Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Crime writer tries to identify Jack the Ripper
Mon Oct 28, 5:05 PM ET

LONDON - Using new evidence, best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has come up with her own theory about the identity of Jack the Ripper, the pseudonymous murderer who killed at least seven women in London's East End in 1888, all of them prostitutes.

Relying on forensic science such as DNA testing and an image-enhancement computer, Cornwell will argue in a new book that Jack the Ripper could have been Walter Sickert, a painter and printmaker who was the most important of Britain's impressionists.

Vanity Fair, which plans to publish an excerpt from Cornwell's book, "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper — Case Closed," in its December issue, issued a statement Monday about what they will contain.

An examination of DNA samples from letters, envelopes and stamps reportedly sent by Jack the Ripper, Sickert, his first wife and others helped Cornwell produce a "cautious indicator" that Sickert may have been the vicious killer, Vanity Fair said in a statement.

The real proof may never be available because Sickert was cremated, leaving no evidence of his DNA behind.

The author also worked with Paul Ferrara, director of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, who used a forensic image-enhancement computer to compare watermarks on stationary that Jack the Ripper and Sickert apparently had used, Vanity Fair said.

In addition, Cornwell studied the life of Sickert and his art work, searching for signs of the kind of morbidity, violence and hatred of women that someone like Jack the Ripper would have possessed.

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