99 Percent of You Might Be Jack the Ripper, Or His Victim

There has been a wave of examination of the latest Ripper case solution by crime enthusiasts and now four other molecular biologists and DNA experts. Upon the culprit's “revelation” back in September, our position was curious but watchful, not out of superior scientific knowledge, merely jaded experience. Well, catching up to the present day (and leaving aside other logical questions around the Eddowes shawl used for DNA testing), a digital discrepancy appears to make a huge difference in the conclusion, at least for people of European descent—if that's you, describe your whereabouts in 1888, please.

From the book Naming Jack the Ripper by Russell Edwards, owner of the shawl:

“This DNA alteration is known as global private mutation (314.1C) and it is not very common in worldwide population, as it has frequency estimate of 0.000003506, i.e. approximately 1/290,000. This figure has been calculated using the database at Institute of Legal Medicine, GMI, based on the latest available information. Thus, this result indicates the shawl contains human DNA identical to Karen Miller's [Catherine Eddowes' descendant] for this mitochondrial DNA segment,” he [Dr. Jari Louhelainen] says.

According to the Independent's latest article by Science Editor Steve Connor:

But experts with detailed knowledge of the GMI's mtDNA database claimed that Dr. Louhelainen made an “error of nomenclature” because the mutation in question should be written as “315.1C” and not “314.1C”. Had Dr. Louhelainen done this, and followed standard forensic practice, he would have discovered the mutation was not rare at all but shared by more than 99 per cent of people of European descent.

“If the match frequency really is 90 per cent plus, and not 1/290,000, then obviously there is no significance whatsoever in the match between the shawl and Eddowes' descendant, and the same match would have been seen with almost anyone who had handled the shawl over the years,” Professor Jeffreys said.

So, there's that to consider. Methodical examination of results and critical peer review work well, but not necessarily instantly. We'll have more updates if and when they occur. As we like to say: We've waited this long…

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