Who was Jack The Ripper?

Jack the Ripper is an unidentified serial killer active in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name “Jack the Ripper”came from a letter written by someone claiming to be the killer. The letter was a hoax. Within the crime case files as well as journalistic accounts of the time the killer was called “the Whitechapel Murderer” or “Leather Apron”.Jack the Ripper killed female prostitutes who lived and worked in slums. He would cut their throats then mutilate them. He removed internal organs from at least three of the victims. This led to suspicions the killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge.The “From Hell” letter, sent to George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, came with part of a human kidney, supposedly taken from a victim. The public came to believe in a single serial killer.Commonly accepted as victims of Jack the Ripper

  • Mary Ann Nichols – 31st August 1888; body is found at 3.40am in Buck’s Row.
  • Annie Chapman – 8th September 1888; body found in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street.
  • Elizabeth Stride – 30th September 1888; body found at 1am in Berner Street.
  • Catherine Eddowes – 30th September 1888; body found at 1:45am in Mitre Square in the City of London.
  • Mary Jane Kelly – 9th November 1888; body found in Dorset Street, Spitalfields.


All were murdered between 31 August and 9 November 1888, & are known as the “canonical five”.


List of suspects in the Jack the Ripper case in loose order of probability/seriousness

  • Joseph Barnett
  • Aaron Kosminski
  • James Kelly
  • Jacob Levy
  • John Pizer
  • Michael Ostrog
  • Francis Tumblety
  • William Henry Bury
  • Charles Allen Lechmere
  • James Thomas Sadler
  • George Chapman/Ludwig Schloski/Seweryn Kłosowski
  • William Withey Gull
  • Thomas Neill Cream
  • Thomas Hayne Cutbush
  • Frederick Bailey Deeming
  • Carl Feigenbaum
  • James Maybrick
  • Robert Donston Stephenson
  • Francis Thompson
  • John McCarthy
  • Joseph Fleming
  • David Cohen
  • Montague John Druitt
  • James Kenneth Stephen
  • Sir John Williams
  • Duke of Clarence and Avondale
  • Joseph Silver
  • Walter Sickert
  • Alexander Pedachenko
  • George Hutchinson
  • Lewis Carroll


Ripper Investigation’s Key Figures

  • Edmund Reid
  • Frederick Abberline
  • Melville Macnaghten
  • Robert Anderson
  • Henry Moore
  • Walter Simon Andrews
  • James McWilliam
  • Donald Swanson
  • James Monro
  • Charles Warren


The most viable known suspects in detail:

Joseph Barnett

Joseph Barnett was first suggested as a suspect in 1976. Barnett had met Mary Jane Kelly in April 1887. They had a drink together and agreed to meet the following day when they decided to remain together. The theory is that Joseph Barnett was growing tired of Mary Kelly prostituting herself. He was in love with her, and believed that if he could support her through his own work, she would not have to prostitute. The loss of his job as a fish porter in June 1888 made this impossible. Kelly returned to prostitution to provide for herself, and Barnett became enraged. In order to scare Kelly off the streets, he murdered other prostitutes. When this ploy did not work and she remained on the streets they had one final argument. Barnett is theorized to have murdered her.

Barnett’s physical description matches a number of witness descriptions of the killer – height (5′ 7″), age (30), build (medium), complexion (fair) and he had a moustache. His life after the Kelly murder is unclear until 1906 when he was given a porter’s licence at Billingsgate and lived in Shadwell. How Mary Kelly’s door remained locked when police arrived could be explained by Barnett’s possessing a key. Barnett was once a fish porter, experienced in boning and gutting fish.

Aaron Kosminski

Aron Mordke Kozmiński born 11 September 1865 was a Jew who came to England from Russian Poland in the 1880s and worked as a hairdresser in Whitechapel. By 1891 he was institutionalized in an asylum.

Police at the time of the murders named one of their suspects as “Kosminski“, and described him as a Polish Jew in an insane asylum. Almost a hundred years later, “Kosminski” was identified as Aaron Kosminski.

James Kelly

James Kelly born 20 April 1860 was first identified as a suspect in 1987. Kelly murdered his wife in 1883 by stabbing her in the neck & was committed to the Broadmoor Asylum, from which he escaped in early 1888. In 1927, nearly forty years after his escape, he turned himself in to officials at the Broadmoor Asylum & died two years later.