Jack the Ripper may be revealed through DNA tests

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HE left clues as well as bodies but now it is hoped a breakthrough in DNA technology will lead to the true identity of Jack the Ripper being revealed, more than 100 years after he committed his crimes.

Professor Ian Findlay, a Scottish-born scientist, is attempting to build up a genetic "fingerprint" of the serial killer by taking samples of saliva on the back of envelopes sent to police at the time of the killings.

Once his DNA is known, it can be cross-referenced with the DNA of descendants from the prime suspects in the case.

Five brutal prostitute murders in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888 were originally linked to Jack the Ripper, although theories have emerged recently claiming that he went on to kill elsewhere.

Many of the letters police received signed "Jack the Ripper" are believed to be hoaxes but some, including several which had mutilated body parts enclosed, are thought to be genuine.

Professor Findlay, chief scientist at the Gribbles molecular science forensic laboratory in Brisbane, Australia, said being involved in the Ripper case was "daunting".

The Glasgow University graduate said: "As a youngster growing up in Blantyre, I always wanted to be a police scientist and now I am working onone of the world's biggest murder mysteries.

"The Ripper case is absolutely huge and one mention of it in Australia landed me on the front pages of the newspapers here.

"If we found DNA on the stamps, we can compare that with DNA from the descendants of the suspects. There were supposedly hundreds of letters. Most were probably hoaxes, but at least a dozen are thought to be genuine, including one which came with a piece of kidney he took from one of his victims.

"Generally, there were thought to be 10 main suspects, from royalty to doctors and painters."

The attempt to establish the London murderer's true identity is the latest in a series of recent high-profile investigations which have fanned interest in the notorious killings.

Patricia Cornwell, the crime writer, spent GBP2m of her own money researching a book in which she claimed that the artist Walter Sickert was the killer. However, her theory has been heavily criticised by detectives and historians.

Professor Findlay began working on the case after developing a DNA identification technology called CellTrack ID which he claims can extract and compile a DNA fingerprint from a single cell or strand of hair up to 160 years old.

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