Updated: 5 days ago
The chief diary defender said recently that she has yet to see a convincing motive put forward for Mike Barrett to have confessed in June 1994 to having forged the diary. But in part 2 of 'Man in a Pub' I already provided a convincing reason: Mike was under enormous stress to maintain the false story that the diary had come from Tony Devereux and, crucially, he knew that one of his biggest lies was about to be exposed by Nick Warren.
Even in the chief diary defender's own account of events, the diary had, by June 1994, 'been described as a shabby modern hoax, leading to a visit from Scotland Yard'. This is certainly relevant context showing the pressure Mike was under but those things had happened in 1993, more than six months before Mike's confession. Why did he choose to confess in June 1994?
The reason, I suggest, is that Nick Warren had, in May 1994, discovered Mike's big secret that he had been a professional freelance journalist and had contributed features to a national magazine. This was about to be exposed and Mike knew very well in that month that it was about to be exposed because Warren had sent him a draft of the article which he was shortly to publish on this topic in Ripperana. This troubled Mike so much that in response (on 13 May 1994) he angrily threatened to sue Warren for libel. But of course he was never going to commence legal proceedings and he would have known that his bluster wasn't going to protect him. Soon, he would have believed, he would be facing questions from everyone – Doreen, Shirley, Robert, Paul, Keith, Martin and others - as to why he had totally hidden from them his years of earning money as a journalist.
For in Shirley's book, published in October 1993, we find it stated in the publisher's introduction by Robert Smith that Mike was 'an ordinary working man from Liverpool'. Fleshing this out in the main text, Shirley Harrison explained on page 4 of the book that, after sailing the world as a merchant seaman and working on the oil rigs, Mike subsequently 'worked as a chef and a scrap metal dealer' but had in recent years been forced by illness to stop working. There was not a hint that Mike had ever written a single word in his life let alone been a professional paid freelance journalist for national magazines. The reason for this is that neither Mike nor his wife had mentioned anything about it to Shirley Harrison, or anyone else for that matter.
By this time, however, Maurice Chittenden of the Sunday Times had discovered that Mike had once submitted puzzles to the children's magazine 'Look-In'. Hence, in his19 September 1993 exposé, he described Mike as a 'one time scrap metal dealer and would-be freelance journalist'. But Mike's dirty secret had not yet been discovered because Chittenden also stated that:
'Barrett's career as a journalist had not taken off, apart from devising word puzzles for Look-In, a children's magazine.'
How Chittenden had managed to discover that bit of information about Mike is somewhat of a mystery, and we don't get any help from 'Inside Story' about this, but it seems clear that while admitting to having devised word puzzles, Mike hid from Chittenden the fact that he had written articles for Celebrity and Chat.
This information was far too late to have been included in Shirley Harrison's book which would already have been in final form but it's extraordinary that the labelling of Mike in a national newspaper as a 'would-be freelance journalist' seems not to have set a single alarm bell ringing for any of diary team who were then strongly pushing the authenticity of the diary. So completely was it ignored that, like I say, it didn't even merit a mention in the 2001 book 'Inside Story', whose authors, even at that late stage, seem to have been in denial of Mike's writing ability, amazingly omitting any mention of it from Mike's short biography on page 4 ('Having left school at the age of fifteen, he had worked largely in catering, on ships and in restaurants, and also as a barman...until ill health forced him to retire, he had worked in the scrap metal business') and, other than a passing reference by one of Tony Devereux's daughters to Mike as a journalist on page 88, they don't get around to informing their readers that Mike had once contributed articles for Celebrity magazine until page 150, by which time they have soundly confused those readers with a garbled and inaccurate account of the timeline of events.
So we get to June 1994 and Mike knows from Nick Warren's draft article that he'd been sent in May that he was soon going to be exposed as someone whose journalistic career had, briefly, taken off and that he had done more than devise word puzzles for Look-In. Warren's article was published in July. By that time, of course, Mike had publicly confessed via a local newspaper (after having confessed privately to Shirley Harrison) that he had forged the diary and, in the process, ensured that he wasn't put in the position of having to explain why he'd not told Doreen, Shirley et al the truth about his life.
In respect of the timing, we may note that although the story goes that Mike first confessed to Shirley on 22 June 1994 before confessing to Harold Brough of the Liverpool Daily Post a few days later, it's usually forgotten that Paul Feldman says in his book that when he heard the news of Barrett's confession on 25 June, he wasn't surprised because 'Mike had been threatening to make this statement for a month or two'. While this is rather vague, if Mike had been threatening the make the statement for a little over a month, that would take us back to the first half of May when he received Warren's article. At the very least, it tells us that Mike had been building up to the confession for a few weeks before he actually did confess, demonstrating that the motive for his confession is to be found in events which occurred earlier than 22 June. I suggest that Mike had been hinting to Feldman that he was going to confess since he read Warren's draft article exposing his journalism. I believe this was the likely trigger which, on top of all the stress he had been under due to having to constantly tell so many huge lies, finally led him to crack.
To me, that is a very good, and convincing, motive for Mike's confession, even if the chief diary defender, who just so happens to have been one of the authors of 'Inside Story', can't see it.
That same chief diary defender tells us that: 'We know all the reasons Mike could have had for making false claims about the diary'.
Here's what she says his motive for a false confession was:
'revenge against his estranged wife and the hated Paul Feldman for starters. Mike's self-esteem by the beginning of 1994 was at rock bottom, with a diary that had been described as a shabby modern hoax, leading to a visit from Scotland Yard, followed by his wife and daughter walking out on him...'
On examination, this all falls apart.
Revenge on his wife? Well, sure, Anne had left him at the start of the year but, on 13 May 1994, she had written him a long nine-page handwritten letter updating him as to how Caroline was doing. Her letter concluded by saying:
'Will see you next week perhaps if the weather is nice you could meet me in the park one day and we could go for lunch somewhere, or I will come to the house...Have a nice weekend and keep up the good work.'
Does that sound like the kind of letter which would have provoked Mike to seek revenge? I don't think so. According to 'Inside Story' there was an argument between Mike and Anne on 17 May 1994, but that, we are told, related to a complaint by Anne about people invading her privacy, something for which Mike could hardly have been responsible, so that would surely have blown over quickly (and we have to rely on Anne for the truth of this incident in any case). At this time, Mike might well have thought that reconciliation with his wife was still very much a possibility although he might not have cared too much because by June 1994 he was in a relationship with Jenny, so one can't help feeling that revenge on Anne was the last thing on his mind.
It's funny, though, because, in 2001, a theory of the authors of 'Inside Story', of which the chief diary defender was one, was that it was the discovery by Anne on 17 June 1994 of Mike's relationship with Jenny which caused an issue between the Barretts leading Mike to confess to forging the diary. Thus, while vague on the specifics of how they think that Anne learning about Mike's affair could have caused Mike to confess, they say (p.91), 'Was it possible that Doreen Montgomery's well-meant communication [informing her about Jenny] triggered a disastrous chain of events for the diary?' Twenty-two years later this is completely forgotten by one of those authors and, as we've seen, was not mentioned at all by her in her recent post as a reason for Mike's confession.
As far as we know, relations between Anne and Mike continued to be good in June 1994. But, on the very day Mike's confession was published in the Daily Post on 25 June 1994, even though he didn't mention Anne at all or give any details about how the diary was forged, Anne commenced divorce proceedings against her husband! She would later write to him saying:
'As you know I started the divorce proceedings the day the Daily Post printed the story...I am afraid you left me with no choice after speaking to the newspapers.'
This bizarre claim that she had been left with no choice but to divorce Mike after he confessed to forging the diary (why?) matches her bizarre behaviour in telling a journalist that Mike's confession was a personal attack on her and that she would fight like a tiger to defender herself (why?).
None of this made any sense unless she was implicated by Mike's confession in forging the diary but, for our current purposes, the point is that relations between Mike and Anne don't appear to have turned really sour until after he confessed to forging the diary when she filed for divorce. So revenge, I suggest, would not have been on his mind in June 1994.
Then we have the claim, made as if it is self-explanatory, that Mike 'hated Paul Feldman' in June 1994. But why? Why did he hate him at this time? He might have done so much later when he believed that Feldman was having a relationship with Anne but I've seen no evidence that he hated him as early as June 1994. Far from it, Feldman records in his book that long after Anne had left her husband, in March 1994, Mike was regularly calling him to discuss the diary. There is no indication by Feldman that there was any issue between him and Mike before 25 June nor does he suggest that Mike confessed in order to take revenge on him in any way.
Once again we are in a situation where a diary defender makes a big claim without providing any supporting evidence.
As I've already mentioned, the additional points she made about Mike's self-esteem being at rock bottom due to the diary having been labelled a modern hoax with a visit from Scotland Yard is as much a reason, and arguably more so, for Mike to have confessed due to the pressure he would have been under in maintaining what everyone agrees to have been a lie that he obtained the diary from Tony Devereux. And, like I've already said, these things had occurred in late 1993 so can hardly explain his sudden confession in June 1994.
In other words, there is no convincing reason why Mike would have confessed in June 1994 to having forged the diary if it wasn't true. It doesn't make sense unless the pressure of telling the Tony Devereux lie was too great. To repeat, in June 1994 the walls were closing in. Nick Warren's article was shortly to be published. Mike needed to take the initiative. It explains everything that happened.
One might well ask what the reaction of the diary researchers was when they learnt that Mike had written articles for national magazines. Surely they immediately realised that they had been duped, no? That's a good question because we simply don't know, and 'Inside Story' wasn't interested in that aspect of the story at all.
To a large extent, this startling new information must have got lost in the noise of Mike's confession which was massive news. He had rather stolen Nick Warren's thunder by confessing to the forgery so that when his Ripperana article was published in July 1994 I would imagine that it made much less impact than would otherwise have been the case. Mike at the end of June was locked away in an alcohol treatment unit in Fazakerley Hospital suffering from alcoholism and, having confessed to the forgery, didn't need to answer any questions about his writing career. It wasn't until November 1994 that Shirley managed to get hold of three articles written by Mike Barrett for Celebrity which confirmed that he was indeed a writer, at which time Mike was still insisting that he was the forger, but her reaction to this discovery is not recorded.
Then Mike seems to have been forgiven for his omission and the diary team later seems to have taken comfort in the fact that Anne revealed that she had helped Mike with his articles, even though this is more incriminating against the Barretts than they ever seem to acknowledge.
In saying that Mike confessed to forging the diary because he was afraid of exposure, this is something you won't read in any of the secondary literature about the diary. 'Inside Story' didn't even seem to see the connection between Nick Warren's threatened exposé and Mike's confession. That's because they have no interest in Mike's lies about his career and the reason for his purchase of a word processor. These should have been the reddest of red flags for any diary researcher or writer.
We'll never know if any of the diary team would have been shocked to discover that Mike had been a freelance journalist, assisted by his wife, before he confessed to the forgery but they certainly don't seem to have been affected by it afterwards. There is not a single record of anyone's reaction in the diary team to learning that news or to finding out that Mike purchased a word processor to help him write articles. Even today, they are in total denial about it, pretending either that Mike didn't really write those articles (not helpful to them if Anne did so), or that they weren't very good, or were for kids magazines or some other head-in-the-sand excuse for why it's not important. Yet, it's crucial.
It's not simply that fact that Mike, with Anne's help, was a professional freelance journalist. It's the fact that both Barretts attempted to cover it up between April 1992 and June 1994, never once mentioning it to the diary team, while flat out lying about why Mike acquired a word processor. Yet, like with Mike's giveway secret hunt for a genuine diary with blank pages, some people cannot seem to be able to join the dots, even though those dots are in a straight line pointing towards only one conclusion.
LORD ORSAM 15 October 2023