martedì 23 settembre 2014


Si parla molto di DNA, recentemente. E se ne capisce poco, sempre.
Proprio con questa metodica sembra che - a distanza di così tanti anni - sia finalmente stato identificato 'Jack lo Squartatore' (Jack the Ripper).

Gli esami sono stati effettuati su di uno scialle che sarebbe appartenuto ad una delle vittime, ottenuto nel 2007 ad un asta da un collezionista ricercatore, Russel Edwards. A suo tempo, eccezionalmente, lo scialle sarebbe stato lasciato ad un poliziotto, Amos Simson, che era presente sul luogo del quarto omicidio (vittima Catherine Eddowes), che lo avrebbe in seguito custodito - non lavato - in una scatola.

Sullo scialle sono stati trovati liquidi organici (sangue e sperma) contenenti DNA. Quello del sangue è stato confrontato con il DNA dei possibili discendenti  di Catherine Eddowes, offrendo la certezza della provenienza del sangue. Il DNA del liquido seminale è stato confrontato con quello di varie persone residenti nella zona di Whitechapel. 
Alla fine, il famigerato squartatore è stato identificato in Aaron Kosminky, un emigrato polacco che faceva il barbiere. Fu in seguito internato in una casa di lavoro in quanto poverissimo, poi in un manicomio per malattia mentale ed infine morì di gangrena.
Se questa è la verità, come sempre essa è meno avventurosa e interessante del racconto romanzato dalla fantasia popolare.

La descrizione dei fatti recenti è in qualche modo troppo imprecisa, per cui i risultati sono stati messi in dubbio da alcuni, mentre altri hanno chiesto una supervisione del lavoro di laboratorio (effettuato da stimati specialisti) da parte di colleghi pari grado ed esperienza ( è il metodo che si definisce: 'peer review').

Jack the Ripper identified through DNA traces 

 Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on a shawl, claims a sleuth in a BOOK out on Tuesday. The true identity of Jack the Ripper, whose grisly murders terrorised the murky slums of Whitechapel in east London in 1888, has been a mystery ever since, with dozens of suspects that include royalty and prime ministers down to bootmakers. 
But after extracting DNA from a shawl recovered from the scene of one of the killings, which matched relatives of both the victim and one of the suspects, Jack the Ripper sleuth Russell Edwards claims the identity of the murderer is now beyond doubt. He says the infamous killer is Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish emigre from Poland, who worked as a barber.

Edwards, a businessman interested in the Ripper story, bought a bloodstained Victorian shawl at auction in 2007. The story goes that it came from the murder scene of the Ripper's fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, on September 30, 1888. 

Police acting sergeant Amos Simpson, who had been at the scene, got permission from his superiors to take it for his dressmaker wife -- who was subsequently aghast at the thought of using a bloodstained shawl. It had hitherto been passed down through the policeman's direct descendants, who had stored it unwashed in a box. 
It briefly spent a few years on loan to Scotland Yard's crime museum. 

Victim disembowelled 

Edwards sought to find out if DNA technology could conclusively link the shawl to the murder scene. 

Dr Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, testing a shawl that  was taken from the murder scene of Jack the Ripper's fourth victim Catherine Eddowes  on September 30, 1888 [Credit: AFP] 

Working on the blood stains, Doctor Jari Louhelainen, senior lecturer in molecular at Liverpool John Moores University, isolated seven small segments of mitochondrial DNA, 
which is passed down through the female line.

They were matched with the DNA of Karen Miller, a direct descendant of Eddowes, confirming her blood was on the shawl. 
Meanwhile stains exposed under ultra-violet light suggested the presence of seminal fluid. Doctor David Miller, reader in molecular andrology at the University of Leeds, managed to find cells from which DNA was isolated. 
With the help of genealogists, Edwards found a descendant of Kosminski through the female line, who offered samples of her DNA. Louhelainen was then able to match DNA from the semen stains to Kosminski's descendant. For Edwards, this places Kosminski at the scene of Eddowes' gruesome murder. 
Eddowes, 46, was killed on the same night as the Ripper's third victim. An orphan with a daughter and two sons, she worked as a casual prostitute. She was found brutally murdered at 1:45am. Her throat was cut and she was disembowelled. Her face was also mutilated. The belief is that the shawl was left at the crime scene by the killer, not Eddowes. 

Calls for peer review 

Kosminski was born in Klodawa in central Poland on September 11, 1865. His family fled the imperial Russian anti-Jewish pogroms and emigrated to east London in the early 1880s. He lived close to the murder scenes. Some reports say he was taken in by the police to be identified by a witness who had seen him with one of the victims, and though a positive identification was made, the witness refused to give incriminating evidence, meaning the police had little option but to release him. 
He entered a workhouse in 1889, where he was described on admission as "destitute". 
He was discharged later that year but soon ended up in an insane asylum. He died from gangrene in an asylum on March 24, 1919 and was buried three days later at East Ham Cemetery in east London. 
Some have cast doubt on Edwards' findings. 
The research has not been published a a peer-reviewed scientific journal, meaning the claims cannot be independently verified or the methodology scrutinised. 
Professor Alec Jeffreys, who invented the DNA fingerprinting technique 30 years ago this week, called for further verification. 
"An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator's descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided," Jeffreys told The Independent newspaper. 

Author: Robin Millard | Source: AFP [September 07, 2014]

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