Forensic Investigation of a Shawl Linked to the "Jack the Ripper" Murders

J Forensic Sci. 2020 Jan;65(1):295-303. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14038. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


A set of historic murders, known as the "Jack the Ripper murders," started in London in August 1888. The killer's identity has remained a mystery to date. Here, we describe the investigation of, to our knowledge, the only remaining physical evidence linked to these murders, recovered from one of the victims at the scene of the crime. We applied novel, minimally destructive techniques for sample recovery from forensically relevant stains on the evidence and separated single cells linked to the suspect, followed by phenotypic analysis. The mtDNA profiles of both the victim and the suspect matched the corresponding reference samples, fortifying the link of the evidence to the crime scene. Genomic DNA from single cells recovered from the evidence was amplified, and the phenotypic information acquired matched the only witness statement regarded as reliable. To our knowledge, this is the most advanced study to date regarding this case.

Keywords: Jack the Ripper; fabric sampling; forensic science; historic murders; laser capture microdissection; single-cell analysis; whole-genome amplification.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Blood Stains
  • Clothing* / history
  • Crime Victims
  • Criminals
  • DNA Fingerprinting / methods*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / isolation & purification
  • Fluorescence
  • Forensic Genetics / methods*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Homicide / history*
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays
  • Laser Capture Microdissection
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • United Kingdom
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • DNA, Mitochondrial