Orsam Books

Matching Boxes

R.J. Palmer recently made a interesting point on the Casebook Forum.  He provided reason to think that the tin match box described as 'empty' in a list of Eddowes' possessions wasn't actually empty but contained cotton at the time of her death.  As he was directing his attention to another argument, he didn't take this point to its final conclusion but it's obvious that if the match box contained cotton when Eddowes was murdered, the real killer wouldn't have described it as'empty' when writing about that murder in his personal diary.  This point only goes to whether Maybrick wrote the Diary, which most sane people are fully aware is not the case, but the existence of the mention of the 'tin match box empty' in the Diary has long been put forward as an argument that the Diary couldn't possibly have been written (by a hoaxer) before 1987.  I've never written about this subject before because, for reasons I'll explain (which I don't think have ever been mentioned by anyone before), I don't think it's something that can be said to 100% conclusively prove that the Diary is a modern hoax in the way that the inclusion of 'one off instance' does.  Nevertheless, for those who already understand that the Diary is a modern hoax the issue of the empty tin match box is instructive and worth dealing with.

As most of us know, at a period immediately following the murder of Catherine Eddowes, the Diary contains the lines:

'tin match box empty' 

AND

'damn it, the tin box was empty'

We shall return to the context of these lines in due course but let's first look at the evidence of what was in Eddowes' possession. This is the list of items found'upon her' as published in the Times of 1 October 1888:

 

We can ignore what was around her neck and concentrate on the items found on her body. We have: 

1. Piece of string
2. Common white handkerchief with a red border
3. Match box with cotton in it
4. White bone handle table knife
5. Two short clay pipes
6. Red cigarette case with white metal fittings
7. Printed handbill with the name "Frank Carter, 405 Bethnal Green-Road" on it
8. Five pieces of soap
9. Small tin box containing tea and sugar
10. Portion of pair of spectacles
11. Three-cornered check handkerchief
12. Small comb
13. Red mitten
14. Ball of worsted

I've not included the pockets which contained some of these items. 

I'll discuss the origin of this list in due course. 

A separate handwritten list was produced by Inspector Edward Collard at the inquest of Eddowes for the benefit of Coroner Langham, on 4 October 1888 (which I shall refer to hereafter as "the coroner's list").  The original document was, from that date, held amongst the papers of the coroner and subsequently provided to the Corporation of London Record Office where it was stored before being made publicly available to researchers in the 1980s.

I reproduce below an extract from that list but, for the moment, here is the list of Eddowes' possessions, as taken from that list, published in Martin Fido's 1987 book, 'The Crimes Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper' (excluding that part of the list recording her clothing), which as far as it is known, was the first time the list was ever published:

  

Fido made an error because he omitted two short black clay pipes which are in the original list.  For that reason we know that Paul Harrison simply copied Fido in his 1991 book, 'The Uncensored Facts', rather than inspect the original document, because Harrison also omits the clay pipes. This is from Harrison: 

 

It should be noted that Harrison sneakily added into his list the mustard tin containing two pawn tickets which doesn't feature in the coroner's list, nor in the list reported in the newspapers on 1 October, but was referred to by Inspector Collard in his evidence to the inquest on 4 October when he informed the coroner that Sergeant Jones had picked up from the ground,'on the left side of the deceased' (and thus not found on her body), '3 small black buttons...common metal thimble [and] a small mustard tin containing 2 pawn tickets'

Below are the items found upon Eddowes, as featured in the coroner's list, excluding items that Eddowes was evidently wearing such as the silk found on neck and the stockings:

1. Large white handkerchief, blood stained
2. White cotton pocket handkerchief, red and white birds eye border 
3. Twelve pieces of white rag, some slightly bloodstained
4. Piece of white coarse linen 
5. Piece of blue & white shirting (3 cornered)
6. Two small blue bed ticking bags
7. Two short clay pipes (black) 
8. Tin box containing tea
9. Tin box containing sugar
10. Piece of flannel
11. Six pieces of soap
12. Small tooth comb
13. White handle table knife
14. Metal tea spoon
15. Red leather cigarette case, white metal fittings
16. Tin match box, empty
17. Piece of red flannel containing pins and needles
18. Ball of hemp
19. Piece of old white apron

To confirm the existence of the two clay pipes, and to show the entry for the empty tin match box, here is an extract from the actual handwritten list prepared by Inspector Collard and provided to Coroner Langham on 4 October 1888:

 

Now here is a comparison of the newspaper list against the coroner's list.  The newspaper list is in pink, the coroner's list is in blue, while items from the newspaper list, not listed in the coroner's list are in yellow:

1. Piece of string - Not listed
2. Common white handkerchief with a red border - White cotton pocket handkerchief with red and white birds eye border
3. Match box with cotton in it - Tin match box, empty
4. White bone handle table knife - White handle table knife
5. Two short clay pipes - 2 short clay pipes (black) 
6. Red cigarette case with white metal fittings - Red leather cigarette case, white metal fittings
7. Printed handbill with the name "Frank Carter, 405 Bethnal Green Road" on it - Not listed
8. Five pieces of soap - Six pieces of soap
9. Small tin box containing tea and sugar - Tin box containing tea, tin box containing sugar
10. Portion of pair of spectacles - Not listed
11. Three-cornered check handkerchief - piece of blue & white shirting (3 cornered) ?
12. Small comb - Small tooth comb
13. Red mitten - Not listed (but possibly the red flannel?)

14. Ball of worsted - Ball of hemp

One assumes that one of the pieces of soap became broken and was then counted as two (or else someone couldn't count properly in the first instance).  One also assumes that the press report should have said that there were two tin boxes containing tea and sugar respectively.  It's not impossible that the red flannel containing pins and needles was originally thought to be a red mitten.  

We can see that there are three items referred to in the newspaper report that are definitely not listed.  I don't think we need to worry too much about the piece of string which is something that might easily be overlooked.  The printed handbill might have been removed before the coroner's list was produced (as discussed below) and the only real curiosity is the absence of the portion of the pair of spectacles.  I don't think this could have got confused with the metal tea spoon which is in the coroner's list so it seems to have disappeared.

But it does look very much like the match box said to have had cotton in it must also be the tin match box.

Before asking ourselves how a match box containing cotton could have been described as 'empty' let's look at the origins of the two lists.

The first list was provided to the press on 30 September 1888 and there may be a clue to be found in the Daily Telegraph report of 1 October:

We can see that the Telegraph states that, 'Under the directions of the doctors the mortuary keeper undressed the body'.  It is then said that, 'although the clothing was old and dirty, the pockets were empty, with the exception of five pieces of soap and some bits of string and trifles'.  So all the items that we are interested in are described as 'trifles' . They are not listed by the Telegraph but it means that it's possible that the list provided to the Times was a list created by the mortuary keeper.  It should be noted that what the Telegraph then goes on to describe as 'The full official description' contains none of the items found upon Eddowes, or in her pockets.  It only contains her clothing.

That part of the 'official description' may be compared with what was published in the Times of the same day:

 

Although not identical, both newspapers were clearly using a common source, presumably, as the Telegraph refers to it as an 'official' description, someone in the City of London Police (who one would think would be Inspector Collard).  What is unclear is if the items which the Times says were 'also found upon' Eddowes were included in the official description or if the Times had obtained this information from an independent source (i.e. the mortuary keeper) or a police officer at the mortuary (other than Collard) and stuck them onto the end of the official description.  The Telegraph had clearly also obtained the same information, hence its mention of the 'five pieces of soap' (while summarizing the rest of the items as trifles) but it didn't include it as part of the 'official' description.

What about other newspapers?  Well here is the report in the Morning Advertiser of 1 October:

 

So we are told that the 'peculiar collection of articles' included 'a small pocket containing tea and other articles', a 'white pocket' handkerchief', a 'blunt bone handled table-knife, a short clay pipe and a red cigarette case with white metal fittings'.  It looks to me like the newspaper's source was the same as the Times but they've mistakenly or otherwise recorded two clay pipes as one pipe and omitted the match box and various other items.

This exact same wording also appears in the Morning Post, Daily News and Daily Chronicle of the same day. 

The Globe of 1 October also refers in one column to receiving 'official' details of Eddowes and mentions some of the clothing but none of the items found upon her body or in her pockets.  In another column it repeats in full the same article from the Times and does list all the items.

The Star gives us another clue in its issue of 1 October when reporting a conversation its reporter had when he called at Bishopsgate Police Station seeking a description of the woman murdered at Mitre Square.  The reporter spoke to the sergeant on duty who referred his question to an Inspector Izzard who said, 'By all means, we shall be only too pleased to give them any information'.  This was said to be in contrast to the Metropolitan Police which was refusing to give out any information. The Star added that, 'Every facility is afforded the pressmen at Bishopsgate-street Station'.  This is what the Star published as the woman's description:

 

It's not identical to the description in the Times and the Telegraph but it does seem to be based on the same original information and re-worded. Alternatively it was given to the Star verbally by the same officer who gave the information to the Times and Telegraph but the officer worded his account slightly differently.  The interesting thing, however, is that it is three paragraphs later in the article that the newspaper lists the items found on Eddowes' body thus:

 

It's worth me transcribing this.  It says:

'The clothing of the woman was very thin and bare.  No money was found upon her, but the following articles were found in the pockets of her dress: - A short clay pipe and an old cigarette case: a matchbox, an old pocket handkerchief, a knife which bare no traces of blood, and a small packet of tea and sugar, such as poor people who frequent common lodging-houses are in the habit of carrying'.

Now for me, that description has come from a different source (or from the same source but at a different time) than the information published by the Times.  I say this firstly because the Star reporter said that no money was found on Eddowes.  This was perfectly true and confirmed by Inspector Collard when he gave evidence at the inquest three days later but wasn't mentioned by the Times or Telegraph, so is highly unlikely to have been known by those newspapers (otherwise I'm sure they would have reported it, despite being a negative finding) but also because the cigarette case is described as an'old' one, not a red one, the same for the pocket handkerchief which the Times had described as'common'.  Also, whereas the Times had referred to a small tin box containing tea and sugar, the Star inaccurately called this 'a small packet'. Nevertheless there does seem to be some kind of connection between the Star report and the Morning Advertiser report whereby they both refer to the items as being of the type that 'poor people who frequent common lodging houses are accustomed to carry' or 'in the habit of carrying'.  Whereas the Star says that the tea and sugar was in a small packet the Morning Advertiser thought it was in a 'small pocket'.  Unlike the Morning Advertiser, the Star did list the matchbox but there is no mention that it contained cotton.

Now let's look at what the Standard published on 1 October:

It can be seen that we have a 'description of the deceased issued by police authorities' but there's no mention there of any of the items or articles found on her body or in her pockets.  Furthermore, as in the Telegraph, this 'official' description is wrapped in quotation marks indicating the start and end of the official statement. The statements, however, are somewhat different because the Standard includes 'no rings on fingers' which isn't in the Telegraph report and a number of other differences.

Here is what the Evening News carried in its issue of 1 October:

 

This seems to support the notion that the items and articles found on the body were not part of the 'official description' but were in addition to it.

Here's what I think from all this. While I can't rule out that some pressmen went to the mortuary and spoke either to the mortuary keeper (as I've already suggested) or to a City of London police officer at the mortuary, it would appear that reporters were making enquiries with the City of London police at Bishopsgate Station at various times of the day on 30 September.  In 1888 I don't think that the police issued formal written press statements or gave formal press conferences but each time a reporter from a newspaper or a press agency presented himself he was probably given information about the murder and the victim by someone at the station in Bishopsgate.  One imagines that Inspector Collard was very busy that day so that another officer might have been deputed to speak to the various journalists, perhaps reading the description of the deceased, her clothing and the articles in her possession off a piece of paper he had been given.  On one occasion the officer might have read the word 'pocket' as 'packet' or vice-versa.  Some other miscommunications are likely to have occurred during this process.

An initial list of the items found on Eddowes was probably prepared at the mortuary on 30 September (possibly by Collard but it might have been by someone else) and the items along with the clothing were then probably brought to the police station where Collard prepared the inventory that he gave to the coroner on 4 October.  I think this explains well why the 30 September list tells us which pockets the various items were found in whereas the 4 October list (i.e. the coroner's list) doesn't give this information.  By the time that list was compiled, the items had probably all been removed from the pockets so it was just a case of creating an inventory of the individual loose items.  In his inquest deposition, Collard simply says that Eddowes's body was stripped at the mortuary adding, 'I produce a list of articles found on her' , but that doesn't really help us as to whether his list was prepared at the mortuary, and thus in existence on 30 September, or prepared specially for the coroner and thus not written out until a few days later at the police station.

R.J. Palmer has suggested that some of the items found on the body, such as the flyer with the name of Frank Cater, were taken away from the crime scene by other officers for investigation. I think this makes sense.   The items found next to the body - the buttons, the thimble and the mustard tin containing the pawn tickets - appear to have been dealt with separately and, not being on Eddowes' body, probably never went to the mortuary. One might say that it seems obvious that those items should have been reunited by Collard with those on coroner's list but, strictly speaking, one could say that it was unclear at the time if any of those items actually belonged to Eddowes. They could just have been lying on the floor.  So they did need investigating and, while the pawn tickets were traced to her, one can't simply assume that the thimble and the buttons belonged to her so that there is some justification for Collard to have informed the coroner of those items at the inquest but not to have included them on the list of Eddowes' confirmed possessions.

Some of the other discrepancies, such as the apparent disappearance of the portion of spectacles, and the confusion of the number of tins containing tea/sugar, and the different counts of the pieces soap can possibly be explained by a journalist mis-hearing what he was being told, or by the police officer reading it out wrong or alternatively by some administrative cock-up on the part of the police when transferring and inventorising the items.   But, if we ignore the piece of string, which could easily have been overlooked, and if we assume that I am correct that the red flannel was also the misidentified red mitten, then the list provided to the press on 30 September correlates pretty well with the coroner's list, albeit that there are some additional items on the coroner's list, which is understandable if it was the result of a more careful inventory done at the police station.  

Which leads us back to the match box containing the cotton which has become an empty (tin) match box in the coroner's list.  As to that, I note R.J.'s explanation that the match box might originally have contained the 12 rags (for periods) which are listed in the coroner's list hence being (diplomatically) described in the newspapers as 'containing cotton' but those rags were removed from the box so that, by the time they were listed for the coroner, the box and rags had become separated from each other. It doesn't matter, incidentally, if the rags were or were not intended for periods, but women can have periods up to about age 55 (Eddowes was 46 in 1888) and the slang expression for a period is to be 'on the rag' so that it would seem likely that the slightly bloodstained rags had been used for this purpose (although why Eddowes would have kept them, after having used them, is another matter).  The purpose of the rags, however, is irrelevant, it's their existence which is important.   One might ask whether it was possible to fit 12 rags into a match box.  The answer must be that it depends on the size of the match box, and indeed the rags, for which we have no information.   

Amusingly we find a story in the Yarmouth Independent of 25 September 1937 which states:

'That it is possible to place 130 articles in a small match box (penny size) was shown by Mrs Edge, a member of Barsham's Women's Institute, when she won a competition in which members were asked to get as many different articles as they could into such a box.  The articles in the winner's box ranged from a gnat's leg to a three penny piece and from a feather to a miniature screw driver.' 

The 130 articles are listed in the report but they are all obviously small things. 

This is an extract from an 1894 novel entitled 'The Marley Mystery' by Oliver Brand published in the Hampshire Telegraph  of 17 November 1894:

 

There we have a (fictional) tin match box containing a cotton rag! But just one.  And a tiny morsel of one at that.

This one in the Peterborough Review (Canada) of 11 January 1878 did have multiple rags in it:

 

An alternative theory, as R.J. has suggested, is that the match box contained some other cotton that was removed from the box and became lost.

Either way, though, it is, I think, certain that the match box listed in the newspapers on 1 October is the very same tin match box listed in the coroner's list on 4 October.  If it's not, we have a missing match box on our hands but any reasonable person would have to accept that we are talking about the same match box. 

The only real question is whether the information given to the newspapers on 30 September that the match box contained cotton is correct.  If it was, then obviously it wasn't empty at the time of Eddowes' death and the Diary author got it wrong, proving that he wasn't the killer of Eddowes. It is, in other words, fatal to the notion that the Diary is genuine.  I think we have to be cautious though.  The official list provided by Collard to the coroner stressed that the match box was empty.  While I have no doubt whatsoever that the police could have messed up, with the cotton becoming detached from the match box, so that no-one, including Collard, realized where it had come from, there's no real proof of this.  A journalist could conceivably have misunderstood what he was being told by the police on 30 September and wrongly believed that the cotton (perhaps the cotton rags) had been found in the box.

It might be asked why Eddowes would have been carrying an empty tin match box, but it's not entirely without precedent as this extract of a report from an 1875 inquest held in New Zealand shows:

  

It's from The Maitland Mercury of 24 July 1875 and describes the finding of the dead body of a gold miner called Daniel Jenner on the bank of Crooked Creek. As we can see, when he was searched, some money was found on him along with 'an empty tin match box'. There doesn't appear to have been any robbery involved and the inquest jury found that Jenner came to his death by 'exposure and exhaustion'

Funnily enough a very similar thing had happened in the same country some eight years earlier when the dead body of an unknown man was found in a field near Auckland.  Here's what a police officer who searched his body found:

 

Yes, another empty tin match box!  Once again, there were no signs of any struggle nor blood about the body. The dead man had been seen by a witness looking 'melancholy and pale' shortly before his death.  The police officer who gave evidence said he thought that the man had suffered from some sort of pulmonary affection. In this case the jury just recorded a verdict of 'found dead'

On balance, one would think that Eddowes probably did have something in her match box (i.e. the cotton) but we just can't be entirely sure.

What does Robert Smith have to say in his book about the mention in the Diary of tin match box empty?

Well, having noted that the official police listing of Eddowes' clothes and possessions refers to:

1 Red Leather Cigarette Case, white metal fitting
1 Tin Match Box, empty

he records at footnote 76 (of both editions) that this listing in this format was first published by Martin Fido in 1987 and says:

'Many commentators seized on the phrase, "tin match box empty" to support their contention that the diary was a hoax, which couldn't have been perpetrated before the listing was published in 1987, but Fido himself makes no claim in his book that the list had not been available previously.'

This is a ridiculous statement.  What does it matter what Fido says in his book about the previous availability of the list?  We know for a fact that it wasn't available.  In 2004 researcher David O'Flaherty contacted Juliet Bankes, the City Archives Manager, who informed him that the Eddowes inquest records first became available to the public (including researchers) only in 1984.  She would know because her name actually appears on a document in the file, which is an instruction to archives staff, written by her, dated 28 September 1987.  If the hoaxer of the Diary was inspired by the actual coroner's list, therefore, the Diary could not have been created before this date and, more realistically, not before Fido's book was published in 1987.

Smith then goes on to shoot himself totally in the foot because he continues:

'More crucially, the diarist does not copy the phrase as it appears in Fido's book ("1 Tin MatchBox, empty"). He does not join Match and Box to make one word; he does not insert the important comma after "box"; and he does not copy the initial capital letters T, M and B.'

The reason I say that Smith has shot himself in the foot is because he is obviously unaware that Harrison's book, published in 1991, as we have seen, transcribes the list as 'one tin matchbox, empty'.  Thus, Smith's point about the diarist not copying the initial capital letters falls to pieces.   The capitalization in the Diary is exactly as it is in Harrison's list!  But the point as a whole is a daft one.  No-one is suggesting that the hoaxer was deliberately copying the entry from Fido or Harrison as if he was quoting the list.  It would have been bizarre if he had said '1 tin match box' or 'one tin match box' as if he was writing an inventory!

In any case, if it really were any kind of decent point, the hoaxer could have visited the Greater London Record Office at some point between 1984 and 1992 if he or she really needed to see the spacing between 'match' and 'box' before writing it that way. One should never underestimate the resourcefulness of a forger!

Smith then makes a point that Caroline Morris has made repeatedly on the forums when he says:

'Why, it is argued, doesn't the diarist write "empty tin match box"?  The answer is not difficult to find. He is writing in verse where such inversions are commonplace.  (Two lines earlier (sic), there is another poetic inversion: "decided Sir Jim strike another") As if to demonstrate this very point, the diarist's final version, immediately following, is "damn it, the tin box was empty", simply because the normal prose order of the words fits better in that context.'

This argument doesn't work, however, because it's quite clear, on a proper reading, that when writing 'tin match box empty', the Diary author was NOT writing in verse.  In fact, what he was doing was compiling a list!  A list of items or thoughts to be potentially included in his eventual poem.  Thus, when we remove the crossings out, what we have is this (my bold):

Sir Jim,
tin match box empty
cigarette case
make haste
my shiny knife
the whores knife
first whore no good

In these few lines we have no fewer than THREE items which can be found on the coroner's list (as published by Fido and Harrison):

1. tin matchbox, empty
2. One red leather cigarette case, white metal fittings
3. One white-handled table knife

In respect of those seven lines in the Diary commencing'Sir Jim', there is absolutely no reason why the diarist couldn't have written, as a normal person would have done, 'empty tin match box' because that wouldn't have affected his list or, indeed, the subsequent piece of rubbish verse that he does write. The word 'empty' rhymes with nothing used by the diarist and the scanning doesn't change by starting the line with 'empty'.  

Furthermore, the diarist doesn't write 'case cigarette', 'haste make' or 'knife my shiny'.  In circumstances where he is clearly just listing items in preparation for a poem, as opposed to writing a poem itself, it makes no sense  to have written 'tin match box empty' when 'empty tin match box' is so obviously what any normal person, not drawing up an inventory, would write.  The poetic inversion that Smith refers to in the poem, which is actually two lines below the words 'tin match box empty' of 'decided Sir Jim strikes another' isn't the same because that line features in the actual poem. The line 'tin match box empty' isn't in a poem, it's in a list!  Indeed, when the diarist comes to write the poem we see that he doesn't use an inversion at all.  He writes in normal English 'the tin box was empty' (leaving out the word 'match' for some reason thereby destroying the entire meaning of the poem and the double meaning of the word 'strike' and the reference to 'no light'!).  So why did he use an inversion in the earlier list? 

The same is true of another example that Caroline Morris points to.  She says (in #544 of the 'Problem of Logic' thread) that the words 'first whore no good' has a structure which is 'identical' to that of 'tin match box empty'.  Well it doesn't because 'tin match box empty' is unnatural and, in normal English, needs to be inverted to 'empty tin match box' whereas 'no good first whore' doesn't work, nor does 'good first whore no', or at least is no better than the original 'first whore no good'.  But her point is that the insertion of 'the' and 'was' into both lines turns them into normal English, hence:  the first whore was no good' and 'the tin match box was empty'.  The fundamental flaw with this argument is that, while the diarist writes, 'damn it, the tin box was empty' in his poem, he does NOT do the same thing with 'first whore no good'.  He does NOT write 'the first whore was no good' which he should have done if Caroline Morris' argument was sound.  I mean, if he was being poetic in his initial list why does he add the word 'was' in his actual poem? It doesn't make any sense for the poem to be less poetic than the list!  Why doesn't the actual poem say, 'damn it, tin match box empty'?  For the actual poem DOES say 'first whore no good'.  If, however, the diarist was improving the English for the poem, why not do the same for all the lines?

The verse the diarist settles on from the ideas in the list (having struck through and discarded 'cigarette case' and 'whore's knife' as well as his own 'shiny knife') is:

One whore no good
decided Sir Jim strikes another
I showed no fright and indeed no light
damn it, the tin box was empty

The poem could just as easily concluded, 'damn it, an empty tin match box' or 'damn that empty tin match box'.  The scanning would not have been affected.

In its very final form we have:

One whore no good, decided Sir Jim strike another
I showed no fright and indeed no light
Damn it, the tin box was empty 

Nothing in the subsequent development of the poem explains why the diarist didn't first write 'empty tin match box'  in his little preparatory list before writing in the poem that the tin match box, or tin box, was empty.

There are three additional things I would say about this.  The first is that if one tried to imagine a poem written by Mike Barrett it would be this poem!  We can't call it poetic.  We can call it garbled, terribly written and confused.

Secondly, it seems to me that the hoaxer was trying to be clever.  Having seen the reference in the coroner's list to the empty tin match box (or rather 'tin match box, empty') he or she has tried to weave a story about striking a match and there being 'no light'.  A moment's thought will reveal how ridiculous this is, suggesting that the hoaxer hadn't thought it through.  If 'Sir Jim' had already'struck' Eddowes and was subsequently trying to find a match in the tin match box in order to create some light, how on earth did that tin match box end up in one of Eddowes' pockets when she was found by the police?  And if it was her match box in the first place how did the killer even know she possessed it?  He surely didn't go through her pockets in the dark hopefully trying to find a match in order to be able see, did he?  But if the match box was his (and Caroline Morris has, in the past, suggested he gave it to Eddowes) he would presumably have known there were no matches in it.  And if it was his match box, why didn't he take it away with him after committing the murder?

In a 2004 internet post Caroline Morris suggested that there was an obvious solution. Jack offered Eddowes his tin match box containing a few matches, he watched Eddowes pocketing it then attacked and killed her, then retrieved the matches, to use on their own, or to light a lamp he was carrying, so he could see to mutilate Eddowes, then ran out of matches (or the lamp went out) - damn it! - and he then put the empty match box back in Eddowes' pocket.  The problem with this convoluted scenario is that the obvious thought of the killer would have been 'damn it, I ran out of matches' not'damn it, the tin box [which did NOT for any purpose need to be described as 'tin' but DID need to be described as a 'match box'] was empty'.  

Just to press that point.  If it was his own box of matches, how odd for him to describe it as 'the tin box' or even (assuming he just made an error in leaving out the word 'match' which he had originally used) 'the tin match box'.  Surely just 'the match box was empty' (or more likely 'my match box') would have been written by the killer if for some reason he wanted to make the point that he had run out of matches without actually saying so.

Anyway, that was what Dizzy Miss Lizzy was saying back in 2004 but it looks like she's abandoned that theory because now, in 2020, we are told (#618 of 'Problem of Logic' thread):

'I had always assumed that this was cotton thread, taken from a cotton reel for mending purposes, and not a piece - or pieces of cotton fabric, which would have had to be very small indeed to fit in a match box, and would not have served any obvious purpose.  If our Sir Jim, of diary fame is meant to have opened that box in the darkness of Mitre Square expecting to find matches in it, the damned thing would have been empty from his point of view...'

So the whole notion of Sir Jim actually lighting matches from the box, so proudly offered up by Caroline Morris in 2004, has been unceremoniously abandoned!! And we are back to the original problems.  If it was Eddowes' match box how did Sir Jim even know it existed?  If it was Sir Jim's, why was there cotton in it and he could he not have known that it contained cotton but didn't contain any matches?  And is she saying it's a coincidence that both Sir Jim and Inspector Collard mistakenly thought it was empty despite the newspapers already having been informed there was cotton in it?

No doubt there could be all kinds of crazy answers and further elaborate explanations as to why the diarist was referring to the empty tin match box but the Diary doesn't give a hint of any of them. It's almost like the hoaxer wasn't clever enough to work out a story that could be included in the journal but just wanted to show off some knowledge of Eddowes' possessions, thus creating a vague doggrel to fill space in the Diary.  Knowing, as we do now, that the match box appears to have contained some cotton at the time of the murder, the whole notion of the killer believing the tin match box to have been empty is completely destroyed.  

This leads me on to my third point which is that the poem is so utterly divorced from the text of the Diary, bearing no connection to the story of the murder of Eddowes told by the diarist, that one might almost fancy that the story of the murder had been drafted prior to the publication of Harrison's 1991 book (possibly with the involvement of Tony Devereux, or entirely by him) and then, perhaps after his death, Mike read a copy of Harrison's book and, seeing all those juicy items of Eddowes in the list, couldn't help himself from lifting four or five of them from the list (see below for the fourth and fifth) and writing that rubbish poem.  We've already seen an example of Mike's own poetry which he wrote in a letter to Shirley Harrison (see Lord Orsam Says... under the heading 'The Expert Speaks Again') and it's not too dissimilar to what we find in the Diary. 

Just to add one thing on the 'tin match box empty' issue.  People say that the hoaxer must have been stupid to have reproduced the line from Fido or Harrison in the exact same order, thus proving that the Diary is a modern forgery.  Well, of course, Mike Barrett could easily do stupid things so that's not a real problem.  But, nevertheless, I say not necessarily.  Not if the hoaxer was relying on Harrison and assumed that the list had been published in the newspapers in 1888.  And after all, why would he or she not have assumed that?  Although Fido makes clear that the official police list of her clothes and papers attached to the coroner's list offers'more detail and some variants from the familiar inventory published in the press', Harrison says nothing of the sort.  So it may well be that the hoaxer was deliberately retaining the phrase structure of 'tin match box empty',  thinking that he or she was being clever because it was a sign that the Diary author (i.e. Maybrick) was a reader of 1888 newspapers in which that information was (in the mind of the hoaxer) printed.  I could certainly imagine someone like Mike Barrett getting into this kind of intellectual muddle. It's true that the memory of the emptiness of the tin match box is causing some kind of angst to the fictional Maybrick, with the mention of the 'no light' and the 'damn it', suggesting he had personal experience of the match box, so that perhaps the hoaxer was doing a little bit more with the poem than just showing off his knowledge of what he thought would have been in the newspapers, but the point still stands that there's no reason to think that the hoaxer would have known that he or she was giving the game away by using the phrase'tin match box empty' if, at the same time, the hoaxer assumed that this was a phrase which had been printed in the newspapers of 1888. 

It should also be noted that there is a fourth (and fifth) use by the hoaxer of the coroner's list when drafting the next verse of his tin match box poem. Thus, the hoaxer writes:

'tea and sugar 
sugar pay, did say'

which turns into

'tea and sugar paid my fee'

which turns into

'tea and sugar could have paid my small fee ha ha'

which finally becomes

'Sweet sugar and tea
could have paid my small fee
But instead I did flee
and by way showed my glee
By eating cold Kidney for supper'

It will be recalled that the coroner's list as published by Harrison contains the entries:

'One tin box containing tea.  One tin box containing sugar.' 

Caroline Morris always tells us how stupid Michael Barrett was (thinking, for example, that 9/11 signifies the 9th of November) and I can really see Barrett writing this verse while confusing himself as to who would have been charging a fee in the transaction between Eddowes and the killer.  Even if we allow for a simple drafting error when the diarist first writes that sugar and tea DID pay his fee, what are we to make of the notion that the sugar and tea COULD have paid his fee?  What fee?  Surely only Eddowes would have been charging a fee.  So, is the killer saying that if he had stolen the sugar and tea which Eddowes as carrying in her pockets he could have used it to pay some form of fee to someone which only he knows about? Or is the diarist supposed to be saying that he gave Eddowes some tea and sugar in advance for anticipated sexual favours?  If so, why it is phrased as 'his fee' and 'his small fee' ?

But it's a real stretch here.  The diarist tells us that he's murdered Elizabeth Stride which must have been at about 1am.  Forty-five minutes later Catherine Eddowes is found murdered at a distance some fifteen minutes walk away.  Yet, within that time, the killer, Maybrick, has supposedly discovered that Eddowes was in possession of an empty tin match box, a cigarette case, a knife and two tins of tea and sugar!  But he didn't seem to notice the mustard tin containing the pawn tickets, or think it of any significance, despite that having been found next to Eddowes' body.

If the 'redeem' part of the line in the Diary is supposed to refer to the pawn tickets, though, then the killer has also looked inside the mustard tin and seen the pawn tickets before replacing them in the mustard tin and placing the mustard tin on the ground.  All very likely.  Not!

The line 'tin match box empty' is such an obvious giveaway as having been taken from the coroner's list due to the placing of the word 'empty' that we don't need to say anything more about it.  But what about the use of the word 'tin'?  How could a hoaxer have known that the match box was made out of tin?

We've seen that the newspapers referred to Eddowes having a match box in her possession (containing cotton) but not a single known newspaper or book about Jack the Ripper prior to 1987 stated that Eddowes possessed a TIN match box.  So how could the hoaxer have known that Eddowes possessed a TIN match box? 

Then - never mind that the word empty appears in an unnatural position in the Diary - one could ask how could the hoaxer have known that the tin match box was said to have been empty?

Well actually there is an answer to this question because the fact that the match box was recorded as having been empty was mentioned in one newspaper in the report of Collard's evidence to the inquest.  Thus we find in the Echo of 4 October 1888:

As we can see, Collard is reported as having told the coroner that, 'There was no money in her pockets.  There was some tea and sugar, a piece of flannel, some soap, a cigarette case, and an empty match-box in her pocket'.  So the killer, or a hoaxer, having read this newspaper could have been aware that an empty match box had been found in Eddowes' possession after her death.  But not an empty TIN match box!  Is that the second mistake made by the hoaxer?

Well, we now come to the reason why I've never written about this tin box before.  It is because we don't have the reports of Collard's inquest evidence in the surviving editions of the Evening News and the Star.  The reports in these two London evening newspapers, held at the British Library, stop before Collard testified.  However, his evidence WOULD have been published in later editions.  For that reason, it's not impossible that it was reported in one or both of those newspapers that the match box was made of tin.  And we can go even further in saying that it's also not impossible that Collard read out the coroner's list verbatim and that this was reported in one of those newspapers. Sure, it seems unlikely but it can't be said to have been impossible, so that someone in 1889 or 1890 who had read those newspapers (and perhaps kept a cuttings book) could have known that Eddowes had possessed an empty tin match box and even that it had been listed as a 'tin match box empty'

I don't think most people appreciate how much information about the Ripper murders has been lost due to the fact that the British Newspaper Library has never held the final editions of all the London evening newspapers, although I've mentioned it a few times in other contexts.  Up until now the normal Diary Defender fantasy has been that the hoaxer could somehow have had access to a copy of the coroner's list held by the City of London police.  A more unlikely possibility it's hard to conceive of especially if, as Caroline Morris tells us, the Diary was created as some kind of 'silly prank'.  After all why would a nineteenth prankster have gone to such lengths for a mere prank (which isn't even in Maybrick's handwriting) when no-one reading the Diary prior to 1984 would have been able to verify that Eddowes had been in possession of an empty tin matchbox? 

The true killer, of course, might have known about the match box being empty from his own experience (if the tin match box was indeed empty at the time of her death which it seems not to have been) but even then it requires a very convoluted explanation of events for him to have had such knowledge.

But, while the absence of the later editions of the Evening News and the Star means that we can't absolutely and unequivocally say that a nineteenth century hoaxer can't possibly have known that the match box reported to have been in Eddowes' possession was made out of tin and was believed to have been empty at the time of her death, it is so incredibly unlikely that one of these newspapers was the source of the hoaxer's information as to reach the level of absurdity that this could be the explanation for it.  Obviously, I know (as many others now do too) that the expression 'one off instance' proves that the Diary is not only not genuine but is also not an old hoax so that I think we can safely say that the hoaxer made another mistake here by using information from a book published in either 1987 or, more likely, in 1991 that realistically could not have been known to a nineteenth century forger. 

There surely comes a time when you can't just keep trying to wriggle out of the obvious.  And what we have here, taken as a whole, is the clearest possible indication that the hoaxer drafted the Diary after 1987.  This simply augments the clear evidence that 'one off instance' is a twentieth century expression (and a late twentieth century expression at that) along with the undisputed evidence of Mike Barrett's attempted purchase of a Victorian diary with blank pages in March 1992 and, indeed, the evidence of his amazing subsequent discovery of the source of the 'costly intercourse' quote. We can also add to our list the results of the solubility test conducted by Dr Baxendale in 1992, the fact that Tony Devereux was proven to have been in possession of a copy of Mike Barrett's 'Tales from Liverpool' the handwriting of the Diary sharing similar characteristics to Anne's handwriting and the fact that the first forty-eight pages of the scrapbook have been crudely removed.

It's not difficult.  You only have to put these things together (inverted or not!) to come up with the solution to this non-mystery. 

 

LORD ORSAM
6 JUNE 2020