Orsam Books

Robert Smith and the Maybrick Dairy: The False Facts Exposed!

What are the chances, do you think, of electricians working at Battlecrease on the very same day that Mike Barrett was telephoning a literary agency in London to inform them he was in possession of Jack the Ripper's Diary which had supposedly been written in 1888/89 by the then resident of Battlecrease?  One in a billion?  One in a million?  One in a hundred thousand?  One in a thousand? 

The answer is one in eighteen. 

Don't believe me?  Well think about it.  The timesheet evidence revealed in Robert Smith's new book, '25 Years of the Diary of Jack The Ripper: The True Facts' shows that there were electricians from Portus and Rhodes working in Battlecrease for 14 days during 1992 (i.e. 9 and 10 March, 9, 10, 12, 15 and 16 June, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 July). There were 366 days of the year in 1992 (a leap year) but electricians wouldn't have been working during weekends or bank holidays.  If we exclude all weekends and bank holidays, that leaves 254 days in 1992 on which the Portus and Rhodes electricians could have been doing work in Battlecrease.

If they had only been in there on one day of the year, that would have meant the chances of it being 9th March 1992 would have been one in 254 (not in itself utterly incredible) but, as they were working for 14 days during the year, the correct chances are 14 in 254 otherwise expressed as 1 in 18.  

Now consider that the chances of selecting 3 numbers on a UK lottery ticket, to win a mere £25, are 1 in 100.  The chances that one of the 14 days worked by the electricians in 1992 would turn out to be 9th March 1992 were more than FIVE times better than getting just three numbers on the lottery!

It's really not the greatest coincidence in the world is it?

Let's look at in another way.  What if the timesheet had shown the electricians in Battlecrease on Friday 6 March, i.e. the first working day before Monday 9 March? Surely that too would have been remarked upon as such a massive coincidence that it couldn't be by chance.  The Diary, it would have been said, was found on a Friday, handed to Barrett over the weekend who then telephoned the literary agency first thing on Monday.  (We don't actually know what time of day it was so it could easily have been first thing in the morning.)

But then work back another day.  Thursday 5 March.  What if electricians had been in Battlecrease then? This is still very close to the 9th March. So that would have been incredible too, if that is what the timesheet had revealed. And we can keep going backwards.  If the Diary had been found one day in February 1992 it would still have been regarded as providing huge support for the Battlecrease provenance, bearing in mind that it was previously thought that the electrical work was carried out in 1988 or 1989.  We can really go back to January 1992 and then even further back into 1991, any date of which would have fitted very nicely thank you very much with a Battlecrease provenance and a telephone call by Mike Barrett to London on 9 March 1992.  So there were really a huge number of days on that timesheet that would have supported the Battlecrease provenance.  9 March 1992 is just one of them.

And, funnily enough, the discovery of the timesheet containing an entry for 9 March 1992 is actually rather awkward for the Battlecrease provenance because it means that everyone involved on that day had to have moved super fast to enable Mike Barrett not only to know about the Diary and have a stake in it but also to call the literary agency in London to offer the Diary to them within working hours.  As yet, no corroborating evidence has been provided to show that such a transfer of information and/or the Diary, from the electricians at Battlecrease to Mike Barrett, did happen in that single day.  It's all speculation and theory.

Let's look at it another way though.  What if the timesheet had shown electrical work starting in Battlecrease on 10 March 1992?  What would have been said about that?  Clearly it would have been nothing more than a coincidence.  No-one would have said it was extraordinary.  Just one of those things.  It couldn't possibly have had any connection with a Diary referred to by Mike Barrett in a telephone conversation on the previous day.  Yet, by just having the timesheet showing the work one day earlier, it is believed by some to be some kind of amazing proof of a Battlecrease provenance because it is regarded as too much of a coincidence. 

I will be saying a lot more about this 'coincidence' and about the timesheet evidence presented by Robert Smith in his book later in this article.  First, however, I want to look at a number of statements made by Mr Smith in his book in support of his contention that the 'Jack the Ripper Diary' is genuine.  I will be arguing that, far from his book containing the True Facts, Smith is giving us the very opposite.

For those who haven't immediately worked it out, what I mean by that is that we are being given the False Facts.

The One Off Problem

Perhaps the most important indication that the Diary is a modern fake is the author's use of the expression 'one-off instance' to express his regret at hitting his wife and making clear that it won't happen again.  The problem is that there is not a single recorded use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century, let alone a recorded use to mean something other than a manufactured product or design in the way it is used in the Diary. Although we find it being used in the early part of the twentieth century, it is always and without exception used in the context of manufacturing or design, almost always in obscure manufacturing related journals, usually referring to a 'one off job' or similar and never in common usage to refer to more general unique situations, events, instances or people.  In fact, this did not happen until after the Second World War.

This means that the author of the Diary was the first person in the history of the world known to have used the expression 'one off instance' or similar and it wasn't used again for more than fifty years.  It's a bit of a problem for anyone who believes the Diary was genuinely written by James Maybrick during 1888 and 1889.

Shirley Harrison thought she had solved the problem by revealing in her 1993 book that a document dating from 1860 in the archives of a supposed building company in Kent called Traynor's contained a reference to 'one off' to mean something unique.  Unfortunately, she not only never made a copy of the document but it would appear that she never actually saw it either!  Further, despite claiming in her books that she personally contacted Traynor's and spoke to someone there who gave her the information, it transpires that it was a third party (now dead) who supposedly told her about this document, although there is no confirmation even of this fact. There is no known evidence that a building company in Kent called Traynor's ever even existed.  It's all highly unsatisfactory in other words.

Robert Smith, while still placing reliance on Shirley's purported discovery, has found some new supporting evidence all by himself.  In fact, he has gone so far as to consult that highly reliable archive known as the internet. In doing so, a website called Wiktionary told him that an American magazine called 'Foundry', in a 1905 issue, contains the following sentence:

'If such a casting was wanted in a hurry - a one-off job - there would be no question of molding it on a machine.'

Smith gives the following reference for the above. 'Foundry Volume 50, page 158'.

Armed with this brand new discovery, and referring back to Shirley's highly questionable and never seen document from 1860, Smith is able to say that 'the expression did exist in written usage during the Victorian and Edwardian periods.' (p.136).

Unfortunately for Mr Smith, the sentence he likes so much about a one-off job did not appear in any issue of 'Foundry' in 1905.  Had he carried out even the most basic check by searching Google Books, he would have discovered that the issue of 'Foundry' in which the quote appears is said to be from 1922.  And, indeed, upon consulting the actual 1922 issues of 'Foundry' one finds that they are indeed numbered as Volume 50. Here is part of the front cover of Volume 50, number 5, which is dated 1 March 1922.



Here is the sentence as it appears in the 1 March 1922 issue of Foundry in Volume 50, number 5, at page 158:

This is in an article entitled 'British Motor Castings Methods Volume V' by Ben Shaw and James Edgar who sound very much like British engineers, thus explaining why a British expression such as 'one-off job' has ended up in an American technical journal in 1922. 

Smith, therefore, has not managed to even find one single confirmed example of 'one off', let alone 'one off job', let alone 'one off instance' or similar, in either a Victorian or Edwardian document.  So his counter-argument that the author of the Diary could, in 1889, have used the expression 'one off instance' fails in its entirety.

The only other example provided by Smith of the use of 'one off' in the Victorian period is from 'Green's Dictionary of Jargon' in which, he tells us, convicts in 19th century prisons were said to have been sent on 'one off' duty.

It is a false fact because there is no mention in Jonathan Green's Dictionary of Jargon that the expression was ever used in the nineteenth century!

Given that it is not recorded as a nineteenth century expression we don't need to consider the point any further but it might as well be noted that when one looks at the actual entry in the Dictionary of Jargon one finds that the 'one off' being referred to here bears no relation to the expression used in the Diary.

Indeed, in the Dictionary of Jargon, the opposite of 'one off' is given as 'one on' showing that it means something entirely different to a unique or special instance. Further, Smith is quite wrong to say that Green refers to anything like a 'one off duty'.  This does not appear in the dictionary.  It's another false fact. 

According to his website, www.jonathongreen.co.uk, Jonathon Green only produced two editions of his Dictionary of Jargon, published in 1984 and 1987 respectively.  Here is the relevant entry from the first edition (1984) in full:

'one on/one off (prison/UK) when a prisoner is moved around the prison, from the control of one set of officers to another, the officer bringing the prisoner announces 'One off' as he hands over the prisoner to a new escort who similarly announces 'One on'.' 

The corresponding entry in the second edition (1987) is only slightly different:  

'one on/one off - phr [UK] [Prisons] when an inmate is moved around the prison, passing from the control of one set of officers to another, the officer bringing the prisoner announces 'One off' as he hands him on to the new escort, who similarly announces 'One on'.'

The abbreviation of 'phr' incidentally is defined as meaning 'phrase'.

It will be noted that neither edition says anything whatsoever about it being a nineteenth century expression. On the contrary, the entry is written in the present tense to describe what prison officers in prisons in the 1980s said.  This is consistent with the rest of the book which is, or was, essentially a dictionary of contemporary jargon rather than a historical dictionary. Secondly, if we even need a secondly, bearing in mind that the first point renders the entire discussion redundant, it bears no relation to the expression used by Robert Smith of 'one off duty' because the 'one off' is the passing of a prisoner from one prison officer to another. It has nothing to do with a convict or prison officer's duty - it is actually part of a longer phrase, i.e. 'one on/one off' -and, therefore, bears a totally different meaning to the normal use of 'one off' to mean something unique. 

Mike Barrett's Purchase of A Victorian Diary

Immediately after the Robert Crew Literary Agency in London expressed an interest in acquiring a diary written by Jack the Ripper, Mike Barrett instructed a bookfinding agent to obtain a real Victorian diary, with a minimum of 20 blank pages, on his behalf.  As long as it had those blank pages it didn't matter to Mike if the diary had been used or was entirely unused and thus entirely blank.  Can it get any more suspicious than this?

How does Robert Smith deal with this suspicious acquisition?  By ignoring it basically.  He never explains why Mike Barrett could possibly have required a Victorian diary with any blank pages, let alone a minimum of 20.  The most obvious explanation is that Mike wanted to write in those blank pages (or wanted someone else to do so) and what else is he likely to have wanted to write but the text of a fake diary?

Anyway, in ignoring this problem, Robert Smith makes a blunder so howling that it is literally breathtaking.

He claims (p. 22) that it was Mike Barrett who placed the advertisement for a Victorian Diary and that a company called HP Bookfinders responded to it by sending him an 1891 diary.

This is such a false fact as to be amazing.  It was actually HP Bookfinders, or rather Martin E. Earl (of HP Bookfinders, the name he would subsequently trade as), who placed the advertisement in the 19 March 1992 issue of Bookdealer on behalf of Mike Barrett.  It's not that there is any great significance to this error, more that one wonders how it could have been made. How is it possible that Robert Smith, who one would have thought would have been one of the most knowledgeable people alive about all matters relating to the Diary, could get this basic fact so badly wrong?

It seems to reflect the lack of elementary research and fact checking which pervades the entire book.

Here is the full advertisement placed by Martin E. Earl in Bookdealer of 19 March 1992. The ad for a diary is 20 lines from the bottom of the left hand column.

It wouldn't even be so bad but I had posted the information about this advertisement and placed it in a thread on the Casebook Forum as far back as 18 February 2017!

Mike Barrett was NOT a journalist (or was he?)

Another false fact peddled by Robert Smith is that Mike Barrett was never a proper writer.  According to Smith (p.13):

'Hadn’t he been an author?  No, actually, he had only written a few puzzles for a children’s weekly magazine, Look-in, which centred on ITV’s television programmes'

So how does Mr Smith explain this:


For it is the by-line of an article by Mike Barrett in Celebrity magazine.

There is no secret that Barrett had articles published in Celebrity magazine for it is mentioned in the 2003 book 'Inside Story', although the impression is also unfortunately given on page 172 that Celebrity was a children's magazine.  It was not. It was a magazine for adults.  Here is an example of a cover:

The article about Stan Boardman, as shown on the cover, in the bottom right hand corner, was written by Mike Barrett and has the 'EXCLUSIVE' by-line shown above.

Here is another of Mike's interviews in full:


This is an interview with Bonnie Langford.

Celebrity Magazine came into existence on 30 January 1986 and most of its articles during 1986 were  uncredited so it's not possible to say with any degree of certainty when Mike Barrett started writing for this publication but, according to Inside Story (p.172), one of Barrett's articles featured an interview with Kenneth Williams and the only interview with Mr Williams in Celebrity is in its 5 June 1986 issue.  This suggests that Mike started submitting pieces during early 1986 and this start of a journalistic career would certainly be consistent not only with his supposed acquisition of a word processor in March 1986 but also with his apparent access in 1992 to a copy of the 1986 Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, as claimed in his confession affidavit of 5 January 1995.

Mike's first credited article appeared in the Christmas 1986 issue of Celebrity, being an interview with a Liverpool comedian called Gary Skynner.  Occasional credited articles articles followed during 1987 and 1988 until the magazine folded in the summer of 1988.

So it is simply untrue to say that Mike Barrett only contributed some puzzles to Look-In.

It has been mentioned that Mike's wife 'tidied up' his articles (although whether this means she simply corrected his spellings or actually re-wrote them is far from clear).  But it makes no difference to the argument that the Diary is a forgery because, in his confession affidavit of 5 January 1995, Mike Barrett stated that the Diary was written jointly by himself and his wife and, as she was supposedly holding the pen, Ann would have had the final say on anything included in the text.

When one speaks of coincidence therefore it just so happens that the person producing the Jack the Ripper diary was either a professional writer or one half of a professional writing team!  And the other half of that team was his wife who is alleged to have been involved in creating the diary.

Gladys Unwell Again

Robert Smith notes a number of features of the Diary which he thinks that a modern forger could not have known which, according to him, shows the Diary is a genuine document.  I won't deal with all of them but will select the most important examples for comment.

Probably the most important is the entry in the Diary that says:

'My dearest Gladys is unwell yet again.'

Smith refers us to Shirley Harrison who tells us that the only source for Gladys being unwell 'again' is a letter from Margaret Baillie to Florence Maybrick dated 13 April 1889 which contains the sentence 'I am sorry that your little girl has been unwell again'Thus, Harrison says confidently in her 2010 book, 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper - The Chilling Confessions of James Maybrick':

'There is no other source for the information that Gladys was repeatedly sick.' 

The Margaret Baillie letter is in a file in the National Archives and, it is claimed, was never made public or published prior to March 1992 apart from by J.H. Levy who, we are told (by Harrison), 'transcribed' the sentence incorrectly so that it reads 'I am sorry about your little girl'. 

In point of fact, Levy transcribed nothing because that Margaret Baillie letter of 13 April 1889 was read out in its entirety by counsel for the prosecution at Florence's trial on 31 July 1889, and the exact same line, i.e. 'I am sorry about your little girl', was published in both the Liverpool Echo of 31 July 1889 and the Liverpool Daily Post of 1 August 1889 when reporting the opening speech.  As we shall see, the error was not made by the prosecution counsel but by the reporter for the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post (who appears to have been the same person). Levy was simply repeating this error when he published a transcript of the trial, as did H.B. Irving in his own reproduction of the trial transcript in 1912 within the Notable Trials series.

Perhaps, in a normal world, one might suggest that the forger simply paid a visit to the Public Record Office in 1992 and viewed the Home Office file - a file which doesn't actually contain the original of the Baillie letter, just a couple of copies prepared for the trial (although there is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the copies are accurate).  However, that would involve the forgers actually having done some research work and travelling to London which was, apparently, impossible for someone in Liverpool in 1992.  To make such a claim would probably be to invite derision and ridicule.  

One does not, however, need to rely on the forger examining any original files.  For Shirley Harrison is quite wrong to say that the Baillie letter in the National Archives is the only source of Gladys being ill more than once. In the first place, as mentioned above, the Baillie letter was read out in its entirety by the prosecution counsel, John Addison, during his opening speech.  As a consequence, the last line of the letter was accurately reproduced in more than one newspaper.  Here is how it appeared in the Liverpool Courier of 1 August 1889:


And here is how it appears in the Liverpool Mercury of 1 August 1889:

As can be clearly seen from both extracts, the sentence 'I am sorry your little girl has been ill again'  was included by the respective reporters from both newspapers and had, thus, been in the public domain, in publicly accessible Liverpool newspapers, for over one hundred years by the time the Diary appeared in 1992. The claim, therefore, that this piece of information only existed buried away in a file in the National Archives is yet another false fact - and one which reveals the standards of research that went into the checking of the Diary.

But this is only one part of the information available to the forger and he did not need to have known about it. For there were other available sources of information showing that Gladys had been ill more than once. 

During his evidence in chief at the trial of Florence Maybrick, Dr Richard Humphreys was recorded as saying the following, as included in the transcript of the trial which was reproduced in both J.H Levy's 1899 book and in the 1912 book by H.B. Irving (republished as a new edition in 1922):

'In the early months of 1887 I was attending the children of Mrs Maybrick for whooping cough....When I was attending the children in the early part of March [1889], Mr Maybrick never complained to me.'

The above is from Irving; in Levy it is translated into third person evidence as follows:

'Dr Richard Humphreys stated...that in the early months of 1887, he had been attending the children of Mrs Maybrick for whooping cough...When he was attending the children in the early part of March, Mrs Maybrick never complained to him...he had asked Mrs Maybrick about her husband's health when he had been attending the children.'

This would have shown the reader of either book that Gladys, as one of Maybrick's two children, was ill with whooping cough in 1887 and was ill again, two years later, requiring the attendance of Dr Humphreys, in March 1889.  It's simple!  If we then add in the wrongly 'transcribed' Margaret Baillie letter from April 1889 stating 'I am sorry to hear about your little girl', this could only mean that Gladys had either died or become ill again (and the forger would have known that Gladys hadn't died).

So there would be no mystery in a forger believing that Gladys, who was only born in June 1886, had been repeatedly ill during her short life.

However, the forger did not even need to have read the transcript of the Maybrick trial (or the erroneous version of the Baillie letter in Levy's book or Irving's book or the Liverpool Daily Post or the Liverpool Daily Echo, let alone the correct version in the Liverpool Courier or Liverpool Mercury). For in 'The Poisoned Life of Mrs Maybrick' by Bernard Ryan, published in 1977, it is stated in respect of the evidence of Dr Humphreys during the trial in August 1889 (p.137):

'The junior prosecutor asked him about a visit to Battlecrease House two years earlier, when the children had whooping cough.'

So the forger, believing that Gladys had been ill with whooping cough in 1887, only had to invent a second illness for Gladys and she was ill 'yet again'.  But it is important to note that this second illness was supposed to be in 1888 not 1889.  

For the timing is all completely wrong to link the illness mentioned in the Diary with the illness in Margaret Baillie's letter.

Gladys' illness is one of the very first things mentioned in the Diary.  It is right there in the third paragraph of the first page, long before the author has started committed any murders:

'My dearest Gladys is unwell yet again.' 

Given the chronology of the Diary, this means the illness being referred to must have been at some point in early 1888.  Consequently, unless the argument is that James Maybrick was psychic, as well as being Jack the Ripper, the comment that Gladys was unwell yet again has absolutely no connection with the comment by Margaret Baillie in a letter written about a year later, on 13 April 1889, that Gladys was ill again. 

Even if the Diary was genuine, in other words, the fact that both James Maybrick and Margaret Baillie used the word 'again' when referring to Gladys being unwell would be nothing more than a pure coincidence, the two instances of its use bearing no relationship with each other.  As a result, the fact that a forger used the word 'again' when referring to Gladys being unwell in early 1888 could also easily be a coincidence, totally unrelated to Margaret Baillie's letter of April 1889.

There is no corroborating evidence anywhere that Gladys was ill at any time during 1888.  We just don't know if she was or was not.  The first three paragraphs of the Diary seem to introduce us to a surprisingly large number of characters.  Michael is mentioned in the first paragraph, then, after Gladys we have Hopper and Thomas name checked.  Sandwiched in between is a mention of Whitechapel (in Liverpool) and of 'the whore' and 'the whore master'.  The forger obviously needed a reason to mention each one of these people (and places) and, with Gladys, what better idea than to mention, in early 1888, that she was ill again, believing her to have been ill in 1887 with whooping cough.

But there is a very interesting twist to this story.  Despite it being commonly mentioned in the secondary literature that Bobo and Gladys suffered from whooping cough in 1887, this is a false fact! 

We have seen above how the evidence of Dr Humphreys appears in the published trial transcripts.  Here is how it was published in both the Liverpool Echo of 1 August 1889 and the Liverpool Daily Post of 2 August 1889:

'Dr Richard Humphreys stated that he was a surgeon and general practitioner, residing in Garston Old-road, Garston. In the early months of 1887 he had been attending the children of Mrs. Maybrick for whooping cough...When he was attending the children in the early part of March, Mr Maybrick never complained to him.'

This was evidently the source of the trial transcript which later appeared in Levy and Irving and was then repeated in the secondary literature (by, for example, Ryan). It appears to confirm that the children suffered from whooping cough in 1887 (and then required medical attention again in March 1889).

In the London Times of 2 August 1889, however, we find a significant difference in the reporting of the evidence. For, in that newspaper, Dr Humphreys' evidence begins thus:

'I am a surgeon at Garston. In March, 1889, I attended the Maybrick children for whooping cough.'

There is no further mention of the doctor attending the children in this report of his evidence.

So, according to this testimony, the children suffered from whooping cough not in 1887 but in March 1889, long after the Diary tells us that Gladys was ill 'yet again'. 

Similarly, we find this, in the Daily Telegraph of 2 August 1889 (underlining added):

'Richard Humphreys, surgeon and general practitioner at Garston, examined, said he had attended to Mr. Maybrick's children, and he had spoken to Mrs Maybrick about her husband's health in March this year....That would be before March 21.'

This is from the Liverpool Courier of 2 August 1889:

'I am a surgeon and general practitioner practising at Garston Old road, Garston.  In the month of March this year, I think, I was attending the children of Mr. Maybrick for whooping cough.'

And this is from the Liverpool Mercury of the same date:

'Dr. Humphreys, called and examined by Mr. M'Connell, said he was a surgeon and general practitioner residing and practising in Garston Old-road.  During the early months of 1889 he was attending the children of Mr. Maybrick for whooping cough.' 

But who is right? Is it the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post or the Times,Telegraph, Liverpool Courier and Mecury?

Well, fortunately, the actual handwritten notes of Mr Justice Stephen, the judge at the trial of Florence Maybrick, have survived in a Home Office file in the National Archives (HO 144/1639/A50678).  In respect of Dr Humphreys' evidence, the judge's notes notes record this:

'Attended children of M for whooping cough early in 1889'. 

Here is an image of the relevant extract from the judge's notes:


There can be no doubt about it, therefore.  Gladys was ill with whooping cough in March 1889.  The reporter of the Liverpool Echo/Daily Post (who appears to have been the same person) must have got confused. When he noted that Dr Humphreys was attending the children 'in early March' (i.e. early March 1889) this must have been for whooping cough and he probably misread his notes later, thinking he had written 1887 for what he thought was an earlier illness and thus thought there had been evidence given by the doctor about two separate events.  But it was just one.  The children clearly went down with whooping cough in early March 1889 and were attended to by Dr Humphreys.

The actual period of treatment for the illness suffered by the children can be found in a supplemental statement of Dr Humphreys in the Home Office file in the National Archives (HO 144/1639/A50678). In that statement, Dr Humphreys says:

'Between the 4th and the 20th March I was attending the children for whooping cough.'  

When Margaret Baillie wrote on 13 April 1889 that she was sorry that Gladys was unwell 'again', therefore, she must have been cross-referring, by the use of the word 'again', to the earlier whooping cough illness of early March of that same year.  It would seem, from Baillie's letter, that Gladys then succumbed to a further unknown illness in late March or early April which was probably a recurrence of the whooping cough.

Lest anyone doubts the accuracy of this statement and thinks that Margaret Baillie's letter could have been referring to the earlier whooping cough illness, so that when she said 'unwell again' she was cross-referring to an illness prior to the whooping cough sickness of early March 1889 (and thus possibly one in 1888), this cannot possibly be the case. To understand why not, we need to spend a little time understanding the background to Miss Baillie's letter.

Florence Mayrick left Liverpool for London on Thursday, 21 March 1889, and spent some time at a hotel with John Baillie Knight before staying at the residence of Margaret Baillie in Notting Hill on 24 March 1889.  She remained there until 28 March.  It can be concluded with a fair degree of certainty that, at some point in those five days, Margaret Baillie enquired about the health of Florence's children and/or that Florence informed Margaret Baillie that Bobo and Gladys had been unwell with whooping cough for almost three weeks between 4 and 20 March 1889.

What happened next is that, after Florence returned to Liverpool, her letters continued to arrive at Margaret Baillie's residence at Notting Hill, causing Margaret to worry that Florence had not made it safely home to cancel the instruction for her letters to be delivered to London.  By Sunday 31 March, Margaret was very worried about Florence's safety: 'you can’t understand the state of anxiety we were in about you on this day fortnight' she said in her letter of 13 April.   As she explained to Florence in the same letter, 'there was nothing more I could think of than to write to your mother'.  Margaret did write to Florence's mother, who was then living in Paris, and, on Monday, 8 April, she received a reply from her.  Thus, as she explained in her letter to Florence of 13 April: 'when I received your mother’s letter last Monday...Happily she was able to say that she had heard of you twice since your return home.'

One does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that Florence's mother must have informed Margaret Baillie in her letter of 8 April 1889 that Gladys had been unwell again since Florence had returned to Liverpool. She would have known this herself from one of the two letters that she mentions she had received from her daughter between between 28 March and 8 April. Hence, Margaret Baillie, who must already have known of Gladys having gone down with whooping cough in early March, due to Florence undoubtedly having told her while she was living with her for five days at the end of March, added at the end of her letter that she was sorry to hear that Gladys was unwell again.

There is no other reasonable explanation for her comment in the letter. It is inconceivable that Florence did not mention the whooping cough illness when she was staying with Margaret Baillie at the end of March so it would make no sense for Margaret to have been saying she was sorry to hear about THAT illness and, in any event, it was both children who had gone down with whooping cough in early March.  The illness in the letter of 13 April simply must have been a new illness, albeit probably a renewed bout of whooping cough or related sickness, affecting Gladys alone, which only developed after 28 March.

It follows that there is not a single particle of evidence that Gladys was unwell at any time prior to March 1889 and, thus, no reason to think - other than what the Diary says - that she was unwell in early 1888 or at any time prior to that.  Far from Margaret Baillie's letter being the smoking gun that proves the Diary to be true, it rather tends towards it being false, the forger being deceived by Ryan's book (and/or the trial transcript) into thinking that Gladys had been unwell in 1887, thus wrongly stating that she was unwell 'again' in 1888.  But, as far as we know, the first illness ever suffered by Gladys was in the following year!

Furthermore, the period of the Diary between pages 47 (where the diarist says the children enjoyed Christmas) and page 55 (where the diarist refers to the Grand National) must have been written between 25 December 1888 and 29 March 1889. Yet there is not a single word in there about the diarist's children falling sick with whooping cough to the extent they required the attendance of Dr Humphreys.  On page 51, which Smith dates to 'early March', because it seems to reference a letter Florence had written to Michael Maybrick at that time informing him that James was taking a white powder (referred to by Nigel Morland at page 38 of his 1977 book, 'This Friendless Lady'), the diarist refers to cutting 'the bitch' up and serving her up to the children - which would have been precisely the time that those children were sick.  It's a bit strange.  Did the diarist not know that Maybrick's children were seriously unwell in March 1889?

At the very least, we can certainly now say that this information in the Diary does not reveal great and intimate knowledge by the author about secret or hidden facts relating to the Maybrick family which only someone closely connected with the family in 1888 could have known.  And, indeed, it rather looks like someone was simply making it all up.


For the record, it may be noted that Gladys must have recovered by May because both children were said to be 'very well' on 17 May (according to Florence's mother who got this information from Alice Yapp when she arrived at Battlecrease - see letter from the Baroness de Roque to Alexander Macdougall in Macdougall's 1891 book, 'The Maybrick Case', p.11). Subsequently, Gladys and Bobo must have become ill again within the next couple of months. As reproduced in Macdougall's 1891 book (p.175), Florence wrote to her mother from prison on 21 July 1889 saying:

'I cannot find the letter of Nurse Yapp addressed to Mr Cleaver [Florence's solicitor], but she said in it the children had been very ill with bad cold which following after a severe attack of "hooping cough" naturally made me anxious and think it might run into congestion of the lungs.' 

This rather supports the notion that Gladys' illness in late March or early April 1889 was a recurrence of whooping cough because no other illness is mentioned in the letter. It's interesting to note, however, that Florence was here saying, in a published and publicly available letter, that Bobo and Gladys were ill again - but because she didn't actually use the word 'again' it has not caused the excitement that Margaret Baillie's letter did for the 'Diary Team'.  Yet there is no substantial difference between the letter written by Florence in July 1889 and that written by Margaret Baillie some three months earlier. They both report that Gladys was ill again during 1889, which is something that can have no possible bearing at all on the issue of the diarist recording that Gladys was ill again in 1888!

Sir Jim 

The use by the diarist of 'Sir Jim' in the diary, we are told by Robert Smith, is nothing short of 'remarkable' (p.134). Smith tells us twice that previously undiscovered evidence exists that James Maybrick 'liked to be called  'Sir James' in his own house' (p.134 and see p.27). It's a really strange thing for him to say because the actual evidence shows nothing of the sort.

There is no contemporary evidence of Maybrick being called either Sir James or Sir Jim by anyone.  All that exists is a letter supposedly written by Florence Aunspaugh to the writer Trevor L Christie in (presumably) the 1960s in which she recalled that Nurse Yapp 'did not see why Sir James ever brought me there in any way'. From this it is a little unclear if Florence Aunspaugh was herself, in the 1960s, calling Maybrick 'Sir James' or recollecting that Nurse Yapp called him this during the 1880s, albeit that the latter seems more likely.   Either way, it does not at all show that Maybrick himself liked to be called 'Sir James' in his household. On the contrary, if used by Nurse Yapp, it rather appears to be a mocking type of description by a servant that she would never have dared say to her master's face.

The funny thing is that Shirley Harrison, in quoting from other passages of Aunspaugh's correspondence, provides an abundance of evidence that Maybrick was NOT referred to as Sir James.

Thus, on page 90 of her 2003 book, 'The American Connection', Harrison quotes Aunspaugh as constantly referring to Maybrick as 'Mr Maybrick', with her father calling him 'Maybrick'.  More pertinently, at page 91, she refers to Mrs Briggs as constantly addressing Mr Maybrick as 'James', thus completely contradicting the suggestion that he liked to be referred to as 'Sir James'.

On one occasion (p.94), she says that her father 'glanced at Mr James'. So once again, she fails to take the opportunity to refer to him as 'Sir James'.  This all suggests that the name 'Sir James', if it was used at all, was something said privately to her by Nurse Yapp in the same way that an employee might well refer to their employer as 'his Lordship' despite that person not, in fact, being a peer of the realm. 

There is an abundance of evidence (of which the diarist would certainly have been aware from reading a few books) that Florence called her husband 'Jim'.   

It really is hard in this context to think that there is anything at all remarkable about the single reference to 'Sir James' by Florence Aunspaugh.

St James's Church

Noting that the diarist has correctly used an apostrophe when saying that he will 'burn St James's to the ground', Robert Smith concludes that the 'numerous' other occasions where the diarist has omitted the apostrophe in possessive nouns, 'must be' due to carelessness rather than ignorance.  But is not the more obvious conclusion that, on this one occasion, the diarist was copying the correct spelling and punctuation of St James's from a book?  In Nigel Morland's 'This Friendless Lady' (1957), for example, one of the likely sources for the forger, there is a correctly punctuated mention of 'St James's Church' in Piccadilly where James and Florence married (Morland, p.8).

The Grand National 

The diarist tells us that the 1889 Grand National was 'the fastest' he had seen.  According to Robert Smith (page 141), 'Information about the times of races was buried in very obscure racing records in 1992'.

This is another false fact which was originally perpetuated by Paul Feldman who told a lurid story of his researcher struggling to find any information about times of historic Grand Nationals but then miraculously locating this information in an obscure 1939 publication called The Liverpolitan.

But the truth is that the information that Feldman's researcher discovered was easily available in most books published about the Grand National.   Perhaps his researcher simply didn't think of looking for one.  But a 1907 book by Mason Finch entitled 'Heroes and Heroines of the Grand National' or a 1931 book entitled 'The Grand National, 1839-1931 by David Hoadley Munroe would have provided all the information the forger needed, containing as they both do the winning times of all Grand Nationals in the relevant period.  While old, such books could well have been available in public libraries in Liverpool or in second hand bookshops in the 1990s.  But there were more recent books which could have been consulted in 1992 as well, such as 'The Grand National: An Illustrated History of the Greatest Steeplechase in the World' By Clive Graham and Bill Curling published in 1972 or 'A Race Apart, The History of the Grand National' by Reg Green published in 1988. Both these titles also contain the same information about historic Grand National racing times that Feldman's researcher found in the 'obscure' magazine.

Here is how the information can be seen in the 1972 book by Clive Graham and Bill Curling:  



This is the same information that Feldman's researcher found in a 1939 magazine called The Liverpolitan.

Bearing in mind that the Diary came from Liverpool, where there would surely have been plenty of books available about the Grand National, which is, of course, held at a racecourse in Liverpool, it is a false fact to say that the necessary information about racing times was either 'buried away' or in 'obscure racing records' in 1992. It wasn't, and it would not have been too difficult to find at all. 

Scientific Evidence

The first chapter of the book seems to do no more than summarise all the scientific evidence that has long been known to those with an interest in the Diary and that seems to amount to no more, at best, than that the Diary could have been written in 1888.  But then it seems that it also could have been written in 1992 as well!

The one report which provides an actual supposed date of composition - the report of McNeil - says that the Diary was written at some point between 1909 and 1921.  If that's the case, it couldn't have been written by James Maybrick as Robert Smith claims.  Smith is not downhearted and he laughs off this result with a casual remark that this means it is 'not at all a modern hoax!' (p.7), although why that is an important consideration is unclear.  Either it's Jack the Ripper's Diary or it's not.  Furthermore, we are told that the Diary was either written circa 1888/9 or is a modern fake and that those are the only two feasible alternatives (Smith, p.1)  So presumably Smith just ignores McNeil's result; indeed he says that there is no independent verification that his test is valid (p.7). Given that this is the case, I will not deal with McNeil in this article save to say that his ion migration test has not been demonstrated to be infallible by any means and it is simply unknown if the type of paper contained in the Diary will have affected the result of the test. Anyway, if Robert Smith is discarding his result then, for the purpose of this article, we can discard it too.

The Watch

Smith doesn't claim that the timesheet discovery has any significance for the watch nor does he claim that it too come out from under the floorboards along with the Diary on 9 March 1992.  Well it can't have done because the existence of the watch is supposedly accounted for, by independent witnesses, long before March 1992.

But Smith points to two reports: by Dr Stephen Turgoose of The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and Dr Robert Wild of Bristol University to support the claim that the Ripper engravings on the watch were made in the nineteenth century.  

He quotes Turgoose as saying in his report of 10 August 1993 that, 'I would be of the opinion that the engravings are likely to date back more than tens of years and possibly longer' (p. 25).  It's a strange expression isn't it? 'I would be of the opinion...'  Under what circumstances would he be of this opinion?  Well, when one consults the full report, one finds that Mr Smith has omitted to quote a significant part of the sentence in Turgoose's report. What Turgoose says in full is this (underlining added):

'Given these qualifications, I would be of the opinion that the engravings are likely to date back more than tens of years and possibly longer.' 

What qualifications would those be?  Well, what Mr Smith fails to inform his reader is that Turgoose said, in the preceding sentence (underlining added):

'The actual age would depend on the cleaning or polishing regime employed, and any definition of number of years has a great degree of uncertainty and to some extent must remain speculation.'

Turgoose also stressed that 'there are no features observed which conclusively prove the age of the engravings.'  Most importantly, he opined that, while a creation (i.e. forgery) of the engravings would involve a complex process and a variety of different tools, showing considerable skill and scientific awareness: 'They could have been produced recently and deliberately aged by polishing'.  This is a hugely significant caveat to the expert's report yet Robert Smith does not mention it. 

When it comes to the report by Wild dated 31 January 1994, Smith is happy to quote the expert as saying that,'it would seem likely that the engravings were at least several tens of years of age...in my opinion it is unlikely that anyone would have sufficient expertise to implant aged, brass particles into the base of the engravings' and he even remembers to include the expert's caveat that this was based on the proviso that 'the watch has remained in a normal environment.'  On the other hand, Smith seems to have forgotten that Wild said that the amount of time available for his examination was 'limited to only a few hours' so that 'a thorough investigation was not possible and any conclusions are therefore preliminary at this stage'.  That being so, how reliable can those conclusions be?

That Magic Timesheet

So we return to the main event.  That timesheet. That magic timesheet which is supposed to prove a Battlecrease provenance for the Diary.

It must be acknowledged that there is nothing remarkable on its own for electricians to have been working in Battlecrease on 9 March 1992.  I mean, would we be surprised if there had been builders in there on that day, or decorators, or plumbers or gardeners working in the garden?  All of these tradespeople work in (or outside) properties day in and day out so it would not have been the most remarkable coincidence to discover that some kind of work was being carried out at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992.  

For the 9 March 1992 timesheet to have any force as evidence, it needs to support the pre-existing story about electricians making a discovery at Battlecrease which was set out in Shirley Harrison’s 1998 and 2003 books.

There were two supporting pieces of evidence according to Shirley, but the dates simply didn’t work in each case. 

The first bit of evidence was that Alan Davies, an electrician working for Portus and Rhodes, told a 'shop assistant' working for Tim Martin-Wright at his shop in Bootle at the end of 1991 that a colleague doing a re-wiring job at Battlecrease had found a biscuit tin under the floorboards which contained “a leather-bound diary” and a gold ring. He tried to sell the diary to him for £25. 

The second bit of evidence was that Brian Rawes had picked up two colleagues from Battlecrease at the end of one day in June 1992 and had been told “I’ve found something under the floor boards, I think it could be important” (Harrison 2003, pp. 291-292). 

Now, if we make allowances for these dates to have been a few months out in both cases, which is my no means impossible, it would seem that each story corroborates the other.  Thus, Brian Rawes could have been at Battlecrease in March 1992 (not June) when the diary was found by some of his colleagues under the floorboards and then a little later, after 9 March 1992, Alan Davies  could have mentioned this discovery to the 'shop assistant' in Bootle and tried to sell him the diary. So, once we adjust the chronology, we appear to have some evidence of an important discovery under the floorboards of Battlecrease of what appears to have been the Maybrick Diary.  It only needed a timesheet to provide the final proof that this story was true.

However far from supporting this story, the remarkable fact is that the timesheet evidence actually disproves it!

Even without the timesheet, the story as told by Shirley Harrison in 2003 falls apart.  According to Robert Smith, it wasn’t in late 1991 when the conversation between Alan Davies and the shop assistant (who turns out to have been the manager of the shop) occurred, it was a whole year later, at some point after November 1992!!! Indeed, according to Smith, the shop wasn't even open for business until November 1992.   How it was possible for Shirley to have got this so wrong is not explained at all by Robert Smith. 

Who told Shirley that Martin-Wright’s shop opened in October 1991 when it was actually (according to Smith) November 1992?  Or has Smith got it wrong?  We just don’t know.  The importance of this is that by November 1992 the Maybrick Diary was not in the possession of the electricians, it was in London and the ownership had been transferred to Robert Smith so why was Alan Davies having a conversation about selling it to the manager of Martin-Wright’s shop for £25?

Then we find that Brian Rawes did not pick up two colleagues from Battlecrease at the end of any day.  It was eleven o'clock in the morning and he was there to collect some equipment.  According to Rawes, it was Eddie Lyons, who was working at Battlecrease with Graham Rhodes, who said to Rawes 'I found something under the floorboards, and I don’t know what to do about it.  It could be important' (Smith. p.18).

This is supposed to describe a critical moment shortly after the discovery of the diary but the timesheet proves that this could not possibly have happened on 9 March 1992.  Neither Graham Rhodes nor Eddie Lyons was working in Battlecrease on 9 March 1992.  One of the two electricians working at Battlecrease that day was Arthur Rigby, the man who was supposed to have been driving the van which took the equipment to Widnes!

No further electrical work was carried out at Battlecrease until June 1992 when both Graham Rhodes and Eddie Lyons did work there. So if something was found under the floorboards of Battlecrease it was certainly not the Maybrick Diary. By June 1992, that item was safely in London with Robert Smith.  Even if Eddie Lyons was telling Brian Rawes about a discovery he had made three months earlier (something which was impossible because he wasn’t working in Battlecrease at that time), he would certainly not have been saying in June 1992 that he didn’t know what to do about it - because he didn't have it.

If the electricians did find a leather bound diary under the floorboards it must have been a different diary, nothing to do with the Maybrick Diary.  This would explain why Alan Davies was able to discuss selling it to Tim Wright-Martin in late 1992.

But there is more to the story than this.  According to Inside Story (p.82) one of the two electricians who had 'a clear recollection' of finding not one but 'two books' in James Maybrick’s dressing room was someone called Vinny Dring.  But it is impossible that this could have happened on 9 March 1992 because the timesheet shows us that no-one called Vinny Dring was working at Battlecrease that day.  So Vinny Dring is ignored!

According to Arthur Rigby, one of the electricians present when something was found at Battlecrease wasn't Vinny Dring, it was Jim Bowling but he wasn't working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992, which is a bit of a problem.

But if Vinny Dring or Jim Bowling was one electrician, who was the other?  Well, Feldman (p.134) tells us that 'the second electrician' drank at the Saddle.  He doesn’t mention his name but Smith (p.17) tells us that he was referring to Eddie Lyons.  But, as the timesheet demonstrates, Eddie Lyons wasn’t working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 either!

Feldman said that he spoke to Arthur Rigby to ask him about the supposed discovery.  Now Arthur Rigby WAS working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 along with one other electrician.  But Rigby told Feldman that he overheard [my capitals] 'TWO of his colleagues [i.e. Lyons and Bowling] during a tea break while working in the house, mentioning ‘something to do with Battlecrease’'.   It will be noted that he said NOTHING about hearing of a diary being found.  And it was impossible for this to have been on 9 March 1992 because there was only one colleague of his working in Battlecrease that day [neither of whom was Lyons or Bowling]!  He never saw a diary, he only saw a parcel in a car which was being taken to Liverpool University.

So his story DISPROVES that the Diary was found on 9 March 1992.  If something was discovered, it must have been on some other date.

Rigby also says, 'I remember something being thrown out of the window of the room where we were working at Mr Dodd’s house.  It was put in the skip'.   But he didn’t see it. So he never knew what it was.  It could have been anything.  And it can’t have been on 9 March 1992 unless it was found by James Coufopoulos who was the only other person working at Battlecrease that day. 

The trouble is that James Coufopoulos doesn’t seem to know anything about it, for he said in a 2015 interview (Smith p.20) that it was 'very likely' that Arthur Rigby could have found the Diary!  Well if Coufopolous didn’t find it and Rigby only recalls 'something' being thrown out of the window of a room in Battlecrease then we have run out of possible candidates for any kind of discovery on 9 March 1992, as Coufopolous and Rigby were the only two men working there on that day.

The baffling thing is that Eddie Lyons told Smith that HE had found a book under some floorboards at Battlecrease and threw it into a skip (Smith, p.18)  But Lyons wasn’t working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 so it couldn’t possibly be the Maybrick Diary he was talking about.  And if this is the same thing that Rigby remembers being thrown into a skip then it gets even more confusing because there is no timesheet showing Rigby and Lyons both working in Battlecrease on the same day in 1992.

The main if not the only candidate for the discovery under the floorboards is certainly Lyons because Brian Rawes says that he was told by Lyons in July 1992, on a Friday morning, that he (Lyons) had found the Diary under the floorboards (Smith, p. 18).

Then in the Bootle shop in late 1992 we find that the shop manager, Alan Dodgson, said that he was told that 'Eddie' had lifted some floorboards (Smith, p. 19).  This must have been Eddie Lyons.  But to repeat the point, the timesheet shows that Eddie Lyons was not working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 so the entire argument, as it has been presented, that the Diary was discovered on that date and rushed over to Michael Barrett to enable him to contact Doreen Montgomery rather falls apart.

How does Robert Smith deal with all these problems?  By ignoring them basically. What he tells us – and it’s hard to believe he wrote this with a straight face  - is:

'The one certain fact is that the diary was found in Battlecrease House on 9th March 1992…'

To which one can only reply: LOL!

He also says that this is 'as good a provenance as one could possibly hope for'. LOL!

I think he must mean “bad”. 

The final word, appropriately, on this issue, must go to Shirley Harrison.  When discussing the story told by the electricians in her 1998 and 2003 books she concludes:

'Something might indeed have been found at Battlecrease House, but, whatever it was, it was seemingly not our Diary and whatever it was had vanished...'

The timesheet evidence, if anything, only strengthens this verdict, although it is, of course, entirely possible that nothing of any significance was ever found at Battlecrease. 


David Barrat
21 September 2017
Updated 29 September 2017