Orsam Books

Inside Story of A Sceptical Mind

As mentioned in the last update, Caroline Morris has referred to the idea of the Barretts creating the Maybrick Diary in an eleven day period between 31 March and 13 April 1992 as both 'outlandish' and 'barking mad'.  Back in May 2018 she even described it as 'beyond insane' ('Incontrovertible' thread, #4606). But why does she think of it as outlandish, barking mad and beyond insane?  The fact is that she never really explains; she just says it's barking mad or insane and hopes that by saying it then it must be!

Let's try and take a look inside the mind of Caroline Morris.  Why does she find the whole idea so incredible?

FINDING THE SCRAPBOOK 

The first objection seems to be that it would have been all but impossible for Mike to have located the perfect Victorian diary (or photograph album) so quickly in March 1992 after the red diary turned out to be unsuitable.

As to that, the first thing to bear in mind is that the photograph album obviously wasn't perfect.  There must have been 48 pages of photographs at the front of it which had to be crudely removed.  A perfect diary, scrapbook or album would have been completely empty.  Moreover, as found by David Baxendale, there was evidence of something having been removed from the inside cover.  So while 'perfect' is my word, not hers, it wasn't perfect, but it was, after some adjustments, suitable. 

So let's just amend the proposition.

Caroline Morris' view seems to be that it is incredible that Mike went to the next O&L auction and found a suitable item he could use as a diary. But what's so incredible about that? 

Plan A (obtaining a suitable Victorian diary via Martin Earl) had failed, so now, a few days later, he tried Plan B.  We have no evidence from anyone at O&L that it was incredibly rare or unusual for them to sell a Victorian photograph album and Kevin Whay didn't seem in the slightest bit phased by the idea when asked about it by Shirley Harrison in 1997.  Robert Smith tells us in his book that he owns 'a physically identical scrapbook' from 1871.  Presumably he went looking for one after he acquired the Maybrick Diary. And he found one!  Not such an impossibility!

As far as we know, as at 28 March 1992, Barrett was under no immediate time pressure.  He hadn't yet arranged a meeting with Doreen Montgomery in London.  In fact, he had obviously stalled her when he spoke to her on 9 and 10 March 1992.  As Doreen reported to Shirley Harrison, immediately following those telephone conversations:

'...we must wait and see what happens.  He's off to York on Thursday or Friday [12 or 13 March], and promises to make contact again, on his return.'

Yet nothing more seems to have been heard from Mike until 8 April when Doreen confirms an arrangement to meet in London on 13 April. 

Mike could have rushed straight off to London once Doreen showed interest but he played it cool.  I've heard it suggested (by Caroline Morris naturally, without any supporting evidence) that he couldn't have gone to London during the school term because he had to pick Caroline up from school, in which case what's all that about him going to York on the Thursday or the Friday?  Either that was true, in which case it was perfectly possible for him to leave Liverpool during term time, or it was a lie. But if it was a lie what was the purpose of lying if he was genuinely in possession of Jack the Ripper's diary? 

So there is an unexplained and mysterious gap before he comes to London with the Diary.  

All this suggests that if O&L hadn't been selling a scrapbook or photograph album in their weekly auction on 31 March, Mike could have gone back to the next weekly auction on 7 April and, if successful, arranged to meet Doreen on 20 April.  If he still failed he could have gone back to another auction on 14 April and arranged to meet Doreen on 27 April. And so on.

But he needn't have been constrained by an O&L auction.  He could have visited some antiques shops in Liverpool. The 1992 issue of the Yellow Pages for the Liverpool area contains four columns spread over two pages of listings for antiques shops. Crosby Antiques in Merseyside, for example, advertised 'Pre-1930 furniture and bric-a-brac, curios etc.' so that would surely have been worth a look, or just a telephone call.  Others advertised 'anything old or interesting'. So the O&L auction wasn't his last resort.  Not to mention that there were other auction houses in Liverpool.  Cato Crane & Co in Stanhope Street, for example, held 'regular antique auctions'.

I just can't see a problem.  Even if Mike HAD arranged a meeting with Doreen on 13 April, by this stage, i.e. 28 March 1992, he still have had plenty of options and sufficient time to get hold of some sort of blank old diary, scrapbook or photograph album.  It was NOT a miracle that he found a barely suitable photograph album from which he suspiciously had to cut out a load of pages.

WRITING THE TEXT

Caroline Morris never really acknowledges when she slams the 11 day story that the Barretts could have been working from a pre-prepared text that could have been researched and written over a period of perhaps five years - but could easily have been done within the previous year or two.  The writing part of the diary from a pre-prepared text would have been very quick.  Eleven days would have been a doddle, even if Anne was working during the day.  Eleven evening sessions at a pace of about six pages a time wouldn't have been a problem.

One has to stress how remarkable it is that Mike said in his affidavit that it took 11 days to write the diary.  If it was a lie it's impossible to see how it benefited him or could have benefited him.  No-one has ever explained why he would have told such a lie.  If anything, it made his story far less credible because one would naturally have thought such a project would have taken many months if not years.  But here was Mike saying it only took 11 days!  Indeed, the Diary Defenders scoffed at such an idea originally, saying it showed that Mike was lying because the Diary could never have been written in such a short time.

But if all Mike meant was that it was written by Anne at his dictation then it was perfectly possible. More than this, though, it means that it was perfectly possible that it could have been written between 31 March 1992 and 13 April 1992 which, of course, was something that Mike wasn't even saying, in terms, in his affidavit.

I do find it very striking that this 11 days was mentioned by Mike when it didn't in any way benefit him to do so or improve the credibility of his story.

Yet when it is appreciated that Mike was saying that he went to the auction only after he received the red diary, bearing in mind that we now know (as is not stated in the affidavit) that this wasn't acquired until 28 March 1992, it becomes quite extraordinary to find that Mike was actually saying that the diary was created in an 11 day period between 28 March and 13 April 1992 during which time he went to an O&L auction.

And I discovered that there was, in fact, an O&L auction selling Victorian and Edwardian effects on Tuesday 31 March 1992.

It's amazing how it all fits, yet equally amazing that none of this was stated in terms in the affidavit.

The reason I suggest it's not in the affidavit is simply that Alan Gray didn't know it.  He was dealing with a difficult and drunken Mike Barrett who, after hiring him, appears to have become suspicious that Gray was acting for his own benefit and thus might not have told him everything about the creation of the Diary. Gray probably never knew that the red diary was despatched on 26 March 1992 and received on 28 March which is why that fact doesn't appear in the affidavit and which is why the entire chronology of the affidavit is out of skew.

As I've mentioned previously, the general belief in 1994 (due to what had been reported in the Liverpool Echo that year) appears to have been that Mike brought the Diary to London in 1991.  If that was the case, and if Alan Gray drafted Mike's affidavit, there was literally no chance that the chronology of events in the affidavit was going to be correct.

Without documents, Gray had to rely on Mike for information as to when he received the red diary and when he came to London and Mike doesn't seem to have been forthcoming; for the date of neither event is stated in the affidavit.   Had Gray known that the red diary was received on 28 March 1992, and that Mike brought the Diary to London on 13 April 1992, I'm sure he would have been able to ask the right questions of Mike and might just have got to the truth of the matter.

Instead, he included a statement in Mike's affidavit that the Diary was created in January or February 1990, by which I feel sure he meant January or February 1991 in any case (as appears on a corrected copy of that affidavit), but, either way, he was misled by not knowing the precise sequence of actual events. 

LIKE WATCHING INK DRY

The third cause for Caroline Morris's disbelief is that she can't understand how the Diary could have been completed on, say, 11 April 1992 and then brought to London on 13 April 1992, when it was believed from a visual inspection to have possibly been written in 1888 and 1889, more than one hundred years earlier.  Back on 12 January 2017 she asked me if the forger wouldn't have left 'a sensible interval' between putting pen to paper and letting anyone see the result (#2789 of 'Incontrovertible' thread). She thinks in terms of 'fresh ink' that was 'barely dry' and 'still wet on the page'

But 'barely dry' is an entirely misleading statement, as is 'still wet on the page'.  Perhaps when a chemical solvency test is conducted, ink will seen to be 'barely dry'  or 'wet on the page' but, from the naked eye, or even to the touch, there is no way to conclusively distinguish it. Ink dries on the page very quickly  and would have been dry before the end of 11 April if applied to paper on that day.  There is no such thing, therefore, as a 'sensible interval' outside of a few hours.

A test of modern Diamine ink by Nick Warren showed the ink to have an immediate washed out look so that it wasn't possible to tell it had been written in 1995 as opposed to 1895.

But aside from failing a solvency test when conducted by the expert Dr David Baxendale, who also said it showed no signs of bronzing, which he would have expected from an old ink, it should also be noted that Melvin Harris told us in his 'Fact File for the Perplexed':

'In August and October 1993, independent visual examination of the Diary ink, by myself, by Dr Joe Nickell, by Kenneth Rendell, by Maureen Casey Owens and by Robert Kuranz, revealed no signs of ageing. We were all viewing a fresh, washed-out looking ink, that gave signs of having been diluted. So at that time there were six examinations that all pointed to one conclusion: the ink was new.'

Harris published this in April 1997, over 23 years ago, so there is no reason to say that no-one thought the ink looked fresh when they saw it.  Morris relies on the opinions of a seller of old books and a curator in the British Museum, neither of whom were able to say, when they saw it in April 1992, that the Diary was old or new (as they didn't know) and, more importantly, neither of whom were professional document examiners.

It's incredible that as recently as 3 July 2020 she could write (#5440 of 'Incontrovertible' thread) that 'Doreen, Shirley, Brian Lake and Robert A.H. Smith were not complete idiots'.  Apart from that fact that being fooled by a genuine looking but fake Victorian diary doesn't necessarily mean that you are an idiot, Brian Lake and Robert A.H. Smith only had a brief look at the diary and neither were able to confirm that it was genuine.  Yet, the fact that she relies so heavily on their opinion makes one seriously wonder if she is an idiot.

She also relies on Voller, who didn't see the Diary until 1995, and who had no experience in dating documents. 

The actual experts, however, thought the Diary had been recently written.  But she ignores their opinions.

So one cannot possibly say that the idea of the Barretts creating the Diary in 1992 is barking mad on the basis of it having been finished only a day or two before it was brought to London.

As I've said before, document forgers don't store their forgeries away for months once they've completed them in order to give them some kind of fake age.  As if you can even do that!  I mean how does storing a document for a few months make it look hundreds of years old?  No, they aim to sell them immediately once they've finished them. That's the whole point of doing them.  Quick money. There's no way to naturally age a document so that it looks hundreds of years old simply by leaving it alone for a few months; because after a few months it will just look exactly the same as it did at the start of that process!!! 

HANDWRITING

Caroline Morris, on 7 July 2017 (#3645 of 'Incontrovertible' thread), speaking to Sam Flynn who had said that forging another's handwriting would be 'a major undertaking' but that adopting a pseudo-script not intended to resemble anyone's handwriting would be 'quite a feat', replied to him as follows (underlining added):

'I presume from what you say above, you would similarly describe it a 'major undertaking' and 'quite a feat' for Mike or Anne to have penned the entire text in a convincingly disguised hand that didn't betray the slightest characteristics of their normal handwriting?'

That comment hasn't aged very well has it?  For we now know that the handwriting of the diary does show the 'slightest characteristics' of the known handwriting of Anne Barrett.  We won't be hearing that one again.  

Astonishing also that she used the 'major undertaking' quote when Sam Flynn was being quite clear that he was there talking about a situation where someone had attempted to write the Diary in Maybrick's handwriting, which wasn't the case here.

She followed it up later the same day (#3652):

'to assume [or even consider it possible that] Mike or Anne wrote in a completely different hand is rather odd and is basically reaching beyond the natural realms of what is normal.'

She was assuming that the diary was in a 'completely different hand' to the handwriting of Anne Barrett. This was presumably based on a single sample of handwriting provided by Anne to Keith Skinner in January 1995.  No attempt seems to have been made to obtain a genuine sample of Anne's normal handwriting from correspondence.  Then, in the same post, we had:

'Who penned the flaming thing? Anyone??

Thought not.'

This is exactly the same element of sarcasm we saw recently when she posted on JTR Forums that no-one had ever been able to answer the question as to who penned the diary.....but then later, after I'd challenged that, and in response to Gary Barnett trying to help her out, she claimed it was so obvious that she only meant that no-one had been able to provide a convincing answer!!  Well that certainly wasn't what she was saying in July 2017 when, before anyone had even had a chance to respond, she assumed that no-one would be able to answer her question with any name.

That, of course, was because the only example of Anne's handwriting that anyone reading her post had ever seen was the January 1995 sample as published in 'Inside Story'. 

Interestingly, in #3654 she was able to offer up some graphological knowledge:

'I'm no handwriting expert, but I don't have to be to understand that a person will give away many details within their writing without ever realising they're doing it.'

Yes, indeed!!!  No wonder she now refuses point blank to say whether there are any similarities between Anne's handwriting and the handwriting in the Diary!

And now look at this classic Caroline Morris post from the same day (#3655, underlining added):

'But everyone who has a hand and a pen gives away their identity by merely looping their letters in a certain way, at a certain angle, etc. What of this in terms of the diary versus Mike or Anne's documented writing?

Cue the tumbleweed and the lonely, ominous church bell.

And yet the believers are still with us, despite their silence on the matter.'

There she was very happy to say that everyone who tries to disguise their handwriting gives away their identity 'by merely looping their letters in a certain way'.  Yet, when I provide examples of Anne looping her letters in the same way as the Diary author she goes as quiet as a church mouse.  All we hear is the sound of tumbleweed.  Yet the Diary Defenders are still with us, despite their silence on the matter!

Can we find any better example of someone who refuses to follow the evidence in this case but stubbornly maintains an entrenched position regardless of the evidence? 

WRITING ABILITY

One of the very first questions I asked Caroline Morris at a time when I was a member of the Censorship Forum back in October 2016 was why Mike and Anne Barrett could not have jointly composed the Diary.  After having had 20 days to think about it (following my post of 19 October 2016), this is what she told me (in #2042 of 'Incontrovertible' thread) on 9 November 2016:

'Their personalities, combined with examples of their handwriting and creative writing skills, have given me no confidence in their ability - individually or together - to have produced anything like the diary as we know it, but of course that doesn't mean they could not both have been living a charade for years, even decades, to put investigators, friends, associates and family members off the scent.' 

I've already dealt with the handwriting issue but we can see here that Caroline Morris refers to examples of Mike and Anne's 'creative writing skills'.  Well, we know that Ms Morris has seen some examples of Mike's creative writing skills (most of which has never been publicly produced for examination) but what about Anne's?  If any examples of Anne's creative writing skills are in existence they've never been mentioned which leads me to suspect that Caroline Morris only had Mike in mind here.

Thing is, when she posted an extract of Mike's creative writing skills on the Forum recently, from his draft novel, her big point seemed to be that he spelled a lot of words incorrectly. Hence, for example, he spelt 'message' as 'massage'.  Hilarious though that is, it should be obvious that if Mike was dictating a story, he would correctly have said 'message' and, if he had been dictating to his wife, she would have written it down correctly as 'message'.  If, as Mike stated in his affidavit, he dictated the text of the Diary to Anne, his own spelling skills are utterly irrelevant and can only have been mentioned as a diversion, to befuddle and confuse.

As for the reference to the 'personalities' of Mike and Anne as being a reason why they couldn't jointly have composed the Diary this was unexplained by her and I doubt if anyone could possibly identify a forger from their personality.  We should also bear in mind that Caroline Morris wasn't involved in the Diary story prior to 1998 and knows nothing about the personalities and behaviour of Mike and Anne during 1992. 

We know that one or both of Mike and Anne had a number of interviews with celebrities and others published in national magazines during the 1980s, we know that one or both of Anne and Mike created 17 pages of solid research notes relating to Jack the Ripper and Maybrick, we know from Shirley Harrison that Mike was 'no fool' and had 'a knack of collecting unexpected snippets of knowledge from the library', we know that Mike located the 'Oh costly...' quote which had defeated everyone else, we know that Mike wanted to be a writer and we know that Anne was the co-author of a published book about Florence Maybrick. Based on those facts there doesn't appear to be any rational reason why Mike and Anne could not jointly have created the Maybrick Diary. 

Caroline Morris never seems to acknowledge this.  She inevitably and repeatedly says that Mike (alone) couldn't have written the Diary - because that's an easy strawman for her to knock down - without appreciating that the argument against her is that Mike probably did it with the assistance of others.  I don't ever recall a rational reason coming from her as to why it isn't possible that Mike and Anne could have jointly created the Diary let along Mike, Anne and Tony (perhaps with the assistance of Billy).

CONTENT

Caroline Morris' opposition to the Barretts having been involved in the creation of the Diary also seems to stem from a belief that the Diary contains information that only someone intimately connected with the Maybrick family could have known.

I think we can now safely say that this belief was based on a series of false assumptions.  One of the main Diary Defender arguments for years was that only someone with great knowledge of the Maybrick family could have written that young Gladys Maybrick had been ill 'again'.  This has now been conclusively debunked.  There never has been any evidence that Gladys was ill in, or before, 1888. The likelihood is that the forger was deceived by misreporting of the trial evidence.  Gladys was ill in March 1889, about which the Diary is completely silent.

Other bits and pieces have been demolished in recent years too. 

We now know that it was easy to discover that the 1888 Grand National was run in the fastest time for years, according to the record books, although. as it was a shortened course that year, it is extremely odd that Maybrick viewed it as the fastest race he had ever seen. It's pretty much impossible to visibly judge whether a horse race is fast or not and, due to the shortened course, the horses must have been galloping at about the same speed they always did.

We also now know that there was no inside knowledge shown by the author of the Diary in saying that Michael Maybrick wrote lyrics, bearing in mind this is stated in both Morland's 1957 book and Ryan's 1977 book. 

The point about Maybrick describing himself as 'Sir James' cannot be said to be inside information on the basis of a slightly mocking servant's remark and almost certainly shows a narrative error by the forger adding in a remark (in a poem) about 'Sir Jim' prior to Maybrick's supposed fantasy that he would be knighted by Queen Victoria for services to murdering and mutilating.

Yet all these things were, at one time, believed to reveal insider knowledge of Maybrick's life which someone like Mike Barrett could not possibly have possessed.  I'm pretty sure that this influenced the thinking of people like Caroline Morris to the effect that the Diary could not be a modern hoax.  Those with wiser heads realized that there is nothing in the text which Mike Barrett, either on his own or with the assistance of others, could not have written. 

CONCLUSION 

In the absence of a rational reason, Caroline Morris' continued opposition to even considering the possibility that Mike and Anne could have jointly created the Diary (and written it out in 11 days) must be irrational. 

 

LORD ORSAM
18 July 2020