Silent Witness star Emilia Fox on turning crime-solver for real to investigate serial killer Jack the Ripper

As Silent Witness’ tenacious forensic pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander, Emilia Fox is no stranger to dissecting dead bodies – albeit in a fictional drama! But now Emilia’s taking her self-confessed personal fascination with crime-solving to a whole new level by becoming a real-life criminal investigator for a BBC1 documentary, Jack the Ripper: The Case Reopened.

She joins Ripper expert Professor David Wilson to re-create the killer’s Whitechapel crime scenes and re-examine 130-year-old autopsies of his victims using modern technology to unmask his identity.

“I’m in no way an authority in being able to crime-solve for real!” laughs Emilia, 44. “This was a great opportunity to ask the experts how crimes like the Jack the Ripper case would be solved today.’

Here, in an exclusive interview, Emilia Fox tells TV Times what she found out about Britain’s most infamous serial killer in BBC1’s Jack the Ripper: The Case Reopened, which is on BBC1 tonight at 9pm…

What made you want to take part in this documentary?

Emilia Fox: “I’ve had an interest in the fictional side of crime-solving for 15 years on Silent Witness. But I only really knew about the legend of Jack the Ripper, so discovering all the details in the history was fascinating.”

You must have learnt a lot over the years playing Dr Nikki Alexander. Did it help with this?

EF: “No. While filming this, there were a lot of outtakes of me asking what things meant! Hopefully doing this means I can go back on Silent Witness with some actual knowledge!”

Silent Witness

Emilia Fox starring in Silent Witness

What did you discover from the original 1888 autopsy reports?

EF: “Interestingly, there were incredibly detailed postmortem notes on what happened to each of the women, as well as photographic documentation of the crime scene in the case of his last victim, Mary Jane Kelly, which informed us about Jack the Ripper’s psychology at the time of the killings.”

What else did you find out?

EF: “The modern geoprofiling of Jack the Ripper was fascinating because it showed just how well he knew Whitechapel and gave us clues as to who he was. We learnt that he had some kind of internl satnav. At the heart of the programme, for me, though, was finding out about the Ripper’s victims and what made them so vulnerable to a man who did such terrible things.”

You end by unmasking who the experts believe Jack the Ripper was. What was that moment like?

EF: “It was satisfying – I think we all enjoy solving mysteries! It also felt like it was absolutely the right conclusion to come to given all the evidence we’d examined during the course of the programme. He wasn’t some legendary, celebrity serial killer. He was a man who had mental-health issues, who did brutal things to vulnerable women. I find it comforting that today he’d have been caught by police very quickly.”

By Hannah Davies.