iron nerve needed to disembowel his victims.

That said, the killer left maddeningly few clues behind. The best clue came from the murder of Eddowes, when police found a scrap of her apron covered with blood and fecal matter. The killer, it seemed, had used the apron to wipe off his knife.

There were also several letters allegedly sent from Jack the Ripper to the police, including the “Dear Boss” letter and the “From Hell” letter, the latter of which contained part of what appeared to be Eddowes’ kidney. But the authenticity of these letters has been frustratingly difficult to establish.

Dear Boss Letter

Public DomainThe first page of the “Dear Boss” letter.

So who was Jack the Ripper? More than a century later, the killer’s identity continues to elude investigators. Some theories are outlandish — like that writer Lewis Carroll or even British royal Prince Albert Victor were behind the heinous crimes. Some theories appear to be supported by DNA — as in the case of Polish barber Aaron Kosminski. Then again, theories like these also assume that Jack the Ripper was a man — and not a murderous woman.

Here are some of the most likely — and most interesting — Jack Ripper suspects that have emerged since his reign of terror in 1888. We’ll discuss who these suspects are and why investigators believe they could have been the notorious killer, as well as some other theories about the case.

Listen to part five of History Uncovered’s series on Jack the Ripper here.

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