A Man in a Pub
Here's a great idea. Let's invite a known and notorious alcoholic to be interviewed in a pub on a Saturday night. What could possibly go wrong?
You can't make this kind of thing up. In April 1999, a known and notorious alcoholic - someone who had, a few years earlier, been admitted to a hospital's alcohol treatment unit suffering from chronic alcohol abuse - WAS invited to a London pub on a Saturday night and then, after he'd had a few drinks, everyone wondered why he wasn't giving clear and lucid answers!
From listening to the way Barrett is slurring his words on the recording of his interview at the City Darts pub in Whitechapel on 10 April 1999 (available here), it seems pretty obvious that he'd had a few drinks before the commencement of the interview and was somewhat intoxicated. The standard of his answers, therefore, must have been lower than they would otherwise have been. I'm sure that, at the best of times, Mike Barrett wasn't the most articulate and coherent of men but it's really important to bear in mind that, during the previous day (and also on the morning of the Cloak & Dagger event), he had put forward arguments about the Diary that were, according to those who had spent time with him, per Adam Wood, 'lucid and structured' and that he had, at that time, been saying exactly the same thing about the Diary that he would go on to say in the pub during the evening of 10 April.
Now, according to Paul Daniel, then editor of Ripperologist, speaking of Mike Barrett:
'Throughout his interview with Keith Skinner he sidestepped with extreme craftiness, every question put to him, and in fact, did not give a satisfactory answer to any one of these questions'.
As I will demonstrate, this is such a gross misrepresentation of the truth as to almost suggest that Paul Daniel was listening to a different interview in a different dimension. It's certainly terribly unfair to Mike Barrett. He is dead and cannot defend himself so I am going to take up the mantle on his behalf and show that Mike answered almost every question that was asked of him and, in most cases, I would suggest, those answers were satisfactory in that they provided comprehensible and understandable answers to the questions he was asked. There were, perhaps, two or, at the most, three questions during the entire evening that he didn't answer for whatever reason but I'm going to suggest that there was no pattern of evasion and it's not clear that he was deliberately avoiding giving an answer to any question that was asked of him.
For anyone who has listened to the recording and is immediately sceptical, let me point out that, at the outset, Keith Skinner said: 'I have three obvious questions. How did you do it? Why did you do it? When did you do it?' Mike answered each and every one of those questions. In answer to the first question, he said he dictated a pre-written text from his computer to his wife who wrote the text in a 'ledger' obtained from Outhwaite & Litherland using Diamine ink obtained from Bluecoat Art Shop, with pens and nibs obtained from an art shop in Bold Street. ANSWERED! To the second question, he gave a very simple answer: money. ANSWERED! To the third, he said he did it in March 1992. ANSWERED! All three questions answered. Perhaps people didn't like the answers or weren't convinced by them, but he did answer those three key questions.
Furthermore, three different but important questions asked of Mike during the evening by Keith Skinner were, I regret to say, asked on a false basis and were thus hugely unfair to him. Questions asked by members of the audience were, on the whole, a waste of time, being badly worded and ill-considered, yet Mike did attempt to answer them all.
During the interview with Keith Skinner, Mike muddled his words up, he muddled up names, numbers, dates, sequences, events, quotes, phrases. Everything was muddled. Telling a story, he would move from the past to the present without apparently realizing he had done so. He sometimes seemed to forget the question he'd been asked and started to answer a different question. Or he didn't understand the question but translated it into a different one in his mind. At other times he became distracted. Some might say that he was, on those occasions, being evasive, but I'm not so sure.
I'm not a medic so can't diagnose what Mike was suffering from, and it's not clear to me how much the alcohol had affected his personality that evening, but I think, on the basis of this interview, that it's fair to say that Mike's brain didn't work like a normal person's. I don't think he always fully understood the questions he was being asked. I don't think his perception of the world around him, and of reality itself, was quite the same as the rest of us.
I wouldn't disagree with the suggestion (as discussed during the interview, but rejected out of hand by Mike) that he was suffering from Korsakoff Syndrome. According to alz.org:
Korsakoff syndrome causes problems learning new information, inability to remember recent events and long-term memory gaps. Memory difficulties may be strikingly severe while other thinking and social skills are relatively unaffected. For example, individuals may seem able to carry on a coherent conversation but moments later are unable to recall that the conversation took place or with whom they spoke.
Those with Korsakoff syndrome may "confabulate," or make up, information they can't remember. They are not "lying" but may actually believe their invented explanations. Scientists don’t yet understand the mechanism by which Korsakoff syndrome may cause confabulation. The person may also see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations).
In addition to whatever problems might have been caused by Korsakoff syndrome, everything said to Mike seems to have been channelled through a filter called 'Paranoia'. For he seemed to be capable of turning even the most innocent question into some kind of personal attack on him, or an accusation of some sort, and this defensiveness undoubtedly affected the way he behaved during the evening. I also don't think he was equipped with the language and mental skills to argue a case for anything. Even where he actually had reasonable points to make, his attempt to make them in an understandable way for the audience were almost invariably shambolic.
One good example of this was where it was said to him by Martin Fido that Anne's spelling in her written correspondence was too good for her to have written the Diary. Mike's response could have been made very simply and effectively. It was, in essence, that, in 1992, Anne was writing in manuscript whereas the written letters that Fido had received had (probably) been typed on a computer with a spell checker, thus enabling her to correct any spelling mistakes. Yet Mike's actual approach was to bewilder Fido by asking him what year they were in now and then saying in response to Fido's answer of "1999" that, 'That's a hell of a long time isn't it?' to which Fido naturally responded, 'Not especially'. To make his point, Mike then counted unnecessarily from 1992 upwards saying, 'Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine', adding, 'Modern word processors change over'. We can see the simple point he was making (even if it wasn't entirely clear to the audience at the time) but he just couldn't do it in a normal way and, as a result, he sounded bonkers, even though it was a good response to the question he was being asked.
If I had wanted to turn this article into a comedy, it would have been very easy to do so. Mike provides the most abundant material. When spelling out the name of 'David Burness', so that someone in the audience could take an accurate note, he spelt the surname 'B-U-S-S-E-N-S' and, when spelling 'Goldie Street', he spelt the word 'Street' as 'S-T-R-E-T-T'. He then said, 'and the reason I'm spelling all this is just to prove I'm not illiterate'. It's comedy gold. One would like to think that Mike was doing it deliberately, as a private joke, but I don't think he was. At the same time, I feel we should also recognize that he wasn't used to public speaking; he had (as he said at the start) lights shining in his eyes, a lot of major Ripperologists were present, and he might well have felt stress and pressure from the occasion which made his already booze-soddled, and possibly Korsakoff Syndrome affected, mind not function properly. My primary purpose in this article is not actually to show that Mike answered almost all the questions asked of him (although I will be doing that too), rather it is to demonstrate that what Mike was saying made sense and was not only consistent with the evidence but was part of a consistent story that I believe Mike had been telling since 1994.
Above all, what I have done in preparation for this article is something that no-one else seems to have done, least of all those who I call 'the Diary Defenders'. That is to actually LISTEN to what Mike was saying. When I did listen to what he was saying and then compared his actual words with the way those words were represented in public, both in the Skinner/Morris book 'Inside Story' and in the summaries published in Ripperologist, as well as in other online postings, I found that there was a huge divergence between the two. In short, I don't think Barrett has been fairly portrayed and this article is going to try and set the record straight.
Yes, Mike did ramble a lot during the evening and, yes, these ramblings were, at times, clearly drunken and unfocused. He was obviously obsessed with Robert Smith, who was in the audience, wanting to let him know that he had conned him with a blatant forgery, and he was equally obsessed by the fact that he felt he hadn't been properly paid by Smith (even though he still wanted him to publish his next book!). It's a real shame that we don't have a recording of what was said at the previous day's lunch when he was sober but, before dipping into an analysis of the interview, let's just remind ourselves of what Mike is reported to have said over lunch on 9 April 1999 according to 'Inside Story'. At that lunch, he told the guests that he had always believed that James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper and had created the Diary to draw attention to this fact. He also said that he had contacted Doreen Montgomery before the Diary had been forged. He then said that he found himself with just eleven days before his meeting with Doreen to actually produce the Diary.
When analysing the interview of 10 April, I'm going to go through it pretty much chronologically because I think the sequence of events is important to the way that Mike responded. Before doing so, a few general points. Firstly, I don't envy the job that Keith Skinner had to do in trying to keep Mike Barrett on track and on topic during the interview and I fully appreciate the difficulty that he faced in this respect. Any criticisms I make of Skinner's approach should be read with that important qualification in mind. But I do have criticisms of Skinner's approach and I don't think he helped what was, due to a combination of Mike's drunkenness and general personality problems, inevitably going to be a difficult evening. Of that approach, Skinner's interviewing technique appeared to me to be a mixture of at one moment being Mike's friend and advocate, drawing out his 'aces', while the next moment cross-examining him (sometimes unfairly) to undermine his story. Rarely, if at all, did he ask Mike an open question and allow him to tell the story in his own words but he kept interrupting him when he started to answer. It's possible that Keith could see that Mike was immediately veering off topic (and always bear in mind the caveat that I included at the start of this paragraph) but, as a listener, trying to hear Mike's answers in his own words, it was annoying to have Skinner constantly interrupting and then putting words into Mike's mouth.
The other objective of the evening was, supposedly, for Mike to prove that he wrote the Diary and, in this respect, there seemed to be much anticipation that Mike was going to produce a receipt for the 'ledger' (as Mike insisted it should be called) purchased at Outhwaite and Litherland. The likelihood is that Mike had destroyed this receipt in 1992 and was playing a game with the Ripperologists (although, as we shall see, the explanation he gave for not producing the receipt during the meeting was understandable) but it's surprising to read Keith Skinner saying on the Casebook Forum on 6 November 2019 that, 'My 1999 C&D interview with Mike Barrett could have been over in 5 seconds flat if he had produced the auction ticket from Outhwaite and Litherland with which he claimed he bought the black ledger, late March/early April 1992' (#73 in the 'Rippercast Audio Archives' thread). I'm going to leave aside that Keith didn't actually ask to see that receipt until over half an hour into the interview (37:25 on the recording) making it basically impossible for the interview to have concluded in five seconds! The actual reason for my surprise is that, if Mike had pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket saying it was the O&L receipt, how could anyone in the room have known whether it was genuine or not? Would we even know today? How difficult would it have been to forge a receipt from Outhwaite & Litherland? In 1994 Mike could have made a genuine purchase from O&L and obtained a real receipt. If they were in the same format in 1994 as in 1992 he could potentially have produced a reasonable forgery of a 1992 receipt. If O&L's records from 1992 had been destroyed by 1999, would it have been possible to check it? Well who knows, but it strikes me as fanciful to say that a piece of paper pulled from Mike's pocket that evening would have settled the entire issue of the Maybrick Diary there and then. Furthermore, would the interview not have continued in order to ask Mike all the questions about how he pulled off the forgery?
Anyway, that's rather by the by.
One more thing I'd like to say by way of introduction. I wrote and published two True Crime books at the start of the last decade. In the absence of physical evidence, such as notes, drafts etc. I wonder how easy it would be for me to prove that I wrote those books. Well I'm sure I could make a reasonable case but then I feel sure that I am better at making arguments than Mike Barrett. At the same time, without refreshing my memory, I could easily forget or mix up some of the key names in those books. Under pressure, and suspected of forgery, my mind could possibly go blank and I could easily make myself look guilty by such a lapse of memory. Perhaps more to the point, though, if someone had helped me with some of the chapters, and basically written them for me (a fact to which I was unwilling to admit because I wanted everyone to believe that I was the sole author), I might find it very difficult to explain why I had written certain things in those chapters. Sure, if I was a person who told lies, I might be able to lie convincingly about it, but would Mike Barrett have been able to do it if he were in my position? I don't know for sure but I don't think so. I think he would have made a mess of it.
The one area where I think Mike might have been lying in 1999 is in saying (or suggesting) that he wrote the entire text of the Diary. There are other candidates who might well have assisted him. The most obvious is Tony Devereux.
Another is Billy Graham (who was fingered by Mike himself a few months after the interview as having collaborated with Anne in doing so). If that's the case, it would certainly explain why Mike would have had difficulty in answering every question about the contents of the Diary and might not have done so convincingly. It's clear from the interview that it's important to him that everyone thought he was a professional writer. Not just that but a really good professional writer. It seems to have been an integral part of the person he wanted to be and the person he wanted to be thought of being. To have admitted that he was helped with the text of the Diary, either in whole or in part, would have undermined this and left him being a nobody who had a minor role in the production of this great hoax. Mind you, he was never asked the question during the entire evening as to whether Devereux, or anyone else, had assisted him with either the research, the preparation or the drafting of any early drafts of the Diary so we don't actually know what he would have told us.
That all said, let's now look closely at the interview itself.
There are some people who say that everything that comes out of Mike Barrett's mouth is a lie so that, as a consequence, we should ignore every word he says. Well what about this statement made in his opening remarks at the start of the interview:
'I couldn't keep up with the mortgage so I thought to myself, okay, I've been writing for David Burness, Celebrity magazine, I've been writing for Chat magazine, I've been writing for Look-In magazine. I've been writing for all these magazines.'
We already know for a fact that Barrett wrote for Celebrity and Look-In magazines but what's this third magazine he mentioned? 'Chat.' I don't think we've heard that before have we?
Well Mike Barrett says he wrote for Chat so that must be a lie, right?
In fact, it's perfectly true. Chat magazine commenced publication in October 1985. It was a similar magazine to Celebrity (which started the following year) but aimed at women.
Upon examination of back issues of that publication, Mike's name can be found on the byline of three articles published in it between May and August 1986 inclusive. These are: 'Emmerdale Stephen's Naughty Mail', about the fan mail received by Emmerdale actor Stephen Marchant, which appeared in the 24 May 1986 issue of Chat, 'We Need Sex, Drugs and Violence on the Box', about the views of TV producer, Phil Redmond, in the 31 May 1986 issue and 'Fighting Prejudice with a Laugh', about Britain's first thalidomide comedian, Gary Skyner, in the 16 August 1986 issue. Here are the examples of Mike's name at the end those three articles:
So what Mike was telling the audience about his CV on 10 April 1999 was perfectly true - and not everyone is so truthful about their CVs! There was no confabulation involved here.
Here's the thing though. Shirley Harrison's 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper', which was published in 1993, tells us that Mike Barrett had been a merchant seaman, worked on oil rigs and then worked as a chef and a scrap-metal dealer but that, in recent years, 'has been forced by illness to stop working'. There is not a hint or suggestion in that life-history of Mike's that he had written for Chat, Celebrity or Look-In (or any form of publication). Not a squeak. Which must mean that in all his discussions with Doreen Montgomery and Shirley Harrison during 1992 and 1993, neither he nor his wife mentioned this fact to either of them.
Now why not? If Mike had been given the Diary by either Tony Devereux or Eddie Lyons, as some people would still have us believe, why wouldn't Mike have proudly mentioned this aspect of his life, and CV, to both Doreen and Shirley? Instead, he must have deliberately withheld this information. It doesn't make any sense at all if he had done no more than receive or purchase the Diary from a third person. But it makes perfect sense if he had been involved in forging the Diary and wanted to hide from them the suspicious and incriminating fact that he was a professional freelance journalist.
Not only did Mike not mention his writing history to Doreen and Shirley but he evidently told them a blatant lie about the timing of the purchase of his word processor. We know for a fact (from the purchase invoice) that it was acquired on 3 April 1986, just over a month before Mike's first article appeared in Chat magazine, and must, therefore, have been intricately connected with his journalistic career. Yet, in her 1993 book, Harrison relates that Mike bought the word processor after he had received the Diary from Tony Devereux in 1991 because he wanted to research and write about the Diary himself. Doreen Montgomery wrote to Nick Warren in May 1994 saying that, 'Right from the word go, everyone knew that Mike had bought a WP precisely to transcribe the Diary'. This lie again makes no sense and serves no purpose if Mike had been given the Diary by a third person. It makes perfect sense if he was wanting to hide all the evidence of being a professional writer from Doreen and Shirley.
The word processor is an integral part of the story of the forgery of the Diary as told by Mike. Virtually the first thing he said at the Cloak & Dagger club event, in response to Keith Skinner saying that he had created the text of the diary, was, 'On a word processor'. He makes the point a number of times during the evening that he wrote the text of the Diary on a word processor: the very word processor that he lied about to Shirley Harrison.
That word processor also featured in Mike's original story of the forgery as told to Howard Brough in June 1994 when he said that, 'he had typed the diary on a word processor at his home in Liverpool' (Liverpool Daily Post, 27 June 1994).
It also features, of course, in the story told in Mike's January 1995 affidavit, in which it is stated:
'I sat in the living room by the rear lounge window in the corner with my word processor, Anne sat with her back to me as she wrote the manuscript...Several days prior to the purchase of materials I had started to roughly outline the Diary on my word processor.'
Later it is stated:
'I had actually written the "Jack the Ripper Diary" first on my word processor...'
So that is all perfectly consistent with what he would say five years later at the C&D meeting in April 1999.
Below are Mike's opening remarks (transcribed as best as I could hear and decipher them, which applies to all the transcribed remarks and exchanges from the evening) where he attempts to explain his motive for forging a diary of Jack the Ripper:
'I’ve been writing, god knows, I’ve been writing for an awful long time. So I phoned David Burness. And he produces a magazine. And the magazine is called Celebrity magazine. This is very, very, important. This is where the Diary starts. Now, David Burness produces Celebrity magazine. Meanwhile, I go along and, you can go and check these facts, look at the people I interviewed. I interviewed Kenneth Williams, Bonnie Langford, various people… and I do all the interviews, so I come back and I write it on a word processor. Right. And I’m only making about £120 if I’m lucky. Then Maggie dies. Now you are going to ask, 'who is Maggie?' Maggie is Billy Graham’s father, mother, sorry I do apologise. And when she dies, she dies on New Year’s Eve. And I thought to myself, my life has totally changed here, 1987, get that wrote down, 1987. So, in 1987 I turn round and thought to myself oopsie daisie and Anne - Anne - wants me to build up a mortgage. I didn’t have the money. That’s a fact. I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I only had £600 at the time. £600 wasn’t enough to pay for the mortgage. It was like that. It was half and half. So I paid the mortgage and we moved to 12 Goldie Street, G-O-L-D-I-E S-T-R-E-T-T right, and the reason I’m spelling all this is just to prove that I’m not illiterate. I think that’s exceedingly important because according to Anne I can’t string two sentences together. So we moved to Goldie Street and Goldie Street was, shall we say, a tie around my neck, and I mean literally a tie around my neck, it was hanging me, I couldn’t keep up with the mortgage so I thought to myself, okay, I’ve been writing for David Burness, Celebrity magazine, I’ve been writing for Chat Magazine, I’ve been writing for Look-In Magazine. I’ve been writing for all these magazines. And I thought to myself, okay Michael, let’s do a Sir Walter Scott. Now anybody is in here, is shall we say familiar with English literature? Sir Walter Scott, if you know anything about Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter Scott was in a hell of a lot of trouble in the past. And what Sir Walter Scott done, he wrote himself out of it. I mean, literally, he wrote himself out of it. He wrote Ivanhoe. And that’s a god given fact. And that is a god given fact. So I thought to myself, I’ll do the same, I’ll write myself out if it. I’ll write myself out of the – well, if you forgive me ladies and gentleman, I do apologise, s-h-i-t. Right. Because I don’t want to swear. So I thought to myself I’ll write myself out of it. So I wrote myself out of it. Well, I thought I wrote myself out of it. … I’m serious.'
On its own, this doesn't really make much sense. What does the death of Maggie Graham have to do with his mortgage?
Well, one can, apparently, find the answer in the recordings made by Alan Gray of his interview with Mike Barrett in 1994. I've never actually heard those recordings, which are presumably in the possession of Keith Skinner, who has never made them publicly available, and I can only rely on the summary of them in 'Inside Story'. What we find on page 153 of 'Inside Story' is that Mike told Gray that the death of Maggie Graham at the end of 1987 meant that Anne wanted to move near to her father who was now living on his own (in a house in Sleepers Hill, Liverpool, in fact). This meant moving to 12 Goldie Street which involved the need to pay a large mortgage, thus putting Barrett under crippling financial pressure. It was at this point, said Mike, which would in fact have been during 1988 (or possibly later), that the plan was formulated, with Anne's consent, to forge the Diary of Jack the Ripper.
Now there are two important things to note here. The first is that Maggie Graham did indeed die when Mike said she did. In actual fact, her death is recorded on her death certificate as having taken place at Walton Hospital on 1 January 1988. If it occurred in the early hours, and Mike was told on New Year's Day that she had died during the night, he would surely have thought of her having passed away on New Year's Eve. That aspect aside, Mike was telling the truth. Once again, those who claim that nothing said by Mike Barrett can be believed will have to retract that claim. It was, as Mike would say, a god given fact. As it happens, in this respect, Mike's memory was rather better than Anne Barrett's. For she told Shirley Harrison that, 'In 1989 my step-mother, Maggie, died' (American Connection, p.286). She is supposed to be the clever and competent one but she was a full twelve months out in her recollection.
Secondly, it is clear that Mike was providing the exact same explanation for the origins of the Diary in 1999 to the assembled crowd as he had given Alan Gray five years earlier in 1994. His story, in other words, was entirely consistent. Yet, in his drunken and rather rambling state in 1999, he hadn't made the purpose of his story clear to those listening. Even the fact that he had written articles for Chat and Celebrity magazine wasn't really made clear and its significance punched home.
As a consequence, although he was offering relevant (and to almost everyone listening) new information about the origins of Diary, he had probably already lost most of his audience to whom he just sounded like a rambling drunk talking nonsense. But I think we do have the truth here. The Diary was created because Mike, a struggling freelance journalist, needed money to support his wife and child. It's not surprising. It's exactly what one would expect.
We might also note that the story he tells here is inconsistent with the theory of Caroline Morris that his lies about the origins of the Diary were all based on the true story of him being given it by Eddie Lyons. I won't dignify that convoluted theory with an explanation (you're either familiar with it or you're not) but the fact that Mike consistently places the origins of the Diary with the death of Maggie Graham many years earlier than 1992 does not fit with that theory.
It may also be noted that Mike said in a September 1993 interview that he met Tony Devereux in about 1987 and, before he had his accident and broke his hip in December 1990, 'I struck up a three-year acquaintance with him and we become very, good, good, good mates'. This covers the very period following the death of Maggie Graham in which he was saying that the Diary had its origins.
In addition, the five year period from 1987 to 1992 is consistent with Barrett having told the Liverpool Daily Post in June that he had taken five years to create the Diary. As reported in the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 June 1994:
'Barrett said that he had written material for Dundee publisher D.C. Thomson for some years, and that he had worked on the diary for five years.'
In June 1994, Mike also told Howard Brough, 'I did it because I could not pay the mortgage. So I thought 'what can I do?' and the only thing I'm good at - apart from being a scrap metal merchant - is writing. So I thought I would write the biggest story in history' (Liverpool Daily Post, 25 June 1994).
All this is absolutely bang on consistent with his opening remarks to the Cloak & Dagger Club in 1999 and, I will be arguing, far from him switching his story about how he forged the Diary, his story is remarkably consistent over a five year period from 1994 to 1999.
Mike's opening remarks continued as follows:
'So when I wrote it, all of a sudden the Diary gets on the shelf [by which he means in the shops], the Diary becomes genuine and I know and I totally know that the Diary is false. I know because I know I’ve wrote it, but I haven’t wrote it. Anne’s wrote it. Now always remember that fact ladies and gentlemen. Anne wrote it. It’s in her handwriting. Now always remember that fact. That’s a god given fact. So all of a sudden, oopsie daisie. I said, “I’m not having this”. And remember I’ve got a daughter. I’ve got a daughter called Caroline. And I haven’t seen her. I’ve lost track of her. I know she lives in [gives her address] Liverpool. Or do I?.... I’ve lost a daughter. And I turned round and said to Anne, you don’t, no matter what you do, and I mean this, and I mean this today, you don’t use children, you don’t use children. Anne did. Anne did. No question about it. She used Caroline. And she used me. It’s what we call emotional blackmail for want of a better word. It’s not blackmail but I have to say it was emotional blackmail. Anne turned round to me and said "If you tell the truth about the Diary of Jack the Ripper, that you wrote it and I wrote it, right, I’ll make sure", a god given fact, – and she swore on the bible, "I’ll make sure, I’ll guarantee, that you never see Caroline again." Well that to me is totally blackmail. My advice is never to give in to blackmail. My advice will go to its grave and I'll still never give in to blackmail. But Anne said that. Anne, true to her word…And she really did say it. And she blackmailed me, and she blackmailed me with my daughter.'
A few things to note here.
Firstly, Mike says, 'It's in her handwriting' and he then adds, 'Now always remember that fact'. Despite this, as we shall see, Keith Skinner seems to have forgotten it during the course of the evening.
Secondly, Mike says, 'I know I've wrote it, but I haven't wrote it. Anne's wrote it.' He's not contradicting himself here. He's making the point that he drafted it while Anne physically wrote it into the black ledger, or scrapbook. This is an important distinction but it's one that seems to have confused people over the years. When Mike speaks of 'writing' the Diary, it's impossible to know without further information whether he's talking of the initial drafting of the Diary's text, the finalizing of the Diary's text or the manuscript writing of it. This is why his statements of 'I wrote it but I didn't write it' which sound quite mad on first blush do make sense.
Thirdly, we have a picture here from Mike of Anne threatening him if he went public by revealing the truth about them jointly forging the Diary. As we can see, he claims that she told him that, if he did this, he would never see Caroline again. In other words, according to Mike, she regarded the truth about the forging of Diary as an attack on herself due to her own intimate involvement with its creation.
Funnily enough, when Mike did go public in June 1994, Anne's reaction to the journalist who asked her about it was 100% consistent with what Mike was saying here. For she was quoted in the Liverpool Daily Echo of 27 June 1994 as saying: 'He is now trying to get back at me because I have left him.' This was a baffling statement at the time and, as the authors of 'Inside Story' comment (p.94), 'some in the Diary camp and outside were at a loss to understand how Barrett's confession could be construed as a form of revenge on his wife.' Shirley Harrison was one of these people, for she said in her 2003 book (p.266), 'I did not understand why forging the Diary would get back at Anne'. Anne's comment doesn't make sense if Mike independently obtained the Diary from a third party such as Eddie Lyons, or if it had been in the Graham family for years and Anne had given it to Tony Devereux to pass on to Mike. It only makes sense in the context of Anne actually being involved in the forgery, something Mike had not mentioned in his confession to the Liverpool Daily Echo, consistent with him being scared of not seeing Caroline again, thus downplaying, or, rather, not even mentioning, Anne's role in the forgery.
Anne was also cited in the newspaper as saying, 'But I will fight like a tiger to protect myself and my family against anything he says...'. When asked about it later, as revealed in Inside Story, she couldn't explain what she meant by this, claiming it was the first thing that popped into her head. But it makes perfect sense if Mike's confession was true.
We may note that what Mike said during the Liverpool Daily Post interview was consistent with a signed statement dated 26 January 1995 in which he said that: 'My wife has for the past 12 months kept my daughter away from me and used her to threaten me and blackmail me that I will not see her again if I don't co-operate'.
Dealing with his first substantial point about the Diary during the evening, Mike correctly says that he first met Doreen on 13 April 1992 but then says he first contacted her on 12 March (when it was actually 9 and 10 March). This shows his loose grasp of the minor details for which account has to be taken. However, he is perfectly clear about the key aspect of what he said to Doreen during the initial telephone call:
'I said I think I’ve got the diary of Jack the Ripper here, do you understand? Doreen fell for it left, right and centre. So all I had to do was come out and find the Diary of Jack the Ripper and write it. It took me eleven days flat to write.'
I'll deal with Mike's claim that it took him 'eleven days flat' to write the Diary separately but let's stick for now with his contact with Doreen, for Mike then goes on to make a crucial point which I'm not sure the Diary Defenders fully understand to this day. For he said:
'Yes, if she wouldn't have believed the con, I would never have carried on with the con.'
Had Doreen not believed him, in other words, the plan to produce a forged Diary was dead in the water. Nothing would have happened. Nothing was inevitable.
At this point in the interview, the story becomes bogged down by Keith Skinner's relentless and pointless need to get to the bottom of something Doreen had said to Mike in her letter to him dated 10 March 1992 (which Keith had received a copy of from Sally Evemy in 1996). Doreen had written to Mike:
'I can well understand how this diary and its import has affected your lives.'
Now, it's obvious from this that Mike had told Doreen during his initial telephone call that the Diary had affected his life and the life of his family. But, for some reason, Keith Skinner obsessively wanted an explanation from Mike (in respect of a telephone conversation from seven years earlier) as to why Doreen had written this in her letter.
Frankly, it was as much as question for Doreen Montgomery as for Mike - and it's a bit of a mystery why Doreen never seems to have answered questions about her original conversations with Mike while she was alive, something I asked Keith Skinner about in the Casebook Forum on 9 March 2018 but he never answered my question (Acquiring thread, #1368) - and it doesn't seem to require much explanation anyway. Mike's answer was really quite simple:
'Well I was doing a con. Right.'
For some reason this didn't satisfy Keith Skinner who persisted with it, asking Mike what he had specifically told Doreen that made her think that the Diary had affected his and his family's life. In response, Mike then goes on a bit of a ramble about the film 'The Sting' and what a con is, but Keith Skinner persists, saying:
'Just tell me. What did you say to Doreen that made her write back and say "I can well understand how this diary and its import has affected your lives"?'
Keith hasn't even established if Mike could recollect everything that he had said to Doreen in the telephone conversation. If Mike can't recall it then he's basically being asked to reconstruct the conversation: but we can all do that on the basis of what Doreen has included in the letter. What purpose was there in pressing the point repeatedly and wasting the precious time he had for this interview?
As it happens, Mike seems to have misunderstood the question because he answers 'Oh easy. Writer's and Artists Yearbook'. That was how he supposedly found Doreen's number in the first place.
Rather than let this fruitless line of questioning go, Keith Skinner persisted and he put the question to Mike again:
'I just want to get at 10 March. Doreen writes back to you and she says "I can well understand how this diary and its import has affected your lives." What did she mean by that?'
Mike answers very simply: 'I don't know. I was doing a con.'
So there's the answer. He doesn't know. He probably doesn't remember everything he said to Doreen Montgomery seven years earlier. Why would he? And why does it matter? I have no idea but Keith Skinner can't seem to let it go. He continues:
'"And it's affected your lives". Why did she write that? Why did she say "I can understand how it's affected your lives"?'
For Pete's sake! This is really a question for Doreen Montgomery. If he wanted to know why Doreen Montgomery is writing things in her letters he should have just asked her. Mike has already told him that he doesn't know why Doreen wrote that in her letter. So that's that. He does not know. Full stop. It seems to me that Keith is just badgering Mike now, trying to force him to come up with an explanation for something he's already said he doesn't know the answer to. I wouldn't mind, but the answer (if we assume Mike's story is true) is so obvious. He clearly made up some nonsense to Doreen about the Diary having affected his life, and his family's life, since he had supposedly obtained it. What's the point of Keith Skinner pursuing it?
But he did, forcing Mike to repeat his account of his conversation with Doreen, which he did:
'I said I think I've got the Diary of Jack the Ripper. Right. I'm not "sure", I'm not "certain" but I think I really have got it. Right. Remember, I know it's a con.'
Still, still, Keith continues like a dog with a stick, asking the same question again:
'What I'm saying is why did she ask you that question about, she couldn't understand, she didn't ask you, she said she couldn't understand how the Diary affected your lives, your family life? You must have told her who you were, about your family life, you had a daughter.'
So Keith has not only asked the question again, he's now answered it himself! Yes, Mike must have told her who he was and about his family life. Of course he did! That's what the document says. Mike clearly can't remember. He's already said he doesn't know why Doreen wrote that in her letter. What more can he do? Even if his whole story at the Cloak & Dagger club was a lie and he really did receive the Diary from Tony Devereux in 1991, so that the Diary truly did have an affect on his family life (which is what he obviously said to Doreen), it would have been very easy for him to answer Keith's question by telling him what he had said to Doreen about this, assuming he remembered it, which he clearly didn't. It's obvious that Mike was confused and simply didn't understand what Keith was getting at. So he answered his question by saying, 'No, you're getting it wrong, it was all a con.'
Surely that disposed of that. Everything Mike had said to Doreen was a lie, a con. At this point Mike, in his default paranoid state, presumably thought Keith was cross-examining him, as if to say that, because he had told Doreen that the Diary had affected his family life then the story he was telling now, in April 1999, about the Diary not existing at the time, must be false. I think that's how Mike was viewing the question - or rather the repeated questions, plural.
From Keith Skinner's perspective, I can only assume, as a diligent researcher, he wanted to nail down the tiny details of the telephone call from 1992 but in the context of the evening, with a rare opportunity to interview Mike Barrett, it really was a most astonishingly futile line of questioning and a waste of time, probably tiring Mike out from the very start and setting a bad tone for the rest of the interview.
Still Keith would not let it go, saying, 'I realise it was a con, but what did you say to her?'
Jeez Louise! Leave it alone man.
At this point, we might want to reflect on Paul Daniel's comment in Ripperology that, 'Keith himself did a magnificent job in trying to keep the interview on a forward trajectory, but he was fighting a losing battle with Mike's determination to dominate the whole proceedings'. Well, at this point, Keith's trajectory is very much sideways, or rather, at a complete standstill, and he, not Mike, is dominating the proceedings with his determination to get to the bottom of this non-mysterious mystery.
The only value of Keith's questioning about the Doreen Montgomery telephone call was that it did extract from Mike the fact (or the claim, if you prefer) that he hadn't actually ever contacted Pan Books and that this was just something he had said to Doreen in order to make her think that he had been offering his Diary to others so that she needed to move fast.
This is surprising because one of the few things he said in a September 1993 interview with Martin Howells that sounded truthful was that he had been advised to contact Doreen Montgomery by someone at Pan Books. Thus, he told Howells:
'I looked in the bookshelf and I found Pan Books. So I phoned Pan Books up and I said "Listen, I really sincerely believe I own the diary of Jack the Ripper - however, I don't have 100% proof. I can't prove it." And they advised me, they said, "We don't work it this way, we don't work it this way, you need an agent." Emphasise an agent. So, they turned round and said, "Doreen Montgomery".
If Mike made this all up it was a very good and convincing lie. It seems to have the ring of truth, albeit that it was, in fact, possible to approach publishers directly without a literary agent. Yet, if it was true, it makes me wonder why he didn't repeat it at the April 1999 meeting. There doesn't seem to have been any advantage to him in changing his story to say (falsely) that he now did not telephone Pan Books but went straight to Doreen.
It makes me wonder if someone told him that he needed a literary agent to contact a publisher on his behalf but it wasn't someone at Pan Books. One possibility would be one of his contacts in the world of journalism like David Burness of Celebrity magazine. In September 1993 he was still keeping his history of writing for Celebrity a secret so couldn't have mentioned Burness' name to Martin Howells.
Furthermore, he couldn't have told Howells in September 1993 that he used a copy of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook to look up Doreen's number because it would have raised the question of why he was in possession of such a Yearbook (the answer being that he was a professional writer, something that he wasn't revealing to anyone in 1993).
During the 1999 interview at the Cloak & Dagger club, Mike said that he obtained Doreen's contact details by looking her up in an old copy of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook although it would have had to have been the Rupert Crew Agency that he looked up because Doreen wasn't individually listed (and Doreen was only referred to within the Rupert Crew entry as 'D. Montgomery').
Mike also referred to the Yearbook he used to find Doreen as variously the 1989 edition and the 1987 edition. In his January 1995 affidavit there was a mention, in another context, of the 1986 Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, but it doesn't matter which exact one he used. He almost certainly did look her up in a Writers' and Artists' Yearbook from the 1980s because he says, 'I seen international literary agent. Right. And if you can quote it, I can't do it verbatim, if you actually look in the 1987 book, international agent, you know, international and we will publish this and whatever'. This is reasonably accurate because the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook for the years 1986 to 1988 described the Rupert Crew agency as an 'International business management for authors and writers desiring world representation by a highly geared, personal service, available only to a limited clientele'. However, his comment about the entry saying that 'we will publish this and whatever' better suits the 1989 entry which said, 'International business management, available to a limited clientele, for authors seeking world representation: the agency specialises in promoting major book projects - non fiction, general and women's fiction- especially those having serialisation potential'.
Publicly Producing the Diary
Keith finally gives up on his attempt to extract from Mike every single word he said to Doreen Montgomery in a telephone conversation some seven years earlier and moves on to the production of the Diary. This exchange, I think, reveals Mike's inability, in his drunken state, to grapple with the distinction between the present and the past:
KS: So, all of that, you conned her beautifully. Great. So what you’re left with now is you’ve got to produce a diary, presumably in what, 2 or 3 weeks time, because an arrangement is made to go and see Doreen. So what you’ve got to do is-
MB: No, I’ve haven’t got to do anything. What I’ve got to do is the most important thing in the world.
KS: Which is?
MB: Destroy the Diary of Jack the Ripper.
KS: You haven’t written it yet.
MB: What the hell are you talking about?
There's no reason for Mike to have been evasive here. He just switched to the present tense in which his task is to 'destroy' the Diary while Keith was, naturally, still asking him about the events of 1992. Yet, Keith's question was phrased in the present tense, i.e. 'What you've got to do is...'. This switching of tenses wouldn't cause most people a problem (and I'm doing it myself in this article!) but I think it confused Mike, and his question, 'What the hell are you talking about?', was, I think, a genuine one to Keith.
In fact, at this point, Mike becomes animated and angry. He seems to think that Keith Skinner had just said that he hadn't, in fact, written the Diary of Jack the Ripper so he starts quoting from the Diary. Keith tries to get the conversation back on track but there is, again, another muddling of tenses:
KS: And this is your finest hour Mike. But what is even finer is conning Doreen Montgomery and knowing you’re in a position that you’ve got to go and see Doreen Montgomery with a Diary.
MB: She would never let me walk into her office in King's [Mews] in a million years.
KS: She wouldn’t?
KS That’s where I first met you. In Doreen’s office.
MB: Doreen Montgomery will not let me walk into her office.
KS: Perhaps not now, but then.
MB: Then? Ah, that’s the afterthought.
MB: We’re talking about?
KS: We’re talking about before. And keep to before. Because, you are creating the Diary of Jack the Ripper.
Once more, this confusion on Mike's part appears to be genuine. He's got no reason to lie about any of this. In response to Keith's statement that he is creating the Diary of Jack the Ripper, Mike makes one of his mad responses, saying:
'No, I haven't created the Diary. I have created, full stop, I created the Diary of Jack the Ripper, full stop apostrophe.'
I think that what he was trying to say here was that he wasn't creating the Diary of Jack the Ripper (as Keith had said) but that he had created it. It's just that he got his tenses muddled up in his response, thus making a nonsense of it. He then goes off on a tangent with his belief (much repeated during the evening) that the three ingredients of a bestselling novel are sex, mystery and religion, something we can safely ignore.
The Red Victorian diary
So now, as Keith Skinner put it during the interview, 'We are in March 1992. Mike is now faced with the situation where he has got to create the diary which he has sold to Doreen Montgomery'. Mike, who has successfully confused himself into initially calling this diary a 'red ledger' says:
'The red ledger, if you understand me, is so small it's untrue. And I thought to myself "Oh sugarlumps". It's no good...It's a Victorian diary but I thought to myself "no good". So I said to myself "Whoopsie daisy. I've just gone and sold the idea to Doreen Montgomery. Now I've got to produce the goods." Are you with me?...Now I'm stuck...all I've got is a little red diary".
He's about to tell the story of how he then turns to Outhwaite & Litherland and he says:
'So I turn around and I go to Outhwaite & Litherland which is operating-'
I would say that this is a good example of Mike trying to take the interview on a forward trajectory but Keith Skinner, who is supposedly doing a 'magnificent job' in keeping the interview on a forward trajectory, interrupts him and doesn't let him finish his sentence. He hasn't yet finished with the red diary. Because he wants to ask him a question to which he already knows the answer. 'How much did it cost?'
The reason Keith already knows the answer is because he has obtained from Anne the cheque stub by which the red diary was paid for. It shows that the diary cost £25. This is also the sum stated by Mike in his January 1995 affidavit. So Keith knows the answer to the question, yet has interrupted Mike from going on with his story in order to give him a pointless memory test about what it cost him or Anne to pay for it.
In fact, Mike gets confused in his answer. He's already thinking about Outhwaite & Litherland and says that the red diary cost fifty pounds (which is what he said in his affidavit it cost to purchase the black ledger from Outhwaite & Litherland). That he has confused the two diaries becomes obvious when he says that he had the fifty pounds 'in his pocket' and he paid in cash.
So Keith then corrects him and tells him that, 'In fact, Anne purchased the Diary, a red leather backed diary, for £25' thus rendering the previous questions and answers redundant. It was a known fact to Keith that the red diary cost £25, so why did he bother asking Mike to state what it cost? It was just a waste of time and oppressive for Mike.
Mike, who is unaware that Keith has already done the research on the point, insists that if he checks with Lloyds Bank in Walton, he will be able to find a cheque in the sum of £25 made out by Anne Graham for this diary. It's all true and Mike is being entirely honest and accurate here with what he says.
Keith then produces a surprise for Mike:
KS: Let me help you out with the red diary Mike. Because what you said is: check the bank statement, check the cheque, check Anne’s stubs. And you will find that there is a payment for £25 going through her account.
MB: That’s exactly what I’m saying.
KS: And that absolutely supports your story that in March 1992 you went and got this red diary, it’s no good.
MB: So will I get the apology tonight?
KS: I’ve got the apology to make because I’ve got the red diary. What I’ve also got and I got it from Anne, because she sent it to me, Christ knows why because it just incriminates her, but she sent it to me. She sent me the red diary. She sent me the cheque book with the stub. She sent me the account, a statement showing, as you say, money going through the account, £25.
MB: Now, can I get an apology?
So we've got Mike effectively saying: You see, I've been telling the truth about this all along. Can I get an apology for being called a liar?
What happens next is that Keith Skinner attempts to cross-examine Mike on an entirely false basis and I hope that, to this day, he feels ashamed of himself for what he did. However, before getting down to this piece of dreadful cross-examination, he thoroughly rattles Mike in the following exchange:
KS: But there’s a complication here and I don’t understand it and this is why I just want you to clarify it.
MB: By all means, you ask me the question, can I get an apology afterwards?
KS: Yes, of course you can. And I’ve given it to Stewart because Stewart Evans keeps this is a closely guarded secret, he used to be a policeman for 23 years.
MB: I'm not going to get nicked tonight am I by any chance?
KS: No, no no. So I’ve given it to Stewart because -
MB: Hang on a minute… am I going to get nicked tonight?
KS: No, you aren’t.
MB: Alright that’s fair enough, I’ve done my time.
What an astonishingly daft thing for Keith Skinner to have done by introducing into the picture Stewart Evans (who was sitting in the audience) who 'used to be a policeman for 23 years.' Obviously I wasn't there that evening but Mike Barrett sounds thoroughly alarmed to me from the recording. We can see that his immediate response was to ask if he was going to get arrested. In his mind, he might well have imagined that the grand finale to the evening was going to be that police officers would burst dramatically into the pub and arrest him to thunderous applause. Perhaps they were even sitting in the audience along with this Stewart Evans chap. I'm not sure if, even today, Keith Skinner has understood how alarming his mention of Evans being a policeman must have been to Mike Barrett. In Keith's world, policemen are friendly and they don't come and arrest him. In Mike Barrett's world, it's the exact opposite.
Then Keith Skinner pulls out his rabbit from the hat:
'What I don’t understand is that the statement that Anne sent me which backs your story beautifully is dated May 1992. May 1992 by which time you’ve been to see Doreen Montgomery with the Diary.'
Now, this was unfair to Mike for a number of reasons. Keith Skinner was producing a document (or rather summarizing what a document said) which Mike Barrett had probably never seen before in his life and certainly had had no chance to consider prior to his questioning that evening. He had no legal representative in the room or anyone to help him consider the meaning and significance of the bank statement. He is supposed to be able to provide an answer to Keith Skinner while on his feet, with bright lights shining in his eyes and an expectant but sceptical audience waiting for an explanation.
We now know that the answer to the conundrum posed by Keith Skinner is that the Diary was indeed purchased and received by Mike in March 1992 but wasn't paid for until May 1992. It's as simple as that and in no way undermines Mike's story that the red diary was acquired in order to forge the diary of Jack the Ripper. So let's look at Mike's reaction to this information which has been bounced on him without any warning. Keith asks him why the statement was dated May 1992 and Mike says:
MB: You’ve got to work that out. Because she’s a liar. She’s a thief.
KS: But that’s why I’ve got the statement because the statement shows that. The statement shows -
MB: She’s a liar and a thief and I can’t make no apology, Robert I’m speaking to you, and I really am speaking to you, I’m speaking to you personally, you’ve been conned beautifully, I conned you.
KS: And Anne has conned me?
MB: And that’s a god given fact. Now if you want to arrest me you can arrest me but the whole point is I never wrote the diary of Jack the Ripper. That’s a god given fact.
KS: You didn’t write it?
MB: No, Anne wrote it. It’s in her handwriting.
This is a fascinating exchange. Had Mike had a chance to consider Anne's statement beforehand, it might have occurred to him (or he might have remembered) that payment for the diary had been made late, long after it had been received. Absent that thought, the only thing he can conclude is that Anne has lied to Keith Skinner.
The key fact here is that we know that Mike is 100% telling the truth so that we can see his genuine reaction when he says that the only solution is that Anne is a liar and a thief (which isn't the case in respect of the red diary payment documents, but it's the only conclusion he is able to draw). We can see that in the middle of one of his answers he gets distracted and speaks directly to Robert Smith but that's clearly not by way of being evasive because, at the time, he was providing an entirely honest answer to Keith's question.
What's also interesting is that the fact of Stewart Evans being a police officer is weighing heavily on his mind. 'If you want to arrest me you can arrest me' he says. Then he wants to make it clear that it was Anne who wrote the diary in her handwriting. So if anyone should go to prison it's her.
You won't, incidentally, find any mention of all this in the summaries of the evening in Ripperologist. You won't find it in the summary of the meeting in 'Inside Story'. In his letter to Ripperologist following the meeting, Keith Skinner reveals that the cheque was dated 18 May 1992 which, he says, was 'a month AFTER the journal containing 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper' had been examined by Doreen Montgomery...' He goes on to say in the letter that, 'It therefore raises the question as to why Mike Barrett should have bought a Victorian diary at a time when publishers were lined up to bid for the journal'. He acknowledges the possibility (which turned out to be the case) that the Victorian diary was acquired prior to the black ledger and paid for a few months later but, despite this, he then goes on to conclude that, 'Ultimately it will resolve nothing at all except for those who are quite content to accuse Anne Barrett of fraud on the basis of Mike Barrett's testimony'. That's not really true because it does resolve that Mike was seeking a Victorian diary with blank pages at a time when no-one had ever seen the physical Diary of Jack the Ripper. In his letter, Keith also repeats Anne's bogus claim that Mike purchased the red Victorian diary because he had been 'curious to see what a Victorian diary actually looked like'. We now know that this can't possibly have been the reason due to the importance attached by Mike of obtaining a Victorian diary with a minimum of 20 blank pages or otherwise one which was completely unused. This was not the behaviour or someone who simply wanted to see what a Victorian diary looked like.
The damage of Keith's flawed questioning of Mike, and his subsequent flawed account in Ripperologist, was, however, done. Shirley Harrison, who in her own letter to Ripperologist referred to Keith's questioning of Mike during the evening as 'exemplary and diplomatic' - perhaps she was thinking of the way he diplomatically told him that an ex-copper was in their midst - stated in her 2003 book, 'The American Connection', that 'The red diary was in fact purchased after the Diary had been brought to London.' That was obviously her big takeaway from the evening. But there was no 'in fact' about it. It was a false fact. Mike had acquired the red diary before the Maybrick Diary was brought to London. This helps to explain why, for years, the notion that the diary is an old document has been so popular with people who took their information from Shirley Harrison and ignored the significance of the red diary which basically proves on its own that the Diary was a modern hoax (and that's without the additional proof of the anachronistic 'one off instance').
When I asked Keith Skinner directly in the Casebook Forum why Mike wanted to acquire a Victorian diary with blank pages in March 1992 he didn't answer me but promised he would do so in the future. He broke that promise. He never answered the question. In fact, I'm still waiting for the answer. Amazingly, Mike Barrett is presented as someone who evaded the questions he was asked by Keith Skinner during the Cloak & Dagger club evening but, as far as I can tell, he stood there and answered everything that was thrown at him. Not so for Keith Skinner though. He could have taught Mike Barrett a thing or two about evading questions.
As we've already seen, Mike was unsettled by the mention of Stewart Evans being a former police officer and this is shown clearly by what he said immediately after having stated that the diary was in Anne's handwriting:
'You remember that boys. You remember that. She carried on with the fraud. I’ve been to court. And if you go back to my hotel room. I don’t think you know. I might as well tell everybody here now. I think this gentleman has seen all the papers and what have you. I got arrested. I got six months in prison and it wasn’t very nice. And I got done, six months in prison. For threatening to kill, right. Threats to kill. I was on bail all that time. It’s what you call remand, right. I served my prison sentence and what have you then I went into a court and I got cleared beyond all reasonable doubt by a jury. And a jury cleared my name.'
His mind seems to be on his being arrested.
Keith presses the point about Anne's bank statement, making a canting statement in support of Mike that the documents Anne had sent him must be forged (something he failed to maintain in his letter to Ripperologist):
KS: The documents she has sent me which contradict your story I say are forged.
MB: …She’s very clever.
KS: That’s why I’ve given them to Stewart to look at because Stewart will be able to say "statement forged, the cheque you actually got, the cheque, it’s all forged, it’s all rubbish".
MB: Very clever, Anne.
Again, we see that all Mike can say is that Anne is very clever for providing Keith with a document showing that the red diary was purchased after the April 1992 meeting with Doreen. He knows it isn't true. He knows for a fact that the red diary was purchased before 13 April 1992 but he can't explain it or argue his case in any kind of convincing way. It's left hanging and it's obvious that people in the audience didn't believe him - Shirley Harrison's comment in her book four years later being a case in point. The significance of the red diary was thus lost to the world of Ripperology (until being spotted many years later).
At the end of this passage of conversation (after a short diversionary ramble with Mike telling Robert Smith that Anne was a wicked witch and a very nasty person), Keith Skinner suddenly turns from interviewer to giving evidence himself, by saying of Anne, 'She’s forged documents and she will be exposed for that because when Stewart looks at those documents he will be able to say immediately, rubbish, these are forged. And that’s the end of Anne’s credibility, if she has any credibility to lose. That will be the end of it. Wait a minute because this has to be one of your aces'. This type of speech seems to me to have been completely unnecessary. Mike hadn't actually even expressly stated that Anne has forged any documents. He just said she's a liar and very clever. Keith has decided that forgery is the only option here but I don't think he actually believed that Anne had forged anything despite what he is saying.
The Black Ledger
Finally we get to Outhwaite & Litherland, which Mike had been itching to talk about what feels like hours earlier.
Mike starts off by saying 'March 1992. First week in March 1992'. Keith starts to interrupt by saying 'That's when you' - but Mike talks over him saying, 'Lot 64...'. Keith asks him what Lot 64 means (and after another brief drunken ramble in which Mike asks Robert Smith to publish his next book) he says, 'One diary, one brass compass' (although he immediately corrects himself and says it wasn't a diary it was a black ledger). That he bought a brass compass at Outhwaite & Litherland in the same lot with a black scrapbook or ledger is entirely consistent with what he said in his 1995 affidavit (and thus, presumably, with what he told Alan Gray in 1994). When we are talking about an alcoholic, who is supposed to live in a fantasy world, it is remarkable that details of his story are consistent five years apart.
This is the point in the conversation that Keith Skinner asks Mike to produce the receipt for the goods purchased at Outhwaite & Litherland and Mike refuses. The reason he gives for his refusal is:
'It’s up to you, you’re the researchers. You check the facts. And if I’ve done a good job of writing the diary of Jack the Ripper, as a researcher, you do a good job checking your facts....You check with Kevin Whay.'
Now, as I've already mentioned, it strikes me as likely that Mike had long since destroyed the receipt but who knows? Perhaps he had it on him. If so, I would say it is understandable that the real reason he refused to produce it was fear of being arrested in view of Keith's daft mention of Stewart Evans having been a police officer for 23 years. In Ripperologist it is stated that Mike only gave this as a reason for his refusal after the meeting but that's not the case, as a close listen to the recording reveals. Towards the end of the evening, Mike was getting stick from Dave Cuthbertson for asking others to provide evidence to support their claims while refusing to provide any himself. Keith Skinner says to Mike, 'This gentleman wants to know why you will not prove things' to which Mike replies, 'I don't want to get locked up for fraud. Full stop.' I must say, on the recording he sounds genuine when he says this, but I fully accept that he might not have had the receipt in his possession at the time.
Nevertheless, it was a reason he gave during the meeting, not only after it.
One other thing about the receipt. In Paul Daniel's summary of the meeting in Ripperologist of June 1999 it is stated that Mike was 'adamant that he had proof' but was unwilling to produce it when asked to do so. Not once during the interview did Mike Barrett state or give the impression that he was adamant that he had proof of anything. He never mentioned, or referred to, the receipt until he was asked directly about it by Keith Skinner.
Having failed to extract the receipt, and following the mention of Kevin Whay, Keith Skinner then hits Mike with a second unfair question based on a false premise. He says that 'we' had already checked with Kevin Whay: and he reads out Whay's statement that: 'Having searched through our files and archives either side of the alleged sale date. I can confirm that no such description or lot number corresponding with his statement exists.'
Mike responds to this by saying 'wrong' and, unknowingly, he had a very good point. Keith Skinner had failed to take into account that the alleged sale date in Mike's 1995 affidavit was given as January or February 1990 so that a search through O&L's files on the years either side of that date would only have covered 1989 and 1991 but not 1992 which is when Mike was saying he went to Outhwaite & Litherland to acquire the black ledger. So that was unfair to Mike Barrett because he was being told that the files had been checked for the relevant period when they had not, in fact, been checked.
Furthermore, there is another reason why Keith was being unfair to Mike. In a statement made by Kevin Whay to Shirley Harrison on 16 January 1995, which was, for some unexplained reason, omitted from inclusion in 'Inside Story', and is thus not very well known, Whay said that, 'Between 1990-1991 they [O&L] held about 300 or more auctions and items such as an old photo album would have been in a job lot marked "miscellaneous items".'
Consequently, even a search of the records in the correct year would not have revealed the sale of the photo album (or ledger or scrapbook). Those records would, according to Whay, only have recorded it as a 'miscellaneous' item.
This is the full exchange that then takes place between Keith and Mike:
KS: Well this is what he is saying. It’s not what I’m saying. "Furthermore we do not and have never conducted our sales in the manner in which he describes."
KS: He’s wrong?
MB: Totally and utterly.
KS: Mr Kevin Whay…
MB: Totally and utterly.
KS: …who works at Outhwaite & Litherland doesn’t know what he’s talking about?
MB: Well he’s an auctioneer. Right. He’s an exceedingly busy man .
KS: Right. He’s confused?
KS: He’s not confused? I’m confused but he’s not.
MB: No. Mr Kevin Whay and his assistants. Right. Mr Kevin Whay is the man who owns the firm.
KS: They are writing to the wrong man?
MB: He’s the man who owns the firm. Do you understand? Mr Kevin Whay owns the firm. Right. So he gives it to his-
MB: Yes, that’s a good word, the minions. Do you understand?
KS: Yeah. Easy isn’t it?
MB: Actually it is...
In the circumstances, Mike is here giving a reasonable answer to the question. He is basically saying that the search hasn't been conducted thoroughly and that Whay is only relying on what he was told by his underlings. Had Mike known the true facts, namely that the files for the wrong year had been searched, and that those files probably wouldn't have included mention of a photo album (or ledger or scrapbook) anyway, being recorded only as a 'miscellaneous' item, he could have given an even better answer.
In short, though, the question as asked - which was another cross-examination type question - was unfair to Mike. He was trying to tell his story but on each issue, the red diary and now the black ledger, he was being challenged unfairly and put in a position before the audience where he couldn't possibly respond sensibly or in an informed way to Keith's questions. As a listener, what I wanted to know was what Mike actually remembered about the Diary from 1992 but Keith wasn't asking questions directed at extracting information of this nature from his memory. He seems to have been wanting him to argue his case like an advocate. That wasn't what Mike was good at.
The Eleven Days
You might recall that Mike said earlier in the interview about the Diary, 'It took me eleven days flat to write'. Astonishingly, in his 'exemplary' and 'magnificent' interview, Keith Skinner asked not a single question about this! Nor did anyone else in the audience. It was forgotten or ignored, as if Mike had never said it.
Consequently, it was never clarified if Mike was saying that he hadn't given the question of the Diary of Jack the Ripper any thought prior to his telephone call to Doreen Montgomery on 9 March 1992, so that he wrote the Diary from start to finish in 11 days in March 1992, or if he had been researching it and drafting it in the years between 1987 (when he said he wanted to write himself out of financial trouble) and 1992. As I've already mentioned, no-one asked him if Tony Devereux had any involvement in the plan to forge the diary. No-one asked him if any other person had been involved.
We don't know, therefore, what Mike would have said if he had been asked, but my own opinion is that, when he said it took him eleven days flat to write the diary, he meant him and Anne together based on a draft that was already on his word processor. I say this only because of what he appears to have told Alan Gray in 1994 in the recordings of his conversations as reflected in his affidavit of January 1995. According to 'Inside Story', p.145, Mike said to Gray in a recorded interview in late 1994 that, 'he created the Diary on his word processor from Tony Devereux's original research, but that the handwriting was Anne's'. In the 5 January 1995 affidavit he said that, 'The idea of the diary came from discussion between Tony Devereux, Anne Barrett my wife and myself...We looked closely at the background of James Maybrick and I read everything to do with Jack the Ripper.' He also said, 'During the period when we were writing the diary, Tony Devereux was house-bound, very ill and in fact after we completed the Diary we left it for a while...'. Tony Devereux had died in August 1991 so he couldn't possibly have been involved if the idea only popped into Mike's head in March 1992.
The eleven days, of course, do feature in Mike's affidavit of January 1995 when he said 'Anne and I started to write the Diary in all it took us 11 days' . So again, Mike's story from 1995 is consistent with his story from 1999.
I will deal later in this article with the supposed inconsistency between the 1990 date for the writing of the diary in Mike's 1995 affidavit and the 1992 date as claimed by Mike in his 1999 interview (and at the previous day's lunch).
Anna Koren and Anne Barrett's Handwriting
In her 'report' of 11 September 1993, graphologist Anna Koren (sometimes referred to as Hannah Koren) stated that, 'The writer of the diary was probably schizophrenic. Inside the diary I found a variety of letter formations and features indicating multiple personalities.'
During the 10 April 1992 interview, Mike made a very simple and easily comprehensible point about Anna Koren's handwriting analysis of the Diary which Keith Skinner, nevertheless, seems to have completely failed to understand. In fact, he doesn't seem to understand it to this day and, worse, has used this misunderstanding as part of a black propaganda war against Mike Barrett.
After being asked by Keith Skinner if the diary was in Anne's handwriting and saying, 'it's in her handwriting', Mike introduces Anna Koren into the interview. This is how the full exchange goes:
KS: Let’s go to the wicked witch. She is the person.
MB: Let’s go to the proof, let’s go to the heart of the story.
KS That’s her. Without any redemption. The woman without any redemption, the diary is in her handwriting, is it?
MB: Oh the way - it’s in her handwriting - Anna Koren -
KS Bring her in later.
MB No, I want to bring her in now. Anna Koren... The person who write this diary, according to Anna Koren, the world’s [greatest] handwriting expert and what have you, has got a multiple, and I mean multiple, because I’m quoting,-
KS A multiple personality.
MB Thank you.
KS That’s Anne?
MB: That’s Anne.
Let me just repeat that main answer of Mike's with underlining:
'The person who wrote this diary, according to Anne Koren, the world's [greatest] handwriting expert and what have you, has got multiple, and I mean multiple, because I'm quoting -'
As we've seen, Keith helps him out at this point saying 'A multiple personality' to which Mike says, 'Thank you'.
Keith then asks him if he is saying that Anne is a multiple personality and a schizophrenic, to which Mike says 'Yes'. There is then the following exchange:
KS: This explains. I mean, you’ve answered it for me because we’ve got Anne’s handwriting. I’ve given it to Don Rumbelow again, who can just about read. He will be able to see a pattern-
MB: Don’t be insulting him –
KS: Anne’s handwriting doesn’t seem to resemble the handwriting of the diary.
MB: Anna Koren, Anna Koren states quite categorically. Paul Feldman flies her in from Israel. She’s the world’s leading handwriting expert, agreed? Or not? Will everybody agree with me because that’s what’s in the Diary. So Anna Koren gets flied in, right, from Paul Feldman, she looks at the Diary. She doesn’t know it’s the diary of Jack the Ripper.
KS: She says whoever wrote this has a schizoid personality. That is Anne Graham. So, therefore, Anne Graham, when she actually wrote the Diary, she wrote in her other personality. Does she become schizoid to order then?
MB: Well put it this way. I haven’t seen my daughter for six years. Now hang on, hang on. Right.
In amongst all that, we see that Keith Skinner states that Anne's handwriting doesn't seem to resemble the handwriting of the diary. He doesn't produce any expert opinion on this, he just states it. He doesn't ask Mike to agree or disagree, and Mike, who was obviously determined to finish his point about Anna Koren, doesn't offer any view one way or the other.
As far as I know, the only example of Anne's purportedly 'normal' handwriting that Keith Skinner had seen at this point is a sample she provided to him on 18 January 1995 which, to my untrained eye, does not actually match her 'normal' handwriting in her private handwritten correspondence. Moreover, there are undoubted similarities between Anne's handwriting in her correspondence and the handwriting in the diary.
According to Keith, though, who is drawing his own conclusions, when Anne wrote the diary, 'she wrote in her other personality'. That is NOT what Mike has said. All he has said is that Anna Koren claimed that, based on the handwriting, the person who wrote the diary suffered from a multiple personality disorder. As he had testified that Anne wrote the diary ('in her handwriting') it must follow, as a matter of pure logic, if Anna Koren was correct, that Anne suffered from a multiple personality disorder. It's a very simple point. How Keith Skinner doesn't understand it (and I will demonstrate his failure of understanding in due course) is beyond me.
The interview moved on at this point because Keith picked up on the reference to Mike's daughter - but a questioner returned to the issue later in the evening and this was how the exchange went:
Q: Just a small point. You’ve said that your wife actually -
Q: Ex-wife, beg your pardon, actually wrote the diary and because she has psychological problems, this came through on the actual writing, this fed through into the writing?
MB: No, I didn’t say that. Anna Koren said that.
Q: Oh I beg your pardon. Well it was said, it was said, it was said by somebody.
MB: It wasn’t said by me.
MB: You asked me a question let me correct that. Anna Koren said that.
Q: It was said by somebody that the writing displayed psychological problems.
MB: That’s quite true but only by, and I must emphasise in this room, not by me, by Anna Koren.
Q: Fine, fine, I’m not mentioning any names now, it was said-.
MB: No, I’ll mention names.
Q: It was said by somebody, okay?
MB: Yeah. Well it wasn’t said by somebody, get your facts straight, it was said by Anna Koren.
Q: Fine, it was said by Anna Koren, whoever Anna Koren is. Fine. But the problem I’ve got is you’ve just been telling us is that you actually wrote it on the word processor and your ex-wife-
MB: I never hand wrote it, Anne hand wrote it, that’s the difference.
Q So it’s the handwriting that showed the psychological problems, not the content.
MB: Not the content.
Q: That’s fine. Thank you very much. That’s cleared that up.
This is an interesting exchange which not only shows Mike getting the better of his questioner (who had no idea who Anna Koren was) but makes clear that, according to Mike, it was a handwriting expert, not him, who was saying that his wife (as the author of the diary) had psychological problems. As we've seen, Mike had earlier introduced the subject by saying that the person who wrote the diary had a multiple personality according to Anna Koren. It's true that Mike then agreed with Keith that he was saying that Anne was a schizophrenic but a fair reading of what Mike was saying during the evening as a whole is that this was only based on what the handwriting expert had said. In other words, an expert was telling him that the person who wrote the diary had a multiple personality disorder. He knew that Anne wrote the Diary. Ergo his wife had a multiple personality disorder. For Mike, it no doubt explained why Anne had taken his daughter from him but the key issue here is that Mike was not saying any of this based on his own observations of Anne, it was purely on what the handwriting expert Anna Koren was saying about the handwriting in the diary, i.e. Anne's handwriting (according to Mike).
After Mike repeated that Anne physically wrote the Diary, Keith Skinner then chipped in at this point of the questioning to say (emphasis added):
'And Anne’s handwriting which is different to what’s in the diary, the reason for that is that because your wife, ex-wife, is a deeply disturbed person with a schizoid personality, that is why the handwriting is different to her own natural handwriting.'
This is Keith Skinner's own personal and wrong interpretation of what Mike was saying (and Mike's response at the time was silence - he didn't say he agreed with it). Mike never once had said during the evening that the handwriting in the Diary was different to Anne's natural handwriting, nor did he once say that he was providing an explanation as to why the handwriting in the Diary was different to Anne's natural handwriting. He was making a completely different point based on the conclusion of Anna Koren which, in his mind, explained aspects of Anne's behaviour in a way that many people who have been through a divorce would probably think of their partner because it supports their belief that their partner was the bad (and sick) person in the relationship and explains why the relationship went wrong in a way that means they don't have to confront their own bad behaviour.
That's all it was. A kind of personal petty point scoring exercise by Mike but nevertheless a point for which the logic can't really be flawed, especially if, as he seems to have believed, Anne wrote the Diary in her natural handwriting.
Now, how did Keith Skinner portray this entire exchange to the world in his letter to Ripperologist dated 27 April 1999? Well, this is what he said:
'...when I queried Mike as to why the writing in the journal (JTR Diary) appeared to bear no resemblance to Anne's handwriting, he explained that this was because Anne had a multi-personality disorder - resting on Hannah Koren's published analysis of the handwriting as evidential support. Mike, by now, has implicated Anne in the forgery, accused her of emotional blackmail and inferred that she had sustained a seven year campaign of lying and cheating and deceiving for financial gain. This new accusation of a personality disorder, therefore, came as no surprise - although I did wonder when, in their eleven years of marriage, Mike may first have noticed it.'
We can see that Keith's first sentence is simply untrue. Keith has had a failure of recollection of Mike Barrettian proportions! Mike did not introduce the point about Anne's multi-personality disorder in response to a question from Keith as to why the writing in the journal appeared to bear no resemblance to Anne's handwriting. In fact, Keith never asked that question of Mike during the entire evening. Mike introduced the subject of Anne's multi-personality disorder after Keith asked him if the Diary was in Anne's handwriting, to which Mike replied that it was. In other words, that's the complete opposite of Keith's summary of the exchange! Mike never claimed that Anne's handwriting in the Diary bore no resemblance to Anne's handwriting nor did his point about Anna Koren rely on there being no such resemblance. Again, quite the opposite. The point for Mike was that the handwriting in the Diary DID resemble Anne's handwriting. As to that, this is what Mike said during the evening (without any challenge from Keith Skinner):
'Anne actually wrote it in her handwriting.'
'Anne wrote it. It's in her handwriting. Now always remember that fact. That's a god given fact.'
'Anne wrote it. It’s in her handwriting.'
Surely the point is clear. Anne wrote the Diary in her handwriting. Anna Koren said that the handwriting showed the author to be suffering from some form of multiple personality disorder. Q.E.D., Anne suffered from some form of multiple personality disorder. That's what Mike was bursting to say at the club meeting and that's what he did say.
Keith's total lack of understanding of the point is evident from his snide comment that he wondered when in their eleven years of marriage Mike might have noticed the personality disorder. For Mike wasn't saying that he ever noticed such personality disorder during their years of marriage. He was saying that the point only arose after Anna Koren was flown in from Israel to pronounce that the author of the Diary (i.e. Anne, according to Mike) suffered from a personality disorder based on the handwriting (i.e. Anne's handwriting, according to Mike). It wasn't Mike who made the diagnosis of the personality disorder, therefore, it was Anna Koren. That's why Keith should not be wondering when Mike first noticed it. But no doubt every person on the planet has different moods on different days and I'm sure an expert diagnosis of a personality disorder in their former partner could explain a great deal of things for any divorced person!
So that was Keith Skinner getting it wrong in 1999. In his 2003 book, 'Inside Story', co-written with Caroline Morris who was present at the meeting, we find this about the events of the evening:
'Barrett insisted the Diary had been written by Anne but created by him. Pressed by Keith Skinner to explain why the writing was not similar to Anne's, Barrett announced that this was because Anne suffered from a multi-personality disorder, quoting Anna Koren's analysis of the handwriting of the diary as evidence.'
This account is, of course, false. Keith Skinner never pressed Mike to explain why the writing of the diary was not similar to Anne's. It was never even established during the evening that Mike believed that the writing of the diary wasn't similar to Anne's. Mike wasn't using Anna Koren's analysis to explain why Anne's handwriting wasn't similar to the diary handwriting. It's not even correct to say that Mike was using Anna Koren's analysis of the handwriting of the diary as evidence to support his claim that that Anne suffered from a multi-personality disorder. His point was that it was Anna Koren who was saying this full stop. He could hardly have made it clearer that it wasn't him but Anna Koren who was saying, in effect, that Anne had a personality disorder. Thus (by way of reminder):
Q: Ex-wife, beg your pardon, actually wrote the diary and because she has psychological problems, this came through on the actual writing, this fed through into the writing?
MB: No, I didn’t say that. Anna Koren said that.
Q: It was said by somebody that the writing displayed psychological problems.
MB: That’s quite true but only by, and I must emphasise in this room, not by me, by Anna Koren.
How could Keith Skinner have missed this? How could he have failed to understand it? I really have no idea. Yet to this very day he is obviously confused about it. When setting out his recollection of the interview in an online post on Casebook on 18 August 2019 (#1750 in the Acquiring thread), he said:
'he did mention Anne had a multi personality disorder which explained why the handwriting did not resemble her own natural hand...At the time, this disorder of Anne had gone unnoticed by most people who knew her and I remember silently wondering when, in their eighteen years of marriage, Mike may have first noticed it.'
As we've seen, that's factually incorrect because Mike did not use Anne's supposed multi personality disorder to explain why the Diary handwriting did not resemble her own natural hand and Keith's point that the disorder of Anne 'had gone unnoticed by most people who knew her' was ridiculous in the context of what Mike actually did say.
Despite not having been at the meeting or having heard the recording, I was, two days later (i.e. two days after Keith Skinner's post of 18 August 2019), able to provide the correct interpretation of what Mike had said in 1999 because I wrote the following in 'Lord Orsam Says...' of 20 August 2019:
'If we assume that Anne was skilfully able to disguise her handwriting (and, as I've pointed out elsewhere, there are similarities in the way she forms some of her characters to the way those characters are formed in the Diary) then I suspect that all that happened here is that, after his wife left him, taking their daughter with her, Mike, having noted that the experts said that the handwriting of the Diary shows that its author had a multi personality disorder (and that people with such disorder can have different styles of handwriting), rationalized Anne's decision to leave him ex post facto on the basis that it wasn't his own appalling behaviour that caused her to go but the fact that she suffered from multi personality disorder. I doubt his comments on the subject should be taken any more seriously than that.'
How right was I? I hadn't even heard Mike emphasizing that it wasn't HIM saying Anne had the personality disorder it was ANNA KOREN, yet I was still able to nail exactly what he had said that evening simply from untangling Keith Skinner's misunderstanding.
Unfortunately, Keith Skinner either did not read 'Lord Orsam Says...' (a fatal mistake for anyone) or did not absorb it for he still had the same silly idea stuck in his head when he posted to RJ Palmer on the Casebook forum (via J. Menges naturally) on 16 November 2019 in the Rippercast Archives thread (#79):
'Am I right in believing you are coming to the UK soon? If so, I hope you may swing by Liverpool and knock on Anne Graham’s door. You’ll have heard Mike state she suffers from a multi personality disorder, (which apparently explained why her handwriting did not match the writing in the Diary), so perhaps you’ll strike lucky and get her on a Diary writing day.'
We see again a fundamental misunderstanding by Keith Skinner in thinking that Mike was trying to explain away Anne's handwriting not matching the handwriting in the Diary by pinning a multi personality disorder on her, although we may note that he's subtly changed the emphasis here to 'apparently explained' which still isn't correct. He seems to think that Mike was saying that her personality changed on the day she wrote the Diary which explains why her handwriting was different to her normal handwriting. And what's worse is that Keith is saying this even though he is fully aware that I have claimed that Anne's normal handwriting, as revealed in her private correspondence, does bear similarities to the handwriting in the Diary. He knows full well, because he has mentioned it in one of his posts, that I posted extracts from Anne's handwritten correspondence and invited members of the Forum to compare the way she forms her characters with characters in the Diary. There were no dissenting voices as to the similarities between the characters I identified. He should also now be aware, therefore, that Anne's natural handwriting doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the sample Anne gave to him for testing purposes in 1995. Perhaps he thinks she was having a different personality day at the time!
And it's not only Keith Skinner who has misunderstood Mike's claim about Anne's supposed personality disorder and uses it against him as part of a campaign to discredit the idea that the Diary is a modern forgery. Naturally, Caroline Morris does exactly the same thing. Posting on the Casebook Censorship Forum in the thread 'Maybrick - a problem in logic', on 22 November 2019 (at #93), she said:
'If people are relying on dodgy suggestions from amateur sleuths, including Mike Barrett's desperate stab at claiming Anne has multiple personality disorder [which was widely ridiculed as an explanation for James Maybrick as the penman]...where is the logic there?'
So she takes a false premise - i.e. that Barrett had explained away the supposed fact that Anne's normal handwriting doesn't resemble the handwriting in the Diary on the basis that Anne had a multiple personality disorder - and then uses that false premise as a brush with which to tar all those who say that Anne could have written the Diary, even though, as far as I am aware, I've never heard a single person (including Mike) offer up as a reason in favour of Anne having written Diary being because she had a multiple personality disorder. Not a single person! It's the classic straw man argument which she only puts forward in order to mock it.
After Mike mentioned that he hadn't seen his daughter for six years, Keith somewhat took his life into his own hands by asking Mike a question about her (although Mike said he didn't mind). In fact, Mike then volunteered the following bit of information:
'Anne blackmailed me with Caroline. She turned round to me...at the book launch and said I’ll never see Caroline again. I’m telling the truth.'
He was very consistent and insistent about this during the evening. Hence:
'I’ll tell you how it hurts. Excuse me ladies and gentlemen. I’ll tell you how it hurts. It hurts there through the heart. It kills me from the heart because Anne has lied and she’s used Caroline as a blackmail threat.'
He also gave an explanation as to why Caroline had lied to researchers about the Diary, saying, 'She doesn't want her mum getting nicked...Caroline's got to protect the mum. Because she's got to protect the mum. It's very simple. If the Diary is found to be a forgery, Robert, if the Diary is found out to be a forgery who goes to prison? Not me, because I’ve been telling the truth. Anne goes to prison. So Anne, Caroline is not looking at it any other way “I’ve got to protect my mum”. Very simple.'
During this exchange, Keith Skinner went off on one of his idiosyncratic lines of questioning, the purpose of which I fail to understand. He basically wanted to know how Caroline was allowed to witness the creation of the Diary (as set out in Barrett's January 1995 affidavit). In fact, he actually said this was something that disturbed him.
'In your statement and this is what also disturbs me is you say in your statement that Caroline actually witnessed you and Anne creating the diary.'
From the moral perspective, which is how Keith introduces the question, it strikes me as redundant. How does Keith think it would have been possible for Mike and Anne to have created the Diary in the timescale of eleven days in a small house without any other resident of that house knowing about it? There was no way such an undertaking could have been kept secret from their daughter. But, more importantly, it's not a crime to create a diary in the privacy of one's home, even a diary in which James Maybrick is said to be Jack the Ripper. The criminal offence is when you try and sell such a diary on the basis that it's a genuine document, because that is fraud. But what Caroline would have witnessed in 12 Goldie Street was not a criminal act.
Presumably on the basis of Caroline having witnessed the writing of the Diary (although he doesn't make it clear), Keith went on to ask Mike: 'But Mike, when you and Anne wrote this diary, created it together, what about the risk of actually being found out and going to prison, was that a risk you were prepared to take?'. They say if you ask a stupid question you get a stupid answer and Mike's answer was 'No, I'm too good a writer'. Leaving aside that writing and creating the Diary was not a crime and would not, in itself, have involved anyone going to prison, every single criminal enterprise in the whole world involves taking a risk. Every serious criminal enterprise in the world involves the risk that the person doing the act might end up in prison. Many of these people do end up in prison and us, non-criminal, law abiding people, think to ourselves how could they possibly have thought they would get away with it? And was the reward really worth the risk? But if you asked these criminals whether they thought they were taking a risk you'll probably get answers which are as nonsensical as the one Mike gave.
It reminds me, actually, of an episode of the Simpsons in which Homer Simpson is faced with the opportunity of stealing some money. We see inside his head where there are images of him wealthy and happy and living the dream with all the money he's stolen, whereas the reality is that, of course, he gets caught immediately (or would have got caught immediately - I can't now remember if he actually did go ahead with the theft in the show). No doubt this is how most criminals think. They are focused on the money - or whatever the reward is for the crime - without giving any serious thought to the risk. That's why I say that Keith's question was a stupid one.
Keith asked what ink Mike used to write the Diary and he received a clear answer: Diamine ink.
Keith then asked him, 'Why Diamine?' to which Mike replied, 'I don't know, I just wanted ink.'
Pausing there. Keith has asked Mike a question and he's answered it. He doesn't know why he bought Diamine ink. That's his answer. He hasn't evaded the question. He's answered it. There could be a perfectly innocent reason why Mike doesn't know the answer. Back in 1992 someone could have told him that if he wanted to forge a diary he should use Diamine ink because that's the same as Victorian ink but he's now entirely forgotten that conversation and, as a result, can't quite work out why he purchased Diamine particularly.
Keith Skinner, however, knew better. He said to Mike, 'Hang on, you must know'. So now Keith is telling Mike what he does and does not know! This caused Mike to react by saying 'Oh, let's go for it' and Keith says aggressively (and not in any way diplomatically!), 'I am going for it Mike because I don't believe you. On this I don't believe you.'
After quoting from the diary in response ('Sweet sugar and tea could have paid my small fee/But instead I did flee') Mike asks and then answers his own question:
'What do you do with the ink? You put a little bit of sugar in it.'
Asked why he would do this, he said: 'To mix up the molecules'. He repeats this a couple of times before attempting a demonstration with a quarter of Scotch to show that adding sugar to a quarter of Scotch changes that quarter of Scotch to 'a quarter of Scotch with a hell of a lot of sugar in it.'
Mike's remarks about the sugar have led to a lot of ridicule over the years, not least from Caroline Morris, but it's interesting to note that adding sugar would not, apparently, have harmed the ink. On the contrary, it might well have improved its fluidity. According to an 1807 'Dictionary of Chemistry and Mineralogy' by Arthur and Charles Rochement Aikin:
'Sugar is sometimes added to ink. It makes it flow somewhat easier from the pen, and gives it when dry a gloss which is admired by some.'
According to Dr Andrew Ure in 'A Dictionary of Chemistry' (1821):
'Sugar appears to have bad qualities, but it is of use in giving a degree of fluidity to ink...'
If Mike was lying about adding sugar, is it just a coincidence that he claims to have added a substance to the ink which is known to improve its fluidity and appearance? Or had Mike been told or read that adding sugar to ink is advisable?
Now, it's clear that Mike's stated reason for adding sugar to ink was nothing to do with improving fluidity or appearance. It was, apparently, because he thought it would disguise the ink if scientifically tested. He may not have been right about this but him being right or wrong is not really important. All that is important is what was in his mind.
I say that he 'may not have been right' about this rather than he was definitely wrong for one reason. It seems to me that adding sugar to ink is going to somewhat affect the chemical composition of the ink. The chemical (molecular) formula of sugar is C12H22O11. So you would be adding carbon, hydrogen and oxygen into the ink. Now I don't say that this is going to disguise the ink when tested for one second but I do wonder if adding the sugar is going to dilute the ink. Shirley Harrison tells us that the 1992 formula of Diamine ink was 92.08% water with 0.26% chloroacetamide. The only ingredient of Diamine which gives it away as a modern ink is the chloroacetamide. It seems to me that if you are adding sugar to an ink then it is no longer 92.08% water and 0.26% chloroacetamide but that these percentages must change due to the addition of the sugar. Now it would need a chemist to take this any further but it will be recalled that the Analysis for Industry test result, which found minute traces of chloroacetamide, was disputed on the basis that the amount found was much less than the 3.28% of the dried ink it should have been once the water was removed from the equation. I really don't know if dissolved sugar would have ended up in the dried ink residue that was tested by Analysis for Industry but, if it did, then might it not have reduced the amount of parts per million of chloroacetamide found in the ink? I've already noted in 'Not True, Funny How it Seems' (without any opposition whatsoever so far) that the fact that 90% of the dried ink residue tested comprised paper must significantly reduce the expected amount of parts per million of chloroacetamide that would be expected to have been found in the residue. It would be hugely ironic if, despite the ridicule that Mike's claim about the sugar has attracted, it was actually partly responsible for the low percentage amount of chloroacetamide found in the ink, which low percentage has been used to argue that the ink was not Diamine. How funny if Mike's sugar HAD disguised the Diamine after all!
One thing I will say about Mike's claim regarding the sugar is that he was keen to have it tested, saying:
'I’ll tell you what, we’ll go down there if there are any shops here open now, and we’ll go and get the ink, and we’ll go and get sugar, when you put the sugar in the ink, and you go… the molecules are totally messed up so therefore you can’t produce the exact ink.'
This is similar to they way he later wanted someone to telephone 192 to confirm the existence of the Medici Art Gallery in Liverpool (about which, as we shall see later, he most certainly was not lying).
There then followed this exchange between Keith and Mike:
KS: What would be the properties of the ink that you used? I’ll tell you what, what would you be avoiding?
MB: To find out who is writing the diary of Jack the Ripper.
KS: What you wouldn’t do is go to Woolworths and get a bottle of ink would you?
KS: Why not?
MB: I went to Bluecoat Chambers.
KS: Why wouldn’t you go to Woolworths? Woolworths is closer.
KS: Why Bluecoat Chambers?
MB Easy. Because they had Diamine ink.
KS: So you knew about Diamine ink?
KS: Right. What is the properties of Diamine ink that it has that you were looking for?
MB: Simple, when I’m writing with a two point nib, right, do you understand what I mean?
MB: Right, thank you, I’m thinking to myself I’ve got Diamine ink here, but hang on a minute, this is not and I emphasise this -
KS: Is it an iron gall ink?
MB: Will you stop! I’m going to hit him in a minute, no disrespect, I wouldn’t do with hitting you but will you let me have my say.
There's nothing wrong per se with Keith's question about Woolworths, albeit that it wasn't a store that was exactly known for selling writing ink, whereas you'd be sure of getting some at the Bluecoat Chambers art shop (and, while there was a Woolworths in Bootle, the Liverpool store of Woolies at St John's Shopping Centre was in the exact same area of Liverpool as Bluecoat Chambers, an area of the city where he would have needed to go in any case for his pens and nibs, if he was planning to get them at the 'Medici' in Bold Street) but the main problem with Keith's questioning here is that he's still trying to get to the bottom of why Mike wanted Diamine ink, about which Mike has already answered that he doesn't know why he wanted that ink!
What is wrong in my opinion is Keith's constant interruption of Mike's answers. At the end of the exchange, Mike is trying to tell us something, saying, 'I'm thinking to myself I've got Diamine ink here, but hang on a minute, this is not and I emphasise this- ' so Mike is here about to emphasise something that he wants to say in answer to Keith's question and yet Keith jumps in with a ludicrous question to Mike, namely 'Is it an iron gall ink?'. It's almost as if Keith has reached a point where he can't stop talking and has a compulsive need to interrupt Mike. Why does he even need to ask Mike if Diamine is an iron gall ink? Frankly, aside from the threat of violence (about which Mike was clearly not being serious) I have sympathy for Mike at this point. It follows a series of interruptions from Keith. Many of them were, no doubt, with the intention of getting Mike back on track but here Mike seems to be attempting to answer Keith's question and wants to emphasise something. Keith has jumped in before Mike has had a chance to really get started with his answer, causing Mike to basically, and rightly, ask Keith to shut up and let him have his say.
Unfortunately, we don't really know what Mike wanted to emphasise. The interruption might have caused him to lose his train of thought. After Keith apologised for the interruption, Mike's next remark was this:
'Right. So when you do the Diamine ink, right I’m thinking to myself oh I’ve got Diamine ink here, do you understand what I mean, I thought to myself, ooh sugar lumps here. And I mean literally sugar lumps. I thought to myself I can’t produce that Diamaine ink. That can be traced. That can be traced. So I’m putting sugar in and mixing it all up and about, that can’t be traced.'
We haven't got any further.
One final thing I will say on this topic. There is a note amongst Melvin Harris' papers by an unknown author (possibly Harris himself) which states:
'...we can only add that Mike Barrett has long claimed that he added certain ingredients (notably sugar and water) to the purchased ink, in order to alter its appearance on the page.'
At the meeting, Mike didn't say the sugar was added to alter the appearance of the ink and he didn't mention water but, at the same time, he wasn't asked if he added anything else to the ink. The mention of sugar came about after Keith Skinner said he didn't believe him about the Diamine. It wasn't in response to a specific question about what he did to the ink. If Mike did add water to the ink it might well have altered its visual appearance on the paper which might have confused Alec Voller when he concluded from a visual examination that the ink was not Diamine. The sugar might also have had the same effect, knowing as we do that it can give the ink a gloss that it otherwise would not possess.
In his affidavit of 5 January 1995, it was stated that Mike felt that Maybrick was an ideal candidate for Jack the Ripper but that, 'He was not Jack the Ripper of that I am certain'. During the interview, however, when Keith asked him if he thought Maybrick was Jack the Ripper he answered, 'Why do you think I wrote it?'. When Keith informs the audience that the previous day Mike had said that it was his conclusive belief that Maybrick was Jack the Ripper and that, on the strength of that, he wrote the diary to which Mike added a qualification, saying, '99 percent sure, I'll never be 100 percent sure'.
There is, therefore, a contradiction between what Mike said his state of mind was in 1995 (or at least what Alan Gray included in the affidavit as being Mike's state of mind) as opposed to what he was saying in 1999. It's not a fatal contradiction but I would like to hear what Mike actually said in his 1994 recordings with Alan Gray before coming to a conclusion as to Mike's actual state of mind on this issue.
But we then come to the main question that Keith Skinner wanted to ask:
'So why didn't you make the diary resemble his handwriting at all?'
Before we look at Mike's answer, it's obvious that Keith has asked the wrong person. Mike was saying that Anne wrote the Diary so the question should properly have been addressed to her (albeit that she would presumably have denied any involvement). More importantly, did Anne have the ability to forge another person's handwriting with sufficient skill to fool a handwriting expert? Personally I doubt it. It's one thing to slightly disguise your own handwriting, quite another to attempt an exact replica of someone else's handwriting because attempting to do so would show in the laboured formation of characters, something which an expert would be very likely to spot.
In any event, Mike's answer was simple and to the point. 'Very, very simple', he said, 'I never had any examples of James Maybrick's handwriting.'
Once again, Mike's answer (which provides a full explanation) wasn't good enough for Keith Skinner. He says to Mike, 'But you didn't think to go and...because you'd been studying it for some time so you must have known the will existed.'
I've no idea where this came from. Mike hadn't said a word about studying anything for some time. Sure, he'd said that the idea to write the Diary had come to him following Maggie Graham's death in 1987 but Keith hadn't thought to ask him anything about that. Mike did say to Keith 'I've studied Florence Maybrick, My Poisoned Life' but gave no time period for when he had done so, and that book doesn't state that a will existed in 1992, let alone one in Maybrick's handwriting.
However, Mike has been told that he 'must have known' that the will existed so he said that he did but it's possible that he's now mixing up his tenses, speaking about his knowledge after 1992 rather than prior to that time. This is the resulting exchange:
MB: I went to the corn exchange, I went to the Liverpool library, right, and James Maybrick’s will is at the Liverpool library, and if you want to, it was at the Liverpool Library five floors up.
KS: So you knew that?
KS: You knew the original will was there?
KS: So why didn’t you use it?
MB: Because it’s not written in his handwriting, check it, it’s been written in Thomas’ handwriting.
KS: Thomas Maybrick, his brother, wrote James Maybrick’s will. Did he sign it?
KS: How did you know that?
MB: Easy I went to Liverpool William Brown Street library.
KS: And you looked at James Maybrick’s will and said James Maybrick didn’t write this, his brother Thomas did?
MB: Go check it.
KS: I believe you. I just want to know how you knew that.
MB: Well it’s easy if you’re doing documentary research, I’m a researcher. Before I do anything I research.
If you want to include this in the count of questions which Mike didn't answer you can, but it's the first one so far that he hasn't really answered. Saying he's a researcher doesn't quite answer it. At the same time, I would suggest that he's confused himself and is really trying to say that the will was in Edwin Maybrick's handwriting based on the Reed Hayes report which stated that Edwin's signature resembled the handwriting on his brother's will.
So perhaps in 1999 he thought that the will was in Edwin's handwriting but whether he thought this in 1992 is another matter.
For myself, incidentally, I would have thought it would be reckless to assume that the will is in James Maybrick's handwriting and I would not be at all surprised if it was written by a clerk (but signed by James Maybrick). A forger attempting to copy the handwriting in the will, therefore, could have made a terribly embarrassing error.
The short point is that Mike had answered Keith's question as to why no attempt was made to resemble Maybrick's handwriting. He didn't have an example of Maybrick's handwriting to even copy. It's all very well Keith saying that Mike 'must have' seen Maybrick's will but that is to put words into the mouth of a witness, possibly influencing the rest of his answers. If Mike is told that 'must have' seen the will then he might have felt the need to explain why he hadn't seen any examples of Maybrick's actual handwriting due to the will having been written by Maybrick's brother. This really does then get us into a possible area of confusion whereby Mike can't remember when he first saw Maybrick's will.
His first answer was a good and satisfactory one which explained why the Diary handwriting doesn't resemble Maybrick's handwriting. Keith should have accepted it and moved on, not tried to contradict, and possibly confuse, the 'witness'.
'Oh Costly Intercourse of Death'
A classic example of how Mike manages to mess up his arguments is with the line in the Diary which reads 'Oh costly intercourse of death'. He had a simple point to make which is that he dictated the words 'O Costly Intercourse of Death' to Anne but she added an 'h' to write 'Oh Costly....'. The audience would have understood this very quickly but Mike laboured the point, feeling the need to explain it at some length, thus losing his audience at the same time.
But it was the same point made in his affidavit of 5 January 1995 in which he had said, 'Anne Barrett made a mistake when she wrote it down, she should have written 'O' not 'OH'.
In his affidavit, Barrett also explained that he took the quotation from the 'Sphere History of Literature', volume 2. He doesn't elaborate on that in his affidavit but, during the interview, he explained how he got the entire set of nine volumes from Sphere as part of an appeal for items to auction on behalf of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy. He said he enjoyed reading them and, 'They gave me an awful lot of knowledge'. He said that the words 'O costly intercourse of death[s]' struck him as 'very, very, good'. As he explained it, 'I was reading the book, and I love reading, and I thought to myself that's a cracking line, and I mean that's a real cracking line.' He said that the line stayed with him all the way through and he had just started to say, 'And I thought to myself' when Keith annoyingly interrupted him again to ask him to explain what the line meant. Mike's answer to that question is not one that makes any sense but he doesn't really need to have understood it. His answer that it was a cracking line which stayed in his memory seems to have been sufficient.
Keith doesn't ask about the circumstances in which Mike revealed the source of this quotation to Paul Feldman's assistant and to Shirley Harrison in 1994. Keith, once again giving evidence, says that after reading the Sphere books they went into the attic but that Mike remembered the 'costly intercourse' line when writing the Diary to which Mike says (presumably confirming Keith's account), 'Quite right'. If the book had been in Mike's attic since about 1989 this might explain why it took a bit of time for him to locate it so that he could give the title to Feldman and Harrison.
Mike's 1995 affidavit doesn't deal with the discovery of the quotation but it should be noted that, according to 'Inside Story' p. 145, Barrett's friend Jenny Morrison 'corroborated his story' regarding the Hillsborough disaster appeal and that Barrett not only did receive the Sphere books but, before they were put into the attic, they were taken round to Harrison's house for her teenage son to use for his studies (although it seems that he did not, in the event, use them).
After Mike explains that his wife added a superfluous 'h' in 'Oh costly intercourse', Keith makes another failed attempt at cross-examination. He shows Mike the transcript of the Diary that he (Mike) and Anne provided to Doreen and Shirley in 1992 (the same one he promised to produce to the world in 2018 but failed to do so) and points out that it says 'Oh costly intercourse' with the 'h'. But, as Mike points out, this wasn't the document he used to produce the diary, it was a transcript prepared from the Diary subsequently.
Keith's final question during his interview was about the inclusion of the phrase 'damn it the tin match box was empty' which was a topic Mike actually raised himself (thus keeping the interview moving forward!) presumably when he spotted it in the transcript which he had been shown, for he says:
'And damn it the tin box was empty. Robert. I’ll tell you something. Damn it the tin box was empty. Paul Harrison in 1889 (sic), I don’t suppose you’re here by the way, Paul Harrison, in his itinerary, and I mean literally in his itinerary says “damn it the match box was empty”. Check with Paul Harrison. The matchbox is empty.'
Keith's response was: 'This is extraordinary, the empty tin matchbox. It is sheer brilliance but it’s also what damns you because the empty tin matchbox is what gives us our 1987 date. Why did you include it? How did you come to include that tiny tiny detail?'
Mike's answer to this could be said to be the second question he didn't really answer for he said:
'Because I’m a writer full stop. Okay ladies and gentlemen, sorry, I’m going to stop this now. No I will stop it. First of all I’m dying for a pint. Anybody buying me a pint. I’ve been sitting here I haven’t had a drink or anything.'
Saying 'Because I'm a writer' doesn't quite answer the question of why he included a reference to the empty tin matchbox in the Diary although, at the same time, it is AN answer of sorts and, in fairness, Mike had already said that he saw in a Ripper book a mention of an empty tin matchbox and he included it in the Diary. Is there really much more he could have said to answer Keith's question?
So we've reached the end of the entire Keith Skinner interview and I've only been able to identify two questions that Mike didn't really answer. The first being how he knew Maybrick's will wasn't in Maybrick's handwriting and the second being how he came to include the line about the empty tin matchbox.
We may note that Mike was correct to say that Paul Harrison included the itinerary of Eddowes' possessions which described the empty tin matchbox in his book (published in 1991, not 1989 as Mike said).
QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
Although Mike had said he wanted to stop at this point, he did continue (after being promised a pint) taking questions from the audience. Let's go through them individually:
The first question was from Andy Parlour and, with all due respect to him, it was a terrible question:
Parlour: You made an affidavit on oath before a solicitor that you forged this diary. Is Anne Graham prepared to make a similar affidavit to say -?
MB: I don’t know I haven’t seen her for six years.
Parlour: I know, but would she be prepared to do the same?
I mean, for goodness sake. Mike's been separated from Anne since 1994. How is he supposed to be able to say whether she is prepared to swear an affidavit or not? What a waste of a question!
Having already answered it, Mike repeated his answer, saying:
'I don’t know. I’m being totally honest. I don’t know.'
So he's answered the question in full. No evasion or dishonesty. A clearly honest answer.
At this point Keith Skinner chipped in with a dreadful question of his own, saying:
'The affidavit you made actually has no resemblance to your story, why did you change it?'
Now, Mike swore two affidavits. The first was on 26 April 1993 in which he claimed that he received the Diary from Tony Devereux. The second was on 5 January 1995 in which he confessed to forging the Diary. Keith failed to make clear in his question to which affidavit he was referring. Furthermore, if he was referring to Mike's 5 January 1995 affidavit, he hadn't clarified in which respect that affidavit has 'no resemblance' to Mike's story.
For what it's worth, this is how the subsequent exchange went:
MB: Here’s my opener. Oh what a deceive, when we practice to deceive. [He was obviously trying to say 'Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive'.] I was practising to deceive.
KS: You were deceiving solicitors?
MB: I was deceiving everybody, I didn’t want to get nicked.
There's nothing wrong with that answer, although I suspect that Mike didn't understand Keith's question about his story not resembling his affidavit, which can hardly be held against him because I'm not sure I fully understand it either.
I've already referred to Martin Fido's question in which Fido wants to say that Anne's spelling, from his experience of her typed letters, was competent, as opposed to the poor spelling in the Diary. We've seen that Mike answered this by saying that Anne had subsequently relied on a spell checker on her word processor which wasn't available to her when she was writing the Diary in 1992. But let's look at the questions and answers in full.
FIDO: A big problem. The diary is full of spelling mistakes, do you agree with that?
MB: Oh I know, I’m not the world’s greatest speller. In actual fact, I’ll take you back to my hotel room now [I think he refers to showing him a manuscript of a book he is writing called 'The Mystery Murders'].
FIDO: But you didn’t write it, Anne wrote it.
MB: Yeah. Anne’s not the world’s greatest speller and neither am I.
FIDO: Well I’ve had a lot of letters from Anne and I’ve seen a certain amount of her writing. And it doesn’t contain spelling mistakes.
MB: Ah, she’s got a word processor. She’s got a spell checker. Simple.
It's interesting here that Mike admits that he's not a good speller. Fido made a good point in response to this by countering that it's irrelevant bearing in mind that Anne wrote the Diary but Mike didn't miss a beat, responding that Anne isn't a great speller either. On this, we can say he is making a fair point. I've produced examples of Anne's handwritten letters and it shows that she was perfectly capable of making the spelling mistakes that we find in the Diary.
Although Fido said that he'd seen 'a certain amount of her writing' it turned out that he'd never seen her actual handwriting, only her typed correspondence. Hence, this is how the exchange continued:
FIDO: But you composed this on word processor?
MB: Put it this way-
FIDO: And it didn’t have a spell check?
MB: No, not my word processor.
FIDO: It didn’t have a spell check? Anne followed your spelling?
MB: No, hang on. Whoah. Woah woah woah woah. Stop a minute. We’re going back how many years? Go on tell me.
FIDO: You tell me. I mean, I don’t know when you wrote it.
FIDO: 1992 is now the-
MB: Thank you. What year are we in now?
FIDO: We’re in 1999.
MB: Thank you very much indeed. That’s a hell of a long time isn’t it?
FIDO: Not especially. The point-
MB: 1992. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Right. Okay. Modern word processors change over -
FIDO: Yes. But I think I’ve seen Anne's [inaudible] that wasn’t written on a word processor.
At this point, Mike turns into Marshall Flippin' Hall with a devastating piece of cross-examination of Martin Fido:
MB: Can I ask you a question. Have you actually seen Anne’s handwriting personally?
FIDO: No, and I want to correct something Keith said. I did not rumble the handwriting immediately, the English is what I’ve-
MB: All you’ve done is seen her on a word processor. Is that correct or not?
FIDO: I beg your pardon.
MB: Anne has wrote probably, I don’t know, wrote letters to you?
FIDO: No, I think I’ve seen work of Anne’s that was not written on a word processor.
MB: Ah, you say “you think”. I hope you don’t mind. You say you think. Can you prove it?
FIDO: I can double check. I mean, I’ve still got letters from her and I can double check. The point really is I have found nothing to suggest that Anne could have misspelt - And, in addition to misspelling, the diary is full of tremendous grammatical errors. There’s a phrase, for example, a really memorable phrase “unlike I” which recurs a couple of times. Now you’ve said you’re a very good writer and you were consciously setting up as James Maybrick, would he have written “unlike I?”
That was genius from Mike, actually, thinking on his feet. He wasn't a complete idiot after all. He's managed to destroy Fido's argument that Anne was a master speller or, at the very least, he's put the matter in doubt, with Fido admitting uncertainty as to whether he's seen any correspondence from Anne not produced by a word processor with a spell check. He obviously unsettled Fido sufficiently that he couldn't even identify a single word from the Diary that Anne couldn't have misspelt, and he turned his attention to the grammar.
As to the grammar, I first noticed that Anne used the expression 'I seen' in her 1994 recorded message for Doreen and Shirley and I subsequently obtained examples of her typed and handwritten correspondence (of letters written to Mike) in which it is clear that her grammar is far from perfect and that she was not too sensible and competent to make the type of errors found in the Diary - or at least there is no reason to think that she would not have written an expression like 'unlike I' had Mike dictated it to her.
Following his masterful deconstruction of Fido's case, Mike did then let himself down with his response to Fido's question about whether Anne would have written 'unlike I'. All he needed to say was that Anne's grammar wasn't perfect. Or he could have repeated a point he had earlier made to Keith which is that he made deliberate errors in the Diary because Jack the Ripper would have been virtually illiterate and a perfectly written Diary would have raised suspicion (something which was certainly not one of Mike's better made or impressive points) but he seems to have entirely lost his way and forgotten what Fido had said. Thus we had this:
MB: Let me put it this way. James Maybrick. First of all. Let’s go back to the Florence Maybrick case. Now It’s very important that you go back to the Florence Maybrick case. She served fifteen years, okay, to kill James Maybrick supposedly, would you agree with me there?
FIDO: It’s a fact. She served fifteen years of a life sentence.
MB: Thank you, right, so what she’s doing. Florence Maybrick and she does fifteen years in prison. She’s going boom boom boom boom boom. I’ve just put myself in –
FIDO: So Florence wrote the diary not James?
MB: No, you’re missing the point. James wrote the diary.
MB: But I was putting it on his part where she was writing the Diary. And I’m getting exceedingly tired this evening. I’ve had a long day. I’m not trying to get out of it Robert. I’m not.
It's rather difficult to know what Mike was getting at here. He seems to have been saying that the Diary was being written by himself as the forger on the basis that Florence was forging it as if it had been written by her husband (which may be something he had got into his head based on the convoluted arguments by some Diary Defenders that Florence really did write the Diary in order to incriminate Maybrick) but he just got lost and appears to have forgotten what question he was actually answering. In fairness to him, he did then say he was exceedingly tired and had had a long day and I think, on that basis, he should be cut a little slack for this baffling answer. But if one wanted to be harsh, it could be said that he didn't actually answer Fido's question regarding the poor grammar in the Diary (specifically the use of 'unlike I') so this one could be identified as the third question of the evening that he's failed to answer.
The third question from the audience was asked by Donald Rumbelow and was another really TERRIBLE question.
This was the question:
'Mike, you say you’re a professional writer, then as a professional writer you’ll know that one of the tricks of a professional writer is that it takes a writer a little time to get into the subject, therefore, one of the pieces of advice you’re always given is to delete the first paragraph or the first page. If you look at the diary, did you have a run-in? And if so what did you actually delete?'
I say this is a terrible question because it's nonsense to say that one piece of advice that a professional writer is 'always given' is to delete the first paragraph or the first page. It's just ludicrous. Who is supposed to be the person going round to all these professional writers and giving them this advice? And some professional writers presumably get into a subject immediately while others might struggle. How was Donald Rumbelow possibly able to say what a professional writer will always do?
He certainly confused Mike who didn't understand the question at all. Thus we had the following exchange:
MB: Okay then you want to know if I’m a writer?
DR: No I didn’t ask that. I asked what you deleted.
MB: You’re damn right.
DR: No, I said you’re a professional writer, you told me you were. So I’ve asked you: What did you delete?
MB You’ve asked me a question. Right. Can we just forget the diary just for one second?
DR: No because that’s what I’m asking -
MB Just for one second can we forget the diary?
DR: I’d rather not, I’d rather stay with it.
Unfortunately, at this point, Mike for some reason, decided to repeat the three things he believed a writer needed to include in a bestseller (although in fairness to him, it's been triggered by Rumbelow appearing to suggest, by the way he phrased his question, that he wasn't a professional writer, which is, think, how Mike continued to understand the question, despite Rumbelow's denial).
After this interlude, Rumbleow attempted to recast his question. Now it's not what Mike is supposed to have deleted, it's something to do with a 'run-in', an expression which Mike can't reasonably have been expected to understand.
DR: I’m not interested in that. What was it you actually wrote in the first part of the diary? What was your run-in?
MB: What was my run-in?
DR: So what was your run-in? How did you actually get going? You didn’t just start on the page that we’ve actually got. What did you actually -
MB: [inaudible] Baxendale report Robert.
DR: We’re not in to Baxendale.
MB: Hang on, you’re not the Ripper. He’s my publisher. Woah.
DR: You came up here to answer, to put yourself up as the author. We want to know what you actually put in this context. A reasonable question.
MB: How do you mean what I put in this context?
DR: Before you run-in to the text, what did you actually write? What was your first page?
DR: There was a page you had to start with. What was page one?
MB: Rendezvous was the opening word.
[someone from the audience] No, it’s halfway down the first page.
MB: Thank you very much. That’s where I made a mistake.
DR: No, you had to have a run-in.
MB: "I curse Lowry for making me rip." I curse Lowry for making me rip. As in the Diary of Jack the Ripper. "I curse Lowry for making me rip." Because I had to get rid of all the pages in between.
I can't include this as a question that Mike failed to answer because, frankly, the question asked by Rumbelow was incomprehensible as it was phrased. I assume that what Rumbelow was trying to ask was something like this:
'The Diary starts in the middle of a sentence which says "what they have in store for them would stop this instant." Why does it start in the middle of a sentence? Did you write anything before this which was not included in the Diary?'
Had Rumbelow asked a question of this nature, we could have said that Mike was evading it and failing to provide an answer but instead he asked him what his 'run-in' was. Frankly if I was the forger and had been asked such a question I wouldn't have been able to answer it either. A 'run-in' could mean just about anything. And how did he actually 'get going'? What did that mean?
Then Rumbelow tried to clarify his 'reasonable' question by saying, 'We want to know what you actually put in this context'. I think Mike's response was perfectly reasonable as he said, 'How do you mean what did I put in this context?' I don't think that Rumbelow's response was at all helpful. As we can see, he said 'There was a page you had to start with. What was page one?' It seems that Mike was regarding this as a memory test.
What was on page one of the Diary? The answer to that could be provided by anyone with a copy of the Diary. Mike was perfectly correct that the word 'rondavous' appears on the first page of the Diary, albeit not the first word. But why would Donald Rumbelow be asking him what the first word of the Diary was in any case? It's there in black and white in the Diary!
To the extent that Mike thought 'rondavous' was the first word in the Diary, he's answered Rumbelow's question.
Rumbelow then inexplicably and incomprehensibly says to Mike, 'you had to have a run-in' but of course he didn't have to have any such thing and 'run-in' is an obscure technical term which, possibly, only Rumbelow understood. I think that Mike's response was directed to the issue of pages supposedly ripped from the Diary - which seems to relate in some way to what Rumbelow was getting at - but, as I don't think that Rumbleow's question, in the way he asked it, was capable of a sensible answer, I do not categorize this as Mike failing to answer his question.
A rather better response was produced by Mike to the next question asked by someone whose identity is unknown to me. This person asked for an explanation of the words 'no heart, no heart' in the Diary and here, I think, Mike gave a rather good answer. He said:
'Actually at the time, I didn’t know if Mary Kelly’s heart’s been taken away. I still don’t know to this day…I wouldn’t mind getting the documents, right, so I guessed it. In the first instance, and I mean literally in the first instance “no heart, no heart”. That’s in the first instance. That’s when you’re writing as a writer. Right, and I wrote “no heart, no heart”. Do you know the way I meant it? Not Mary Kelly had no heart. James Maybrick had no heart. That’s a fact.'
To me, that's a perfectly plausible interpretation of the Diary. The idea that it was Maybrick, not Kelly, who had no heart is rather clever. It doesn't prove that Mike wrote it because it could just be his own interpretation of what the author was saying but for someone who is supposed to be very stupid and supposedly evading the questions, he's given a full answer that is at least consistent with him being the author of the Diary.
Keith Skinner intervened at this point to ask why Mike didn't know that Kelly's heart had been taken, bearing in mind that he would have had access to Dr Bond's report which was, he said, included in the 1989 reprint of Martin Fido's book (although it wasn't in the 1987 edition). Mike's answer was: 'I didn't read it. I'm being honest'. However, he said he checked in other books about the Ripper but 'nobody seemed to know'. Again, that strikes me as fair enough and a reasonable answer.
When being questioned about the 'no heart' issue, Mike says that to establish whether Kelly's heart had been taken by the Ripper, he checked in Paul Begg's book - presumably meaning his 1988 book, 'The Uncensored Facts' and in Paul Harrison's book - presumably his 1991 'Mystery Solved' book, although Mike refers to it as a 1987 book - and he also checked with Odell and Wilson, presumably meaning their 1987 'Summing Up and Verdict'. As a matter of fact, none of these included the relevant extract from Bond's report about Kelly's heart being absent (something which, itself, is not 100% conclusive that Kelly's heart had been taken away by the killer, as Trevor Marriott would no doubt argue).
Mike then tells Keith 'I read three books'. Keith says he doesn't believe him to which Mike replied, 'I'm being serious, I read three books.'
Mike's already listed three Ripper books but someone else chips in to ask 'officially' for Mike to reveal 'the three books that you now used to forge the diary'. Mike then says the three books he used were Richard Whittington Egan's 'Murder, Mystery and Mayhem', Bernard Ryan's 'The Poisoned Life of Florence Maybrick' and Robin Odell (from which it's not clear if he meant his 1965 book, 'In Fact or Fiction' or his 1987 book with Colin Wilson to which he already appears to have referred). From this answer, it's unclear where the Begg and Harrison books that he's already mentioned enter the equation of the three books.
Amazingly, no-one asked him if he had consulted any other books on the Ripper or the Maybrick crimes prior to the creation of the Diary. The apparent inconsistency between his mention of three Ripper books and two Maybrick books, making a total of at least five books, wasn't resolved.
The next question came from David Russell who obviously thought he had a killer point which would destroy Mike's credibility. It didn't quite turn out like that.
Here's how it went in the first round of questions:
Russell: Can I confirm something about the pens and nibs. Did you say in 1990 that bought the pens and nibs?
MB: No, I didn’t say 1990. 1992.
Pausing there, it's obvious that Russell had come prepared with a question based on Mike's affidavit which appeared to suggest that the pens and nibs had been purchased in 1990. But Mike is clear that the purchase was in 1992. The exchange continued (with a couple of interventions from Keith Skinner)...
Russell: 1992. That you bought the pens and nibs from the Medici Art Gallery in Bold Street.
MB :Ah, ah, ah. No, Bluecoat chambers.
KS: That’s where the ink came from.
MB: Bluecoat chambers.
Russell: The pens and nibs.
MB: Oh yeah, I bought them in Bold Street. I thought you meant- I’m backtracking. I bought the ink originally in Bluecoat Chambers. And then I went to Bold Street.
Russell: Did you buy the pens and nibs in the Bold Street Medici Art Gallery?
MB: Yes, I did.
Russell: You did?
Russell: Well I’ve worked for the Medici Art Gallery for 22 years now.
MB: I’m not wrong because I’ve still got the nibs back in my hotel.
Russell: That’s fair enough but I worked for Medici for 22 years and we closed the branch down in Bold Street in 1988.
MB: You’re wrong.
Russell: I’ve got fucking proof and I can prove it.
Russell: I have.
KS: So this gentleman is wrong, the branch was not closed, it could not have been closed down in 1988 because Mike got the nibs from there in 1992?
MB: Totally wrong and if you go to Bold Street in Liverpool, I’m a Liverpudlian, I know my Liverpool inside out and back to front, and I know my Bold Street, the Medici Art Gallery is still open and that’s a god given fact.
Russell: I helped to clear it out in 1988. I worked there for 22 years.
MB: Well go and check it. There’s a phone there. Go and check it. Go on. All you gotta do is phone up 192 and check if the Medici Art Gallery, don’t be trying to be clever. You can’t shake me off. All’s you gotta do is phone up 192, right, and ask if the Medici Art Gallery exists and they will tell you it exists.
By the end of this exchange, Mike is sounding angry and animated. But he is standing his ground. He insists that he is right and he bought the pens and nibs from the Medici Art Gallery/Shop in Bold Street in 1992. This is despite David Russell saying that he actually helped to clear out the shop in 1988. From that, you'd think that Mr Russell had actually been to the shop in Bold Street wouldn't you? Well you'd be wrong. It was only later, in a second round of questioning on the subject, that he confessed he had never been to Liverpool.
In this second round, Mike reverts to being Marshall Hall once more and goes on the attack with another devastating line of cross examination.
MB: Would you allow me to ask that gentleman one question. Right. A very simple question: where is the Medici Art shop? Let him answer the question.
Russell: We certainly do not have a branch in Bold Street, we do not have a branch in Bold street, it closed in 1988 and I worked there for 22 years. I was one of the people who helped clear out the building.
MB: Totally wrong.
Just pausing there. We can see that Mr Russell has clearly given the impression that he worked 'there', in Bold Street, and physically helped to 'clear out the building', i.e. the store in Bold Street.
Keith intervenes with a perceptive comment to Russell:
KS: What took its place? Did another art shop take its place?
Russell: I don’t know what took its place.
MB: Well it’s probably another art shop. It’s the Medici Art Shop. You go to Liverpool now. I guarantee. I mean this, I’m very serious. I’m a Liverpudlian. I know my Liverpool inside out. You go to Bold Street now. Tomorrow, so to speak. You walk up Bold Street. You walk up the top of Bold Street. Tell me where the Medici Art Shop is in Bold Street.
Russell: It does not exist.
MB: Tell me where it was originally.
Russell: In Bold Street?
MB: Yeah, bottom end or top end? Go on, I’m asking you a simple question. You’re the person who owns it. So tell me where it is – is it top or – well you’re the person saying - is it top end or the bottom end?
Russell: I don’t own the building. I worked there for 22 years. I’m one of the people who helped clear the goods out.
Pausing there. Russell's done it again. He refers to 'the building' and then says he worked 'there', giving the impression that he physically helped clear the goods out from the Bold Street store. Mike, however, is undaunted and he's noticed that Mr Russell has avoided answering his question. So he repeats it.
MB: I’m asking you one question: where is the Medici Art shop in Bold Street? Top end or bottom end?
Russell: I’m not prepared to answer the question.
MB: Why not? Why not? Because you can’t answer it!
Russell: I can prove to you that we closed down the art shop.
Let's pause there again. Mike has been criticised for being evasive but, hell's bells, what's happening here with David Russell? He's 'not prepared' to answer the very simple question as to where in Bold Street the Medici Art shop was???!!!!
Well, let's see what excuse he came up with when writing to Ripperologist after the event. In his letter, published in Rip of June 1999, he says this:
'I may have caused a bit of confusion when Mike Barrett asked me to place the exact spot of the Medici Art Gallery in Bold Street, Liverpool, and I could not answer. Please let me explain.'
He then goes on by way of supposed explanation to say that he worked in the London HQ of the Medici Art Gallery and that:
'We also had an Art Gallery in Bold Street Liverpool which I had never visited - the reason I couldn't answer Mike's question'.
Now will all due respect to Mr Russell, this is bullshit. It's not just that he couldn't answer Mike's question, he point blank refused to do so. As we can see, his actual words during the evening were 'I'm not prepared to answer that question'. His letter to Ripperologist doesn't begin to explain this statement. If he hadn't visited the Liverpool store that's all he had to say. He knew perfectly well that he hadn't visited the Liverpool store, yet still said that he wasn't prepared to answer the question. And his refusal to answer the question has to be viewed in the context of the clear impression he was giving to the other members of the Cloak & Dagger club that he had physically been inside the building in Bold Street and had helped to clear out its contents in 1988.
Who was the person being frank and open with the audience here? Mike Barrett or David Russell?
Mike continued with his line of attack, believing that the Medici shop still existed in Bold Street as of April 1999.
MB: You’re wrong. I’ll tell you what, there must be a phone here somewhere.
Russell: I can prove to you.
MB: There must be a phone with 192.
KS: David, did you work in Liverpool?
Russell: No I did not.
KS: Ah, that’s the point. David didn’t work at the shop in Liverpool. He worked from a branch that’s in London.
Russell: In London. Once the goods came down to London I helped clear it out.
MB Thank you. So you’re not saying categorically-
Russell: I did not go to Liverpool.
KS: That’s the point. He didn’t go to Liverpool.
So, finally, the truth has been dragged out of him by Keith Skinner. Mike continued:
MB: So you’re not saying categorically that the Medici Art Shop has closed down?
Russell: But I can prove to you it closed down.
MB: No you can’t - because you’ve got a phone.
Russell: It doesn’t exist.
[audience member: It won’t be open.]
KS: But it can be checked.
MB: They will have an answering machine. It will have an answering machine.
Russell: No, because it doesn’t exist.
MB: The Medici Art Gallery is right opposite in Bold Street.
The truth of the matter is that they were both right... and both wrong. As Shirley Harrison's enquiries revealed, the name of 'Medici' remained on the front of the art shop in Bold Street until 1997 so that, in 1992, anyone could reasonably have described it as the Medici Art Shop (or Gallery) even if it wasn't owned by Medici.
But the technicalities of ownership should not obscure the fact that Mike could well have bought his pens and nibs from the 'Medici' art shop in 1992 as he claimed at the meeting. Far from him being shown to be a liar, the facts supported his claim.
Mike was then asked to confirm what he had said the previous day about removing pages from the black ledger with a Stanley knife. After again quoting, 'I curse Lowry for making me rip', Mike said:
'All the other pictures were all photograph albums. And it was all people from, well I wouldn’t like to say around about 1912, 1914, something like that and they were photographs of [inaudible]…a donkey… and all of that.'
The questioner asked: 'So tell us about the bit of the photograph interleaved in the pages that you told us about last night. Tell everybody about that. The little bit of the photograph.'
'Oh yeah. In Baxendale’s report, and Robert do you remember this? Baxendale’s report. And you can’t argue with Baxendale’s report. Baxendale, we went down to Birmingham. Shirley Harrison, Sally Evemy and myself, right, and we went down there. Baxendale made a complete report on the Diary and what he said, within the Diary, he found and I quote, and I mean literally, inverted brackets, a piece of a photograph. Tell me Robert and look at me straight. Is that true or not?'
Mike here was perfectly correct. This is what Baxendale's report of 9 July 1992 said:
'I have found a fragment of paper lodged in the binding of the book which is different from the paper of the pages. It has straight edges and is similar in length to one dimension of the rectangular stains. It is coated in a glue like material. It could well be the torn edge of a small photograph.'
The questioning of Mike continued:
KS: When was the photograph taken Mike? I mean, what sort of period are you talking about?
KS: Got it. So what you’ve done is you’ve actually gone down to Doreen Montgomery with a 1912 photograph in-
MB: I made a mistake, I made one mistake ladies and gentleman.
KS: You must have thought shit. I’ve put a 1912 photograph in an 1888 diary.
MB: No, I hadn’t put it in.
KS: Oh you hadn’t put it in?
MB: No. When I bought it from Outhwaite and Litherland it was already there, I just missed it.
KS: You forgot to take it out?
MB: I didn’t see it.
KS: Oh Jesus.
MB: It was cut in between the folds. [SPILLS DRINK] Sorry, I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry I’m getting excited. There’s folds in the diary. They are very, very, thick. And I mean very, very, thick. Are you with me?
MB: And they are very thick pages. So I’m reading the diary -
MB: Or writing the diary, right, and, sorry, and what I’ve got to miss was the folds…all cut -
KS: And that had the photograph in there?
MB: And that had the photograph in it.
KS: What a bummer.
It has to be said that we see here a tremendous piece of misunderstanding from Keith Skinner who seemed to think that Mike was saying that he had put a 1912 photograph into an 1888 diary when he clearly wasn't saying that at all.
But what we do get is Mike telling a story which is entirely consistent with the scientific evidence in which he thought he had cut out all of the photographs from the album but later, on hearing from Baxendale, realized that he had made a mistake by leaving one small piece of a photograph hidden in the thick folds of the scrapbook.
I think that what is quite telling in the exchange is that Mike said of the photograph that, 'When I bought it from Outhwaite & Litherland it was already there, I just missed it'. That statement was made naturally, in the flow, and confirms in my mind that Mike did indeed acquire the scrapbook from Outhwaite & Litherland.
On the other side of the coin, it's true that Mike says that he missed the folds when he was 'reading' the Diary and had to be corrected to say 'writing the Diary' but Mike was jumbling his words up all the way through the evening and, while some may wish to see significance in this mistake, I don't.
About the piece of paper (or photograph) that Baxendale discovered, there was a startling revelation made by Keith Skinner during the evening who said that Nicholas Eastaugh had been given it to examine but had lost it! I don't remember reading this in any book about the case and it's quite astonishing that a vital piece of evidence was lost by one of the experts. If that piece of paper could have been dated to the twentieth century, it would have comprehensively disproved the notion that the Diary had been sitting under the floorboards of Battlecrease since about the time of Maybrick's death in 1889.
In respect of the photographs that Mike said during the evening were in the Diary when he acquired it, it may be recalled that in his January 1995 affidavit it was stated that there were photographs in the album he purchased from O&L and that:
'They were old photographs and they were all to do with the 1914/1918 1st World War...I then took a 'Stanley Knife' and removed all the photographs, and quite a few pages...When I disposed of the photographs from the Album by giving them to William Graham, I kept one back. This photograph was of a Grave, with a Donkey standing nearby.'
Once again, Mike was telling a story to the Cloak & Dagger club in April 1999 which was consistent with the story in his 1995 affidavit.
The next question was the question about the handwriting revealing Anne to have a personality disorder by the person who didn't know who Anne Koren was. As we've already seen, Mike answered this one perfectly.
The next question from the audience was another complete waste of time. The question was:
'Am I understanding you correctly Mike that the legal position is that the person who did the actual writing of the diary, the handwriting, is the forger? And if the law is going to descend it will come down on the person who hand wrote it, not the person who created it?'
I mean seriously, someone was asking Mike Barrett to explain the legal position regarding forgery??!! As he wasn't a lawyer, that was totally pointless.
Mike seems to have taken the question as another threat to his liberty and responded by saying that he had just been cleared by a jury for threatening to kill his wife.
At this point, Keith made another attempt at extracting the Outhwaite & Litherland receipt from Mike by saying that if he proved he had forged the diary it would clear Caroline from the stigma of possibly being related to the wife of Jack the Ripper. Although he didn't produce the receipt, Mike's response was nevertheless very interesting:
'You want the receipt. Okay. Right. Ladies and gentlemen. No dis- I hope to god you’re going to make a hell of a lot of phone calls. You phone Kevin Whay, Outhwaite & Litherland.'
Here Mike was pointing the entire audience to where the truth could be found. Did anyone actually telephone Kevin Whay of Outhwaite & Litherland? Did they heck! Of course not. No-one was listening to Mike. No-one was taking him seriously.
In fact, so completely was Mike being ignored that when Keith Skinner embarked on carrying out research for his 2003 book 'Inside Story', he didn't even bother to consider the possibility that his account was true. Thus, he posted on the Casebook Forum on 17 August 2019 (Acquiring thread, #1741):
'...in 2001-2002, we were not even considering the possibility of Mike having obtained the scrapbook as late as March/April 1992...’.
Having now listened to the recording, I find that an absolutely unbelievable statement bearing in mind what Mike had been repeatedly insisting on during the entire evening of 10 April 1999.
KS: Can’t you just give it to me?
MB: No…I want to know what happens afterwards. I don’t mind when I go back on Tuesday.
KS: What is more important, Mike, giving me the receipt or actually living with, Caroline living with the stigma that she may be descended from-
MB: No, It’s not for me to decide, it’s for you people to decide. I know the truth. Do you understand where I’m coming from? I know the truth, it’s not for me to give you the receipt. It’s up to you. If you’re all so Ripperologists and what have you. Right. Go and check the facts. And I’m telling you the facts. Phone Kevin Whay.
Another appeal from Mike for Kevin Whay to be contacted. But he never was. I can only assume that Keith Skinner failed to appreciate that Whay had searched the records for the wrong time period and that the records for March 1992 had never been considered. Mike was repeatedly giving him the clue to potentially solve the mystery and he never followed it up.
And we can see that Mike was saying 'phone Kevin Whay' in the same fashion as he had been saying 'phone 192' in respect of the Medici Gallery, about which he was clearly telling the truth. Why would he have been persistently telling Keith and the members of the Cloak and Dagger club to contact Kevin Whay if his whole story was a lie?
I mean, Keith had already read out a statement from Kevin Whay denying that Mike had bought the scrapbook from Outhwaite & Litherland. Yet, despite Mike being unable to properly counter what Whay had said (and evidently not appreciating that Whay had searched the files for the wrong period), he STILL demanded that Whay be contacted. In his mind, the job had not been done properly (having been carried out by Whay's minions) and he believed that the truth could be found in O&L's records, if only they were properly searched.
But no-one listened.
Mike was next asked about the Manchester murders in the Diary. Although he got a bit confused in his answer (by appearing to suggest that both murders in the Diary occur before the Ripper murders) his answer was nevertheless a perfectly good one. Thus, he said:
'Put it this way, right. We all know there were five murders in Whitechapel. Right. We all know that there’s five murders in Whitechapel. Right. Thomas, that’s Maybrick’s brother, lived in Manchester, a cotton merchant, well, more or less. I thought it was rather appropriate. You see. Two murders, two prostitutes. Excuse the language ladies and gentleman. We’ve got to talk practical haven’t we? Nobody can ever prove that in any way shape or form....Can’t prove it. No way at all. Very simple isn’t it? When you get to know the Diary it’s very very simple. Five prostitutes were murdered, right, in Whitechapel, that’s a god given fact but you’ve got to remember, James Maybrick had a brother, Thomas, in Manchester, right, so what’s to say before I begin my campaign, and remember that, very appropriate word, before I begin my campaign. Two murders in Manchester. No-one’s got the proof. No prostitutes killed…. There was plenty of people and plenty of prostitutes killed every day on the streets in Manchester at that time. Not necessarily in Manchester but all over the country. Clever isn’t it?'
To my mind, there's nothing wrong with that answer. Indeed, it helps to answer the puzzle of why the Diary has Maybrick spending Christmas of 1888 with Thomas. If Mike is right, it was nothing more than a device to get Maybrick to Manchester where he could murder a fictional prostitute.
We may note that, at about the end of October 1994, Mike informed Alan Gray (on tape) that the Manchester murders were purely 'my imagination' ('Inside Story', p. 149). So, again, he was telling the same story more than four years later in 1999.
The next question was by Keith Skinner who asked why Mike lost his nerve in 1993 and 1994, ditched the story that he had received the Diary from Devereux and decided to expose the Diary as a forgery.
Mike's answers were very revealing. He said that on the morning of Shirley Harrison's book launch in October 1993, he told Anne that he didn't want to go to the book launch but instead wanted to expose the Diary as a forgery to which Anne replied that, if he did so, he would never see Caroline again.
His explanation for wanting to expose the Diary was that, as a standard bearer for the British Legion, he basically had an attack of conscience and wanted to tell the truth. 'Once I created it', he said, 'I realised I created Frankenstein’s monster and once I created Frankenstein’s monster, that’s when I wanted to stop it.' Nevertheless he went to the book launch but, 'I wasn’t too happy with myself. I didn’t like myself. Because I felt, and I mean, honestly and truly, I felt I’d let myself down....I'd let my moral standards down'. He said Anne left him, 'because she knew I was telling the truth. I tried to tell the truth...I hope to god you know where I’m coming from. I was trying to establish the truth. Anne left – well, I let the standard down. Right. Anne blackmailed me and I wouldn’t be blackmailed. Full stop'.
If Anne was part of the forgery effort, as alleged by Mike. it would certainly make sense that she might tell him that he would never see Caroline again if he exposed the Diary as a fake.
As for carrying the Standard for the British Legion, we may note that in an interview by Martin Howells in September 1993 (when he was claiming he received the Diary from Tony Devereux) he asked the interviewer, '...what do I carry? I carry the Standard. That's a matter of honour.' So being the Standard bearer for the British Legion was certainly on his mind in the few weeks before the book launch.
Another complete waste of time. The questioner wanted to know why the hoax had taken so long ('five or six years') to come out compared to the forgeries of the Howard Hughes diaries and the Hitler diaries. Apart from being something that Mike was hardly in a position to answer, the premise of the question was fundamentally flawed because there are plenty of forgeries that have taken years to be revealed as such - and those are only the ones we know about. Furthermore, it was hardly Mike's fault that the hoax had taken years to 'come out' bearing in mind that he had confessed to the forgery as long ago as 1994.
But, as the questioner undiplomatically mentioned that Clifford Irving had gone to prison, Mike in his paranoid state thought that it was being suggested he should go to prison too. He said, 'How the hell can I go to prison when I haven't made a penny?...I haven't made one damn bloody penny how the hell can I do a fraud?'
Mike didn't actually answer the question of why the hoax had taken so many years to come out but, as it wasn't a question he could sensibly answer, I don't count this as a question he evaded.
The next question was another one that Mike couldn't possibly answer because it related to whether the American publisher had shredded 200,000 copies of Harrison's book and it was left to Robert Smith to answer it. Another wasted question.
Yet another daft question. This one was, I think, rhetorical.
'Mike you say you are a writer. And you say you’ve done a book. What have you written since the Diary?'
Mike started to say, 'You know exactly what I haven't -' by which he undoubtedly meant that his questioner knew that he hadn't had anything else published. But he did answer the question, saying that he had been writing some kind of murder mystery and someone in the audience confirmed that they had seen it.
THE END OF THE EVENING
And that was basically it. That was the final question from the audience.
Keith Skinner made a comment that the topic of debate now was about how good a hoax the Diary was, to which Mike replied 'Bloody brilliant if you don't mind me saying.'
Mike promised to provide Andy Ayliffe with a photocopy of his receipt. The issue of the Medici art gallery was re-ignited but I've dealt with that already and, as I've also said, Mike explained that the reason for not producing the receipt that evening was that he didn't want to get locked up for fraud.
Someone then apparently said something about Caroline which isn't audible on the recording, to which Mike took offence and threatened the chap with violence in a tender part of the anatomy, although he then did say, 'I do apologise, I certainly apologise.'
In amongst it all, entirely unnoticed by the audience, Mike made a little speech which, it could be said, rises to the level of pathos.
'When you write you write, and I'll tell you something else. Please forgive me ladies and gentlemen. When you write, you write from here. And you write from the heart. It might be a hoax, I might be a fool and what have you, but when you write and you're a publisher you write from the heart. That's the secret and that's the secret of writing.'
The man who is undoubtedly a fool admitting that he might be a fool. It's quite Shakesperian really. He might only have written a silly hoax but he wrote that Diary from the heart. That's what he was saying. I think he might well have been telling the truth. But no-one was listening.
If you've been following carefully you will have concluded that, far from avoiding questions, Mike appears to have done his best during the evening to answer all the questions that were thrown at him. Of the two or three that he didn't answer, none were material and any answers he could have given to those questions wouldn't have taken us much further. The fact that so many of the questions were dreadful, either being irrelevant, badly worded, wrongly directed or simply misguided wasn't Mike's fault. Nor was it Mike's fact that a number of questions were unfairly asked of him on a false premise which meant that his answers looked bad at the time, even though they were not in reality. I'm perfectly satisfied that he was telling the truth during the evening, with the one area where he might not have made full disclosure being in respect of whether he had assistance in writing the text of the Diary which would be understandable due to his obvious desire to be seen as a brilliant writer (although he wasn't really asked about it). Other than this aspect of the forgery, I feel certain that we have been told the true story of the origins of the Diary.
This point is developed in Part 2.
First published: 26 January 2020
Republished: 10 October 2023