Roadblock in Solving Mystery of Jack the Ripper's Last Victim
Patricia Cornwell engaged the experts, but didn't get a great answer
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2017 5:06 PM CDT
"The Illustrated Police News" on display during a press preview for the exhibition "Jack the Ripper and the East End" at the Museum in Docklands, London, in 2008.   (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)

(Newser) – Over about 10 weeks in 1888, Jack the Ripper is said to have killed five women, the last of which was Mary Jane Kelly. But as the New Historian reports, some doubt was cast on the latter fact in 2015 with the publication of a book asserting that Mary Jane Kelly was a pseudonym for an East End prostitute. Her true identity? Elizabeth Weston Davies, great aunt of the book's author, Wynne Weston-Davies. A Telegraph article explains what could be so explosive about that if true: Weston-Davies believes Jack the Ripper was in fact Francis Spurzheim Craig, a police-court reporter married to Elizabeth who became enraged when she once again started prostituting herself after their marriage and killed the other women as "cover" before murdering her. The claim piqued the interest of crime writer Patricia Cornwell, who turned to the experts in an attempt to solve the mystery.

The upshot of a report out of the University of Leicester: The mystery will likely go unsolved. The scientists Cornwell engaged included those who helped identify King Richard III, and their task this time was to determine whether they could find the precise location of Kelly's remains in a Leytonstone cemetery and perform DNA analysis on them. The problem is that in 1947, the communal gravesite she was buried in was "reclaimed ... with earlier grave positions being swept away to make way for new burials," says Mathew Morris. His team calculated that the area that would need to be excavated could involve disturbing hundreds of graves (which under English law would require their relative's consent). "Accurate identification of any of her remains highly problematic if not impossible," says Dr. Turi King, who thinks no exhumation license would be granted under the circumstances. (Here's another theory on Jack the Ripper's true identity.)

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