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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 53, May 2004. 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.
The Polish Jew Suspect - Jewish Witness Connection: Some Further Speculations
Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a 52-year-old Environmental Engineer from California. He has studied the Jack the Ripper case for 30 years.

Joseph Hyam Levy, a Jew, sponsored Martin Kosminski, a Jewish immigrant from Kalisz, Poland, on Kosminski’s 1877 British naturalization application.1 Levy, a London-born 47-year-old Spitalfields butcher, was one of a trio of witnesses on the night of the Catherine Eddowes murder. Along with two companions, Joseph Lawende and Harry Harris, Levy saw a man and a woman standing at Church Passage leading to Mitre Square minutes before the woman’s mutilated body was discovered. When shown Eddowes’ clothing, Lawende recognized the clothing as similar to that of what the woman was wearing when he saw her standing next to Church Passage.

‘Kosminski’ was named as a Jack the Ripper suspect by Metropolitan CID Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten in 1894, and by retired Chief Inspector Donald Swanson sometime after 1910. Swanson, in hand-written notes on former CID Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson’s memoirs, avowed that ‘Kosminski’ was Anderson’s Polish Jew suspect. Anderson stated that the suspect was confronted by ‘the only person who ever had a good view of the murderer [and that the witness] unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him.’ Anderson then remarked, ‘In saying he [the suspect] was a Polish Jew I am merely stating a definitely ascertained fact.’ Swanson also added a few details to Anderson’s account, including that Kosminski was returned to his ‘brother’s house’ after he was identified by a witness, then watched by the City Police before finally being sent to the Colney Hatch Asylum. It has been argued logically that Anderson was only saying that it was a definitely ascertained fact that his suspect was a Polish Jew, not necessarily Jack the Ripper. However, shortly after these views were published, Anderson, in response to criticism published in the Jewish Chronicle, made the less ambiguous statement, that: ‘When I stated that the murderer was a Jew, I was stating a simple matter of fact. It is not a matter of theory.’2 (Italics and brackets added.)

Research conducted years later into asylum and workhouse records indicated that a 23-year-old Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski, was the only ‘Kosminski’ who was admitted an asylum after the murders ceased. Moreover, Aaron was a resident of Whitechapel, where Swanson wrote that the City of London CID Police watched the Kosminski suspect at his brother’s house before being put in the asylum.

Polish Records Search

Martin Kosminski’s naturalization application recorded that he was the son of a furrier named Mark, and that Martin had come from the town of Kalisz. Martin had a younger brother, Samuel, who had likewise applied for British naturalization.3 In the 19th century Jewish Record Indices for Kalisz, Poland, there is a record of an 1841 marriage between a Markus Kozminski, and a widow, Sura Sztein.4 The Kalisz records also contain the births of their sons, Mosie(k)5 (1843), Jacob (1844) and Szmul (1855). It is plausible that Mosiek may have been anglicized to Martin, and that Martin’s brother, Szmul, was the Samuel who had immigrated with him to London. There is, however, a two-year discrepancy between the Polish birth records for Mosiek and Szmul and those recorded by the British naturalization records for Martin (b1845) and Samuel (b1857). But like many foreign names, dates were often confused or erroneously recorded when processing non-English-speaking immigrants. However, it is interesting that, unlike the British naturalization records, the later London census entries of Martin’s and Samuel’s ages actually support the Kalisz birth dates for Mosiek and Szmul.6 Therefore, it is highly likely that they were the same persons.

Follow-up searches for other Polish relatives of Martin indicate that there are only some 25 records of births, marriages and deaths for persons named ‘Kozminski’ or ‘Kozminska’ in the town of Kalisz from 1821 to 1857. Unfortunately, currently available Kalisz records for persons with the surname ‘Kozminski’ do not extend later than 1857, although many later records exist for Kozminski and slight variations of this surname in other towns in the Polish provinces of Poznan and Lodz. No one named ‘Aaron’ or any male first name resembling Aaron was evident to me when reviewing the birth records for 1864–1865. It should be noted, however, that numerous Polish records from this period are not yet indexed, incl-uding many from Kalisz.

In London

In 1872, Martin Kosminski, a furrier like his father, Mark Kosminski, married London-born Augusta Barnett in the Great Synagogue on Duke Street, across from the future location of the Imperial Club at nos. 16 and 17. Years later, it was from this Imperial Club, one street west of Houndsditch, that Joseph Levy and his two companions emerged to see the man and woman standing next to Church Passage leading to the murder scene at Mitre Square on 30 September 1888. Augusta was born in Houndsditch, Aldgate, and grew up in the Spitalfields Market area, very close to the butcher, Levy, who had lived at no. 1 Hutchinson Street at least as far back as the late 1860s.7 Augusta was the eldest daughter of Moritz and Jennetta Barnett. The Barnetts had immigrated to London from the Poznan Province of Poland prior to 1852, when Augusta was born. They lived in the Aldgate area until 1860–1862, after which they moved to Essex. Moritz later became a Superintendent of the Jews Cemetery Lodge in West Ham.8

The Suspect’s Brother

If Martin and Samuel Kosminski were, in fact, Mosiek and Szmul Kozminski, immigrants from Kalisz, Poland, was Jacob then another brother who might have immigrated to London with them? Interestingly, the 1891 census shows that living next door to Joseph Levy, at no. 2 Hutchinson Street, was Jacob Koski, a 48-year-old Russian-born tailor and his family.9 Many immigrants arriving in London from the Corridor region between Russia and Poland were self-identified as Russo-Poles. Jacob Koski and his wife, Rachel, had come to London prior to 1870, when their daughter Leah was born. In the 1871 London census, the Koskis were listed at no. 6 Ebenezer Square, Aldgate, which was situated between Gravel and Stoney Lanes. The Square was demolished after 1873 to make way for the construction of the Metropolitan Railway lines. Jacob and Rachel then moved to the adjoining Hutchinson Street add-ress sometime before the 1881 census (where their name is misspelled as ‘Kovki’) and Jacob and Rachel were listed as being born in Poland. It therefore seems likely that Joseph Levy knew the Koski family for many years.10

A search of the surname ‘Koski’ in the 1891 London census records indicates that, like the name ‘Kosminski,’11 Koski was very uncommon. In the 1871 census, Jacob is the only male ‘Koski’ listed in London. By the time of the 1881 census, there were five male heads of households surnamed ‘Koski.’ An additional four were listed in the 1891 census. Considering the rarity of this name in London at that time and the strong possibility that it was shortened from a longer Polish surname, I would ask if the ‘Jacob Koski’ living next to Levy was, in fact, Jacob Kosminski? If Jacob Koski was actually Jacob Kosminski, a brother of Martin and Samuel, he may have immigrated to London about the same time as Martin and Samuel. Indirect evidence suggests that Martin may have arrived in London as early as 1868.12

If the preceding interpretation is correct and Jacob Kosminski was living next door to Levy, was Jacob the suspect’s ‘brother’ described by Swanson in his annotated notes in Anderson's book? Furthermore, was Koski's house also the house described by Swanson as being the house to which the suspect was confined and watched by the City Police for a ‘very short time [?]’ The locations of nos. 1 and 2 Hutchinson Street were on the southeast corner of Middlesex Street, just within the jurisdictional boundary of the City of London borough. The locations of these premises may thus explain why it was the City Police who kept watch on the suspect and why he was sent by the Metropolitan Police ‘with difficulty’ to the Seaside Home, as Swanson described.

‘Woolf’ is a strong candidate for being the suspect Aaron Kosminski’s brother in light of the 1891 Mile End Workhouse and Colney Hatch Asylum records, where Woolf is mentioned as Aaron Kosminski’s ‘brother.’ Aaron Kosminski was first taken to the workhouse in July 1890 by his unnamed ‘brother.’ When Aaron was taken back to the Workhouse and to the asylum in February 1891, his nearest relation was recorded as ‘Woolf.’ It has been established that Aaron had two married sisters, one of whom was married to Woolf Abrahams, who resided at no. 3 Sion Square, from where Aaron was first brought to the Workhouse in July 1890. Aaron was released three days later into the care of his other ‘brother’ (or brother-in-law), who lived on Greenfield Street.

The London Death Registers also show that a master tailor, ‘Wolf Kosminski’ of 23 Baker Street, Stepney, died at the age of 86 in 1930.13 This Wolf is likely the same man, ‘Woolf,’ who resided at 26 Batty Gardens, St George’s-in-the-East, in the 1901 census. Woolf Kosminski is listed as a dyer, aged 54, who came to London from Russia or Poland sometime between late 1890 and 1894.14 Interestingly, the 1891 census also shows a ‘Wolf Kosusorumie’ or something close to that surname residing at no. 9 Batty Gardens. This particular ‘Wolf’ was married and born in Poland, but had no recorded wife or children, and he was sharing the premise with several other tailors, including a ‘Jacob Cohen,’ who was born in Poland and listed as married.15

Of the other possible candidates for Kosminski’s ‘brother,’ one is Daniel Kosminski, a hairdresser like Aaron. Daniel and his wife, Rosa, had come to London prior to 1881. In the 1881 census, Daniel and Rosa Kosminski were living on Bromehead Street in Stepney, before moving within the City of London borough at no. 102 Houndsditch from 1886 to 1890. Daniel and his family left these premises after 1890, when they appear in the 1891 census at Upper Baker Street, Marylebone, close to another hairdresser, George Kosminski, who lived on Strafford Street, and to Martin Kosminski, who lived at 48 Berners Street.16 The prior Houndsditch location is interesting because it was approximately halfway between Mitre Square and the Wentworth Model Dwellings at no. 108–119 on Goulston Street, where a piece of Eddowes’ apron was dropped by the killer. If the Ripper had fled east from Mitre Square in order to clean up or store the victim’s organs at his residence, he may have returned to the streets and continued walking east to deposit the apron, and thereby create a false trail by doubling back to his house.

A Lead Near Mitre Square

On 2 October, two days before the start of the Eddowes Inquest, The Times reported that a briefing had occurred on the previous day with the City Police, which included Inspector James McWilliam, Superintendent Alfred Foster, Inspector Edward Collard and the City Coroner, S F Langham. Also published for this first time was a description of a man seen in the company of the woman (Eddowes), which read: ‘The following is a description of a man seen in the company of a woman who is supposed to be the victim of the murderer in the City. The man was observed in a court in Duke-street, leading to Mitre-square, about 1:40am on Sunday. He is described as of shabby appearance, about 30 years of age and 5ft 9in in height, of fair complexion, having a small fair moustache, and wearing a red neckerchief and cap with a peak.’ How did this description come into police hands so quickly following the Eddowes killing and why was it revealed to the press only two days after she was killed?

Inspector Collard’s 4 October Inquest deposition stated, that following the murder, he ‘had a house to house enquiry in the vicinity of Mitre Square - but I failed to find anything excepting the witnesses to be produced named Lawrence (sic) and Levy’17 (Italics added.) It is clear that the house-to-house search conducted by Inspector Collard in the vicinity of Mitre Square quickly led to the discovery of the witnesses, Lawende and Levy. But which man did the police find first? Lawende lived more than one mile away, in Dalston, and Levy lived at the crossroads of Hutchinson and Middlesex Streets, well away from Mitre Square. It remains a mystery as to how the police were able to track the two men down so shortly (either on the day of the murder, or the following day), when there are no records of either Lawende or Levy having come forward their own.18 Perhaps the City Police encountered a relative or acquaintance of Levy’s on Mitre Street who had just been told by Levy that he had seen a suspicious man in the company of the woman who had been murdered the night before. The informant on Mitre Street may have told police that Levy had just told him of seeing a man with a woman, but not that the man was known to Levy or known to the other inhabitants on Mitre Street. The police would have subsequently interviewed Levy on Hutchinson Street, and Levy, in turn, would have sent them on to Lawende.

As Lawende testified at the Eddowes Inquest on 11 October, Levy made a strange remark to his companion, Harris, just before passing the man and woman at the entrance to Church passage. Levy said, ‘Look there, I don’t like going home by myself when I see those characters about.’19 In response to the coroner’s question, ‘Was there anything about them [the man and woman] or their movements that attracted your attention?’ Lawende answered, ‘No, except that Mr. Levy said the court ought to be watched, and I took particular notice of a man and woman talking there.’20 (Italics and bracketed information added.) This exchange is interesting because it suggests to me that Lawende would not have taken any notice of the man and woman talking had Levy not drawn Lawende’s attention to them in the first place. On 9 October The Evening News had this to say about Levy, four days before his scheduled inquest testimony, ‘Mr Joseph Levy is absolutely obstinate and refuses to give the slightest information and he leaves one to infer that he knows something, but that he is afraid to be called on the inquest.’ Levy’s refusal to give any information to the press was no doubt ordered by the police, who had likewise tried to censor Lawende’s description of the man before and during the inquest. The second part of the newspaper quote is more nebulous and may well reflect the fact that Levy did indeed know something very important, but that he wasn't giving information to the police.

Relations in Mitre Street and the Orange Market

The study of London census data, postal directories, birth, marriage and death records from the latter half of the nineteenth century for a small part of a district enables partial, but reasonable, reconstructions of family relationships, particularly if these families lived closely to one another. Levy had numerous relatives who lived in St James Place (the Orange Market), Bury, King, Duke, and Mitre Streets. Many of these relatives were fruit merchants who probably traded in the Orange Market and in the vicinity.21 The directories show that many orange sellers surnamed ‘Levy’ were living on Mitre Street and the vicinity, back to the 1830s. In fact, fruit merchants named Levy were listed on Mitre Street at nos. 3, 8, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24, and 29. Around the corner, in Duke’s Place (later renamed St James Place), almost all of the dozen premises were occupied by Levys, who were listed as orange merchants. By the 1880s, Levys still occupied nos. 2, 2 1/2, 4, and 7 St James Place. One of these Levys was Joseph Levy’s sister-in-law, Esther (née Green) who lived at no. 4 St. James Place. Esther was a draper and she and her family shared the premises with grocers until 1889, when she left. Another relation to Joseph Levy was an uncle, Samuel Levy, who traded as an orange merchant at nos. 17 and 23 Mitre Street in the late 1840s to early 1850s, before moving to no. 39 Middlesex Street, next to the butcher shop of Joseph’s father, Hyam Levy at no. 36. Two other possible uncles of Joseph Levy, Nathan and Moses Levy, worked as orange merchants at nos. 16, 17 (with Samuel) and at no. 23 Mitre Street, respectively, through the 1850s. By the 1870s and 1880s, several families surnamed Hyams, Lyons, and Lewis, all fruit merchants, were living on Mitre Street at nos. 17, 19, 21, 24, 25, 29, 30, and 34. These families were related to Joseph Levy’s wife, Amelia (nee Lewis). Amelia’s grandfather, Henry Lyons, father, Phillip Lewis and Amelia’s uncle, Isaac Lyons, were orange merchants who lived at nos. 21, 24, and 19 Mitre Street, respectively. Amelia’s mother, Nancy Lewis, is listed in the 1881 census as having resided at no. 17 with her sons, Henry, a jeweller, and Moss, a fruit merchant. Amelia’s brother, Moss Lewis, was still living at no. 17 in the 1891 census. Moss was married to Rachel Joseph, the daughter of another orange seller who lived in St James Place. Another of Amelia’s uncles, Henry Lyons (Amelia’s grandfather’s son), worked as an orange seller at no. 24 until 1889, when the premises were taken over by a Fanny Hyams, her son-in-law, John Abrahams and family, and two of Fanny’s sons, Barney and George. Two of Amelia’s aunts, Mary (who was married to Amelia’s uncle Nathan Lyons) and Amelia Lyons, also traded as orange merchants at nos. 30 and 34 Mitre Street in the 1880s–1890s. All of these houses stood on southwest side of Mitre Street, opposite the carriageway entrance to Mitre Square, where Eddowes’ body was discovered. The crux of these related families living on a short, narrow thoroughfare like Mitre Street and in the immediate vicinity seems very clear: both Joseph Levy and his wife, Amelia, were very familiar with the Mitre Street area.22

The Hyams Link

Fanny Hyam’s mother, Ann Levy, had been a fruit merchant and cigar-maker living for many years at no. 29 Mitre Street. Ann died in December 1867 at the age of 79, still a resident of no. 29 Mitre Street. The directories show her trading as an orange merchant at no. 29 Mitre Street as far back as 1840. Ann had at least three sons who had lived and worked as merchants on Mitre Street and in St James Place for many years, before moving on. Ann had taken over the orange selling business of her late husband, Samuel, which was listed in the directories in the 1820s and 1830s at no. 5 Duke’s Place (later renamed St James Place).

It has been suggested that Joseph Levy probably knew the name ‘Hyams’ because Fanny Hyams later occupied the home of Levy’s wife, Amelia’s father and grandfather at no. 24 Mitre Street.23 Fanny was recorded in the 1881 census at no. 29 Mitre Street and at no. 24 in the 1891 census. She was the mother of a lunatic, Hyam, who was first locked away in an asylum in January 1889 (possibly as a Jack the Ripper suspect). Hyams is listed in the 1881 census as residing with his mother, brothers, and sisters at no. 29 Mitre Street. Sometime after 1881, Hyam Hyams married a woman named Rachel and they lived at no. 36 New Street, Gravel Lane. By the time of the 1891 census, after Hyams was in the Colney Hatch Asylum, Rachel and their two children are listed in premises shared with other traders at no. 40 New Street, where Hyam is still listed as the family head. Interestingly, his occupation is listed as ‘cabinet maker,’ although Hyam’s occupational status is marked as ‘neither employer nor employed; it is possible that Hyam resided at this address in the autumn of 1888.’24 The location of nos. 36 and 40 New Street is interesting because it lies directly between the transition from Gravel Lane to Stoney Lane, the estimated route the Ripper took when he fled from Mitre Square towards Goulston Street.25 It is also interesting that in 1889, when Hyam Hyams was first locked in Colney Hatch Asylum, his mother, Fanny, her sons Barney and George, and married daughter, Jane, and her husband, John Abrahams, suddenly left no. 29 and moved to no. 24 Mitre Street, the home of Amelia Levy’s uncle, Henry Lyons, who is listed as the proprietor until 1890.

City Police Surveillance: Kosminski, Hyams, or someone else?

Was Kosminski, Hyam Hyams, or both, the suspect(s) watched by the City of London Police? Two retired City Detective Inspectors gave separate accounts of a man they put under surveillance shortly after the murders stopped.26 In the City Press of 7 January 1905, Inspector Robert Sager was interviewed about his career and remarked that a suspect he watched was: ‘…a man who, without a doubt, was the murderer. Identification being impossible, he could not be charged. He was, however, placed in a lunatic asylum…’ Years after Sager’s death, the journalist Jutin Atholl wrote in the Reynolds News on 15 September 1946 that Sager had further said that this man ‘worked in Butcher’s Row, Aldgate. We watched him carefully. There was no doubt that this man was insane, and after a time his friends thought it advisable to have him removed to a private asylum.’ (Italics added.)

Some of Sager’s observations about this man who had been under surveillance were corroborated by the second Detective Inspector, Henry Cox, in Thomson’s Weekly News of 1 December 1906. Without naming the suspect, Cox described his physical appearance, personal history, and general habits. Cox’s account is too lengthy to quote in full, but I found some of his following obser-vations significant, and these details are included with my comments below.

Cox said that after the murder of Mary Kelly, City Police suspicions ‘fell on a man living in the East End of London’ and that Cox and several other officers were on duty for three months watching this suspect. This seems to fit Hyams, who was taken to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary in the month following the murder of Kelly. Hyams was released on 11 January 1889, and was at liberty for three months, until 15 April 1889, when he was then sent to Colney Hatch Asylum.27 Kosminski was not put under observation until late 1890 or early 1891 and was watched for ‘a very short time’ according to Swanson. It is interesting that Macnaghten thought that Kosminski was apparently sent to an asylum about March 1889. Perhaps he had confused Kosminski with Hyams.

Another of Cox’s observations was that the suspect ‘occupied several shops in the East End.’ Hyams lived/worked at nos. 36 and 40 New Street, and also possibly at no. 4 Bell Court. Hyams was also apparently set to work at a hair-dresser’s premises at 217 Jubilee Street when he was picked up by the police in December 1888. Although Kosminski’s occupation is listed as a hairdresser, he was known not to have worked for years.

Cox said his suspect was ‘a misogynist who at one time or another had been wronged by a woman.’ His motive was ‘revenge on womankind.’ Hyams was married and his wife had suffered four miscarriages. He had delusions that she was unfaithful and that he was being persecuted. Kosminski may have been unmarried and had ‘a great hatred of women, specially of the prostitute class.’

Cox described his suspect as, ‘about 5 feet 6 inches in height with short, black, curly hair.’ Hyams had a medium build, was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, with brown hair and a brown moustache. Kosminski was of slight stature and had a light build. Both Sagar and Cox described the suspect as being ‘insane,’ Cox remarking that the suspect became insane ‘from time to time.’ Hyams’ asylum case notes list one of his symptoms as being ‘delirium tremens,’ a condition that he developed around 1880.28 In fact, Hyams suffered frequent epileptic fits, alternating between periods of civil, kind and industrious activities on one hand, and violent, crafty and dangerous mania, on the other.29 Similar symptoms were attributed to Kosminski by the asylum medical staff, although the cause was not due to the abuse of alcohol. Kosminski may have exhibited psychotic disorders as far back as 1884. His case notes describe alternating periods of quiet apathy and noisy excitement, although he was mostly melancholic and insipid.30

Cox’s suspect ‘had a habit of taking late walks abroad.’ Further descriptions of the suspect’s movements by Cox suggest that the suspect, at particular times, was very focused during these ‘walks.’ Cox recounted his suspect as walking to Leman Street late one night and stopping briefly in a shop that was known to harbour criminal activity.

Hyams was picked up by the Metropolitan Police in Leman Street on 29 December 1888 in a likely state of disorientation. After his release from the Whitechapel Infirm-ary, Hyams may have resumed prowling on Leman Street at nights.

The testimony of Jacob Cohen stated that Kosminski wandered about and was being ‘guided and his movements controlled by an instinct that forms in his mind.’31 Israel Schwartz, a witness involved in the murder of Elizabeth Stride, followed a ‘tipsy’ man walking south on Berner Street moments before the man attacked Stride. If this man was a paranoid schizophrenic, as Kosminski undoubtedly was, then his apparently drunken movements may have been early manifestations of dementia, a condition that would suddenly appear and then disappear as his schizophrenia progressed. If this same man later killed Eddowes, his demeanor appears to have entirely changed in that the man became quiet and composed.

Sager said that the suspect was sent to a private asylum, whereas Cox said that the suspect was ‘forced to spend a portion of his time in the asylum in Surrey.’ This fits neither Hyams nor Kosminski, although Hyams did spend time in the City of London Asylum at Stone. It is reported that Lady Anderson (Robert Anderson’s wife), once remarked that the Ripper was interned in an asylum near Stone.32

Cox also mentioned that there were Jews on the street where the suspect was watched. Many of these Jews could have been tailors and capmakers. Hyams and his family lived on New Street in the Spitalfields Market area at premises that were also shared with these sorts of traders, bootmakers, glaziers, and their families. Aaron Kosminski is not known to have worked during this time, but he lived in a predominantly Jewish area of Mile End/St George’s-in-the-East.

Cox asserted that the suspect was never arrested because no evidence could be found to connect the suspect with the crimes. One should recall that Sager had remarked that it was impossible to identify the suspect as Jack the Ripper. As such, the suspect could not be charged. It is not known if Kosminski was ever arrested for any offence. Hyams was apparently arrested on Leman Street, but only for suffering from one of his epileptic attacks. While at liberty between 30 August 1889 and 9 September 1889, Hyams stabbed his wife and was probably arrested and brought to the asylum at Stone under restraint.


It is significant that after so many years the butcher, Joseph Levy, in late 1891 or 1892, suddenly left what was undoubtedly a prosperous marketplace business at the corner of Hutchinson and Middlesex Streets. This departure occurred shortly after the time when we know that an eyewitness positively identified a suspect as being Jack the Ripper. Furthermore, the family of Jacob Koski, for whatever reason, disappears from the 1901 London census records.33

One of Aaron Kosminski’s married sisters had her family name changed to ‘Cohen’ at the time of the April 1891 census.34 Two months previously, ‘Jacob Cohen’ witnessed the incarceration of Aaron Kosminski in the Colney Hatch asylum.35 Was Jacob Koski actually part of a family agreement to change their name to ‘Cohen’ at the time when a relative had been locked away, possibly as a Jack the Ripper suspect?

Hyam Hyams had an elder brother, Morris, a carman, who was listed at no. 29 Mitre Street in the 1881 census. However, Morris was not listed with the Hyams family at no. 24 in the 1891 census (Morris was married in September 1881 and likely living elsewhere). Could it be that someone else in the Hyams’ household at no. 29 had informed one of Inspector Collard’s officers of Joseph Levy’s sighting? If there was later confusion in recalling the fate of the Polish Jew suspect, could Swanson have been referring to the house of Morris Hyams as the one watched by the City Police?


Scotland Yard named ‘Kosminski’ as a Ripper Suspect, a surname that only a dozen men had in all of London in the 1891 census. It seems likely that Joseph Levy, only one of a handful of witnesses who may have actually seen the Ripper, probably recognized the man he saw with Eddowes as someone named ‘Kosminski’ in view of Levy’s prior association with Martin Kosminski. What is even more remarkable is that this same Levy was apparently associated with the family of another lunatic, Hyam Hyams, who could have been the City Police’s chief suspect. In addition, when one considers that both Hyams and Kosminski went to Colney Hatch Asylum at approximately the same time (ie, Hyams for the second time in January 1890 and Kosminski in February 1891), then there exists a possible source of confusion between the City Police, who thought Hyams was the Ripper, and the Metropolitan Police, who thought the Ripper was Kosminski. Both men practiced ‘self-abuse’ and had to be taken to the asylum under restraint. Both were also described as homicidal; Hyams ‘a homicidal maniac,’ and Kosminski having ‘strong homicidal tendencies.’ The possibility remains that both Hyams and Kosminski may have been identified at different times by a single witness, Joseph Hyam Levy.


1 Paul Begg, Jack the Ripper: the Uncensored Facts. London: Robson Books, 1995, pp206–207.

2 Interview of Anderson by the Globe, 7 March 1910. Cited in Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000, p628.

3 Jack the Ripper, the Uncensored Facts, p207.

4 Jewish Records Indexing, Births, Marriages and Deaths for Poland. Many given names are spelled differently in the 19th Century Kingdom of Poland records.

5 First name variations of the anglicized equivalent of ‘Martin’, ‘Moses,’ or ‘Morris’ that I found include: Moseik, Moishe, Moisze, Moicsz.

6 Martin’s recorded age in the April 1891 census was 47, making his year of birth 1843, on 12 July 1891 (RG12/089/F.73/p38). This agrees with the Polish birth year of Mosiek. In the 1881 census, Samuel was age 25 and was living with Martin’s family. On 10 November, he would have been 26 (RG11/269/F.13/p19). This agrees with the Kalisz birth year for Szmul (1855.)

7 Kelly’s Post Office Directories, London, various editions, 1866–1899, City of London Directories, various editions, 1879–1894.

8 1881 British census return for the family of Moritz Barnett (RG11/1722/F.18/p36)

9 RG12/235/F.12/p17. Jacob Koski is not listed as a Naturalized British Subject.

10 RG10/412/F.17/p28 and RG11/369/F.19/p. 32.

11 In the 1881 London census there were only four adult males surnamed ‘Kos(z)minski’: Martin, Samuel, Phillip, and Daniel. By the time of the 1891 census, an additional eight were included: Maurice, Aaron, Abraham, Isaacs, George, Marks, Joseph, and Simon. I have been unable to locate ‘Woolf Kosminski’ in the 1891 census (but, see Woolf’s 1901 census listing in note 14.)

12 An advertisement in The Pelican, 6 May 1908 lists Martin’s London furrier business, at 50 Berners Street, Oxford Street W., as ‘established over 40 years.’ – Nick Connell, cited in Ripperana, no. 21, July 1997, p22.

13 Jack the Ripper: the Uncensored Facts, pp246–247.

14 RG13/284/F164/p26 Woolf Kosminski, head, M., 54, dyer, born Russia/Rus. subj.;
Leah, wife, 48, b. Russia;
Annie, dau., 22, tailoress, b. Russia;
Sarah, dau., 17, fur machinist, b. Russia;
Kate, dau., 15, tailoress, b. Russia;
Eleazer, son, 13, b. Russia;
Myer, son, 11, b. Russia;
Sophie, dau., 7, b. London St. George’s;
Rosie, dau., 5, b. London St. George’s;
Sam, son, 2, b. London St. George’s.

15 RG12/284/F165/p28. If this man is the same Woolf who lived at 26 Batty Gardens in the 1901 census, he may have left his wife and children behind in Poland until he could establish security in London, whereupon they rejoined him sometime in 1891.

16 RG11/0473/F90/p25; RG12/089/F73/p38.

17 The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, p202. This search is not to be confused with the district-wide house-to-house search conducted by the Metropolitan Police on 13–18 October 1888.

18 The Daily Telegraph, 1 October 1888 stated, ‘A club in Duke-street (the Imperial Club, at no. 16–17) was not closed until 2:00am but no member can add to the information.’

19 The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, p213. Was Levy planning on making a late night visit to relatives walking through Mitre Square?

20 The Daily News, 12 October 1888.

21 London Jews Database - First Half of Nineteenth Century, Indexes of the Jewish Chronicle Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1840–1867, 1880–1889, 1890–1895.

22 1891 census at Mitre Street and vicinity, Aldgate. RG12/241/F24 to F28/pp24–28.

23 Hyam Hyams: The Overlooked Lunatic by Mark King in Ripperana no. 21, July 1997, p18-20; and Hyam Hyams by Mark King in Ripperologist, no. 35, June 2001. Hyam Hyams was sent to Colney Hatch Asylum from April to August 1889 and returned there in January 1890, remaining until his death in 1913. Hyams is listed in the 1891 census for Colney Hatch, RG12/1058/F90/p20, line 17, by his initials, H H, married, 35, occupation: cigar-maker, status: lunatic.

24 RG12/235/F20/pp33–34.

25 London City Surveyor, Frederick Foster’s Inquest deposition described the route as, ‘…from Church Passage through Duke Street crossing Houndsditch through Gravel Lane, Stoney Lane crossing Petticoat Lane [Middlesex Street] and through to Goulstone (sic) Street.’ From The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, pp201–202. Some books about the Whitechapel Murders show the Ripper’s departure route from Mitre Square across Houndsditch directly to Stoney Lane. This is incorrect, as at the time of the Murders, Gravel Lane, not Stoney Lane, crossed Houndsditch.

26 The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion, pp637–644.

27 See note #23.

28 ‘delirium tremens’ – a psychic disorder involving anxiety, and visual and auditory hallucinations found in habitual and excessive users of alcoholic beverages. From Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 1985, E A Davis Company, 2nd ed.

29 General Discussion: Miscellaneous Whitechapel and Stepney Lunatic Registers + Colney Hatch. Information provided by Martin Fido. Also see note #23.

30 The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden, 1994, Carroll & Graf, pp. 402–404.

31 See note #30.

32 Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner, The Jack the Ripper A–Z, 1996, Headline, p162.

33 A ‘Jacob Koski’, aged 56, died in December 1900, City of London. It is not known if this is the same man who lived next to Levy.

34 RG12/300/F26/p4.

35 Cohen’s recorded address by asylum authorities in February 1891 was 51 Carter Lane, EC. The April census indicates that this premise was a hotel and pub (unnamed) with no ‘Cohen’ listed among employees or borders (RG12/239/F30/p39-40.)

Other Sources Consulted

Charles Goad

1887 Fire Insurance Map of London.

Old Ordnance Survey Map of Aldgate 1873–1894, London. Sheet 7.67.

The Godfrey Edition.

Civil Registration Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths for England and Wales.

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