|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 58, March 2005. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
In the summer and fall of 1888, an elusive and mysterious killer terrorized the city of London, killing prostitutes in the streets of Whitechapel, before finally disappearing into the shadowy fog of history. Since that time, the identity of ‘Jack the Ripper’ has remained a mystery and a subject of heated debate among students of the case. Evidence that may have once existed has disappeared over time, as memories became confused and files were ‘misplaced’. Thus, researchers inherited a complex jigsaw puzzle of fragments, random facts, quotes, and documents, often contradictory and difficult to interpret. The full ‘truth’ of the case is probably lost for all time, but perhaps enough fragmentary pieces remain for us to formulate a picture of the events as they occurred.
One of the most intriguing of these fragments is the assertion by Sir Robert Anderson, head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the London Metropolitan Police in 1888, that he knew the identity of Jack the Ripper. In an article published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1910, Anderson claimed that the police had in fact solved the case, but had declined to publicize the fact because, as he says, ‘no public benefit would result from such a course, and the traditions of my old department would suffer’. Anderson made similar assertions in other published sources, most notably in his book The Lighter Side of My Official Life, also published in 1910. While Anderson never named the suspect in question, he did give a general description of him: the perpetrator was, according to Anderson, a low-class Polish Jew who was ‘caged in an asylum’, and who was ‘at once identified’ by ‘the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer.’ Anderson also tells us that the killer was ‘a sexual maniac of a virulent type’ who lived ‘in the immediate vicinity of the scenes of the murders’ and ‘whose utterly unmentionable vices reduced him to a lower level than that of the brute’.
In 1959, the name of Anderson’s Polish Jew suspect was finally revealed to be ‘Kosminski’, after the discovery of a copy of an internal police memo written in 1894 by Anderson’s second in command, Sir Melville Macnaghten. The memo lists as a suspect: ‘Kosminski, a Polish Jew, who lived in the very heart of the district where the murders were committed. He had become insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, with strong homicidal tendencies.’
Further indication that Anderson’s suspect’s name was Kosminski was established with the discovery of handwritten notes written by ex-Superintendent Donald Sutherland Swanson in the margin and end-paper of his personal copy of Anderson’s memoirs. Fleshing out the details of the witness identification referred to by Anderson, Swanson writes: ‘the suspect had been identified at the Seaside Home where he had been sent by us with difficulty in order to subject him to identification, and he knew he was identified. On suspect’s return to his brother’s house in Whitechapel he was watched by police (City CID) by day and night. In a very short time the suspect with his hands tied behind his back, he was sent to Stepney Workhouse and then to Colney Hatch and died shortly afterwards - Kosminski was the suspect’.
The full name of the suspect remained a mystery however until quite recently, when Martin Fido’s exploration of asylum records led to the discovery of one Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish hairdresser who had been certified as a lunatic and admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum in 1891. The cause of his insanity is indicated as being a result of ‘self-abuse’, generally believed to be a colloquial way of saying masturbation. The asylum record’ reference to ‘self-abuse’ corresponds to Anderson’s reference to ‘utterly unmentionable vices’ and Macnaghten’s reference to the suspect’s ‘many years indulgence in solitary vices’.
Questions about the Kosminski Identification
There can be little doubt that Aaron Kosminski is the Polish Jew suspect referred to by Anderson, Macnaghten, and Swanson. However, some of the details in their statements are demonstrably incorrect. Perhaps the most glaring error is Swanson’s assertion that the suspect died shortly after being committed to Colney Hatch - in fact, Aaron Kosminski lived for another 28 years. But in general, their statements fit well with the known facts about Aaron Kosminski’s life. As Stewart P Evans writes, ‘These are confined to demonstrable errors, not assumptions, and are few. Indeed if they can be explained the recollections of Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson are remarkably accurate in relation to (Aaron) Kosminski, allowing for the effects of the passage of time on memory.’1 Paul Begg notes, moreover, ‘We’re also told, crucially in my opinion, that the Polish Jew indulged in utterly unmentionable vices, which corresponds with ‘self abuse’ mentioned by Macnaghten in relation to ‘Kosminski’ and masturbation attributed to Aaron Kosminski. In my opinion the identification is and always has been fairly solid because of this and that any idea that Anderson’s suspect was someone else has to first and foremost address this point.’2
Despite this, and Anderson’s ‘moral certainty’ notwithstanding, many students of the case have been dissatisfied with the notion that this Kosminski could have been Jack the Ripper. Aaron Kosminski has been dismissed by many Ripperologists as being an unwashed, drooling imbecile, who roamed the streets eating out of the gutter. Consequently, researchers have explored all sorts of ‘alternative’ Kosminski theories, involving, for example, other Kosminskis, alternative spellings such as Kaminsky, and the theory that the suspect was entered into a workhouse under a false name. The most common theory however, is simply that Anderson had become boastful in his old age, and that his ‘definitely ascertained fact’ was just plain wrong.
But what if Anderson was right? What if the most famous murder case in British history had indeed been solved by the police at the time? What if Jack the Ripper has been right under our nose, virtually ignored for years, because so many people were inclined to dismiss him?
This article proposes a re-examination of the suspect Aaron Kosminski. We will take a closer look at what is known about the Polish Jew hairdresser: his background of growing up in an environment characterized by poverty, oppression, and exposure to violence; his public display of masturbation; his diagnosis suggesting schizophrenia - that he hears voices which guide his every movement. We know, for example, that he threatened his sister with a knife. Melville Macnaghten claimed to have evidence that Kosminski hated women, and that he had homicidal tendencies. And there were other ‘circs’, according to Macnaghten, that made him a strong suspect - evidence that has apparently been lost. Aaron was the right age basically for a serial killer, and he was said to have ‘strongly resembled the individual seen by the City PC near Mitre Square’. He was identified by a witness. His presumed residence in 1888 was in the geographic center of the murders.
In the end, while we may never prove that Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper, perhaps a more thorough examination of the fragmentary evidence will lead us, as it did Anderson, to a moral certainty of his guilt.
Aaron Kosminski: basic chronology
The following basic chronology has been established from the admissions registers and files of Mile End Old Town Workhouse and Colney Hatch Asylum:
12 July 1890
Aaron Kosminski is admitted to the Mile End Old Town Workhouse Infirmary from no. 3 Sion Square. His brother (sic?) Woolf is recorded as certifying the entry. That Aaron was regarded as an ‘able bodied male’ is indicated by his diet code.
15 July 1890
Aaron is discharged into the care of an unnamed ‘brother’ whose address is recorded as no. 16 Greenfield Street.
4 February 1891
Aaron is returned to the Mile End Old Town Workhouse from no. 16 Greenfield Street. Who brought him in is not recorded (it may have been the police).
7 February 1891
Aaron is admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum. The Register states that Aaron’s nearest known relative is ‘Woolf Kosminski’ of no. 3 Sion Square. A Jacob Cohen gives some background information on Aaron: ‘he took up a knife and threatened the life of his sister’. (This incident may have been the ‘final straw’ which led to Aaron’s re-admission to the workhouse for a psychological assessment. In any case, we are left to ponder the motivation of this attack, although clearly Aaron felt some aggression or anger towards one or both of his sisters.)
13 April 1894
Aaron is transferred to Leavesden Asylum for Imbeciles, where he stayed until his death in 1919.
Kosminski Family: Emigration from Russia
Aaron Kosminski was born in Russia in 1864 or 1865. Records show that Aaron’s two sisters, Matilda and Betsy, and their families left Russia circa 1881, and then stayed briefly in Germany, before finally settling in London either later in 1881 or in 1882. This is established by the birth records of the children of Morris Lubnowski and his wife Matilda (Aaron’s sister): Joseph, the oldest child, was born in Poland in 1880; Bertha was born in Germany in 1881; Annie (b. 1884) and Jane (b. 1888) were both born in London. The children of Woolf Abrahams and Betsy (nee Kosminski, Aaron’s other sister) Abrahams were both born in London: Rebecca in 1882 and Matilda in 1890.
It is generally assumed that Aaron emigrated to London in the company of his sisters’ families, although there is no direct proof that this is the case. Scott Nelson notes: ‘Aaron’s 1882 entry into London is based on his burial record (and I believe it was also on his headstone.) This is likely in error because if he came to London with his sisters and their families, which is far from certain, it had to have been in 1881, like the Naturalization Record says (also we know the Morris Lubnowski was living at no. 10 Plummers Row in 1881). It seems to me more likely that Aaron entered London with the Lubnowski and the Abrahams families in late 1881’.3 Recent research by Chris Phillips has narrowed down the date of Aaron’s likely arrival to June 1881. This is based on the Naturalization records for Morris Lubnowski (1888) and Woolf Abrahams (1886), which both list them residing at addresses in London from June 1881 onwards.
Aaron’s mother was most likely the Golda Abrahams listed in the 1901 census living at 64 Wellesley Street with Morris and Matilda Lubnowski and their seven children (Figure 1). She is listed as Golda Abrahams, a widow, ‘wife’s mother’ (ie, Matilda’s mother). It seems likely that Golda did not emigrate with the family in 1881/82, and we may assume that she stayed behind in Russia for some reason. By 1894, it appears she was in London, as there is a ‘Mrs Kosminski’ referred to on Aaron’s committal papers to Leavesden Asylum. Recent research by Chris Phillips has revealed that Golda was at some point re-married to a man named Abraham Joseph Abrahams who died prior to 1901. Of course in saying ‘re-married’ I am assuming that Golda was at one point married to a man named Kosminski, ie, the father of Aaron, Betsy and Matilda. In fact, nothing is currently known about Aaron’s father, except that he did not apparently emigrate to London at the same time as Aaron and his sisters’ families. There is in fact no evidence that he ever came to London at all, and it is possible that Golda stayed behind in Russia or Germany to care for him if he was sick or injured. We must assume that Aaron’s father either died or left the family at some point. It is also important to note that there was an extremely high divorce rate among Jews in Poland/Russia in the 19th century, and he may have left the family much earlier than 1881.
To put the emigration of the Kosminski family in context, we must examine the history of Poland and the political and social situation of Jews in Russia at the end of the 19th century.
Poland and The Pale of Settlement
By the late 18th century, Poland had been in a state of economic and social decline for nearly a hundred years. In 1732, Russia, Prussia, and Austria entered into a secret pact known as ‘The Alliance of the Three Black Eagles’, the goal of which was to maintain the instability of an already weakened Poland. In 1772, the ‘Black Eagles’ began to annex parts of the country, until finally, in 1795, a third partition and final partition wiped Poland off the map. Russia took the largest geographic area, but also the least important economically.
In Russia, there had been a distrust and lack of tolerance for the Jews since the Middle Ages. The Russian peasants viewed the Jews as aliens, with a strange and mysterious culture. Thus, when several hundred thousand Polish Jews became absorbed into the Russian Empire, the government immediately recognized what it termed ‘the Jewish Problem.’ This problem, largely anti-Semitic in nature, remained unaddressed until 1835, when Tsar Nicholas I created the Pale of Settlement, a strictly defined geographic area in which the Jews were forced to live. The government then imposed severe legal restrictions on the Jews in this area.
The Pale of Settlement (Figure 2) was a region of poverty and hopelessness. ‘Within the Pale, Jews were banned from most rural areas and some cities4; they were prohibited from building synagogues near churches and using Hebrew in official documents; barred from agriculture, they earned a living as petty traders, middlemen, shopkeepers, peddlers, and artisans, often working with women and children’5. Although the Jews formed only one ninth of the total population in the provinces of the Pale of Settlement, their numbers steadily increased due to a high birth rate, until ‘the Pale became choked by a huge, pauperized mass of unskilled or semiskilled Jewish laborers, whose economic condition steadily worsened’6. ‘Often repeated,’ said historian Shlomo Lambroza, ‘the official view was that Jews were a parasitic element in the Russian Empire who lived off the hard earned wages of the narod [people].’7
In the 1860s, there was a brief period of improvement in conditions for the Jews in Russia. Some of the oppressive restrictions were relaxed, and a small number of Jews considered ‘useful’ were allowed to settle outside the Pale. The Jewish communities of St Petersburg, Moscow, and Odessa grew rapidly, and Jews started to participate in intellectual and cultural life. But even during this period, less than 5% of Russia’s Jewish population lived outside the Pale.
This brief period of improvement did not last long, however, and by the 1870s, anti-Semitism was again on the rise in Russia. The Polish Revolution of 1863 had intensified Russian anti-Semitism and Slavophile nationalism. In addition, the sudden appearance of Jewish merchants, doctors, and lawyers outside the Pale caused a sharp backlash. Jewish financiers and intellectuals became the symbols of agents of all that challenged traditional authority and values.
The Russian government at this time was becoming increasingly worried about the rising unrest amongst the peasantry, which was seen as a consequence of the Great Reforms - the coming of industry, capitalism, and the dissolution of old loyalties and controls. In large part, the government scapegoated and blamed the Jews for the unrest in the land. In a memorandum to the Tsar, General Ignatiev, later Minister of the Interior and a member of the anti-Semitic Holy League, wrote, ‘Every honest voice is silenced by the shouts of Jews and Poles who insist that one must listen only to the ‘intelligent’ class, and that Russian demands must be rejected as backward and unenlightened.’ Konstantin Pobedonistev, the Tsar’s chief advisor on Jewish affairs, proposed the following solution to the ‘Jewish Problem’: ‘One third must emigrate, one third convert, and one third must die’.
The Pogroms of 1881
The assassination of Tsar Alexander II by a group of revolutionaries in March 1881 (Figure 3) threw the government into chaos and directly preceded the first major outbreak of pogroms - violent attacks by the Russian peasantry on the Jewish population. Although the assassination had nothing to do with the Jews, Ignatiev believed a vast ‘Polish-Yiddish’ international conspiracy had been responsible for the murder of Alexander II, and there were rumors that Tsar Alexander III had issued a decree instructing the people to beat and plunder the Jews for having killed his father.
Beginning in Elizabetgrad in April 1881, a wave of ‘pogromy’ (the Russian word for ‘devastation’) was unleashed on the Russian Jews. In 1881 alone, there were more than 200 attacks on Jewish communities in the southwestern regions of the Pale. These were well organized attacks in which bands of hooligans were brought in by train, well primed with alcohol and anti-Semitic indoctrination. The mob would then throng into the Jewish parts of a town, break into houses and shops, loot and burn property, and beat, rape, and frequently kill the inhabitants. Approximately 40 Jews were killed, many times that number were wounded, and hundreds of women were raped.
An account of the Russian pogroms of 1902 is probably accurate in giving a sense of the violence that characterized the attacks of 1881:
Under every kind of outrage they died, mostly at the door of their homes. They were babes, butchered at the breasts of their mothers. They were old men beaten down in the presence of their sons. They were delicate women violated and murdered in the sight of their own children.8
Although local authorities knew of planned pogroms in advance, they seemed reluctant to intervene. The authorities condoned these attacks through their inaction and indifference, sometimes even showing sympathy for the pogromists.
The main explanation Ignatiev gave for the ‘uncharacteristic violence’ of the poorer classes in the Pogroms was exploitation by the Jews, who had taken over trade and manufacturing and also large amounts of land through rent or purchase. The Russian peasants who plundered and destroyed the Jews possessions ‘may have felt justified that... they were merely appropriating property which did not rightly belong to the Jews’.9 A commission established in 1882 to review the infamous restrictive May Laws concluded that the Jews had ‘innate views that nourished the hostility of their neighbors, especially among the lower classes’.
The official sentiment of this period is perhaps best expressed by Tsar Alexander III, who was moved by the age-old Christian revulsion of the Jews as the murderers of Christ: ‘In my heart I am very glad when they beat the Jews, even though this practice cannot be permitted’.
The pogroms in Russia generated a wave of Jewish migration that continued for decades. A veritable flood of penniless frightened Jewish refugees streamed across the German border in search of safety. An estimated 120,000 Ashkenazi Jews arrived in England between 1880 and 1914, and a total of almost 2 million Jews fled Russia between 1880 and 1910. During this time, many Jews emigrated via Hamburg and Brody, which served as safe temporary havens for refugees on their way to England and America and other western nations.
It is likely that the pogroms in 1881 directly preceded the Kosminskis’ decision to emigrate west.
Aaron Kosminski’s Early Years
The preceding outline of the background history gives a picture of the environment in which Aaron Kosminski lived until he was about 17 or 18 years of age. Poland’s annexation by Russia explains the apparently contradictory records which state that Aaron’s sister Betsy was born in Russia, and that Matilda’s son Joseph was born in Poland. As the Pale was contained in Russia, and the Kingdom of Poland technically did not exist, both statements would have been correct. Thus, it is almost certain that the Kosminskis lived in the Pale of Settlement.
As a boy, Aaron would have lived in a crowded and chaotic environment characterized by extreme poverty - most likely an urban ghetto. As living conditions in the Pale were extremely crowded, many families lived in one room, and we may assume that Aaron shared a bed with either his parents or his sisters when he was young. ‘Incest was common’ in environments like this, D Kim Rossmo writes, ‘even amongst children as young as ten’10. As both women and children were expected to work, it is likely that Aaron would have had some sort of menial employment. Perhaps, as Macnaghten later told the journalist George R Sims, ‘Kosminski’ had been at one time employed in a hospital, as a hairdresser or an orderly.
By the time Aaron was an adolescent, there was widespread anti-Semitism in Russia. Influential newspapers forgot their Jewish sympathies, and anti-Semitic literature appeared, containing both intellectual and obscene content. Anti-Semitism also began to gain a semblance of intellectual respectability as a result of the new ‘scientific’ anti-Semitism of western, mostly German, origin.
In 1878, when Aaron was 13 or 14 years old, the myth of the ‘Blood Libel,’ outlawed by Alexander I, was revived in Kutais in anti-Semitic newspapers like Novoye Vremya. Based in part on the ritual murder of the child Simon of Trent and others, this myth held that the Jews participated in the ritual murder of Christian children, using their blood to appease the wrath of God. Specifically, the blood libel myth held that that ‘Jews had kidnapped a Christian child, tied him to a cross, stabbed his head to simulate Jesus’ crown of thorns, killed him, drained his body of blood and mixed the blood into Passover matzohs.’11 If a Christian child was found murdered near Easter or Passover, there was a good chance that local Jews would be blamed. Into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at least two dozen ritual murder trials took place in Central and Eastern Europe.
Figure 4 depicts the murder of Anderl von Rinn, a three-year-old Austrian boy who became the focus of a blood libel cult in the 17th century. The ‘martyr’ Anderl was alleged to have been murdered by two Jews, who are shown holding him down as they slit his throat. The text reads: ‘Sie schneiden dem Marterer, die Gurgl ab und nemen alles Blut von Ihm’ - which translates as ‘They cut throat of the martyr and take all blood from him.’
The murder of Simon of Trent is said to have occurred during Passover week in 1475, in Trent, Italy. The story goes that the child, who was not yet three years of age, was abducted from his home and taken to a house where he was brutally slaughtered by the twin brothers Saligman and Samuel, assisted by others named Tobias, Vitalis, Moses, Israel, and Mayr. While Moses strangled the child with a handkerchief, flesh was cut from his neck and the blood collected in a bowl. Pieces of flesh were also cut from his arms and legs, and his body was punctured with needles. Later his body was thrown into the river. Variations on this story were used to spread anti-Semitic propaganda during the Middle Ages.
Figure 5 depicts the murder of Simon of Trent and is especially interesting in that it shows a long gash being cut in the boy’s lower abdominal area. In an interesting parallel to the mature modus operandi of Jack the Ripper, the murder of Simon of Trent and blood libel mythology in general was said to include strangulation, throat slitting, and as shown, a knife attack to the abdomen. Is it possible that Aaron later re-enacted his memories of the blood libel by killing Spitalfields prostitutes in a similar fashion?
The Psychological Profile of a Sexual Killer
In the United States, John Douglas and Robert Ressler were two of the leading developers of criminal profiling, especially as it relates to sexual homicide. Between 1979 and 1983, the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) undertook a study in which they interviewed 36 convicted sexual killers about their backgrounds, crimes, crime scenes, and victims. The data they collected laid the foundation for developing the theory and the methodology of criminal profiling.
In England, a leading expert on criminal profiling is David Canter, and his approach is different from the American model, relying primarily on an ever growing database for statistical analysis. Canter’s methodology uses the concept of geographic offender profiling, a technique developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by D Kim Rossmo that is now used by police in the United States and the United Kingdom. Geographic profiling techniques include: circle theory, distance to crime research, demographical analysis, environmental psychology, landscape analysis, point pattern analysis, crime site residual analysis, and psychological criminal profiling.
Many have argued that profiling is not an effective tool for apprehending criminals, and indeed this is often true: profiling has been shown in many cases to be inaccurate and fallible, especially as it relates to the apprehension of criminal offenders. That being said, however, it is generally acknowledged that sexually motivated killers share many common characteristics, and often share similar backgrounds. Thus, we can examine Aaron Kosminski’s background and characteristics to see if he fits the general profile of a sexually motivated killer.
Instability of Residence
Data show that the majority of interviewed sexual killers grew up without a stable residence. Half reported ‘occasional instability’, while another 17% reported ‘chronic instability or frequent moving’. Only one-third reported growing up in one location. ‘The histories of frequent moving... reduced the child’s opportunities to develop positive, stable relationships outside the family’.12
In the impoverished, crowded and competitive atmosphere of the Pale, it is not likely that the Kosminskis would have had a stable and consistent residence. Later, the family emigrated west and may have resided for a brief time in Germany, before finally settling in London around 1881 or soon thereafter. Once in London, the family may have lived temporarily at the residence of some relative or acquaintance in Whitechapel, before finally settling at Sion Square and Greenfield Street.
Furthermore, it is likely that Aaron lived at both of these addresses at different times. In July 1890, Aaron was admitted to Mile End Old Town Workhouse from 3 Sion Square, which was presumably his residence at the time. Less than a year later, in February 1891, he was admitted to the same workhouse from 16 Greenfield Street. This seems to suggest that Aaron either changed addresses, or that his sisters shared the responsibility of taking care of him. After Aaron’s attacks of insanity began around 1885, he was probably difficult to live with, and he may have been shuffled back and forth between the two addresses. On the other hand, it is fair to guess that Aaron lived at 3 Sion Square in autumn 1888, as this was his residence when he was admitted to Mile End Old Town Workhouse less than a year after the series of murders ended.
In summary, it is clear that Aaron’s adolescence and young adult life was characterized by instability of residence.
Absence of a Biological Father
In 17 of 34 cases in the FBI study, the offenders interviewed reported that the biological father left home before they reached the age of 12. ‘The absence was due to a variety of reasons, such as death or incarceration, but most often the reason given was separation or divorce’.13
Given the departure of the father, it is not surprising that the dominant parent during childhood and adolescence is the mother (this is 21 out of 34 cases). ‘The psychological and social disengagement’ resulting from an absent father figure perhaps enhanced a sense of ‘negative human attachment or the disregarding of potentially positive ones that might have been expected’.14
Almost nothing is known about Aaron Kosminski’s father. It is known that Aaron’s mother Golda had at some point re-married a man who died prior to 1901. Also, it is almost certain that Aaron’s parents did not emigrate to London with the extended family unit circa 1881. Although we may only speculate, it is probable that Aaron’s father was absent from the family unit prior to 1881, either due to divorce, death, or abandonment.
Divorce rates in 19th Century Russia were extraordinarily high, especially prior to 1850. The average age at which women first married was around 20; in divorce records, the majority of women were less than 30 years old. The high divorce rate combined with low life expectancy led to frequent re-marrying. In Golda’s case it is clear she re-married at least once, but she may have re-married multiple times. By the time she gave birth to Matilda, her first known child, Golda would have been about 37 years old. When she gave birth to Aaron, she was around age 46. In light of this, and the possibility that Golda may have been married and divorced prior to giving birth to Matilda, Betsy, and Aaron, it is perhaps relevant to consider the reference to Aaron’s so-called ‘brother’ Woolf in the Mile End workhouse records.
Aaron is not known to have had a brother named Woolf, and it has generally been assumed that this is actually a reference to Aaron’s brother-in-law Woolf Abrahams, who lived at 3 Sion Square. However, there was in fact a Woolf Kosminski listed in the 1901 Census living at 24 Batty Gardens. He is listed a tailor born in Russia, and evidence has suggested that he arrived in London some time between 1890 and 1894. However, there is no known link between Aaron Kosminski and Woolf Kosminski, and as Woolf was born in 1844, he would have been 21 years older than Aaron. This means that he was born when Golda would have been 25 years old. It is possible that Woolf was a much older brother or half brother of Aaron’s. It is interesting to note that both Woolf Kosminski and Golda Abrahams first appear in London in the 1901 census. It is also interesting to note that Matilda and Morris Lubnowski had a child who they named Wolf in 1891, and that this may have coincided with Woolf Kosminski’s arrival in London.
In the FBI study 20 out of 34 interviewed offenders had no older brothers, and 17 had no older sisters. One offender reported feeling jealous of his sister as a kid. Others reported a change in ‘sibling order’ as a result of reconstituted families, with new stepbrothers and sisters.
After emigrating to London, it is possible that Aaron regarded his older sisters as sort of substitute mother figures, ie, people who would take care of him. As Jacob Cohen reported in 1891, Aaron had not worked for years, so we must assume that the sisters’ families supported Aaron financially. We may also guess that Aaron may have resented his brothers-in-law assuming father figure roles in the reconstituted family structure. Thus, it seems likely that Aaron may have perceived a family situation dominated by females.
Perceived Unfair Treatment by Adults in Formative Years
It has been noted by Ressler et al that an ineffective and hateful social environment leads to developing cognitive distortions, and negative attitudes that later become the justification for violent acts towards others. ‘Many of the murderers felt they were not dealt with fairly by adults throughout their formative years’.15
One killer said, ‘I wanted the whole world to kick off when I was 9 or 10.’ The same killer stated, ‘I’ve got an older sister that beat up on me a lot.... I had the instinct to feel like I’m getting a rotten deal.’16
Aaron Kosminski was raised in a crowded ghetto environment characterized by harsh and officially endorsed anti-Semitism, where Jews were generally despised and mistrusted, and regarded as ‘a parasitic element’. The government tended to blame the Jews for the problems in Russia, including the pogroms themselves. In addition, the authorities were, in general, disinterested in protecting the Jews from these attacks. Thus, it is not a stretch to imagine that Aaron may have begun to develop a general resentment of society and especially authority figures as a result of this, making him think that the social system was generally weak and ineffectual in stopping crime and violence. Thus, his perception of unfair treatment by adults may have been the justification for his later acts of violence.
Witnessing Sexual Activity/ Violence
Ressler et al noted, ‘The individual development characteristics of the thirty-six murderers showed the presence of sexual problems and violent experiences in childhood, and a dominant sexual fantasy life.’17 Many of the murderers interviewed had witnessed sexual violence or ‘disturbing’ sex as a child or adolescent.
In his final interview, Ted Bundy spoke of the effect of pornography in creating a fantasy realm which led to his becoming a serial killer: ‘The most damaging kind of pornography - and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience - is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces - as I know only too well - brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.’ In another interview, Bundy said: ‘this interest, for some unknown reason, becomes geared toward matters of a sexual nature that involves violence. I cannot emphasize enough the gradual development of this. It is not short term...’18
In the pogroms of 1881, hundreds of women were raped and assaulted. It is difficult to imagine the social climate that must have existed that would lead to this sort of mass, sexual debasement and aggression towards one ethnic group. Indeed, the pogroms seem to have been characterized by a toxic mixture of many different types of aggressive and assaultive behavior, including violent attacks, arson, looting, rape, murder, and destruction of property.
It is not overstating the case to imagine that witnessing acts such as these would have had a potentially devastating effect on Aaron, who was then only 16 years old, especially combined as this was with the onset of puberty, and an overall environment of harsh anti-Semitism and poverty. We must also consider the possibility that Aaron’s sisters or mother may have been raped, or other family members beaten up. His sisters Betsy and Matilda would have been young women in their 20’s at this time. It is also possible that Aaron himself was assaulted during this time. Often in the case of sexual murderers, there is an identification with the aggressor, and these memories later fuel the development of an isolated fantasy realm. Thus we can speculate that Aaron may have begun to develop a subconscious identification with the aggressors in the pogroms, in a fantasy life that was fueled by the sexual violence he witnessed at that time.
Over 80% of sexual killers interviewed in the FBI study reported ‘compulsive masturbation’ in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Of these, 19 offenders also reported ‘sexually stressful situations’ including ‘negative parental reaction to masturbation’. It is generally inferred from Aaron’s hospital file that the supposed cause of his attack of insanity was an uncontrollable public display of masturbation.
In speaking of the role of aggression in the development of sexual fantasies, Ressler et al notes the following example:
One offender as an adolescent openly masturbated in his home, especially in front of his sisters, using their underwear in his masturbation rituals. This behavior represented the hyper arousal state derived from his memory of his childhood victimization by an adult. He describes the punitive response from his mother to masturbatory behavior, and his rejection by family members. Even upon recall, his pain and hurt at their ridicule was clear.19
It is also noted that the subject was apparently ‘oblivious to the inappropriate nature of his acts’.
This particular case may be especially relevant in formulating an understanding of Aaron Kosminski. Especially important to note is that these acts were perceived to be derived from a memory of victimization by an adult. Also important is that he was rejected and ridiculed by family members.
Another case from the FBI study notes:
One offender’s early childhood fantasies indicated a fixation on his internal organs. At age 5 (a critical age for gender identification), he described the following event. He was sleeping between his mother and his aunt, when the aunt had a severe hemorrhage, losing blood in the bed... where she miscarried. We can speculate on how the experience of sleeping with two adult females could stimulate feelings of intimacy and closeness, which were then disrupted by a puzzling and violent scene. The visualization of the blood and the miscarriage seems to have triggered a morbid curiosity about female sexual organs... When he reaches adulthood, rage and aggression is noted where there is a link to sexual frustration. He describes impulsively picking up a large kitchen knife in his girlfriend’s apartment just after she had been ‘sexually teasing’, thinking of stabbing her... This type of penetration fantasy is noted in his offences, in which he mutilates his victims by disembowelment.20
This extraordinary case suggests remarkable parallels both with Jack the Ripper and possibly also with Aaron Kosminski. It is reminiscent of Aaron’s threatening to attack his sister with a knife.
Consider the following conjectural scenario: Aaron shares a bed with one or both of his sisters when he is living in the Pale, and begins to develop sexual fantasies involving his sisters. He witnesses his sisters’ menstrual bleeding - for example when Betsy would have been 12 years old in 1869, and Aaron was only four or five - and as a result of this becomes obsessed with the female sexual organs, imagining blood or violence to be associated with sexuality. When he is about 16 he witnesses violence, murders, and rape during the pogroms in 1881, possibly including the rape of members of his family. From then on, he begins to develop angry thoughts and confused sexually violent fantasies involving his older sisters, imagining himself in the role of aggressor. The root motivation for such anger and aggression may have also involved the sisters’ ridicule of his compulsive masturbation, which in his mind signified their rejection of his sexual fantasies. Out of this confused miasma of sexual frustration and rejection, Aaron enacts his violent fantasies involving his sisters towards women in general.
Data from the Ressler’s BSU interviews indicates that only 20% of offenders reported ‘steady employment’; the vast majority (69%) reported ‘unsteady employment’, and the remainder (11%) reported ‘unemployment’.21
In his statement to Dr Houchin, Jacob Cohen noted that Aaron had ‘not attempted any kind of work for years’. It is not clear how many years Cohen meant: this could be interpreted as meaning two or three years, or more. However, the implication of the statement is that Aaron had worked at some time. He is listed in the asylum record as a hairdresser, so we are led to believe that Aaron worked sporadically at least, but that he had not attempted any work for some time.
It is probable that Aaron suffered from schizophrenia. His medical certificate declares that ‘he is guided and his movements altogether controlled by an instinct that informs his mind’. In other words he experienced aural hallucinations. An entry in Aaron’s later case file at Leavesden Asylum (2 February 1916) recorded that ‘He has hallucinations of sight and hearing and is at times very obstinate.’
Notably, Aaron also believed that he was ‘ill, and his cure consists in refusing food’. ‘He refuses food because he is told to do so, and eats out of the gutter for the same reason.’ This fragment of evidence has been taken out of context and used by Ripperologists to characterize Aaron Kosminski as an imbecile, and as a pathetic and harmless creature. Interestingly however, this behavior is in some ways reminiscent of the bizarre case of Richard Chase, the famous American serial killer, who believed in 1976 that he had soap-dish poisoning, the result of which was that ‘his blood was turning to powder and that he thus needed blood from other creatures to replenish it.’ He believed that if your soap was ‘gooey, you have the poisoning, which turns your blood to powder.’ This became, in Chase’s mind, a justification or rationale for his killings. He also seemed to believe that people were poisoning his food.
Both of these symptoms, aural hallucinations and distorted perceptions are symptoms of schizophrenia. Numerous serial killers have been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics, eg, David Berkowitz, who claimed to be receiving instructions from a neighbor’s dog. Likewise, Ted Bundy spoke of a ‘presence’, a voice that told him to attack certain people. In Bundy’s case the voice seems to have been a sort of ‘inner dialogue’, and he is generally not believed to have been schizophrenic; but in any case, Bundy’s inner voices would be described as auditory hallucinations, much like Aaron had.
Another interesting parallel can be found in the case study of a man referred to in Ressler et al as ‘Warren’. After his incarceration for ‘assault with intent to commit murder’, Warren underwent a series of psychological evaluations. He was found to be ‘uncooperative, withdrawn, irritable, resentful and hostile,’ and although he had a tested IQ of 115, he was described as ‘withdrawn, and pre-occupied, and at times he seemed to be listening to some inner voice (as though he were experiencing auditory hallucinations, which he denied’.22 Compare this with Aaron’s later psychiatric evaluation: ‘Incoherent, at times excited and violent,’... ‘apathetic as a rule’. Aaron was not considered to be violent or suicidal while at Colney Hatch asylum, but as far as I know, there has been no study as to how killers will behave after being ‘caged’.
According to its definition, ‘Schizophrenic disorders generally begin in the late teenage years or early adulthood and tend to occur in withdrawn, reclusive individuals. Symptoms include disturbances of thought, both in form and content (see delusion), and disturbances of perception, most commonly appearing as visual or aural hallucinations.’23 According to the medical documentation, Aaron’s schizophrenia apparently began in his early twenties.
As Erin Seigler has pointed out on the Casebook: Jack the Ripper message boards:
Not every schizophrenic talks to himself and foams at the mouth. Some appear quite normal and manage to function well in society. The thing to remember about paranoid schizophrenics ... is that their IQs are typically above average and they become quite adept over the years at hiding their delusional system from others.24
The words of Ted Bundy, a schizophrenic, bear this out:
I wasn’t a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, ‘I know there’s something wrong with him.’ I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one, small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself.25
As Natalie Severn wrote on the Casebook boards that if Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper, ‘the first murders would have been committed most probably during some psychotic reaction’... and the murder of Mary Kelly would have precipitated [a complete mental] breakdown’. She added that in her opinion, in such cases, schizophrenics would be reduced to
...mere shadows of their former selves, shuffling about, pale and thin, eyes sunken and haunted looking. Above all there was no return to their former selves apparently possible because the onslaught of the psychosis had devastated them so completely. When they describe poor Aaron like this - eating out of gutters and having outside powers... running his life for him, it suggests to me that his illness had reached that point of no return.26
Paul Begg notes that the idea that Aaron Kosminski was an unwashed, drooling imbecile in 1888 is a very common misconception. This description of Aaron Kosminski comes from 1892 and later and it need not describe him in 1888. Psychiatrists have said that ‘sanity’ is maintained by killing and the killing is sometimes motivated by external influences (hence the sometimes long gaps between murders). If the murderer is prevented from killing for some reason, or if the motivation to do so is removed, then they can mentally and physically degenerate at a dramatic speed. Aaron Kosminski in 1888 needn’t have been anything like he was in 1892 or after.27
Thus, it should be remembered that Aaron’s later mental and physical condition as noted in the medical record, is not necessarily indicative of what he was like in 1888.
An Alternate Interpretation of the Goulston Street Graffito
After the Eddowes murder, the following graffito was found written in chalk in a doorway on Goulston Street, just above a bloodied piece of Eddowes’ apron:
The Juwes are
The men That
The intended meaning of this sentence was the subject of much debate at the time of the murders. Sir Charles Warren admitted that the message was difficult to interpret, and speculated that its author was a foreigner. ‘The idiom does not appear to be English, French, or German,’ he wrote, ‘but it might possibly be that of an Irishman speaking a foreign language. It seems to be the idiom of Spain or Italy.’ In other words, Warren believed that the phrasing indicated the graffito was not written by a native English speaker. The favored interpretation at Scotland Yard, by Abberline and others, was that the graffito was a deliberate attempt by a non-Jew to cast blame on the Jews for the murder: in other words to say, ‘The Jews never accept blame for anything’.
My initial instinct, however, is to interpret the graffito in quite the opposite fashion: eg ‘(You) will not blame the Jews for anything’. This interpretation is perhaps typical of the way a serial killer’s mind works - both issuing an order, and at the same time asserting an almost God-like sense of control over one’s surroundings. It is, in a sense, reminiscent of the notation on Aaron’s medical certificate at Colney Hatch, stating that he claims that ‘he knows the movements of all mankind’.
But let us try to decipher the sentence itself. The double negative form was in common slang usage during this period, and thus the phrase should probably be interpreted as a single negative. For example: ‘The Juwes are The men That Will not be Blamed for anything.’
The real confusion in the sentence however, is the use of the word ‘will’, which has a variety of meanings in the English language. For example, ‘will’ may be used to describe a characteristic of something, as in ‘this car will do 100MPH’. Read as such, the graffito would mean something like ‘The Jews are never blamed for anything’. On the other hand, ‘will’ may also be used in command form, as in ‘you will speak to no one about this!’ Read as such, the graffito is an imperative command: ‘You had better not blame the Jews for anything!’
Also, it is unclear what is meant by the word ‘nothing’, although this likely refers to the crime series itself (assuming the murderer actually wrote the graffito). On the other hand, it may be interpreted to mean ‘anything’, as in ‘The Jews never accept blame for anything,’ or, alternatively, ‘Don’t blame the Jews for anything’.
Despite the ambiguity of this sentence, we may nevertheless begin to formulate an interpretation of the Goulston Street graffito that is based upon Aaron’s earlier experiences in Poland. Anti-Semitism was on the rise in London at the time of the Whitechapel murders, although it was not nearly as extreme as the Russian anti-Semitism of Aaron’s youth. The rise in anti-Semitism in London was in large part a result of the murder series itself. It was widely known that the police were looking for a Jewish suspect, and the much-publicized apprehension of John Pizer just added more fuel to the fire. The police were clearly worried about the possibility of riots and violence against the Jews.
In justifying his decision to erase the graffiti before it could be photographed, Sir Charles Warren wrote: ‘taking into consideration the excited state of the population in London at the time, the strong feeling which had been excited against the Jews... I considered it desirable to obliterate the writing at once... If that writing had been left, there would have been an onslaught upon the Jews, property would have been wrecked, and lives would probably have been lost.’ This statement gives an indication that the police were well aware of the animosity towards the Jewish population, which was in a large part a direct result of the murders.
If the author of the graffito was a Jew who had recently emigrated from Russia, he may have been reminded of the period that directly preceded the outbreak of pogroms in 1881. It is important to consider that the subject of the graffito is ‘blaming’ the Jews. In Russia, the Jews were routinely and unjustly blamed for all sorts of problems. They were wrongly scapegoated for the assassination of the Tsar, and then they were later blamed for instigating the pogroms themselves by their ‘innate views that nourished the hostility of their neighbors’. The general sentiment in Russia was that the Jews deserved whatever happened to them, including violence, rape, and even murder. The Russian Jews were constantly reminded that the violence of the pogroms came about as a direct result of their own collective ‘guilt’.
It is also important to note that Aaron was in fact literate, as it is noted in his record that he could both read and write. Later, during his incarceration at Leavesden Asylum, he was said to be reduced to a shell of his former self, often speaking only in German. It is possible however, that Aaron in fact was speaking Yiddish, which is closely related to and easily confused with German.
It is the perception of unjust treatment that may have first given rise to negative, violent feelings Aaron felt towards society in general. He may have perceived that the Jews were wrongly persecuted and scapegoated, and in his mind he associated the violence of the pogroms with this scapegoating and blaming of his people. Now once again, the Jews were being unjustly scapegoated, this time for the murders. Understood in this context, the meaning of the Goulston Street Graffito may be interpreted as: ‘You will not blame the Jews for these murders!’ It is almost a desperate, defiant plea, borne out of fear that the pogrom-type attacks would re-occur in London.
In the end, it is impossible to infer the precise, intended ‘meaning’ of the Goulston Street graffito. But perhaps, the most important thing to contemplate is that the graffito speaks of the Jews being blamed, and that Aaron had experienced the widespread ‘blaming’ of the Jews in anti-Semitic Russian propaganda. Even if the meaning was indeed to cast blame on the Jews, to say ‘The Jews never accept blame for their ways’, it may be possible that the Aaron had internalized a feeling of self-worthlessness as a result of the anti-Semitic propaganda that was rife in Russia in the 1870s and 1880s. As noted earlier, serial killers often fantasize about the violent acts that they witnessed as children, later identifying with the role of aggressor. Thus the murders could be seen as re-enactments of the attacks witnessed during the pogroms, their motivation as being derived from a sense of self-worthlessness, and a general hatred for all mankind, including his own people.
Geographic Profiling: The Circle Theory
Now we shall look at the suspect Aaron Kosminski from the angle of one component of geographic profiling, as employed by Canter: the circle theory. This theory, which developed from environmental psychology, holds that if all the crime scenes of an offender were placed within a circle, the offender would be found to be living within that circle, possibly close to the center. This theory was subsequently validated by a study of serial rapes and murder.
Thus, we might start by drawing the smallest circle which contains the five most probable victims in the Whitechapel murders: Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, and Kelly. (See Figure 6.) Using this simple method, the center of the circle is only about one-eighth mile from the Abrahams’ residence at Sion Square.
Note that I have also included Martha Tabram in the diagrams, as she was quite possibly a victim of Jack the Ripper, although she is not considered to be one of the canonical victims. Also, for the sake of argument I will assume Aaron’s residence during the murders to be 3 Sion Square, although in all fairness, it could be have been either 3 Sion Square or 16 Greenfield Street. Either way, it does not make much difference, because the two addresses are close to each other.
As noted by D Kim Rossmo, a serial offender’s residence would simply lie at the center of a distribution of crime sites, if given ideal conditions. In reality, geographic profiling is more complex than this, and crime scenes are often found to be distributed in complex spatial patterns. Contributing to the difficulties in this method are the psychological and physical boundaries that, among other impedance factors, conspire to distort an already complex analytical investigation. It should be noted, for example, that all the Whitechapel murders, with the exception of the murder of Elizabeth Stride at Berner Street, occurred north of Whitechapel High Street / Whitechapel Road /Aldgate High Street. It is possible that this major thoroughfare was a sort of psychological boundary in the mind of the Ripper, although the relatively small number of crime scenes makes this speculation mathematically less significant.
Canter describes two models of offender behavior known as the ‘marauder’ and ‘commuter’ models, which are variations on basic circle theory. The marauder model assumes that an offender will ‘strike out’ from his home base in the commission of his crimes, whereas the commuter model assumes that an offender will travel some distance from his home base before engaging in criminal activity. (See Figure 7.)
As Canter writes, crime occurs at a ‘spatial and time intersection between both the offender and the victim’. In the case of Jack the Ripper, a sexual predator who targeted prostitutes, this means he had to go where the prostitutes were: in other words, he had to go to Spitalfields proper.
By contrast, the Jewish areas south of Whitechapel Road were comparatively quiet and respectable. In speaking of the largely Jewish neighborhoods, Phillip Sugden says ‘the streets they overran became, by and large, quiet, law-abiding, and clean,’ but that ‘notwithstanding these changes, crime and prostitution lingered amidst the poverty and squalor, especially in parts of Spitalfields.’
In ‘Whitechapel’, an article published in The Palace Journal in 1889, Arthur G Morrison describes walking around in the vicinity of Mansell, Great Ailie and Leman Streets, ie, the Jewish residential neighborhoods south of Whitechapel High Street:
The houses are old, large, of the very shabbiest-genteel aspect, and with a great appearance of being snobbishly ashamed of the odd trades to which many of their rooms are devoted... Jewish names - Isaacs, Levy, Israel, Jacobs, Rubinsky, Moses, Aaron - wherever names appear, and frequent inscriptions in the homologous letters of Hebrew.28
In the same article, Morrison mentions ‘White’s Row, or Dorset Street, with its hideous associations’, and goes on to speak of ‘dark, silent, uneasy shadows passing and crossing - human vermin in this reeking sink’, when describing Fashion Street, Flower and Dean Street, Thrawl Street, and Wentworth Street. Clearly, Spitalfields was the center of the high crime area, the area with the highest incidence of prostitutes, and we may assume, as the police did in 1888, that this was the Ripper’s primary hunting ground.
By comparison, PC Smith noted when speaking of Berner Street: ‘very few prostitutes were to be seen there’. With the exception of Stride, all the murder sites are north of the Whitechapel Road. This seems to suggest that the Ripper’s preferred hunting area did not generally include the more respectable areas in the vicinity south of the axis of Whitechapel High Street - Whitechapel Road - Aldgate High Street, including Sion Square and vicinity. We can guess that the Ripper would not have gone searching for victims in the ‘comparatively respectable’ Jewish areas south of this main thoroughfare because this area was closer to his residence. He would most likely have preferred to prowl in Spitalfields.
In certain cases, crimes will be more opportunistic in nature – this concept is addressed in ‘Routine Activity Theory’, which was developed by Larry Cohen and Marcus Felson in 1979. If an opportunity arises when the killer feels comfortable enough to kill with minimum risk, we may find murder sites outside of a killer’s normal activity space, and evidence which suggests the murder was committed with little or no planning. Stride’s murder may be just such a case, and this fact could explain the anomalies in that particular murder, such as the comparatively early hour of the event. If Aaron was indeed the killer, then he was only about one quarter-mile away from his residence, in a somewhat respectable area, inhabited mostly by Poles and Germans.
Now let us examine the map again, assuming that Aaron was the killer, and that his residence was 3 Sion Square. (See Figure 8.)
It is interesting to note that three of the murder sites are almost exactly equidistant from Sion Square - Buck’s Row (Polly Nichols), Hanbury Street (Annie Chapman), and Dorset Street (Mary Kelly) - and that Mitre Square (Kate Eddowes) is only about 1/4 mile further out. Also note that the Berner Street site (Liz Stride) and the George Yard site (Martha Tabram) are almost equidistant from the center of the circle.
It has been suggested that it is likely the Ripper committed early attacks on women that preceded the canonical murders in the series. With this in mind, it is interesting to look at the murder of Martha Tabram. The Tabram murder site at George Yard and the Stride murder site at Dutfield’s Yard are quite nearly equidistant from Sion Square, and thus represent the twp sites closest to Aaron’s presumed address in 1888. (See Figure 8.) This is significant with respect to Tabram, as the FBI report postulated that ‘the first attack in a serial homicide was likely to occur closest to the offender’s home’. This theory has never been proved empirically. However, D Kim Rossmo has shown that in 50% of serial murder cases, the first murder occurs within a mile of the offender’s home. It should be noted that this result might more accurately reflect modern criminal profiling, as many modern serial killers travel by car. In any case we may theorize that Aaron Kosminski started out with a murder closer to his home, and only later began traveling farther away from Sion Square.
According to the testimony of Ellen Holland, Polly Nichols was last seen walking east along Whitechapel High Street at the intersection of Osborn Street. Given Kosminski’s probable residence at that time, this might be thought of as ‘walking into the lion’s den’, so to speak. One might imagine Kosminski met Nichols near Sion Square on Whitechapel High Street, and then accompanied her to Buck’s Row.
Likely Getaway Routes
Next we shall consider the probable getaway routes from Buck’s Row and from Mitre Square, as indicated on the map. The piece of apron found in Goulston Street indicates the most likely getaway route from the Eddowes murder, and has been generally interpreted as an indication of the direction to the killer’s residence. Likewise, it has been suggested that the Buck’s Row getaway route was to the south, and that the Woods Buildings alley is ‘a very likely escape route through which Jack the Ripper fled after murdering Mary Ann Nichols a few yards away in Buck’s Row’.29 As shown on the map, both of these proposed routes lead towards the center of the circle - Sion Square. The route from Mitre Square avoids the busy intersection of Aldgate High Street and Houndsditch; the escape from Buck’s Row crosses Whitechapel Road where one can become lost in the dark, maze-like streets around London Hospital and New Road. (See Figure 9.)
I would like to add that although the maps and techniques I have used above are not scientific, in a general way, by looking at the maps, many incidental circumstantial bits of evidence ‘make sense’ using the model of Jack the Ripper residing at 3 Sion Square.
It is perhaps relevant to refer to Stephen Ryder’s recent discovery of a letter to Robert Anderson concerning a woman who said: ‘she has or thinks she has a knowledge of the author of the Whitechapel murders. The author is supposed to be nearly related to her, and she is in great fear lest any suspicions should attach to her and place her and her family in peril.’ As Ryder points out: ‘As this is the only letter within his entire surviving correspondence [of Anderson’s] having anything to do whatsoever with the Whitechapel murders, one might assume that this item held particular significance for Mr Anderson’.30 We now know that Anderson claimed to have solved the Ripper case, and that his suspect was the Polish Jewish hairdresser, later identified by Swanson as ‘Kosminski’. Is it possible, then, that Anderson saved this letter because it was the initial tip that led to the Ripper’s capture? The female mentioned could have been one of Aaron’s sisters. It should also be noted that earlier Anderson had stated that ‘his people knew of his guilt, and refused to give him up to justice’ - this referring probably to the results of the October 1888 house-to-house search. One can imagine the sorts of domestic quarrels that might have ensued over this topic among the Lubnowski and the Abrahams families if they did indeed suspect (or even know) that Aaron was the Ripper. However, it is only fair to point out that Ryder believed the woman in the letter was not a relative of Kosminski but of Montague Druitt. At this time, the woman’s identity and that of the suspect mentioned in the letter remains a mystery.
The Lubnowski Family Moves and Changes Its Name
After he was identified by a witness at the Convalescent Police Seaside Home in Hove, Aaron was released into the care of his ‘brother’, and afterwards ‘was watched by police (City CID) by day and night’. When Aaron was re-admitted to the Mile End workhouse on 4 February 1891, his residence was listed as 16 Greenfield Street, so we can assume the police surveillance was conducted on Aaron while he was living at this address. By the time of the April 1891 census, the Lubnowskis had moved from this address to 63 New Street, New Road. Thus, it seems that the Lubnowskis moved from Greenfield Street soon after Aaron was re-admitted to the Workhouse. This would seem a natural thing to do, considering that the police were watching their house. In addition, the public hysteria and anti-Semitism surrounding the Whitechapel murders would justify the fear that their family might be ostracized or worse. This idea dovetails well with the female informant’s statement that ‘suspicions should attach to her, and place her and her family in peril.’
On the other hand, what if the Lubnowskis had moved not after, but shortly before Aaron’s re-admission to the workhouse - ie, while the house was under surveillance. This may account for Sims statement of ‘a Polish Jew of curious habits and strange disposition who was the sole occupant of certain premises in Whitechapel after night-fall.’
It is also interesting and perhaps relevant to note that the Lubnowskis apparently changed their name at this time, as they are listed in the 1891 census as ‘L Cohen’. By the 1901 census, their name is again listed as Lubnowski. Later, they changed their last name to ‘Lubnowski-Cohen’. Did the Lubnowski family move and change its name because of a desire to become disassociated with Aaron and the public scrutiny attached with such a prominent suspect in the case?
It is difficult for a rational person to comprehend the motivations for sexually motivated murder. Indeed, if we were to attempt to find a rational motivation for the Whitechapel murders, we would almost certainly be barking up the wrong tree. Instead, the underlying motivations for serial murder lie in a swamp-like maze of desires, fear, confusion, and sometimes insanity. It has been proposed that a characteristic of serial killers is an underdeveloped super-ego, which is defined by Freud as ‘the faculty that seeks to police what it deems unacceptable desires’ - in other words, the part of the brain which represents the ‘rules’ of the external society, and which keeps ‘normal’ people from acting out violent and sexual desires unchecked. In some cases, if a serial killer was raised in environment rife with violence, he ‘learns’ that violent behavior is acceptable. This may have been the case for Aaron Kosminski, who witnessed broad societal acceptance and approval of the violence perpetrated on a vast scale against the Jews in Russia.
On a conscious level, Aaron may have felt the desire to get back at society for the injustices that were committed against his community when he was an adolescent and teenager. On a more subconscious level, he may have identified with the people who assaulted, raped, and murdered Jews during the pogroms. Later, he may have played out these attacks over and over in his mind, in a sort of fantasy, with himself in the role of aggressor. Also, the Goulston Street graffito can be interpreted as some sort of reference, subconscious or otherwise, to the scapegoating of the Jews, which directly preceded the outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in Aaron’s early teenage years.
As there is very likely a sexual nature to the attacks, we can assume that the killer had a deep hatred for women. We may speculate that the seed for this hatred was planted when Aaron witnessed rapes or sexual assaults during the pogroms of 1881. Various other explanations are possible, however, including the possibility of sexual desire felt toward his older sisters, the absence of a father figure, or a domineering mother. We do know that Aaron threatened to attack one of his sisters with a knife. We must also remember that Macnaghten said there ‘were many circs (circumstances) connected’ with Kosminski that ‘made him a strong suspect,’ and also that ‘he had a great hatred of women, with strong homicidal tendencies.’ There is no reason to suspect that Macnaghten was lying when he said this, but as there is no further documentation to support these statements, we must assume that some of the police files on Kosminski have been lost. Ultimately, we are left in the dark as to the root cause of Kosminski’s supposed misogyny.
The blood libel myth was revived amidst an environment of increasing racism, social unrest and chaos, and one may contemplate the effect that it would have had on Aaron Kosminski, especially as he was just experiencing the onset of sexual desires associated with puberty. It is possible that the Aaron’s memories of blood libel mythology later become intermingled with visions of the attacks he witnessed in the pogroms, giving birth to an isolated fantasy life dominated by an obsession with violence. These subconscious memories were then realized in the Ripper’s mature modus operandi and signature. It is also possible that Aaron was conscious of repeating the methods referred to in blood libel mythology - throat slitting, strangulation, and piercing the torso (evisceration) - and that he was conscious of the ritual nature of his attacks, a Jew avenging his people by attacking Christian women of the ‘unfortunate’ class.
In brief, many aspects of Aaron Kosminski’s background and psychoses seem to fit the profile of a sexual murderer, and of Jack the Ripper specifically. In 1988, the hundredth anniversary of the crimes, John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood presented the first criminal profile of Jack the Ripper on the television documentary The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper. They said that the Ripper was probably: a mentally disturbed white male from a lower social class; in his mid- to late 20s; raised by a dominant female figure who consorted with different men (Golda was married at least twice); employed in a menial job and had poor personal hygiene and appeared disheveled; had no surgical expertise; lived in the locale of the murders; and did not commit suicide after the murders stopped. This all fits Aaron closely. Other aspects of the FBI profile of Jack the Ripper cannot be confirmed based on the facts known about Aaron Kosminski - for example that the Ripper was a quiet loner who hated and feared women, who was abused as a child, possibly sexually, who drank in pubs prior to the murders, and who set fires and abused animals as a child. But there is nothing in the FBI profile of Jack the Ripper that contradicts Aaron’s known profile, or that rules him out as a suspect.
Finally, we must not forget that ‘Kosminski’ was identified by a witness. According to Sir Robert Anderson, the suspect was ‘unhesitantly’ identified by ‘the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer.’ Interestingly, he also notes that the suspect ‘knew he was identified’. The identity of this witness is still a subject of much heated debate amongst Ripperologists. It is clear that the witness was a ‘fellow Jew’, as this is the reason, according to both Anderson and Swanson, that he refused to give evidence in court. In my opinion, the witness was probably Joseph Lawende, the Jewish commercial traveler who witnessed a man and a women talking at the entrance to Church Passage in Duke Street just prior to the murder of Catherine Eddowes. The other most likely candidate is Israel Schwartz, who witnessed a man attacking Liz Stride in Berner Street, just before she was murdered some 10 feet away in Dutfield’s Yard. The only other possible Jewish witness is Joseph Levy, who was with Lawende and also witnessed the same couple standing at Church Passage; but Levy claimed to have not got a good look at the man, and said ‘I passed on, taking no further notice of them’. In the final analysis, the identity of the witness is perhaps not relevant for the purpose of this article. The simple fact is that the suspect ‘Kosminski’ was identified by someone described as ‘the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer.’
It is of course impossible to reach conclusions about many of the theories I have put forward in this article. Possibly further research will uncover facts about Aaron Kosminski’s past that support his candidacy as a suspect in the case. In my opinion, the most profitable line of research at this point would be try to locate specific documentation related to Aaron’s childhood: what happened to his father, information about his mother and other members of the family, and where specifically the Kosminskis were living in Russia. For example, if it was discovered that Aaron’s father was killed during the pogroms, or that members of the Kosminski family were attacked, concrete information of this type would be a major breakthrough, and would go a long way to supporting the theory that Aaron Kosminski is indeed the suspect most likely to have been Jack the Ripper.
The author gives special thanks to Paul Begg, Chris George, D Kim Rossmo, Stephen P Ryder, Chris Phillips, Scott Nelson, Robert Charles Linford, and Chris Scott.
1 Evans, Stewart P. ‘Kosminski and the Seaside Home’ at casebook.org/dissertations/dst-koz.html
2 Begg, Paul. Private email correspondence.
3 Casebook Message Board, ‘Reconsidering Aaron Kosminski’ at casebook.org/forum/messages/4922/11394.html
‘Beyond the Pale: The History of Jews in Russia’, www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/index.html
4 Ritter, Leonora. ‘Nineteenth Century Russia.’ Charles Sturt University-Mitchell. (1998)
5 Kniesmeyer J, and D Brecher. Beyond the Pale: The History of Jews in Russia’ On-line Exhibit. (1995). www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/guide-cond.html
7 Klier, John D, and Shlomo Lambroza, eds. Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1992.
8 Rev WC Stiles, ‘Account of Pogroms of 1902.’ At www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSpogroms.htm
9 Aronson, Michael. ‘The Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Russia in 1881.’ In: Klier and Lambroza, 44-61
10 Rossmo, D Kim. Geographic Profiling. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 1999.
11 ‘The Blood Libel.’ At pnews.org/bio/blood.shtml
12 Ressler, Robert, Ann W Burgess, and John Douglas. Sexual Homicide, Patterns and Motives. New York: The Free Press, 1988, 20.
14 Ibid., 21.
15 Ibid., 23.
17 Ibid., 24.
18 Bundy, Ted, interview with James C Dobson, January 24, 1989. At pureintimacy.org/gr/intimacy/understanding/a0000082.cfm
19 Ressler et al, 36.
20 Ibid., 40–41.
21 Ibid., 31.
22 Ibid., 84.
23 Infoplease, encyclopedia entry on ‘Schizophrenia.’ At www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0843952.html
24 Seigler, Erin. casebook.org message boards.
25 Bundy, Ted, interview with James C Dobson, op cit.
26 Severn, Natalie. On: casebook.org message boards, ‘Reconsidering Aaron Kosminski.’ At casebook.org/forum/messages/4922/11394.html
27 Begg, Paul. Private email correspondence.
28 Morrison, Arthur G. ‘Whitechapel.’ The Palace Journal, 24 April 1889. At www.casebook.org/victorian_london/whitechapel3.html
29 ‘The Modern East End,’ by Johnno casebook.org/victorian_london/jpphotos.html
30 Ryder, Stephen P. ‘Emily and the Bibliophile: A Possible Source for Macnaghten’s Private Information.’ At casebook.org/dissertations/dst-emily.html
Kent, Joshua David. ‘Using Functional Distance Measures When Calibrating Journey-to-Crime Distance Decay Algorithms.’ BS thesis, Louisiana State University, 2003. etd02.lnx390.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-1103103-095701/unrestricted/THESIS.pdf
London, Jack. People of the Abyss, 1903 at sunsite.berkeley.edu/London/Writings/PeopleOfTheAbyss/
Nelson, Scott. ‘Kosminski’s Relatives’, at www.casebook.org/dissertations/dst-kosrelatives.html
Petherick, Wayne. ‘Criminal Profiling’, www.crimelibrary.com/criminology/criminalprofiling2/
Sugden, Philip. The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. New York: Carrol and Graf, 2002.
‘The Pale of Settlement and the Pogroms of 1881 in Russia.’ The Zionist Exposition: Homeward Bound. (1997): n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Jan. 1999. At www.factsofisrael.com/blog/archives/000418-print.html
|Dissertations: Aaron Kosminski Reconsidered|
|Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - Aaron Kosminski|
|Dissertations: Aaron Kosminski Reconsidered|
|Dissertations: The Kozminski File|