Retired detectives try to solve 123-year-old cold case of Jack the Ripper

An interesting recent article in the LA Times looks at the long-unsolved mystery of who was “Jack the Ripper.” The murder and mutilation of five women in London by an unknown assailant occurred during a two-month period 123 years ago. Now, armchair detectives and retired homicide detectives alike are trying to solve the crime on their own.

One retired homicide detective even appealed to that country’s Freedom of Information Act to have the original crime files by Scotland Yard released to him so that he could try his hand at finally solving the string of violent crimes. His request and appeal were denied because the Metropolitan Police Service argued that it still had a duty to protect its informants, even if they are long dead.

The police argued that revealing the identities of informants could put their descendants at risk from the descendants of the people they implicated in the crime.

In 1888, five women who worked as prostitutes were found dead in the red-light district of London’s East End, called the Whitechapel district. The perpetrator slit the women’s throats to kill them and also eviscerated some of them.

The homicide detective who wanted to see the original documents has formed his own theory on the crimes, which he wrote about in a book. He believes that the crimes could have been committed by a German sailor who would have been docked at the time near the Whitechapel district. He later slit the throat of his landlady after moving to New York and was executed in the electric chair for the crime. Similar crimes to the ones in London also occurred in Germany at a later time.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “The cold, cold case of Jack the Ripper,” Henry Chu, Sept. 20, 2011