Orsam Books

Forging A Victorian Diary

Now that any lingering residual notions on the part of diary hardliners that James Maybrick could possibly have written the diary of Jack the Ripper have finally been put to bed, we can start to try and work out how the forger actually did it. 

Melvin Harris believed that the forger only needed three books to create the diary of James Maybrick-as-Jack the Ripper.  In his must read dissertation 'The Maybrick Hoax: A Guide Through the Labyrinth' (which can be found here), he identified those three books as follows:

1. Paul Underwood's 'Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery' (1987).

2. Martin Fido's 'The Crimes Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper' (1987).

3. Nigel Morland's 'This Friendless Lady' (1957).

In doing so, he differed from Mark Angus who, in a 1995 article in Criminologist, identified Donald Rumbelow's 1987 edition of 'The Complete Jack the Ripper' as the forger's main Ripper source, along with Fido's book.

When Mike Barrett spoke to Doreen Montgomery on 10 March 1992, he recommended to her a completely different 1987 Ripper book.  This was 'Jack the Ripper: Summing Up and Verdict' by Colin Wilson and Robin Odell. 

When, a few months later, Mike provided some 'Research Notes' to Shirley Harrison in July or August 1992, the Wilson & Odell book was one of his two primary source references on the Ripper murders, the other being Paul Harrison's 1991 'Jack the Ripper: The Mystery Solved'. 

Yet he clearly looked at more books than these two because on page 11 of his notes, when referring to the injuries to Eddowes, he stated that, 'in most of the Jack the Ripper books there is numerous pages on the [surgeon's] report'.  Similarly, with regard to the Kelly murder, on page 16 he wrote, 'In all the books I have read no full medical report has proved that any part of the body was taken away'.   So he was already claiming to have read a number of books at this early stage.

It would appear that Mike also looked at at least some newspapers for his 'research' because, in asking whether certain information about the Stride murder (namely whether the murderer nearly got caught and whether 'the horse shied') appeared in the newspapers at the time, Mike said:

'To date I have found no record of them doing so, however, a great deal of information must have appeared, but as yet cannot find anything, would have to go to London to find these facts'.

It's possible he'd only been able to look at reporting in Liverpool newspapers and, in this respect, he references the Liverpool Echo in connection with certain Maybrick facts.  The Liverpool Echo of 1 October 1888, however, carried a report in which it was stated that Diemschutz's pony shied, so that Mike should have known this if he'd looked at that particular newspaper. 

When asked at the Cloak & Dagger club on 10 April 1999 which books he used to create the diary, Mike said that he read only three books: Richard Whittington-Egan’s ‘Tales of Liverpool: Murder, Mystery, Mahem’, ‘Robin Odell’ (by which he presumably meant Odell’s 1965 ‘Jack the Ripper in Fact and Fiction’ but might conceivably have meant the 1987 book by Wilson & Odell), and Bernard Ryan’s ‘The Poisoned Life of Florence Maybrick’.

When asked, however, whether he knew if the killer had taken away Mary Jane Kelly’s heart, he said:

‘I checked with Paul Begg…I also checked with Paul Harrison, his book, 1987, right…I also checked with Colin Odell and Robin Wilson and nobody seemed to know’.

So he’s now said that he looked at ‘Paul Begg’ which is presumably Begg’s 1988 ‘The Uncensored Facts’, Paul Harrison’s 1987 book, which must be ‘The Mystery Solved’, actually published in 1991, and what is presumably Colin Wilson and Robin Odell's 'Jack the Ripper Summing up and Verdict' (1987).  As the latter two books are, as we've seen, referred to by Mike as sources for his 'Research Notes' provided to Shirley Harrison in July or August 1992, he could, in theory have been speaking of that period, when he was supposed to have been researching the diary, but he appears to be talking about his state of knowledge when forging the diary.

Asked by Keith whether he looked at the 1989 reprint of Martin Fido’s 1987 book (which contained Bond’s full report mentioning the heart being absent), Mike said, ‘I didn’t read it, I’m being honest.  I read three books…I’m being serious, I read three books’.

There may be some distinction he is trying to make between ‘read’ and ‘checked’ because he’s obviously saying that he looked at more than three books.  Unfortunately, he wasn't asked to clarify the 'Odell' reference nor was he asked if, in addition to reading that book, he also consulted other books and any newspapers.

For the Ripper information, though, it would seem that Mike Barrett was saying he had seen:

1.   Robin Odell (1965) 'Jack the Ripper in Fact and Fiction’.

2.   Colin Wilson and Robin Odell (1987) ‘Jack the Ripper: Summing Up and Verdict’.

3.   Paul Begg (1988) ‘The Uncensored Facts’.

4.   Paul Harrison (1991) ‘ The Mystery Solved’ .

As we've seen, Mike was familiar with Wilson and Odell's 1987 book from as early as 10 March 1992 because he recommended it to Doreen Montgomery as a book that she should read to acquaint herself with the facts about Jack the Ripper. 

He also recommended to her at the same time that she should read a 1983 book entitled 'Murderers Who's Who' by J.H. Gaute and Robin Odell (although there was also a 1989 version of this book in print at the time, entitled 'The New Murderers Who's Who').  The entries for Jack the Ripper in both books are identical (save for an additional paragraph in the 1989 version referring to the centenary) and both refer to a 'Celebrated series of five unsolved murders in Victorian London in 1888'.  None of the victims, however, are named. 

Another book we should add to the list of possible sources is the 'Jack the Ripper A to Z' by Begg, Fido and Skinner, first published in 1991.  Mike told Alan Gray that it was from this book that he became aware of the supposed initials 'FM' on the wall behind the body of Mary Kelly (presumably from the photograph of the Kelly murder scene which is in the book although he didn't expressly say so). 

With access to the A to Z, Mike would have known about the canonical five victims.  This is important because Robin Odell's 1965 book includes Tabram as one of SIX victims whereas both Underwood and Rumbelow start the series with Nichols (as the first of FIVE victims).  This might have been one factor which attracted Harris and Angus to those two books respectively, but, if Mike already knew about the canonical five from a separate source, it puts Odell back in the frame because the main argument against the forger having used it is the inclusion in it of Tabram as a Ripper victim. 

Also, if Mike really did use the photograph of the Kelly murder in the A to Z to spot the initials on the wall, this makes it less likely he used either Underwood or Rumbelow which both carry the Kelly photograph and show the initials.  Odell does not carry the photograph (nor does Wilson & Odell).   

In terms of knowledge of the C5 victims, we should also note that Begg (while including an introductory chapter entitled 'The Beginning' which mentions the Smith and Tabram murders) nevertheless has Nichols as the first named victim in his list of contents, ending with Kelly (and says, 'Mary Jane Kelly is generally regarded as having been the last victim of Jack the Ripper'). More importantly, Begg states that, 'The police would seem at one time to have thought that there were possibly six [victims], but it would seem that Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson only credited Jack with five: Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly'.  That would surely have been enough to convince a forger on the basis of the very latest knowledge (as at 1988) that the Ripper only killed five women in the East End regardless of Odell's inclusion of Tabram in his 1965 book.  The Wilson & Odell book also names the victims as the C5 (Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Chapman and Kelly). 

In addition to its focus on the C5, Harris might also have been attracted to Underwood's book as the forger's primary source because it mentions Whitechapel in Liverpool during a discussion of the suspect, John Kelly.  But someone from Liverpool like Mike Barrett would hardly have needed Underwood to tell him about a Whitechapel in Liverpool. 

Harris also thinks that the forger took inspiration from Underwood who quoted a doctor from 1888 saying that,'the murderer is a homicidal maniac of religious views, who labours under the morbid belief that he has a destiny in the world to fulfill'.  Hence we find in the diary, 'I am convinced God placed me here to kill all whores'.  But Odell notes that, 'Sexual psychopaths in some instances attribute their hideous deeds to the commands of God' (p.261)  He also quotes Dr Forbes Winslow as suggesting that the murderer might have been suffering from 'homicidal religious mania' (p. 150).  But I don't think the faker needed a Ripper book to inspire him to suggest that the killer had been placed on earth to kill prostitutes.  The example of the Yorkshire Ripper, who claimed to be a tool of God's will and had been ordered to kill prostitutes, would have been well known to a forger in 1992 from Peter Sutcliffe's highly publicised 1981 trial.  

Once the advantage of the C5 and the Whitechapel issue is removed, there isn't really anything special to suggest Underwood as the forger's primary source over and above most of the other books, including Odell, Wilson & Odell and Rumbelow.  Indeed, as Underwood doesn't include any mention of the Punch cartoon with the caption 'Turn round three times and catch whom you may' which features in the diary, whereas it is reproduced in Odell (1965) and Rumbelow (1987), thus alerting the forger to its existence, both these books possibly have the edge over Underwood for that reason. 

It's true, incidentally, that neither Odell nor Rumbelow  actually provide the crucial date for when this cartoon was published (i.e. 22 September 1888) whereas the dust cover on Fido's book DOES include the date but the forger could have done a little bit of extra research to establish that. The catalogue of Liverpool Central Library shows that it holds a full set of 'Punch', volumes 1 to 301 from 1841 to 1945, with shelfmark 052 PUN, so that it would have been a very simple matter for a forger in Liverpool to have seen the cartoon in Odell and then checked the date that it was published in the original magazine to ensure that its mention in the diary fitted in the correct chronology. 

Thus, Odell and Rumbelow would have given the forger everything he needed that could have been got from Underwood with the one exception being that Underwood explains that cachous were used 'to sweeten the breath', as does Begg, which would explain the forger's reference to Stride's 'sweet scented breath'.  In his Research Notes, Mike used a dictionary to define cachous but his dictionary only described them them as something 'to perfume the breath' which is different, if synonymous, to the description of Stride's breath in the diary.  However, the very widely available Concise Oxford Dictionary (1987 reprint) gave the definition of a cachou as 'lozenge to sweeten breath' thus making Underwood and Begg redundant. 

In respect of possibly needing Fido, the forger writes about the murder of Eddowes: 'I cut deep deep deep. Her nose annoyed me so I cut it off, had a go at her eyes left my mark' .  Melvin sees a connection here with Fido saying that the murderer put'his mark on the victim's face'.  Perhaps so, but we should also note that when describing the injuries to Eddowes, Wilson and Odell say that the killer's knife left 'a mark on the vertebral cartilage'. While that's not the face, it could still have inspired the comment about leaving a mark (if such inspiration was actually needed).  While it's certainly interesting that Fido uses the expression 'his mark', it doesn't seem to be necessary for the forger to have read this in order to have said that he left his mark. It could easily be a coincidence. 

At the same time, there are some additional stylistic elements that one could find in Wilson/Odell, Underwood and Fido for which one could see a connection between those books and the diary.

For example, the forger writes in respect of the Nichols murder, ‘There was no scream when I cut’.  From Odell we read that:'four men each approaching Buck's Row from different directions had neither seen nor heard anything unusual'  (p. 30). AND...'if there had been any noise or screams Mrs Green thought that she would have heard them' (p.32).  That contains sufficient information for the forger to say that Nichols didn’t scream but Wilson/Odell state it more plainly by saying: ‘no-one heard any noise or scream amounting to an alarm' .  So Wilson/Odell is a slightly better (but not essential) source for stylistic reasons.

Another example is in respect of the diary writer saying that ‘I struck deep into her’ . Odell quotes the Star which said. 'The knife which must have been a large and sharp one, was jabbed into the deceased at the lower part of the abdomen, and then drawn upwards, not once but twice. The first cut veered to the right, slitting up the groin, and passing over the left hip, but the second cut went straight upward, along the centre of the body,  and reaching to the breast bone' (p. 31).  Wilson/Odell is, perhaps, a slightly better source in saying - 'Several jagged incisions had ripped the abdomen open down its full length and there were two stab wounds in the genitals' (p. 18-19).  From either of those two books the forger could have understood that there was a deep cut but if he needed to be spoon-fed he could have taken from Fido that there were ‘two deep obscene stabs in her genitals’.  Underwood also refers to a ‘deep gash that extended from the abdomen almost as far as the diaphragm’ Begg writes of a 'very deep' wound while Rumbelow speaks of a 'deep jagged incision'.  If we need the word ‘deep’ for the forger to have been able to have used it, therefore, he would have needed to have consulted one of these four books.

One final example is in respect of the forger writing, after the murder of Stride, 'Within the quarter of the hour I found another dirty bitch willing to sell her wares'. It would have been no problem to have taken this from Odell who says, 'they were killed within an hour of each other, at spots separated only by fifteen minutes' walking distance' (p.62).  But if you wanted an even better match, you find that Underwood says, 'The murderer, if it was the same man, probably made for straight for Mitre Square, no more than fifteen minutes' walking distance, intent on finding someone on whom to vent his blood lust' (p. 17).  Underwood has the concept of ‘finding’ which is in the diary as ‘I found another’ but this is absent from Odell.  Yet one can’t say from this with any degree of certainty that the forger must have used Underwood, not Odell. 

We will discuss further the forger's likely sources but one might ask if Mike would have given the game away to Doreen over the telephone, and to Shirley in his Research Notes, by referring to Wilson & Odell and Harrison if he had actually used those two books as his primary sources for the diary.  It would have been a bit of a daft thing to do but, with Mike, anything is possible and he might not have seen the need to conceal his actual sources.

I have carried out the exercise of checking all the facts in the diary relating to the Jack the Ripper murders and the life of Maybrick and comparing them to what is in the potential sources. 

By my count (which involves some judgement calls and grouping of similar facts into single categories of 'fact') there are 56 supposed Ripper facts in the Diary and 79 supposed Maybrick facts.  

Of those 56 supposed Ripper facts, as I've mentioned, I don't regard the fact that there was a Whitechapel in both Liverpool and London as one which required any specialist Ripper knowledge.  I would also say that the claim that Inspector Abberline was holding back information regarding the murder of Eddowes, while not necessarily untrue, is unconfirmed and can too easily be attributed to an imaginative fancy of the forger. The same is true for the idea that the killer left a clue at the scene of the Chapman murders (usually interpreted as the letter 'M' on an envelope).  Another 'fact' which can't really be sourced is the claim that 'The fool panicked'.  didn't even include within the 56 facts the aforementioned points about killing for God and the killer leaving his 'mark' because they don't strike me as requiring a source. 

I was reluctant to count 'an initial here, an initial there' in the 56 facts because it is far too vague to be said to be something which requires knowledge about the Kelly murder but I did so.   I also counted the use of the word 'redeem' to mean knowledge of a pawn ticket in Eddowes's possession but that is so vague as to be almost meaningless.  

Once we exclude those four 'facts' which don't seem to require actual Ripper knowledge (i.e. Whitechapel, the holding back of information, the clue, and the panicking fool), and remove the need for a book that only shows the C5 victims, that leaves 51 facts which require some kind of source.  My analysis suggests that 36 of those facts can be found in Underwood, an additional one is borderline, with the remaining 14 not in Underwood being found in Fido (if we count the Punch cartoon on the dust jacket). 

The borderline fact in Underwood relates to the diarist saying 'With the key I did flee'.  Underwood notes that 'the key was never found' which was probably sufficient for the forger to have assumed it was taken away by the killer but, as this sentiment is expressly stated in Wilson & Odell who say that, 'The popular view is that the killer had locked the door when he departed, taking the key with him', one would think that Underwood was not the source for this.  Odell just says there was 'no trace of the key' while Rumbelow goes a bit further and states that 'someone had a key, and used it'.   

In respect of one of the facts not in Underwood, namely that Diemshutz's horse 'shied', Underwood only says it 'pulled up sharp' and, with all the other books saying 'shied' (or in the case of Harrison 'shy'), we can assume that the word 'shied' was copied by the forger rather than derived independently from the description of 'pulled up sharp'.  At the same time, Underwood calls it a horse rather than a pony, which is how it is described by Odell, Wilson & Odell, Begg, Harrison and Rumbelow. The diarist says that a 'horse' shied, not a pony.  Harrison, however, after saying that Diemschutz's pony 'appeared to shy away from something' later, when discussing suspects, refers to his 'horse and cart'.

Interestingly, the 'A to Z' (published in 1991) carries a sketch of Diemschutz's arrival at Dutfield's Yard from which the forger would have seen a horse and cart, hence a possible reason for the use of the word 'horse' when all the books other than Underwood refer to a 'pony'.  In addition, when describing the murder of Stride, the authors of the A to Z say that Diemschutz 'drove his horse and cart' into the yard 

By contrast with Underwood, Odell's book contains 42 facts which would have been required by the forger with three additional borderline facts and only six required facts not in the book.  Regarding the three on the borderline, the first relates to the diarist's claim that he 'struck deep' into Nichols.  As we've seen, it's perfectly possible for the diarist to have formulated that description on the basis of the details of Nichols' injuries set out in Odell but other books would have made the diarist's life easier.  The second borderline fact relates to the diary statement 'I couldn't get the bitches head off' in respect of the Eddowes murder. Wilson & Odell, Fido and Harrison all make clear that the knife scratched or marked the spine or the vertebral cartilage.  Odell merely says that the throat was cut 'through the vocal cords' making it uncertain if the forger could have taken this as an attempt to cut off the head.  Underwood simply says that her throat was cut which isn't really enough information for the forger's conclusion. The third borderline fact relates to the key which I've already mentioned.

I might add that I included as a fact in Odell that the killer didn't take any of Kelly's body parts away, hence the line in the diary 'Regret I did not take any of it away with me it is supper time, I could do with a kidney or two'.  When describing the murder itself, Odell says that 'The lower portion of the body and the uterus had been cut out and appeared to be missing' (p. 106) but later in the book, inconsistent with this, Odell asks why the killer didn't avail himself of the opportunity presented of Kelly's murder to remove her abdominal organs and states categorically that 'no organs were missing' (p. 138).  So it's possible that the forger could have relied on the facts stated at page 138 of Odell rather than those on page 106.

The six facts not in Odell are these:

1. Odell doesn't mention any cuts to Eddowes' nose yet the forger states that 'Her nose annoyed me so I cut it off'.  Underwood also, incidentally, doesn't mention any cuts to the nose.

2. Odell doesn't mention that Stride had a red rose pinned to her jacket to allow the forger to write 'With a rose to match the red'.  Other than from newspaper reports, this fact is only found in Fido and Harrison (of the books considered).

3.Odell doesn't explain that cachous sweeten the breath.

4. Odell doesn't include a list of Eddowes' possessions to allow the forger to make reference to the cigarette case, tea and sugar, whore's knife, bonnett and 'tin match box empty'.  This could only have been obtained from Fido or Harrison.  While Rumbelow lists the possessions, he writes of 'an empty tin match box' so that we can effectively rule it out as having been the forger's source. 

5. There is no mention of the pawn tickets of Eddowes in Odell (to the extent that this explains the forger's mention of 'redeem it here...I could not possibly  redeem it here').

6. There is no inclusion of the Kelly photograph to the extent that 'An initial here and an initial there' is supposed to relate to the letters 'FM' seen or imagined on the photograph.

Other than the definition of cachous to mean something to sweeten the breath (for which the forger would have needed Begg, Underwood or a dictionary), all of the facts not in Odell could have been taken by the forger from Harrison.  If the forger used another source, such as the A to Z, for the Kelly photograph (which isn't in Fido) then either Odell and Harrison or Odell and Fido would have given the forger all the additional information he needed.

Just to add one thing.  As we've seen, Mike said that he just read 'Odell'.  If we were to take that to mean (in his odd way) that he read BOTH Odell books, namely the 1965 book and the 1987 book jointly authored with Colin Wilson, that would have allowed the forger to have known about the cut to Eddowes' nose without reference to any further texts.  Indeed, Wilson and Odell state that, 'There was a clean cut over the bridge of the nose...This cut went into the nasal bone...The tip of the nose was quite detached by an oblique cut from the bottom of the nasal bone'.  It also made clearer that Eddowes' throat was cut down to the vertebral cartilage (thus allowing the forger to refer to an attempt to cut off the head).  But perhaps the biggest advantage of assuming the forger used Odell and Wilson & Odell over just Odell, other than having five victims only, is that, as we've seen, it states that 'The popular view was that the killer had locked  the door when he departed, taking the key with him'.  As I've mentioned, the fleeing with the key is implied in Odell but here we have it expressly stated in Wilson & Odell.  Other than the fact that Odell has the Punch cartoon there isn't much difference between Odell and Wilson & Odell albeit that Wilson & Odell don't include a clear statement that there were no organs missing from Kelly's body and Wilson & Odell also doesn't include any mention of Kelly's heart having been cut out.

The equivalent numbers for Rumbelow's book are 41 facts and two borderline facts with eight failures.  The failures are as follows:

1. There's nothing in Rumbelow to really have allowed the forger to write 'The wait to read about my triumph seemed long, although it was not.  I am not disappointed, they have all written well'.  Odell is probably best in this respect quoting a Star reporter's description of the injuries to Nichols and saying, 'Seeing that the murder was beyond description, this reporter displayed considerable initiative in giving the public the facts' albeit that this only refers to a single newspaper report.  

2. There's no indication in Rumbelow that the killer was nearly caught when murdering Stride (or at least that the killer was nearby when the body was found) whereas Odell, for example, says that 'The murderer may well have been lurking in the darkness' at the time of Diemschutz's arrival and that 'the steward's pony had sensed his sinister presence', thus enabling the forger to write 'To my astonishment I cannot believe I have not been caught...I would have dearly loved to have cut the head of the damned horse off'.

3. Rumbelow doesn't make any suggestion that the killer of Stride was interrupted yet the forger writes 'I had no time to rip the bitch wide'.  It's true that he cites the Macnaghten memorandum stating 'nothing in the shape of mutilation attempted' so that the forger could have deduced that the killer was pressed for time but other books do expressly state that the killer was disturbed and prevented from mutilating the body.  Harrison in particular says that the killer had 'insufficient time to commit any mutilations'.

4. As with Underwood, there's nothing more in Rumbelow than that Eddowes' throat was cut so that it's difficult to see how the forger would have written that he could not get her head off from just this.

5. Rumbelow doesn't mention the red rose.

6. Rumbelow doesn't explain the purpose of the cachous.

7.  Although Rumbelow does include a list of Eddowes' possessions, the fact that he doesn't include the statement 'tin match box empty' (but rather 'empty tin match box') must exclude his book from being the forger's source for this; so that is included as a failure.

8. Rumbelow doesn't mention any removal of Kelly's heart.

In terms of the borderline facts, Rumbelow says that 'someone had a key, and used it' but I think that's similar to Odell's 'no trace of the key' both of which COULD be interpreted as the killer fleeing with the key but neither expressly states as much.  There is also no clear statement that no organs were missing from Kelly but Rumbelow says, 'The entrails and other portions of the frame were missing but the liver etc., it is said, were found placed between the feet of this poor victim'. That's close to being a failure.

There isn't, therefore, a great deal of difference between Underwood, Rumbelow and Odell as the forger's primary source but Odell on my (perhaps subjective) count is the best individual single source.  That's not a bad achievement from Mike who, at the Cloak & Dagger event, selected the book containing arguably the most diary facts even though a couple of experts, Harris and Angus, went for different choices.

But what do we make of Mike saying he just read one book about the Ripper?  That's not possible.  If he was the forger he simply MUST have used either Harrison or Fido because only those two books include the phrase 'tin match box empty' and only those two books contain reference to Stride's red rose.  But neither of those books individually have enough information to have allowed the forger to create the diary on their own. Although one can't trust Mike's memory for one moment, he seemed adamant that he never looked at Fido which makes Harrison, a book he referenced in his 'Research Notes', as perhaps the most likely of the two books for him to have used to augment Odell.

My own theory is that the diary was written in two parts.  Our forger drafted the main narrative text based on a single book (which could well have been Odell's book) with most of the rhymes being added later, after the forger (or an accomplice of the forger) consulted Harrison and quite possibly Wilson & Odell and Begg too (and possibly other books as well).  To me, it's quite striking  to an almost incredible degree how disconnected most of the rhymes are to what is in the main text.  Having written a short and terribly vague explanation of each murder, the forger then suddenly adds lots of little facts and details not mentioned in the text and creates the rhymes.  Only on one or two occasions is something mentioned in the text which then features in a rhyme.  So I think it is entirely plausible that the body of the text and the rhymes were created at different times from different sources.

Books such as Wilson & Odell, Harrison and Begg (and the A to Z) could have been used as fact checkers in any case and I don't think that this would necessarily undermine Mike's claim that he only READ one book to create the diary text, if by which he meant the initial draft (without rhymes).

Of the facts not in Odell, only two relate to the text itself, as opposed to the rhymes, namely the absence of any mention of a cut to Eddowes' nose and the possible meaning of 'an initial here, an initial there'.  As we've seen, though, Mike could have got the initials from a photograph of the Kelly murder in the A to Z.  The same is true of the cut to Eddowes' nose which is visible in a photograph and sketch in the A to Z.   So that book could well have been a source for the text as a supplement to Odell meaning that, subject to the forger not needing a source for the word 'deep' in respect of striking deep into Nichols, Odell and the 'A to Z' jointly could have been responsible for 100% of the text of the diary, with Harrison (and Begg for the cachous) supplementing for the rhymes.

Regarding the Maybrick sources of information, I counted 79 potential facts in the diary.  But of that 79 I make it that 27 are inventions by the diarist for which there is no actual source (and some of which are known to be false).  This includes things like Maybrick taking refreshment at the Poste House, Gladys being ill again, being known to be a 'mild' man, being known as 'the most gentlest of men', being made a fool of by his wife, catching a chill, meeting Mrs Hammersmith, visiting Michael in June, discovery by Florence of bottles, having unidentified 'missing items' supposedly taken by Lowry, being locked in his bedroom for fear of sleepwalking, taking a small room in Middlesex Street, wining and dining George, Florence going to a concert on her own, hitting Florence  in October 1888, receiving letters from Michael asking about his health, seeing Thomas at Christmas, Thomas thinking of nothing else but money, not seeing Michael at Christmas, visiting Hopper a lot in late 1888, having many Jewish friends, confessing to his wife etc.  That sort of thing.

I should add that Christie, in his 1969 book, quotes W.T. Stead saying that Maybrick's friends will say he was 'a good kind of fellow despite him being a seducer, adulterer and a debachee' which could potentially have been the inspiration behind the thought that Maybrick was said by Edwin to have been 'the most gentlest of men' but it surely wasn't necessary for the forger to have been aware of Stead's quote for this.   

There is also one fact about the 1889 Grand National that could only have been taken from a book or article on the Grand National.

In terms of the remaining 21 facts, I find that all of them  can be found in Ryan's book.  Most of them can also be found in Morland but there isn't really anything in Morland to explain the diary line, 'do I not frequently visit the Capital and indeed do I not have a legitimate reason for doing so'.  Ryan tells us that, 'Men like Maybrick thought nothing of stepping aboard the London, Midland and Scottish to go up to London for the day.  Maybrick in particular thought nothing of staying overnight. Frequently he stayed two or three days at a time", and (pp.28-29) that “James continued…to travel often to London for a day or two 'on business'.”   There isn't anything similar in Morland other than Morland noting that Michael Maybrick had apartments near Regent's Park in London.

Morland's book also doesn't assist with the line in the diary which says that his business was 'flourishing'.  Ryan tells us that 'Maybrick's cotton brokerage flourished' but there is no equivalent statement in Morland.

In addition, while the line that 'Fuller believes there is very little the matter with me' could have been derived from Morland's summary that 'Dr Muller found nothing wrong except the patient was suffering from indigestion' it is much closer to Ryan's summary that Fuller 'told his patient that he could find very little the matter with him'

For those reasons I would suggest that, of the two books, Ryan was most likely to have been the forger's source and that Mike's statement that he used Ryan has credibility, especially when we consider that Melvin Harris was on record as identifying Morland as the primary source which Mike could simply have repeated, but didn't.  At the same time, it's important to note that Melvin has at other times stated that Ryan could have been the forger's main source.

I should just add that of the 21 facts that are found in Ryan, four of them are borderline (which also applies to Morland).  Those four borderline facts are (1) that Maybrick referred to arsenic as his 'medicine' for which there isn't any source but both Ryan and Morland refer to evidence at trial of Sir James Poole that Maybrick once told him that he took 'poisonous medicines', but otherwise I would think that this was an invention of the forger (2) that William Maybrick hated Florence for which there is no source but Ryan said that William 'scarcely seemed interested to learn of the proposed marriage' which might have suggested the idea, (3) that Maybrick liked gambling, although both Ryan and Morland said that he liked horseracing which is to the same effect and (4) that Edwin only wrote one letter to Maybrick from America (for which there is no information one way or the other) but both Ryan and Morland are sources for the information that Edwin was in America at this time.

The remaining 17 Maybrick facts can be more clearly linked to Ryan. 

For me, the most interesting thing to emerge from this exercise is that every major fact about Maybrick's life in the diary is to be found in Ryan's 1977 book. I thought that the forger would probably have needed some additional sources such as Morland's book or Christie's book and quite possibly trial evidence. But it turns out that just one book was indeed required for all the Maybrick knowledge (excluding the Grand National race time) with some limited exceptions. Those exceptions are:

1. That Florence had other lovers prior to Brierley 

This isn't confirmed but love letters to Florence from Edwin Maybrick and a lawyer named Williams were supposedly found in Florence's room after she was arrested.  I'm not sure the forger needed to know this but, if he or she did, the information was available in Christie's 1969 book 'Etched in Arsenic' in which Christie said: 'It was common talk in campaign circles, among brokers who were friends of both the husband and wife, that she was involved at various times with her brother-in-law Edwin and with a London lawyer named Williams'.  The fact that there is no hint of any relationship between Florence and Edwin in the Diary leads me to conclude that the forger probably wasn't aware of this.  But the existence of a lover for Florence in early 1888, prior to the murders, was essential for the plot of the diary otherwise Maybrick would have had no motive to carry out his murderous campaign so that the forger had no option but to say that she did have a lover and that Maybrick knew about it.

2. That Maybrick suffered from cold hands 

It's only from the closing speech of Sir Charles Russell that one finds mention of Maybrick having had cold hands, which doesn't actually seem to have come from the evidence.  It wouldn't have been difficult for a forger to have read this but I'm not convinced he needed to.  Although there is evidence of Maybrick wanting his hands rubbed because they were numb there is no actual evidence of Maybrick complaining that his hands were cold.

3. That Maybrick visited Dr Hopper a number of times in November and December 1888

In the diary, after the Kelly murder but before the New Year, the forger writes, 'I have visited Hopper too often this month.  I will have to stop, for fear he may begin to suspect.  I talk to him like no other.'  There is no actual evidence that Maybrick did visit Hopper with any frequency during this period but, in his written statement, Hopper said that he attended Maybrick up to December 1888. At trial he agreed that he had attended Maybrick 'from time to time up to the end of 1888' (later summarized by Sir Charles Russell has him having attended upon Maybrick, 'from June 1888 to December 1888').  But he said he saw him 'frequently' during June to September 1888 (perhaps 20 times) and there was no mention of frequent contact after September.  

Hopper confirmed at the trial that Maybrick came to his house when he wanted to see him which could be important because the forger does have Maybrick visiting Hopper rather than the other way round.

On the other side of the coin, suggesting that Maybrick barely saw Hopper in November and December 1888, the evidence at trial was that Maybrick consulted Dr Drysdale on 19, 22 and 26 November 1888, and on 5 and 10 December 1888, about pains in his head and numbness down the left leg and hand.  That Maybrick saw him three times in November and twice in December is stated in Ryan p. 29.  Morland says that Maybrick consulted Drysdale in November 1888 p. 131.  Dr J. Drysdale, however, isn't mentioned in the diary.

4. That Maybrick hit Florence prior to the 1889 Grand National

This is the one aspect where the forger could be said to have 'got lucky'.  I'm not aware of any secondary source prior to 1992 which says that Maybrick struck his wife at any time before the Grand National nor was such a thing mentioned during the trial.  It's only in a witness statement of John Baillie Knight that we find that Florence confided to him on 21st March that Maybrick had already hit her, a full week before we know that he gave her a black eye. As recorded by Baillie Knight, Florence never said when this happened, so that it could have been during the New Year when we know there was some kind of dispute and Maybrick changed his will, but, had it not been for the fact that the diary has been disproved to have been genuine, it could have been said to have been something that showed inside knowledge. Mind you, if Florence had told Baillie Knight that her husband had never previously hit her, diary defenders would simply have told us that Florence wasn't telling the truth because she didn't want to seem like an abused wife. For these people, the diary never loses!


Having carried out the exercise, and bearing in mind all of the above, I'm satisfied that the forger only used Ryan's book.  There was certainly no need to use either Morland in addition or, with the exception of the points about cold hands and Maybrick visiting Hopper in late 1888, the trial transcript.  

The forger certainly couldn't have used Morland without Ryan.   

I might add that Christie's book on its own wouldn't have sufficed for the forger either because it doesn't contain the fact that Maybrick bought his wife a fur cape for her trip to London in March 1992.  The forger must have known this to have written, 'I shall buy the whore something for her visit'.  But Ryan and Morland both record that Maybrick had bought his wife a cape, or fur coat, for the London visit.  Nor does Christie mention that Florence's excuse for the trip to London was to see her aunt.

Suffice to say that Whittington-Egan's book couldn't have been used on its own and its short chapter on the Maybrick case doesn't contain anything we find in the diary which isn't in Ryan's book.   

I do note that there was a quite comprehensive feature on the Maybrick case in the magazine 'Murder Casebook' published in 1990 which could easily have been available to the forger from their local newsagent. It's certainly interesting in that it tells us that in 1886 'Florence discovered that James had a mistress in Liverpool by whom he had had five children, two since his marriage' but, overall, there's not enough information in the magazine to supplant Ryan as the primary source. 

It was also interesting to discover that certain information included in the diary wasn't even public until the publication of MacDougall's book in 1891.  This is the information found in Elizabeth Humphreys' statement to MacDougall (which didn't emerge during the trial) namely (a) the fact that Maybrick bought a fur cape for his wife before she went down to London and (b) the fact that one of the servants (Humphreys herself) interfered in the fight between James and Florence after the Grand National. The inclusion of 'one off instance' already tells us that the diary couldn't have been forged in 1889 or 1890 and this fact corroborates that.   

Another interesting discovery is that the narrative of the diary simply doesn't fit the facts.  The evidence is clear that Maybrick didn't know that Florence had informed Dr Hopper about his drug habit nor did he know that she had written to Michael about it. A consequence of this is that Maybrick didn't strike his wife in about October 1888 as a result of what Hopper had told him in the 'one off instance' so that, ironically, the key language mistake made by the forger was included in the diary as a result of another mistake!

What about the known facts relating to Maybrick's life which are not included in the diary because they weren't included in Ryan's book so that (with one exception as noted below) the forger almost certainly didn't know about them?  Here are some of those: 


1. In his evidence at trial, George Smith said that Maybrick's health was generally good but he 'sometimes complained of the liver'.  At the magistrate's hearing, Dr Hopper stated that he 'attended Mr Maybrick for an affection of the liver' (MacDougall, p.26). There are no complaints by Maybrick about his liver in the diary.

2. One can work out from the evidence of Dr Humphreys that Maybrick went to Ascot in 1888 which must have been June 1888 when the Ascot races were held.  This isn't mentioned in the diary.

3. From G.A. Witt's letter to the Home Office in August 1889 at the National Archives, we know that James and Florence spent time in London with Mr Witt and his wife during June 1888.  This isn't mentioned in the diary (nor is the existence of Mr or Mrs Witt mentioned).

4. Alice Yapp confirmed that Maybrick went to Harrogate for his health at some point in 1888 and, working from that clue, Keith Skinner established from the visitor's book of the Queen's Hotel in Harrogate that Maybrick spent four days there alone in July 1888 ('The Maybrick A to Z' by Christopher Jones, p.45).  There is no mention of the visit to Harrogate in the diary.  

6. In a statement for the Treasury Solicitor held at the National Archives dated 18 July 1889 (HO 144/1638/A40678), John Baillie Knight stated that he had met both Mr and Mrs Maybrick in London during August 1888 when they both came down for Goodwood and he dined with them 'at the Italian Exhibition'.  (N.B. The Italian Exhibition opened in West London on 12 May 1888. It was advertised as having 'The most valuable  and varied collection of Italian sculptures and paintings ever exhibited'.  The Times of 7 August 1888 noted that 40,000 holidaymakers had visited the exhibition on Bank Holiday Monday, the previous day.  The Goodwood races in 1888 were run from Tuesday 31 July to Friday 3 August suggesting that the Maybricks were in Sussex and London during the first week of the month up to the bank holiday weekend).  Needless to say, there is no mention of this London visit in the diary during a crucial period between Maybrick's supposed first and second murders.  

6. Florence Aunspaugh, a young girl, stayed with the Maybricks during the summer of 1888.  Is there any mention of their young guest at any point in the diary?  Absolutely not.  It's like the author of the diary didn't even know she had been staying there!

7. On 3 October 1888 (just three days after the double event), Maybrick took out an insurance policy with the Mutual Reserve Fund Life Association for £2,000 in favour of his wife (Times, 4 November 1889).  There is no mention of this in the diary which seems contrary to the hatred expressed towards Florence at this time. 

8. On 3 December 1888, James Maybrick was sworn onto a grand jury at Liverpool City Sessions which had to rule on whether 85 cases could go ahead to trial (Liverpool Mercury, 4 December 1888). No mention is made in the diary of the irony of Jack the Ripper dispensing justice to the citizens of Liverpool, suggesting that the author of the diary was wholly unaware of it. 

9. I was informed last year by R.J. Palmer that a story in the South Wales Echo of 1 June 1889 stated that, according to Maybrick's friends at the Exchange, 'within five weeks of his death he undertook a walking excursion in Wales, on some occasions walking as much as 20 miles a day'.  I was initially sceptical due to this not having been mentioned in the criminal proceedings but Shirley Harrison's 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper' " (2010 edition) confirms that the visitors' register of the Hand Hotel in Llangollen, Wales, records Maybrick on holiday there 'in 1889' with four companions.  Shirley doesn't give the date of this entry but Feldman tells us that the visitors' register of the hotel shows that Maybrick and his friends stayed there between 23 and 26 February 1889.  There is no mention of this in the Diary. 

[NB. The website Old Mersey Times says that the entry in the visitors' book is dated Sunday, 14 April 1889 and one of the other four men was Maybrick's friend George Davidson.  See here.  There is a major problem with this date, however, in that, on that same day, we know that Maybrick was in London being examined by Dr Fuller. According to Michael, James left London on Monday, 15 April.  There is evidence that Maybrick was in his office on Tuesday, 16 April, and Thursday 18 April, before going back to London on Saturday 20 April which wouldn't have left much time for him to go to Wales]. 

10. Master James and young Gladys became ill with the whooping cough for a couple of weeks from 4 March 1889, requiring the attendance of Dr Humphreys, yet this isn't mentioned in the diary.  The reason is undoubtedly that Ryan wasn't aware of it, believing that it happened in March 1887, thus the forger didn't know of it either.  Instead, the forger, believing that Gladys had been ill in 1887 wrote that Gladys was ill 'again' in 1888. 

11. Maybrick's recently painted portrait (by the artist J.T. Steadman) was exhibited at Liver's Sketching Club Annual Exhibition of Pictures at the Club Rooms of Cuthbert's Buildings in Clayton Square, Liverpool between 4 March and 16 March 1889 and Maybrick attended the exhibition on at least one day during that period (per the Prescot Reporter and St Helens General Advertiser, 8 June 1889).  There is no mention of this in the diary.  

12. On Sunday 31 March 1889, James and Florence had a quarrel followed by a faint. James was heard saying'Bunny, Bunny, here's your hubby' and sent for Dr Humphreys.  According to Elizabeth Humphreys “We  were all frightened and thought her dead”  (MacDougall p.69) and Mrs Maybrick remained ill in bed for several days.  This incident is mentioned in both Ryan (p.39) and Morland (p.36) but not in the diary.  It is the only really significant event which can be found in both Ryan and Morland which isn't alluded to in the diary.

13. Maybrick confided in Dr Hopper in March 1889 that he hadn't had sexual intercourse with his wife for three months. This is in Dr Hopper's witness statement but not in Ryan's book so the forger evidently didn't know it to mention it in the diary. 

14. Although, in the diary, Maybrick resents Hopper's interference in the problems he was having with his wife in March 1889, the truth is that the real Maybrick twice visited Hopper afterwards and, according to Hopper, 'thanked me for effecting the reconciliation' (Statement of Dr Hopper from July 1889).  

15. After his examination by Dr Fuller on 20 April 1889, Maybrick was heard by George Smith to say to a Mr Scott that he was 'tip top' and, by Lowry, that 'he never felt so well in his life before' (HO 144/1639/A50678).  The forger didn't know about this so there is no comment by Maybrick in the diary at this time about how good he was feeling.

16. On 27 April 1889, Maybrick went to the Wirral Races and dined with his friends the Hobsons.  This is referred to in his letter to his brother dated 29 April but not in the diary.


My deep dive into the diary confirms what I already suspected, namely that the forger would have been able to create the diary from a small number of twentieth century books and that the books identified by Mike Barrett as those which he used to create the diary would (with only some minor exceptions) have been sufficient to have enabled him to do it. 

Did the forger need to go to London or other archives to research the diary?  My answer to this would be a firm NO.  The one single fact in the diary which doesn't appear in any secondary sources is that Maybrick hit Florence prior to March 1889.  It should be stressed that there is no evidence that this occurred in October 1888, when the diary says that the 'one off instance' occurred, but it's true that John Baillie Knight's statement from the Home Office files at the Public Record Office could have been the reason for the inclusion of this act of violence in the diary.

So did the forger, in fact, visit London?  I would have to say no because there are some other (albeit relatively minor) facts in the Home Office files that the forger could have included to show off his knowledge of Maybrick's life but didn't, suggesting he or she was unaware of them.  Having said this, one thing I would not want to entirely rule out is the possibility of the forger coming down from Liverpool to London for the day to inspect the Maybrick files in order to check that there was nothing in them that would trip him or her up but being severely pressed for time because they had to return to Liverpool at the end of the day.  In such circumstances, bearing in mind the mass of material in the boxes relating to the Maybrick case, I could certainly see that the forger might only have had time to skim through the documents and pick out one or two interesting facts while missing lots of others.  There's no way that you could read all the Maybrick material in a full day let alone one where you've only got a few hours before the building closes.  

So, sure, the forger MIGHT have seen that Maybrick struck his wife prior to March 1889 and incorporated this into the diary while missing that the Maybricks visited Goodwood and the Italian Exhibition with Baillie Knight in August 1888.  The forger might also have missed Witt's handwritten and hard to decipher letter (which would have very easy to miss), albeit that the letter tells us that Maybrick and his wife came to London in June 1888. But I don't think that's what happened. I think that the October 1888 incident of Maybrick hitting his wife was probably a guess by the forger on the basis of Maybrick's known temper and propensity to violence.  There wasn't much chance of any evidence emerging to contradict this but, like I say, even if Florence had told someone that Maybrick had never hit her before, we wouldn't today know if she was telling the truth or not.

For anyone interested in the underlying facts behind this article, a link to the deep dive exercise I carried out into the diary can be found here but, due to the wide scope of such an exercise, please treat it as a work in progress to be updated if necessary if more facts are located.


16 January 2021 

It's certainly true that Underwood's book only deals with the C5 victims whereas Odell starts with Tabram, which is a point in favour of Underwood's book having been a source.  But Begg (while including an introductory chapter entitled 'The Beginning' which mentions the Smith and Tabram murders) nevertheless has Nichols as the first named victim in his list of contents, ending with Kelly (and says, 'Mary Jane Kelly is generally regarded as having been the last victim of Jack the Ripper'). More importantly, Begg states that, 'The police would seem at one time to have thought that there were possibly six [victims], but it would seem that Anderson, Macnaghten and Swanson only credited Jack with five: Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly'.  That would surely have been enough to convince a forger on the basis of the very latest knowledge (as at 1988) that the Ripper only killed five women in the East End regardless of Odell's inclusion of Tabram in1965.