Has profiling discovered the real face of Jack the Ripper?

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The Independent Online

Modern technology has provided the first image of the face of Britain's most elusive killer. An e-fit of Jack the Ripper has been compiled as part of an investigation, by one of Scotland Yard's most respected former detectives, into the serial killer who terrorised London in the autumn of 1888.

In a further development a geographical profiler has also pinpointed the street in which the killer is most likely to have lived.

Investigators believe the culprit, who mutilated his five female victims after strangling them, was almost certainly interviewed by police but was discounted because he looked too "ordinary" and unlike the man that detectives suspected was responsible for the savage attacks.

Behavioural profilers have concluded that he was socially skilled, with superficial charm and an ability to blend into the crowd.

Homicide investigators also believe the Ripper probably killed himself or was jailed for an unrelated offence, shortly after he had murdered the last of five women prostitutes.

The historic reinvestigation for channel Five's Jack the Ripper: The First Serial Killer, to be screened tomorrow night, is the latest development in a vast industry dedicated to solving Britain's greatest murder mystery.

As part of the new investigation John Grieve, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who headed the anti-terrorist branch and the force's homicide squad, compiled an image of the Ripper.

Using statements from 13 people who claimed to have seen the man they suspect was the killer Mr Grieve had an e-fit drawn up. Descriptions that were contradictory were ignored and the image is based on a number of similar witness statements. The man who is believed to resemble the notorious murderer is aged between 25 and 35 and is 5ft5in to 5ft 7in tall. He has a large black moustache, close cropped black hair, a pinched face and square jaw.

The murderer, who terrorised residents in the Whitechapel area of east London, was never identified in a police inquiry that was vilified and closed in failure after four years.

Mr Grieve believes that using modern investigative techniques the police would have caught the killer today. He also believes he has an explanation for what happened to the Ripper.

"He could have killed himself - that is what has happened in cases in the past. But I think it is much more likely that he came to notice for some other crime and went into the prison system, or possibly into a hospital. There was such a burst of activity you would expect the attacks to flare up at a later date."

Mr Grieve said if he was redoing the original investigation he would focus on house-to-house inquiries, using the new e-fit image, in the streets where the killer was thought to have lived.

The programme consulted Kim Rossmo, of the University of Texas, a pioneer of geographic profiling - a technique that uses previous crimes to calculate where a offender lives.

Based on the locations of the killings and sightings, Dr Rossmo concluded that the Ripper was a resident of the square mile area in which he killed. He is most likely to have lived in Flower and Dean Street - where police in 1888 had conducted out door-to-door inquiries. In the year before the murders each of the victims had lived within 100 yards of the street.

Laura Richards, a behavioural analyst who heads Scotland Yard's homicide prevention unit, and who has studied the behaviour of offenders including the Cromwell Road killer, Fred West, and the Soham murderer Ian Huntley, believes officers were looking for the wrong kind of person.

She said: "He's someone who's been overlooked by the virtue of the fact he's so ordinary and so mundane."

The programme also attempts to debunk several myths that have grown around the Ripper. There is no evidence he had any medical training, or that he was an "English gentleman" with a predilection for murder. He strangled his victims and then mutilated their dead bodies, probably for sexual gratification.

Prime suspects

* One strong suspect was George Chapman, a hairdresser fitting the description given by those who claimed they had seen the Ripper. He had a homicidal streak, was accused of poisoning three women and tried to kill his first wife with a knife. He was hanged for murder.

* The artist Walter Sickert is said to have confessed to a part in the killings as an accomplice before his death in 1942. The author Patricia Cornwell claimed he was the Ripper and that his failure to procreate turned him into a serial killer. She said one Ripper letter bore the unusual watermark found on Sickert's writing-paper. But Cornwell failed to find DNA on Ripper letters held by Scotland Yard.

* William Bur , an alcoholic who was hanged for the murder of his prostitute wife, lived in Mile End near the Ripper crime scenes. Bury slept with a knife under his pillow and had worked as a butcher. He strangled his wife Ellen, but chopped up the body in a style similar to the Ripper. Some believe he could have been the Ripper or a copycat. He tried to flee Britain after the last murder.

* The grandson of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence, was linked to the crimes in 1962. The claim was that syphillis had caused him to go insane and commit the murders. These accounts have been discredited, as Prince Albert was in Scotland at the time of two of the killings.

* The Jewish shoemaker John Pizer was the public's choice for fitting the Ripper's profile. The killer was believed to be a butcher or craftsman who had access to sharp blades and wore a leather apron. Pizer fitted the profile, including the fact that he was often seen wearing such an apron. He had convictions for stabbings and a known dislike for prostitutes.