A Man in a Pub - Part 2
THE COHERENCE OF MIKE'S CONFESSION
Now that I've been able to hear Mike's words, it's clear to me that there has been a sustained propaganda campaign against him for many years which falsely portrays him as someone who lied and lied, who kept changing his story and never ever told the truth. As recently as 4 December 2019, Caroline Morris said in JTR Forums to another member of the Forums (in my thread, 'Lord Orsam's Blog', at #103): 'Which of Mike's forgery scenarios are you going with? I believe there are upwards of three or four?'. Sadly she didn't identify the three or four scenarios that she had imagined. In fact, as I will demonstrate, during his lifetime (and certainly during the six year period when he spoke about it) Mike told a remarkably consistent and coherent story about the forgery of the Diary and, when one considers it fairly and properly, it would have been virtually impossible for him to have fabricated such a story over this long period.
Of course, Mike's story as a whole, about where the Diary came from, did change during those six years. At times he would say the Diary was a forgery while at other times he said he received it from Devereux and knew nothing more about it. There is, I think, a straightforward explanation for these shifts. I can't say that the following is definitely what happened but the scenario seems to me to fit with the facts.
Mike's story during the Cloak & Dagger club evening was that he didn't want to show up at the launch of Shirley Harrison's book on 4 October 1993 due to a desire to tell the truth about the Diary but that he was compelled to do so due to his wife using the threat of not seeing Caroline again should he start to wobble and confess to the forgery. I can certainly understand that the pressure of telling a lie about obtaining the Diary from Devereux, which he was having to repeat to journalists and researchers for a over a year now, was getting to Mike. We can see from his approach to questions during the evening that he was a naturally paranoid man. Even innocent questions were perceived as a challenge to his veracity about forging the Diary, so in circumstances where he was actually telling a lie, he might have felt stress and paranoia every time someone asked him to relate the story of how he had been given it by Devereux. With that story, he was on his own, with no corroboration and no-one to support him.
The Baxendale report from 1992 had been overcome but September 1993 saw the Rendell report, questioning the authenticity of the Diary, which would have brought more pressure upon Mike. The Liverpool Echo of 9 September 1993, for example, carried the headline 'DIARY OF RIPPER IS CON SAYS U.S. EXPERT', Then, ten days later, the Sunday Times denounced the Diary as a 'Fake'. By late September 1993, Barrett was complaining to Liverpool Post journalist Harold Brough about his health and was described in the Liverpool Post of 28 September 1993 as having aged visibly over the past few months, being said to be walking slowly with a stick. In the same month he told Martin Howells, 'I must be honest with you because...that diary has killed me here, and you know I've had a stroke because it really has killed me.'
During October 1993, to add to his problems, there was a Scotland Yard investigation during which Mike was interviewed by police, and the pressure on him during this period must have been immense. In that interview with the police, he denied possessing a word processor, said that he could not recall to whom he had given his copy of Whittington-Egan's 'Murder, Mystery and Mayhem' (it was Tony Devereux) and refused to sign his statement ('Inside Story', p. 68).
Mike's mood would not have been helped by his wife leaving him on 2 January 1994, taking their daughter with her. He was now drinking heavily and behaving in the most appalling manner. The Diary had not turned out to improve his life. He must have viewed it as a curse. In addition, during May 1994, Mike learnt that Nick Warren had discovered his big secret that he had been a professional freelance journalist during the late 1980s and was about to expose this in print. His world was falling apart.
While we can, perhaps, take Mike's claim to have had an attack of conscience, due to being the standard bearer of the British Legion, with a pinch of salt, he might nevertheless have felt that being a man telling lies to the world about the Diary was not the man he wanted to be. He wanted to be a writer. That was his dream and his ambition. The internal desire to reveal the truth about his own authorship of the Diary (even if he had been assisted by others) could well have been overwhelming, even if it was objectively against his own financial interests.
On Wednesday, 22 June 1994, Barrett privately confessed to Shirley Harrison that he had forged the Diary ('Inside Story', p. 92). Two days later, on Friday 24 June, he signed a statement for the Liverpool Post admitting to the forgery. At this point, he kept Anne out of it, claiming to have been the forger of the Diary, the 'greatest in history'. No doubt he didn't want his wife to prevent him from seeing Caroline again. As we have seen, he claimed at the Cloak & Dagger meeting that she was using this possibility as 'emotional blackmail' against him.
Having confessed, Barrett told Brough that he now felt 'at peace' with himself. I think this was probably true... for that day at least. But the drinking continued.
As we've seen in the main article, Anne was inexplicably quoted as saying that, in making this confession, Mike was trying to get back at her because she had left him. She was never able to explain the meaning of this comment.
The intensity of the situation appears to have got to Mike and, on 29 June, he was admitted to an alcohol treatment unit. His solicitor, Richard Bark-Jones, issued a statement saying that Mike was not in full control of his faculties when he had confessed that 'he himself had written the diary of Jack the Ripper' which was a confession 'totally incorrect and without foundation'. Well it was perfectly true that Mike did not actually forge the Diary himself. We've seen him state repeatedly during the Cloak & Dagger meeting that it was Anne who did it. If Mike told Bark-Jones that the fact was that he didn't do the forgery, his wife did it, then SHE would be the one going to prison, not him. If one reads Bark-Jones' statement in that way, it explains everything. But we don't need to go that far. Bark-Jones has explained that the statement was put out by him after being told by Mike's doctor of Mike's tendency towards confabulation so that nothing he (Mike) said should be believed ('Inside Story', p. 254-5). If the account in 'Inside Story' is entirely accurate, Bark-Jones wasn't even acting on instructions from his client but taking the initiative himself.
No doubt to Mike's astonishment, after he was released from hospital, he found that none of the main players in the Diary world believed him. Robert Smith, Shirley Harrison and Paul Feldman all continued to maintain that the Diary was a genuine item. As Mike told Paul Feldman on 5 July 1994, 'I'm one of the world's greatest writers and no-one happens to believe it'. From that statement, it's clear that Mike was still maintaining that he was the author of the Diary's text (but one of the world's greatest writers, not necessarily one of the world's greatest forgers). It's equally clear that still no-one believed him.
This must have been frustrating. He was telling the truth but it changed nothing. He was simply not believed. Mike was just no good at putting forward his case to the world. Even after he informed Feldman's assistant of the source of the 'Oh costly intercourse of Death' line on 30 September 1994, he still had a problem in getting anyone to believe that he could have been responsible for the creation of the Diary. It seems that, at about this time, he employed the services of Alan Gray (a private detective and former police officer) to assist him in telling his story. On 25 October 1994, he told Alan Gray on tape that he had perpetrated the fraud but, by this time (and certainly by November 1994), he had abandoned the claim that he was the penman who forged the Diary. In a statement lodged at Walton Street Police Station on 5 November 1994 (two months prior to his affidavit of 5 January) he stated that 'My wife Anne Barrett wrote the 'Jack the Ripper Diary' the actual manuscript'. This is, of course, entirely consistent with what he told the audience at the Cloak & Dagger club meeting many years later.
By this time, in late 1994, he probably realized that neither Anne nor his daughter were coming back to him. He now felt able to state that Anne wrote the Diary. He also seems to have been full of righteous indignation at being blackmailed by Anne (and it doesn't matter if she really was or was not blackmailing him, just that he believed she was) so that he wanted to teach her a lesson. As we've already seen, during the Cloak & Dagger club evening, he said with unintentional hilarity, 'My advice will go to its grave and I'll still never give in to blackmail.' He meant, of course, that he would go to his grave before giving in to blackmail and, I think, he's decided to show Anne that he won't be bullied.
Furthermore, and perhaps of even more relevance in understanding his actions, Mike received a royalty statement during September 1994 showing that his royalties for 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper', after various deductions, were precisely zero. For Mike, who was now broke, this would have come as a big shock. Indeed, he appears to have sought legal advice as a result ('Inside Story, p. 147). Although he been given an advance on royalties of some thousands of pounds during 1993, it was undoubtedly this royalty statement that would lead him to claim in 1999 that he hadn't received a penny for the book.
In recorded conversations during 6 and 7 November 1994, Mike told Alan Gray that he created the Diary on his word processor from Tony Devereux's original research but that the handwriting was Anne's. This was repeated in Mike's affidavit of 5 January 1995.
There is a interesting incident captured in the recordings, as summarized by 'Inside Story', when Alan Gray spots a tape of an interview Mike had conducted with the clairvoyant Dorothy Wright for Celebrity magazine. The existence of this recording, incidentally, destroys the suggestion made by Robert Smith in his latest book that Mike didn't conduct the interviews for Celebrity magazine himself. Of course he did! Anyway, Gray spotted that the letter 'y' written on the side of the cassette matched the letter 'y' in the Diary. Mike apparently gave Gray the impression that the writing on the cassette was his handwriting but I'll be prepared to wager that it was, in fact, Anne's handwriting. Don't ask me why Mike decided to let Gray think it was his writing but we know the guy was a confabulist and I'm sure he sometimes lied for its own sake. Gray pointed out that Mike had told him that Anne had written the Diary and Mike, no doubt trapped in a pointless lie of his own making, said 'it was fifty-fifty' (Inside Story, p.152). Having said that, I'd prefer to listen to the recording myself before accepting the truth of this account but it's currently not possible. Without having heard the tape which has not been made available, it's not possible to come to any firm conclusion about this episode.
What is perfectly clear, however, is that Mike said that Anne wrote the Diary in his statement of 5 November 1994 and this is also stated in his affidavit of 5 January 1995 so that Gray must have been satisfied that this was what Mike was telling him in order for him to include it in the affidavit. It's consistent with what Mike told the Cloak & Dagger club in April 1999.
Now, there is, of course, an inconsistency between the date of January or February 1990 which is stated to be the year of the writing of the diary in Mike's 1995 affidavit and the March 1992 date as claimed by Mike in his 1999 interview (and at the previous day's lunch). Let us now look more closely at that affidavit.
The 5 January 1995 Affidavit
Many people may not be aware of this but the usual way that an affidavit or a witness statement is created is not for the deponent or witness to sit down and write or type everything out like they are writing a novel or a letter. What normally happens is that the deponent or witness will meet with a solicitor for one or more so-called 'proofing' sessions. They will give their account of their evidence and, using notes taken during the session, the solicitor will subsequently draft the statement or affidavit in their (i.e. the witness's) own words. This will be sent to the witness for correction or approval and then the final version will be signed. An affidavit is normally sworn to, and signed, in the presence of a commissioner for oaths or a solicitor. That commissioner for oaths or solicitor must be an independent person (i.e. not the solicitor of the deponent).
While that system normally works, I can tell you that, on occasion, a witness who finds himself (or herself) in trouble during cross-examination in court, because their evidence is inconsistent with the evidence in their affidavit or witness statement, may be tempted to claim that this was the fault of the solicitor who drafted it and that they signed it without reading it properly. This can and does happen and it's a real problem for the solicitor involved who could easily find themselves criticized by the judge and up on a charge before the tribunal of the Solicitors Regulation Authority for including false information in an affidavit or witness statement that wasn't derived from the witness.
When it comes to Mike Barrett's affidavit of 5 January 1995 we need to be realistic. Did he draft it himself? Almost certainly not. He was drinking heavily at the time. It seems to me that the interviews recorded by Alan Gray were, in effect, proofing sessions for the purpose of Gray taking Barrett's evidence and writing it up (as if in Barrett's own words) in an affidavit for Barrett to swear to and sign. Certainly, when Mike provided a statement to Liverpool Police on 5 November 1994 it was drafted by Alan Gray for it states on its face, 'Statement taken by Alan Richard Gray'. I'm sure the same thing would have happened in respect of Mike's affidavit. And while he would have had to have assured the solicitor that he had read and understood the affidavit he was signing, this doesn't necessarily mean that he had done so.
That being so, the possibility of error by Gray, who may have misunderstood what he was being told by Mike, is a real one. To deny this is to stick one's head in the sand. For, while it might be in the interests of some people to focus on any inaccuracy in Mike's affidavit, so that they can claim he is an unreliable liar, we need to consider what Mike actually told Gray for Gray to put into the affidavit.
In this respect, the recordings made by Gray are CRUCIAL evidence in this case and it's essential that they are made available. I haven't heard them - they are presumably in the possession of Keith Skinner - and the best I can do is to use the fragments that have been cited or summarized in 'Inside Story' to try and reconstruct what Barrett actually said to Gray.
Before considering those recordings, however, we need to take into account one really important factor in the chronology of events as Barrett would have relayed to Alan Gray.
According to the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 June 1994, Mike 'took the diary to a London publisher in 1991'. This misdating (which presumably came from Mike himself) might have confused Alan Gray, if this is what Mike also told him, when he was trying to work out a coherent chronological sequence for Mike's affidavit.
We've already seen that Mike's affidavit makes references to Tony Devereux's involvement in the creation of the Diary. Imagine if Mike did tell Alan Gray that he created the Diary only after contacting Doreen Montgomery in March 1992. This would have seriously confused Gray bearing in mind that Devereux died in August 1991. It's possible that Gray believed he died in the summer of 1990, based on what Mike told him, but, if so, his confusion would only have been greater. He might well simply have discarded the information about the Diary having been created in 1992 as not being consistent with the rest of the story.
I'm not saying that Mike did say anything quite as specific as this to Alan Gray but if he (Mike) thought in 1994 that he had taken the diary down to Doreen Montgomery in 1991 (as he told Harold Brough of the Liverpool Daily Post) he might well have been very confused about the chronology himself. With Anne having long since departed, he had no-one to ask for help with sorting out the chronological sequence of events and can only have relied on his undoubtedly imperfect memory (and I assume that he was only reminded of the correct dates at the lunch on 9 April 1992 so that he was able to mention them at the C&D meeting the next day).
Now, in the affidavit we find this:
'Roughly around January, February 1990 Anne Barrett and I finally decided to go ahead and write the diary of Jack the Ripper'.
'I feel sure it was at the end of January 1990 when I went to the auctioneer, Outhwaite & Litherland'.
Speaking of the purchase of the pens and nibs, Mike says:
'This all happened in late January 1990 and on the same day...we decided to purchase the ink....'
It is also stated that:
'Tony Devereux...died late May early June 1990' .
It is known for a fact that Devereux died in August 1991.
Now, if one is so minded, one can say that the appearance of the 1990 dates in the Diary means that this must be what Mike said and that, in 1995, he was telling a story that the Diary was forged in 1990 (something that he later changed to 1992). I don't suppose I can stop those people from insisting that this is what happened and they will continue to do so because they want to paint Barrett as a liar on this point however at odds with the facts or the probabilities that this may be.
To get to the bottom of why the affidavit refers to a date of 1990 for the purchase of the materials and the creation of the Diary, one needs to consider the recordings of the conversations between Gray and Barrett to which I don't have access. All I have to go on are selected quotes or summaries from those recordings which can be found in 'Inside Story'. I'm afraid that I don't entirely trust the summaries that can be found in that book. This isn't to claim that the authors were including deliberately wrong or misleading information but we can see from the 1999 recording how difficult it can be to understand what Mike says, at times, and it's also obvious from the recording that Keith Skinner doesn't always understand what Mike is saying. The same might also have been true of Alan Gray.
If 'Inside Story' is correct (p.153), Barrett told Gray that Devereux died in June 1990 when they were 'all getting into it'. If that is the case then it must be obvious that Barrett got his chronology confused. Perhaps he thought that Devereux died in June 1990 and he contacted Doreen the very next year in March 1991 which is when he went to the O&L auction and purchased the writing materials before forging the diary. To repeat, Barrett appears to have told Harold Brough in June 1994 that he took the Diary down to London in 1991 so it seems to me perfectly possible that Barrett had garbled his dates. If you know in your mind that the Diary was written the year after Devereux died but you think that Deveruex died in 1990 then it's obvious that you will get the date of the writing of the Diary wrong.
Nowhere in 'Inside Story' is Barrett quoted on the recordings as saying that the Diary was forged in 1990 or that the O&L auction occurred in 1990. What the authors of that book say can be found on the tape regarding the purchase of the scrapbook from O&L (p.154) is this:
'There was a problem with the timing though. Barrett initially claimed this was in 1987. 'Now we've had another date. 'We had 1990 the other day', Gray reminded him. However, while Barrett tried to work out the correct date, the conversation moved on.'
We can see that the authors of 'Inside Story' are saying that Barrett initially claimed that the Diary was purchased from O&L in 1987 but, for some reason, they don't actually quote him saying this on the tape. One has to wonder why not. In a summary set out on the previous page of the book, they say that (as previously mentioned) Mike stated that the story of the forgery began with the death of Maggie Graham on New Year's Eve 1987. This was precisely what Mike said during the Cloak & Dagger evening. I can only conclude from this that the authors of 'Inside Story' and/or Alan Gray became confused about this reference to 1987 and thought that this was a reference to when the forgery of the Diary had actually occurred as opposed to this being the year of Maggie Graham's death which triggered Mike's move to Goldie Street thus placing him in financial difficulty.
It's true that Gray is quoted as telling Mike that he (Mike) mentioned 1990 to him 'the other day' but the context of this isn't made clear from the recording. Was it in respect of obtaining the scrapbook from O&L (as Gray appears to be suggesting) or was it in respect of the drafting of the Diary in collaboration with Tony Devereux? I suggest that Mike must have been referring to the latter. In Gray's mind, presumably, the Diary couldn't have been forged without the scrapbook having first been purchased so that any reference to the Diary having been written in 1990 must have meant that the scrapbook was purchased in 1990 (or earlier).
I've already mentioned the confusion that can be caused by the use of the expression 'writing the Diary'. For the text could have been written while Tony Devereux was alive (either in 1990 or 1991) yet the Diary could still only have been written in March 1992. It just depends what one means by 'written'. My suggestion is that Gray, probably not helped by a drunken Mike, undoubtedly slurring and confusing his words and going off on verbal tangents, just as on the 1999 recording, was confused by the way Mike spoke about the distinctions between drafting and writing the Diary.
In respect of the chronology of the affidavit, it should be noted that amongst the papers of the late Melvin Harris which he obtained from Alan Gray, there is a copy of Mike's affidavit with all the 1990 dates changed in manuscript to 1991 (as well as other corrections to errors in the affidavit). I believe this was done by Alan Gray, realizing, on reflection, that 1990 couldn't have been when Barrett had told him that the Diary had been forged.
It's certainly obvious that the mention of Devereux dying in May or June 1990 can only be an error - nothing to do with whether Mike was telling the truth or lying - and should have been August 1991.
So I think that what Alan Gray was either intending to say on behalf of Barrett in the 5 January 1995 affidavit - or quickly realized what he should have said - was this:
'Roughly around January, February 1991 Anne Barrett and I finally decided to go ahead and write the diary of Jack the Ripper'.
'I feel sure it was at the end of January 1991 when I went to the auctioneer, Outhwaite & Litherland'.
Speaking of the purchase of the pens and nibs, Mike says:
'This all happened in late January 1991 and on the same day...we decided to purchase the ink....'
Now, none of that is March 1992 and I just want to stress at this juncture that nothing I am saying in this article DEPENDS on 1990 in the affidavit being an error for 1991. What I'm trying to do by way of correcting it has nothing to do with attempting to make Mike's argument more consistent but with trying to establish the reality of the situation. My argument remains the same, regardless of whether the intended date in the affidavit was 1990 or 1991. The reason for this is that my explanation of the (intended) date of 1991 in the affidavit (or the actual date of 1990 if you prefer) is that this was when Barrett was telling Mike that the Diary of Jack the Ripper was drafted by him and Tony Devereux but that Gray became confused and thought he was being told that this was when it was forged.
The key thing is that Alan Gray did not appreciate or understand that the acquisition of both the red Victorian diary and the black scrapbook, as well as the subsequent handwriting of the text of the Diary in manuscript, didn't take place until much later (after Mike had contacted Doreen Montgomery, as to which Gray probably didn't know that this was in March 1992 and might have thought it occurred at some point in 1991).
There is one clue in the affidavit, however, which reveals that Mike must have said to Gray that there was a gap between the completion of the first draft of the Diary and the start of the forgery because it is stated that, 'in fact after we completed the Diary we left it for a while with Tony being severely ill and in fact he died...'. Knowing that Devereux died in August 1991 means that, in Barrett's story, there must have been a period where it was left alone after August 1991. That fits with a draft of the Diary having been prepared prior to Devereux's death and a gap of some six or seven months before Mike decided to make his call to Doreen Montgomery.
In this respect, it's interesting that this is how the authors of 'Inside Story' summarize what Mike told Gray in the recordings about the creation of the Diary (p.153):
'Devereux had given Barrett his research, which Barrett then checked for himself. Barrett created the Diary on his word processor and Anne wrote it into the journal.'
If this is what Mike told Gray, it could easily be consistent with the Diary having been drafted in collaboration with Devereux (or anyone else) during either 1990 or 1991, with the Diary being physically written by Anne into the journal, purchased from O&L, in March/April 1992.
The authors of 'Inside Story' continue their summary of what Mike is supposed to have told Gray by saying:
'The money needed to buy the journal - £50 - was donated by Billy Graham. When the forgery was completed, they sought a literary agent and made the phone call to Doreen Montgomery'.
The last sentence is rather important Did Mike use the expression 'When the forgery was completed' or is this the interpretation of the authors of 'Inside Story'? It doesn't sound like Mike. What exactly did he say? No mention is made of Doreen Montgomery (or a literary agent) in Mike's affidavit and it's unclear if Mike even mentioned her to Gray or if the authors of 'Inside Story' are filling in the gaps. Again, this demonstrates the importance of the tape recordings being made public.
What is absolutely crucial in trying to establish the correct chronological sequence of the story which Mike was telling Gray in late 1994, as reflected in his January 1995 affidavit, is that Mike said that the scrapbook was purchased from O&L only AFTER he had first acquired and received a small red Victorian diary.
We know for a fact that Mike didn't receive the red Victorian diary until about 28 March 1992 so that, as a matter of absolute fact and logic, the story being told in the affidavit HAS to be that he purchased the scrapbook from Outhwaite & Litherland after this date. He certainly couldn't have purchased it before this, according to the internal chronology of the account in the affidavit.
Then we have the fact that Mike obviously told Alan Gray, as reflected in his affidavit, that 'Anne and I started to write the Diary in all it took us 11 days'. This means that his story in his affidavit is entirely consistent with the scrapbook having been purchased from O&L on 31 March 1992 (on which date it is known that they did hold an auction of Victorian and Edwardian effects) and the Diary being written between that date and 13 April when it was brought to London for the very first time.
In putting this argument forward, I can only repeat that I am doing so without having heard the crucial recordings of the conversations between Gray and Barrett. These recordings need to be made available. But in the absence of any evidence that Mike Barrett ever told Gray that he either purchased the scrapbook or physically wrote the Diary in 1987, 1990 or 1991, the default assumption surely HAS to be that Gray didn't understand the chronological sequence of events (being particularly influenced by the fact that he thought that Devereux was alive when the Diary was created) and that, consequently, the story told by Barrett to Gray in 1994 is consistent in terms of chronology with the story that he told to the guests at the lunch on 9 April and to Keith Skinner and the members of the Cloak & Dagger club.
Certainly without the release of those recordings, the so-called 'Diary Defenders' cannot plausibly continue to maintain that Barrett shifted his story of the forgery between 1994 and 1999 on the basis of a difference between the date for the forgery stated in his affidavit and at the 1999 meeting. I suggest that, with the exception of having initially withheld Anne's involvement (for which he might well have had good reason) his entire story about the forging of the Diary remained the same over those five years.
After the Affidavit
Two weeks after Mike swore his affidavit, a delegation came round to his house consisting of Keith Skinner, Shirley Harrison, Sally Evemy and what 'Inside Story' describe as a mutually agreed 'independent witness' called Kenneth Forshaw. Although Mike might have agreed to an independent witness being present, it's not clear if he had been told in advance (or during the meeting) that Forshaw had been a police detective in the Liverpool C.I.D. for 32 years. According to Shirley Harrison, 'Michael was unaware of his full identity' ('American Connection', p.294). However, Forshaw would surely have had 'copper' written all over him. I'm not sure if Skinner et al fully appreciated what effect it would have had on Mike in bringing round to Mike's house a man who would have had the bearing and appearance of a police officer. He'd just confessed in an affidavit to being part of a conspiracy to forge the Diary of Jack the Ripper and commit a fraud on Doreen Montgomery. It's hard to think that he wasn't worried about the possibility of going to prison. Now he is confronted with someone whom he might well have suspected was a police officer in his house. This could well explain why he immediately denied the forgery claim to the delegation, saying it was false, and a story he had invented to get back at Anne.
This isn't just me speculating. In a signed statement (witnessed by Alan Gray) dated 23 January 1995, five days after after the meeting, Mike, noting that the 'independent adviser' did not give his name, said that, 'I was frightened by the situation because I didn't really know what they were about or if I was likely to be prosecuted or something like that.' In a second signed statement a few days later, Mike also said that, 'I did not know who the independent adviser was and I felt a serious threat to me either through the Law or if I didn't conform personal injury maybe', adding that he was 'afraid that if Anne and I get arrested for fraud what would happen to our daughter'.
He also said in his 23 January statement that the possibility of getting more money was on his mind. In December 1994 he had been told that Robert Smith would receive £70,000 from New Line Cinema and, thinking that he would be getting the entire amount (although the truth was that he was due to receive only about £7,000), he had said in a letter to Smith dated 19 December 1994 that, 'I do want this money but I don't want it to be seen as "hush money" or payment to me to shut my mouth'. Mike referred to this money in his statement when he said, 'I didn't know which way to go, run or jump, the inducement of money in June 1995 led me to agree [with the story that he had received the Diary from Tony Devereux]. I backed it 100%'. However, he stated: 'The truth of the matter is that I have already informed the Police it is a Forgery, that is 'the Diary of Jack the Ripper' and I have also made a sworn affidavit that it is a Forgery.'
Mike made a second signed statement on 26 January 1995 (said to have been taken by Alan Gray 'at the dictation of Mr Barrett'). Although often referred to as an 'affidavit' - and wrongly stated to be an affidavit on Casebook - it wasn't sworn before a commissioner for oaths or solicitor and is, on its face, described as a 'statement' not an affidavit. In this statement, Mike said that he had been advised by his solicitor that if he stayed quiet (and didn't persist with his forgery allegations) he would get his outstanding money, 'so this being the case I decided to collaborate with these people and Anne's story by supporting the Diary'.
Mike obviously made these statements after speaking to Alan Gray who might have told him that if he continued to deny what he had said in his 5 January 1995 affidavit (as he had done in the 18 January meeting), he opened himself up to a possible charge of perjury.
As late as 20 July 1995, Mike was still saying that Anne wrote the Diary. Paul Feldman describes in his book a meeting with Mike on that day in which Feldman asked Mike to recreate the handwriting of the diary (p.196). Hence it is stated by Feldman (at p.196 of the 1997 edition), 'I asked him to re-create the handwriting of the diary'. A different impression is given in 'Inside Story' (p.202) where it is said to be Mike who wanted to re-create the handwriting of the diary. Either way, it would appear that Mike asked for a pen and blotting paper before revealing the futility of this request by admitting that the handwriting in the diary was Anne's. According to Inside Story (p.202), Mike said that 'he created the diary on his word processor and Anne wrote it.' It's a familiar refrain.
So Mike stuck it out for over twelve months in saying that the Diary was a fake. However, the lure of money was too great for him. There was a lucrative film based on the Diary in the works. Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Anthony Hopkins had all been mentioned in the press as being in the frame for starring roles. If Mike came back on board the Diary train, there was a good chance he would get a slice of the action. He seems to have changed his mind at the end of the meeting with Feldman on 20 July 1995, reverting to his original story, and, on 13 and 20 September 1995, he appeared as a guest on Radio Merseyside saying that he did receive the Diary from Tony Devereux after all. He purported to barely recall that he had ever said anything different and claimed that, if he had done, he'd been drunk. He actually stated that, 'I've always maintained that the Diary in my belief is genuine'. He was lying.
By this time, of course, a new story had emerged, whereby Anne was now saying that she had given the Diary to Tony who gave it to Mike. This was particularly helpful to Mike because he now had a living person to corroborate his story. He was no longer isolated and alone in telling a suspicious tale about which no-one could possibly back him up. Suddenly the pressure was off him and now on Anne who had to explain to the world how SHE discovered the Diary. Anne followed Mike on Radio Merseyside in October.
By February 1996, however, after the film deal collapsed and the money failed to roll in, Mike appears to have returned to claiming that Anne wrote the Diary ('Inside Story', p. 210). In October 1996, Alan Gray was apparently trying to get a newspaper deal lined up for Barrett to prove the Diary as a fake ('Inside Story', p. 221). In early 1998, Barrett apparently told Gray that he wrote the Diary 'with a little bit of help from Devereux - he was a very knowledgeable man, very intelligent and Anne Barrett wrote it down.' In September 1998, Mike stated under oath from the witness box in Liverpool Crown Court that, 'he and Anne had forged the Diary, using an old photo journal, with he composing the text and she writing it' (Inside Story, p. 228). As we know, over two days in April 1999 Mike repeated that Anne wrote down the diary. Astonishingly, no-one during those two days appears to have asked him about Devereux's involvement in the preparation of a draft of the text, or just assistance with basic research, while Tony was alive.
Ten weeks after the Cloak & Dagger meeting, Mike was still saying - this time in writing - that Anne wrote the Diary, although he was now also identifying Billy Graham as a collaborator (about which it should be recalled that in his 5 January 1995 affidavit it was stated that Billy Graham had been aware of the forgery plan and had said that it was 'a good idea, if you can get away with it'). Once more, Mike said that, 'the Diary is in her [Anne's] handwriting.'
As far as I can see, Mike didn't change this position until 2002 when he started to play games with Keith Skinner, telling him that the Diary came from his own family, not Anne's, and disparaged the idea that he and Anne and played a part in the forgery. At this time, however, Shirley Harrison was writing her book, 'The American Connection', based on the notion that the Diary was a genuine item, and the front of that book states, 'Text copyright, Shirley Harrison and Michael Barrett 2003'. This isn't a reference to the copyright of the Diary which is said to be the copyright of 'Robert Smith 1993' and thus must relate to the text of Shirley's 2003 book . That being so, I can only assume that, at the time he spoke to Keith Skinner in 2002, Mike was expecting royalties from that book after it was published and was thus back on board with the Diary team, no longer wanting to undermine the credibility of the Diary.
THE INCREDIBLE MEMORY MAN
Prior to the meetings of 9 and 10 April 1999, Mike only once told the story of how he forged the Diary in any detail. This was during tape recorded interviews with Alan Gray during late 1994 in preparation for his January 1995 affidavit. Yet, in the 10 April 1999 meeting, more than four years later, Mike's story matches that told in the affidavit to a remarkable extent.
1. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that prior to acquiring the black scrapbook a red Victorian diary was first purchased which was of no use. That is also what he said in 1999.
2. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he then purchased a black photograph album from Outhwaite & Litherland. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
3. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that the black photograph album was in a lot with a brass compass. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
4. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that one of the photographs was of a donkey. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
5. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he cut the photographs out of the scrapbook with a stanley knife. That is what he said at the 1999 meeting.
6. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he bought pens and nibs in an art shop in Bold Street. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
7. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he purchased Diamine manuscript ink from the Bluecoat Chambers Art shop . That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
8. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he had written the Diary text on his word processor and that Anne wrote it into the scrapbook in her handwriting. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
9. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that it took him and Anne eleven days in total to write the Diary. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
10. Mike said in his 1995 affidavit that he took the quotation 'O costly intercourse...' from volume 2 of a Sphere History of Literature and that Anne wrote the 'h' in the 'Oh' in 'O costly intercourse' by mistake. That is also what he said at the 1999 meeting.
Although Mike made a bit of a mess of the story during the 1999 meeting, he clearly also recalled that the scrapbook was purchased for £50 cash, as stated in his 1995 affidavit.
How does Mike manage to remember all these points of the story so many years later? One possibility is that he re-read his affidavit in 1999 to refresh his memory. But that doesn't seem to be the likely explanation because he does confuse certain details during the 1999 meeting (something which would not be surprising for any person telling the truth about a story from some years earlier). Thus, whereas the affidavit says that the lot number for the scrapbook was Lot 126, during the 10 April meeting he said it was Lot 64. He also said in his affidavit that he went to the Bold Street store to buy the pens and nibs before going to the Bluecoat shop to buy the ink, whereas in the 10 April 1999 interview it's stated as having been the other way round. Most obvious of all, he expressly said at the 10 April meeting that the scrapbook was only purchased from O&L, and Anne only wrote the Diary, after the first telephone call with Doreen Montgomery which he dated as 12 March 1992 and before the visit to Doreen on London on 13 April 1992, whereas his affidavit places these occurrences in early 1990. Why would he have refreshed his memory from his affidavit only to change the entire chronology?
The truth is that he must have been speaking from memory and, that being so, it's just remarkable that he not only tells a consistent big picture story between 1994 and 1999 but that in 1999 he is telling a BETTER story, chronologically speaking, which fits perfectly with, and makes sense of, all the facts from his 1995 affidavit.
If there is one thing about this whole story that we know for certain, it's that the Diary is a twentieth century document due to the mistake by the forger in including the modern expression, 'one off instance'. Given that this is the case, the story of Eddie Lyons finding the Diary underneath the floorboards can be eliminated, as can the idea that the Diary had been passed to one of Anne Graham's ancestors by someone who had lived at Battlecrease. The Diary was not written in the nineteenth century. Therefore, in reality, the only game left in town is that it was Michael Barrett and his accomplices (whoever they might have been) who produced the forgery in order to make money so that Barrett could pay off his mortgage and escape from his financial difficulties.
SOME COMMENTS ABOUT THE MEETING
We've already seen the praise heaped on Keith Skinner in Ripperologist of June 1999 and his own book wasn't above some back patting in 2003 with the following comment about the meeting (p.235).
'It soon became evident that Keith Skinner's attempt to keep the interview along chronological lines would not be successful - Barrett was not to be restrained.'
Listening to the recording of that interview, it's clear that Keith could have asked whatever questions he wanted in chronological sequence but he didn't seem to know where to go next, often following Mike's cue (such as when Mike mentioned Caroline, and Keith decided to ask a question about Caroline). It seems to me that one of the reasons that the interview didn't successfully move forward chronologically was Keith Skinner's somewhat obsessive desire to get bogged down in trivial minor details which seem to have been important to him if no-one else. There are other reasons, of course, why the interview didn't go well but I don't think it was because Mike wasn't allowing Keith to keep the interview along chronological lines. If anything, Mike was often too keen to jump ahead, missing out things Keith wanted to discuss, so Keith had to bring him back. But too often he wasn't brought back for a sensible purpose.
However, it wasn't so much Mike not keeping the interview along chronological lines as him occasionally losing his focus during his answers and drunkenly rambling off on an irrelevant tangent. That was certainly problematic for Keith but, at the end of it all, I don't see that Mike prevented any questions from being asked that could have been asked. The audience questions were, on the whole, a disaster. Indeed, in my opinion it was the audience that failed on that evening as much as Mike. I could think of twenty better questions they could have asked Mike than the ones they did ask (even allowing for hindsight and the extra knowledge we have now).
In a post about the interview on the Casebook Censorship Forum on 18 August 2019 (#1750 in the Acquiring thread), Keith said, 'Mike did not want to stick to my line of questions and instead turned the whole evening into what he wanted to talk about'. Having listened carefully to the tape, I don't think that's a fair portrayal. Mike did answer almost all of Keith's badly worded and falsely premised questions (even allowing himself to be cross-examined by Keith on several occasions) and he did then go on to answer almost all the audience questions. Just because Mike didn't give the answers that Keith wanted doesn't mean he didn't give answers.
Sure, Mike was paranoid at times with his answers but then paranoia doesn't seem to be confined to Mike Barrett. In response to R.J. Palmer making a fairly innocuous statement in a Forum post that, '...from the outside, it is difficult not to see Barrett as being depicted as a salt-of-the earth Jekyll before his public confession, and as an unruly and trustworthy Hyde afterwards', Keith Skinner responded in the following way on the Casebook Forum (Rippercast Archives thread #73) on 16 November 2019:
'For all I know thousands of people may agree with you – I don’t know. What I do know however is that the point of Jonathan’s series of Diary podcasts is to let people, who may be interested in the 27 year old controversy, hear the voices of key figures involved, at precise moments in time which have been caught on tape. These recordings have not been doctored. There is no hidden agenda to present anything but the facts. What reason would we have for giving a bias Roger? What would we – or anybody - gain from this? How does being deceitful and manipulative get us any closer to the truth? In short, I resent the inference as, I suspect, does Jonathan.'
I struggled on reading that then, as I do now, to understand how Keith could possibly have thought that R.J. Palmer was inferring that the recordings had been doctored. His response strikes me as being as paranoid as anything Mike Barrett ever came up with.
Added to the paranoia, Keith has also got avoiding providing the answers to difficult questions down to a fine art. As I've already mentioned, he promised me in early 2018 that he would provide an explanation as to why Mike wanted a Victorian diary in March 1992 but he never did. It's an answer I'm still waiting for to this day. Having read Caroline Morris' latest attempt at explaining it, I can well see why Keith might want to exercise his fifth amendment rights. But surely it's something he needs to confront if, as he says, he is 'honest and sincere' in his belief that Mike and Anne did not create the Diary, as he tells us.
He's not the only 'Diary Defender' to avoid answering difficult questions. Over in JTR Forums (my thread, #90), R.J. Palmer asked 'from what event is Caz measuring her 11 days and why?' (in response to her having claimed that Barrett 'found himself with just eleven days' before his meeting with Doreen after acquiring the Diary in the Saddle). In the same post, he asked another simple question about the Barretts' research notes, said to have been created in August 1991: 'Get better Caz. Maybe when your head clears you'll be able to explain how this works. The Barretts are guilty of one hoaxed document, but not the other?' In her purported reply of over 850 words (#92) Caroline Morris not once mentioned the Barretts' research notes nor did she explain from what event she was measuring her 11 days. Instead it was just another long ramble that Mike Barrett himself would have been proud of. A classic example of avoidance.
When it comes to avoiding questions, or giving unsatisfactory answers, let's look at this one. On 15 November 2019 (in thread Rippercast Audio Archives), Hunter asked Paul Begg a very simple question on the Casebook Forum about Mike and his wife (#65):
'Do you believe he and Anne were incapable of concocting such a thing?'
Paul's answer (in #69) was this:
'No. It's surprising what the most unlikely people are able to do, but I question whether Mike had the application to complete such a project'.
Well, yeees, but the question was about Mike AND Anne. In giving the reason for his answer, Paul Begg has simply avoided any mention of Anne. If Mike Barrett had given an answer of this nature to a question he had been asked he would have been rightly criticized.
Asked separately why he didn't think that Mike was capable of writing the Diary, Paul Begg said (in #70):
'One of my initial feelings was that Mike seemed ignorant of both the Maybrick and Ripper cases to have done much research.'
That doesn't strike me as a very good answer. Listening to the recording (as well as other interviews by Mike) he never seems to have a particularly good grasp of anything, including the contents of the Maybrick Diary yet no-one can be in any doubt that, if he wasn't the author of that Diary, he must have read it a number of times. Furthermore, it's difficult to see why the forger of the Maybrick Diary should have done 'much research' into the Ripper and Maybrick cases. Surely they only needed to have read a small number of books about the Ripper case and an equally small number of books about the Maybrick case. After the forgery was done, there's no reason to think they would have remembered the details of those cases.
Paul's other reason for saying that Mike didn't create the Diary is really odd. He says that he thought the idea of forging a Diary must have been 'so daunting' that Mike wouldn't have done it because he was 'too canny'. So if Mike had not been 'canny' he presumably might have done it! For me, this is just too much of Paul Begg trying to put himself into the mind of someone he will never understand.
Paul concluded his post by saying of Mike Barrett, 'I think most were aware he'd written something for a kid's paper, but what else had he published?'. This just shows that Mr Begg is not up to speed on the case. How could he possibly not have known about Mike's articles in Celebrity?
When his mistake was pointed out to him by R.J. Palmer, he replied (in #79) to say, 'Writing a few gossipy, show-biz articles, whatever they are for, isn't quite the same thing as plotting a whole book'. No, but the Diary, comprising a mere 63 pages (which has been typed up into just 20 pages), is hardly a 'whole book' and it didn't need much plotting, being based on real events. It just needed some interleaving. Maybrick the arsenic eater, being cheated on by his wife, decided to murder and mutilate prostitutes in London with each victim being a surrogate for his wife. I mean, that's basically it. He travels down to London to commit the murders then travels back to Liverpool again. In the meantime we read of a cast of characters from Battlecrease who had already been mentioned in books on the Maybrick case. The few fictional characters, such as Mrs Hammersmith, don't exactly get much space or dialogue.
But by this time, Paul now has a different take on the question of whether Mike and Anne could have jointly written the Diary:
'...my point was not that Mike was incapable of writing the text of the diary or that Anne couldn't have knocked it into shape, but that lots of people want to write a book, and many people think they can write a book, but very few people actually write a book.'
So let's look at the logic here. Having initially questioned whether Mike had the application to complete such a project, he now admits that he's not saying that Mike and Anne together couldn't have written the Diary and knocked it into shape but he doesn't think they did so because 'few people actually write a book'. Paul Begg is an intelligent man so he must be able to see the complete failure of that argument. I mean, if we accept that few people in the world write a book as being a reason why Mike and Anne couldn't have forged the Diary then that applies to every other non-author in the world too. He's basically saying that the Diary must be genuine because only a few people write books. To me, that's crazy and not befitting of someone like Paul Begg to put forward such an argument.
He reverts to the point that plotting, researching and writing a book takes application and suggests that Mike didn't have it but we're not talking about a book, we're talking about 63 pages and all it needed was the imagination to see that Maybrick, the arsenic addict, could have committed the Ripper murders during 1888. Once you've got that basic idea I suggest that writing the 63 pages of the Diary (many of which pages feature poor poetry and wasted space) would have been a doddle.
The least convincing part of Paul's post was that Mike didn't come across to him as a forger when he met him (as if it's possible to identify such a person). He says of Mike that, 'He betrayed no sense of pride in what he'd achieved, of having brought a bunch of people in a posh car all the way to see him. He wasn't trying to build up the 'diary' to sell it. He seemed as curious about it as we were. When the financial rewards were mentioned, he just said he'd like a small greenhouse for his garden.' Ha! So if Paul Begg believed him when he said that he just wanted a small greenhouse what does he make of his claim in the 1999 interview that he needed money to pay off his mortgage?
I love the fact that Paul says of Mike that 'he seemed to be someone who was genuine'. Of course he did! That's what a con man does to his victims.
'Maybe he suckered us all', says Paul. Yes, exactly. That's the whole point. He suckered everyone. As he said during the interview, he was doing a con. He conned Doreen. Then he conned Shirley. Conning Paul Begg seems to have been simplicity itself.
Amongst all the uncertainties regarding the Diary, what I feel is quite certain is that Mike purchased the scrapbook in March 1992 (having failed with the red diary) and that the Diary was then written out in his house in Goldie Street in about eleven days before being taken to Doreen Montgomery on 13 April 1992.
I think it's also certain that Mike purchased the ink and the pens and nibs from Bluecoat and Medici respectively. But I doubt if Mike knew the name of the ink he had purchased. I assume he asked for a 'Victorian' ink and was given such an ink in the shop (or someone might have told him beforehand what ink he should be getting). It might have been Diamine but we've never got to the bottom of whether Bluecoat sold other similar 'Victorian' inks.
What is uncertain is whether Mike (and Anne) were entirely responsible for drafting the text of the Diary or whether others were involved. Tony Devereux and Billy Graham are two obvious examples but Mike could have had other acquaintances whose names are not known to us.
The similarities between Mike's expressions (as revealed in his oral interviews and in some of his written notes) and those in the Diary, not to mention that Mike was a professional freelance journalist, lead me to conclude that Mike probably did have an involvement in drafting the Diary. Whether he wrote it all or some of it I don't know. But frankly I don't think it would matter if someone gave him a pre-prepared text so that he simply dictated to Anne something that someone else had written or, alternatively, if he drafted it all himself.
To me, the text of the Diary is nothing special. It didn't need a genius or a published author to write it. The grammar and spelling is, of course, very poor. It's all based on the simple idea of a drugged-up Maybrick substituting East End prostitutes for his wife because she was having an affair with another man. Once you've had this simple idea, the rest of it isn't difficult.
For all I know, the text was written in the 1980s or the 1970s or the 1960s. If, however, the expression 'one off instance' was a later addition to a pre-existing draft then the rest of it (other than the part which mentions a 'bumbling buffoon') could have been written in the nineteenth century. But Mike's acquisition of the red Victorian diary tells us that he was looking for something to write the text of the Diary into, allowing us to conclude that the forgery was created in 1992.
The key was to find someone who could use a fountain pen to write the Diary in fancy handwriting. Mike says it was Anne. This makes sense to me but for all I know he was acquainted with someone else who could do it. I don't really care.
The only thing that I have ever wanted to know about the Diary is whether it was written by James Maybrick or not. The expression 'one off instance' disposes of that idea. As it happens, it also disposes of the idea that it was a nineteenth century fake but I barely care if it was or wasn't. The precise identity of the forger or forgers is of such little importance.
The most simple and obvious explanation is that Mike Barrett was behind the forgery. I've never seen a convincing argument that he couldn't have done it. Not the writing itself because I fully agree that he didn't have the penmanship skills to pull that off but I see no reason to think that he couldn't have drafted the text himself or in collaboration with someone else. The consistency between the story he told to Alan Gray in 1994 (as set out in his January 1995 affidavit) and the story he told to the Cloak & Dagger club in April 1999 is a compelling reason to think that this story was essentially true. The fact that both stories involved an eleven day period in which the Diary was written, consistent with where the documentary evidence takes us, is a very good reason to think that this was how long it took and it's hard to see why Mike would have repeated this if it wasn't true.
First published 26 January 2020
Republished with two additions 10 October 2023