According to a report in the June 2021 issue of Whitechapel Society Journal, William Bury’s DNA profile has been obtained (1). Bury was executed in 1889, and prior to his burial, cervical vertebrae were removed from his body. The bones have apparently been in continuous storage at Dundee University since that time. Investigative journalist Michael Mulford, who has presented his argument that William Bury was Jack the Ripper to audiences around the UK, was able to have a piece of Bury’s bone tested by scientists at the United Nations Commission in The Hague, where the positive result was obtained. Mulford and his scientific associates have not yet published the details of Bury’s DNA profile, but hopefully they will do so at some point in the near future.
While this is certainly an interesting development, Bury’s DNA profile does not appear to have any immediate evidentiary value in the Jack the Ripper case. The possibilities that the remains of any of the Jack the Ripper victims could be exhumed, or that a DNA profile of their murderer could be retrieved from their remains, would both appear to be very remote, and significant doubt has been cast upon the value of the Catherine Eddowes “shawl” (2). Perhaps at some point in the future there will be some twist or turn in the case that will allow us to put Bury’s DNA profile to good use.
While it would obviously be great to include DNA evidence in the portfolio of evidence against Bury, it’s important to point out that we already possess “behavioral DNA,” or unique signature evidence, linking Bury to the Jack the Ripper murders (for the details of this evidence, see The Bury ID). Perhaps the greatest challenge within Ripperology today is educating Ripperologists about signature evidence—what it is, how it is used to link homicides to a common perpetrator, and its status within the legal systems of today. According to the well-regarded Scottish legal figures, Len Murray and Mark Stewart, there is already enough circumstantial evidence to convict William Bury of the Jack the Ripper murders. That we apparently now have a winnable court case against one of the Jack the Ripper suspects is a landmark development for Ripperology, and one that should be taken into account by those who are continuing to advocate for other suspects and other views of the case.
(1) Beadle, Bill. “Review of the April 2021 Meeting.” Whitechapel Society Journal 98 (2021): 24.
(2) Rossmo, D. Kim. “Commentary on: Louhelainen J, Miller D. Forensic investigation of a shawl linked to the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders.” Journal of Forensic Sciences 65.1 (2019): 330-3. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.14038.