There’s something about crime thrillers that has us all enthralled. Scrolling through the array of films, box sets, documentaries and podcasts that are put out for our entertainment across any number of streaming platforms these days, it is no wonder so many people consider themselves to be in possession of brilliant sleuthing skills.
Programmes such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation showcase the mind blowing forensic developments that police have at their disposal. From analysing materials at a nano level to incorporating artificial intelligence to analyse a crime scene, there is minimal opportunity for a criminal to get away with any crime these days.
What would the police have done differently when investigating the Jack the Ripper murders?
Nearly 150 years have passed now since brutal and grisly the murder of five women down dark alleyways of East London. And Jack the Ripper was never caught. There have been many suspect, such as Thomas Cutbush, Aaron Kosminski and even Prince Albert Victor, the grandson of Queen Victoria. Yet every suspicion ended up down a dead end due to lack of evidence.
It is important to bear in mind that the world was a different place 150 years ago, and policing methods were still relatively primitive. What would the police have done differently to catch their killer today?
The prevalence of surveillance cameras
In today’s London there are reportedly nearly 700,000 surveillance cameras catching 24 hour footage of the city’s inhabitants going about their business. In fact, the average Londoner is reported to be caught 300 times a day on CCTV.
Such a network did not exist in 1888 London. Any potential sightings of the Ripper were reliant on eye witness accounts, that could be notoriously unreliable at the best of times. Had the Ripper’s movements been tracked on the city’s CCTV network, it is highly possible that he would have been caught pretty much immediately after the first murder, saving the lives of the remaining four victims.
Each of the victims of Jack the Ripper suffered a brutal murder – and the very act of carrying out those brutal murders will have left a trail of evidence that can be picked up by modern forensic techniques. From the transference of various fluids, skin particles and blood splatters, to DNA matching sequences that can verify identities to a 99.9 per cent certainty, today’s Met police would have been able to gather and analyse evidence that would have narrowed down the number of suspects.
The use of media and social media
Nothing happens these days without it being recorded and put out on social media. Murder scenes become a place of pilgrimage, enticing ersatz reporters and podcasters to carry out their own style of reporting and investigating as part of 21st century entertainment. While frowned upon by the official police, and often carried out in ways which are deemed insensitive to the victims’ families, such interest is not illegal, and at times can also be extremely helpful in terms of unearthing information that the police may not have the time or resources to cover.
In general, the media fascination with such brutal incidents as the Jack the Ripper murders has never waned. Were they to happen again in 2023 London, the intense pressure placed on the Met police to solve the murders and find the perpetrator would ensure that every single clue was followed up until the suspect was caught and charged with indisputable evidence held against him.