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Notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, terrorized Whitechapel, a town in London’s East End, throughout the year 1888. The methods of which Jack mutilated his victims and his knowledge of human anatomy is strikingly consistent with that of a medical doctor. It is said that four of the five assumed victim’s bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. Through multiple visitations of the case, the Ripper murders still remain unsolved. Even today, scholars attempt to discover new truths and correlations regarding the true identity of Jack the Ripper. Though investigation techniques then, could not identify the suspected killer, modern investigative techniques may have brought justice had he been active today. This essay will discuss a history of Jack the Ripper and assess the impact that the case has had on death investigation today. Additionally, a comparison of investigation techniques from 1888 to now will also be discussed.
Throughout a span of four months, London’s East End district, Whitechapel, was terrorized by a spree of murders. The mysterious killer’s name, Jack the Ripper, originates from a letter published at the time of the brutal attacks that took place in the autumn of 1888. Allegedly, Jack the Ripper is said to have been responsible for at least a dozen deaths between 1888 and 1892; However, five murders are said to have been canonically – the work of the infamous killer. Though there is no official number of victims; However, Jack the Ripper is said to have claimed five victims – prostitutes in a poverty stricken neighborhood. All but one of the Ripper victims was killed while soliciting customers on the streets of Whitechapel. This indicates a switch in the Ripper’s M.O. [modus operandi]. The first murder took place on August 31st, where the Ripper claimed the life of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman on September 8th, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddoweson on Septemper 30th , and Mary Jane Kelly on November 9th (BBC, 2014). The throats of each of the victims were cut along with multiple body mutilations. The manner in which the bodies were dissected indicated that the killer possessed substantial knowledge regarding the human anatomy. Could this mean that the Ripper was a doctor? Possibly. What is quite intriguing about this case is that serial murders were not prevalent at the time as opposed to today. One Ripper theory points to Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor; Although, the true identity and motive of the Ripper is still unknown yet he remains one of the most notorious serial killers of the 19th century.
Jack the Ripper has served as a basis for criminal and forensic investigation. Looking into previous methods of investigation, techniques in crime scene processing seem fairly logical but also lacking. In one of the letters written by Charles Warren, some techniques included the implementation of hound dogs – whether or not they are effective during investigations by tracking the scent of blood on the ground. “If the murderer left a portion of his clothing behind and some of his blood, I can understand a dog following up or if you could show him a particular spot where he had been standing even but on a London pavement where people have been walking all the evening there may be score of scents almost as keen as those of the murderer…” C.W. [Charles Warren] Commissioner of Police A letter written by someone claiming the identity of Jack the Ripper, indicated the type of weapon used – claiming the murder weapon to have been a knife with a small handle and a large long blade Though the technology may not have been to the police’s avail, had the Ripper murders taken place today, the identity of the weapon can be verified. Sharp force injuries will display a specific pattern upon the surface and interior of the wounds. Sharp force injuries are distinct – absent of small, thin delicate bridges of soft tissue between the stab wound or cut (Spitz, 2006). Characteristics of the knife indicate whether or not the knife is serrated, or like the Ripper’s weapon, sharp on both edges of the knife.
Instances where investigative techniques were lacking include the validity of the written documents. Though the author of the letters claimed to be the killer, it led to nothing. Documentation of crime scenes is crucial to maintain its validity, especially in a court setting. The Victorian era lacked the necessary resources to process crime scenes like investigators do today. For instance, in 1888, no crime labs existed. Laboratories are crucial in processing multiple types of evidence. It is likely that the Ripper case influenced police agencies worldwide to implement more efficient methods of documentation. It becomes mandatory to document every aspect of a crime scene since something minute can be critical in determining the killer. Not to mention, the security of a crime scene is critical in maintaining the integrity of evidence as well. It is possible that a lack of knowledge in the preservation and collection of evidence resulted in a non-discovery of the killer’s identity.
If the Ripper murders were to have occurred today, it is without a doubt that the killer would be caught. With a multitude of various forensic and medicolegal implementations, especially DNA technology, it makes it almost impossible for anyone to get away with murder. The average person to possess knowledge regarding DNA and trace, in the late 19th century, would be unlikely simply because the processing technology did not exist. However, by the Locard Exchange Principal, trace evidence is the result of a transfer between one object to another (Spitz, 2006). It is likely that the Ripper left behind some form of trace with each victim. If the police were to have obtained a murder weapon from the crime scenes, it could be checked for latent fingerprints. Conducting autopsies on the victims of the Ripper murders would likely yield extraordinary results. Additionally, there are multiple databases containing information on individuals working in the medical field. If the Ripper were a doctor, chances are that his fingerprints would be documented in a database. With facial recognition software and surveillance just about everywhere, it makes it increasingly difficult for an individual to move about without a trace. It is my belief that if Jack the Ripper were an active serial killer today, he would, without a doubt, be caught. Technology and in death investigation and society is far too advanced for someone to get away with murder.
All theories aside, with the advancements of forensic technology, it can be said that it is highly unlikely the Ripper murders would be unsolved if the gruesome events took place today. Serial murders were not as common in the late 19th century as they are today. Scholars possess an array of knowledge regarding serial killers and the methods in which they operate. We know that the Ripper only operated over the course of a few months, in an incredibly specific area. Modern forensics would not allow an individual to thrive on a killing spree without the possibility of being caught.
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