So let’s see if I’ve got this right.
In June 1995, Keith Skinner and Anne Graham together, ‘spent many hours carefully sifting and studying’ the documents held at the National Archives (The Last Victim, p.xi).
In ‘the summer of 1995’ Keith and Anne together went to the home of Richard and Molly Whittington–Egan for a cosy chat about Florence Maybrick (The Last Victim, p.xii).
Investigating the acquisition of the little red diary in August 1995 (having been told about it in July), Keith speaks to Anne Graham - the very person with whom he is then closely collaborating on research into Florence Maybrick – to ask her why her husband bought it in 1992 and he’s given a bullshit reason about Mike wanting to see what a Victorian diary looked like (something that Keith doesn’t discover is false until December 2004 when he obtains from Martin Earl the Bookdealer advertisement showing him that Mike was really after a Victorian diary with blank pages). Anne also gives Keith the 1891 diary itself and her book of cheque stubs, showing that it was paid for in May 1992, which bamboozles Keith who thinks, as a result, that Mike didn’t obtain it until May 1992, long after he brought the Maybrick diary to London. So, in his mind, he doesn’t need to spend any time worrying about it (and, it seems, he didn’t!).
On 2 February 1996, Anne Graham sent Keith Skinner a research note relating to Florence’s ‘sick aunt’ which appears to be based on information provided to her by Keith Skinner, or discussed with him, on 9 December 1995, as updated on 30 January 1996, showing that Richard Hopper said in his written statement that Florence claimed to have gone to visit her godmother in London, not her aunt, in March 1889. To someone interested in whether the diary is genuine or not, one would think that this information, contradicting what is written in a diary purportedly by James Maybrick, would ring alarm bells and that the contradiction would be identified for the benefit of future researchers. But subsequent books by Feldman, Harrison and Smith all continue to state that Florence said that she visited her aunt.
That aside, we can see that Anne and Keith are clearly still closely collaborating with their research into Florence Maybrick.
In January 1997, Keith learns that his collaborator, Anne Graham, has been alleged to be a co-forger of the Jack the Ripper diary in a sworn affidavit by her then husband made two years earlier. That must have come as a bit of a shock!
Nevertheless, when the alleged co-forger, Anne, publishes her book about Florence Maybrick in 1999, the Foreword, dated November 1998, is written by one Keith Skinner! In that Foreword, Keith helpfully recounts Anne’s story that she had first seen the diary in 1968 and that her father had been aware of it since 1953. He tells of how she gave it to Tony Devereux, asking him to give it to her husband. He also tells of an oral tradition in Anne’s family loosely connecting her step-great-grandmother to one of the Maybrick servants at Battlecrease House in Aigburth.
No mention is made in the Foreword of the possibility of the diary having been found under the floorboards of Battlecrease House, even though that possibility had been discussed during the 1990s.
Even more curiously, although he mentions Mike’s ‘confession’ to the Liverpool Daily Post in June 1994, which is said by Keith to have been ‘withdrawn’ by his solicitors, no mention whatsoever is made in the Foreword of Mike’s subsequent claim in an affidavit that the diary was written by none other than Anne Graham herself, at his dictation.
In April 1999, Keith interrogates Mike Barrett at the Cloak & Dagger club. He doesn't seem terribly interested in Mike’s claims that Anne wrote the diary and barely asks him about that. In fact, he subsequently misrepresents Mike’s position in a letter to Ripperologist as being that her handwriting was different to the diary handwriting because she was suffering from multiple personality disorder (even though Mike said the exact opposite, namely that the diary handwriting WAS in her handwriting). He does ask Mike a lot of questions during the evening about the cheque which paid for the little red diary, strongly implying that Mike’s story about purchasing it in order to fake the diary can’t be true because it looked like he didn’t obtain it until May 1992, something he repeats, in writing, in a subsequent letter to Ripperologist.
So firmly is Keith attached to Anne’s story that she saw the diary in 1968 that he posts on the Casebook Forum on 24 February 2001 that:
'I have, since 1994, repeatedly expressed my sincere belief that I regard this document to be an old fake. I may be wrong and it is not important for me to be right. I reach this position because I believe Anne Graham’s story and that of her late father.'
Three days later, he posted:
'I do believe Anne Graham’s story...I just want the truth, even if that truth exposes me as being totally gullible and naïve, as well as professionally incompetent.'
Oops, that didn't age well.
Further, on 24 May 2001, the great investigator posted that:
'Anne’s story about the origins and her personal involvement with the Diary has remained consistent – without deviation or embellishment. Neither does it sound like it is a rehearsed speech. She has recounted the story to me and other people, on many occasions; written down her thoughts, recollections and feelings in great detail, explaining the reasons why she remained quietly isolated until July 1994 and – importantly – of her relationship with Paul Feldman...I believe her'.
'If I have misjudged Anne, then that will say more about my incompetence and inadequacies, than Anne’s deception.'
Oops, that didn't age well either.
At the same time, he wanted to make clear that:
'Anne invited me to stay with her, whenever I went to Liverpool, but I always declined her kind offer, as I considered it absolutely imperative to retain a professional detachment and give myself space to think.'
That is good but is professional detachment retained only by not actually being housed and fed by a suspect in an investigation?
Remarkably, Keith is recorded by Shirley Harrison in her 2003 book as saying, ‘Those who believe Anne is lying, or that she has been bought by Paul must include me in the plot as well.’ After all, Anne was Keith’s friend wasn’t she?
Well let’s see. Even though Mike Barrett had repeated in front of Keith Skinner in person at the Cloak and Dagger meeting in April 1999 that he and Anne forged the diary, on 15 June 2000, we find Keith Skinner writing to Anne about a rumour that Anne had told someone in Australia in the 1970s about a Jack the Ripper diary owned by her father in which letter, Keith tells Anne that, if the story is without foundation he will ‘crush it’ (macho man!), but that, ‘it has to be investigated and tested’ and, he tells her, ‘If there is any truth in it I would urge you to put your trust and faith in our friendship and not hold back anything from me’. The letter is signed ‘With fond love’.On the Casebook Forum a few weeks later, on 5 July 2000, Keith posted about Anne saying:
'Yes I like her. Yes we have a friendship.'
Now, I really don’t know the answer but it’s an interesting question, isn’t it, as to whether a researcher can, with sufficient personal detachment, properly investigate the provenance of a disputed historical item which one of his personal friends is accused of actually helping to create? Is it possible for someone to be truly independent in such circumstances? Or does such a personal friendship give rise to a conflict of interests?
I don’t know but in 2007, Keith basically (and in effect) announces that his friend Anne probably WAS lying about the diary having been in her family for donkey’s years, and about her having given it to Tony to give to Mike in 1991, because he now seems to be absolutely certain that it was found under the floorboards of Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 by Eddie Lyons who then gave it to Mike. So certain is he of this that he jubilantly says at a conference in Liverpool that it would be proved in a court of law by which, it transpired, he meant a court of history (although, bizarrely, and with difficult to follow logic, he has such little faith in the Battlecrease provenance today that he seems to think that Anne’s story might still be true!).
Fast forward to 9 February 2018 and Keith tells me on the Forum, ‘I promise you I will address it’, when I ask him why Mike sought to acquire a Victorian diary with a minimum of twenty blank pages. He never does. He promises me he will make public a suspicious sounding transcript of the diary created by his friend Anne. He never does.
This is supposed to be the guy who, according to his new friend Iconoclast, never ducks a challenge!
After I posted on the Forum examples of Anne's handwriting which (as everyone who commented agreed) showed similarities to the handwriting in the diary, Keith's only concern (as stated in #1761 of the 'Acquiring a Victorian diary' thread) seemed to be whether I had sought Anne's permission to post those examples of her handwriting! Presumably his point was that without her permission they shouldn't have been posted and any similarity between her handwriting and the diary handwriting should have been suppressed and not revealed without her permission!!! On the other hand, the flowery sample of her handwriting published in his own book, which appears to have been taken on trust from her in January 1995, on the assumption that she was giving a genuine sample of her handwriting, doesn't look very much like the normal examples of her handwriting which I posted, which is rather strange, but Keith had nothing whatsoever to say about it. On the other hand, after taking that handwriting sample from her in January 1995, Keith's friendship with Anne developed and, indeed, blossomed, so that is nice.
On or about 20 May 2018, another of Keith’s friends, Jonathan Menges, writes in secret to the administrator of the Casebook Forum about me. Although he refuses to reveal in full what he told her, he has never denied my suggestion that he accused me of badgering yet another one of Keith Skinner’s friends, Caroline Morris, thus encouraging Admin to smear me by falsely accusing me of badgering and harassing Mike Hawley, thus making my continued participation in the Forum untenable. The same Jonathan Menges has personally ensured that nothing I say in this article can be quoted on the Casebook Censorship Forum.
These friendships are a great thing aren’t they?
19 September 2020