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  • Lord Orsam

That little red diary

Updated: Jan 14

It seems that we need to talk about that little red diary once again.

The chief diary defender persists in spreading misinformation and disinformation in her lifelong never ending bid to befuddle and confuse. The facts need to be repeated. Here they are.


At some point on or immediately after 9 March 1992, but before 11 March, Mike Barrett must have telephoned Martin Earl, a dealer in rare and second hand books based in Oxford, to ask him to locate a very specific type of Victorian diary on his behalf. We know for a fact what type of diary Mike asked Earl to locate because Earl placed an advertisement in an issue of a trade magazine called Bookdealer which was published on 19 March 1992 (with a deadline for advertisements to be received by first class post on 11 March). This was the advertisement:

Unused or partly used diary dating from 1880-1890, must have at least 20 blank pages

We can see that there were two key parts to the request. It needed to be a diary from the decade commencing 1880 (but no later than 1890) and it needed to contain blank pages.

The minimum number of blank pages Mike wanted in the diary was twenty but we can see that the primary request was for an unused diary, so that Mike would have been very happy with a diary containing only blank pages. There was no limit, in other words, to the number of blank pages Mike wanted in the type of diary he was seeking.

While arguments rage as to why he wanted a diary from the 1880s with blank pages, Mike's own explanation, for what it is worth, provided during an interview by Keith Skinner on 10 April 1999 was that he had 'just gone and sold the idea [of a Jack the Ripper diary] to Doreen Montgomery. Now I've got to produce the goods.' He needed a genuine Victorian diary, in other words, for the purpose of creating a fake Jack the Ripper diary in which it was intended for Liverpool 'murder' victim James Maybrick to be portrayed as the serial killer.

Unfortunately for Mike, none of the trade readers of Bookseller were in possession of a diary which matched his requirements. One, however, did have a diary which nearly fitted the bill. It was an 1891 diary, so just outside of the preferred date range, but nearly all its pages were blank so, in that respect, it seemed to fit with what was being asked for.

Martin Earl must have contacted Mike shortly before 26 March to let him know the (bad) news that there was no diary matching his specifications but also the (good) news that there was one that was very close.

As he was dealing with a telephone business based in Oxford, it was impossible for Mike, in Liverpool, to see and handle the diary prior to sale, and, because Earl was relying on a third party to sell him the diary for him to sell on to Mike, Earl himself hadn't even seen it, so he had to rely on a description provided by the third party seller. Here is that description, which Earl would have conveyed word for word to Mike over the telephone for him to decide whether he wanted to go ahead and purchase it, despite it not being within his preferred date range:

'A small 1891 De La Rue's Indelible Diary and Memorandum Book, 2.25" by 4", dated 1891 throughout – three or four dates to a page. Nearly all of the pages are blank and at the end of the diary are two Memoranda pages.'

As Mike was being expected to purchase this diary sight unseen it was important that the description was accurate. At the same time, if the description was accurate (as it was), Mike had to commit to paying for it if he agreed to purchase it and it was sent to him. Earl couldn't operate a telephone book business if customers could simply read the books sent to them and then return them without good reason.

Under the terms of Earl's business, Mike would have had 30 days to return the diary if the description he had been given wasn't accurate.

When speaking to Earl, Mike had to make a (probably instant) decision over the telephone. Did he want to reject the diary on the basis that it was from 1891? Did he want to reject it on the basis that it was small? He hadn't specified in his original request that he particularly wanted a large diary but he wasn't obligated to accept the offer of this diary if he didn't want a small one. He could also have rejected it for any other reason.

One thing that might have led Mike to accept Earl's offer of this diary was that he was told that, 'Nearly all the pages are blank'. This was precisely what Mike had been asking for. An almost entirely unused Victorian diary.

We can see that, while it is said that there are 'three or four dates to page', and that it was 'dated 1891 throughout', the description doesn't expressly say that those dates were printed throughout the diary. Had Mike been concentrating, he would or should have been able to understand from the description that the dates would have been printed on each page but, in his mind, he might have focused on the statement that nearly all the pages were blank. Alternatively, he might have thought that any dates could be trimmed off.

The description itself isn't perfect. It doesn't, for example, say that the diary is red. But Mike hadn't specified a particular colour that he wanted so this would not have been regarded as material information.

In the end, Mike did accept the diary at a purchase price of £25.00. We cannot know exactly why he did so but it is obvious that he had no other options. At the time he spoke to Martin Earl, it was the small 1891 diary with nearly all blank pages or nothing. It was sent to him in the post on 26 March 1992 and he would probably have received it two days later.

According to Mike, speaking in 1999, when he received the red diary he realized it was 'no good' for his purpose. As he said: 'It is a Victorian diary but I thought to myself “no good.”' He also said it was 'so small, it’s untrue'. This matched his 1995 affidavit in which it is stated, 'I decided it was of no use, it was very small'. As at January 1995, Mike appears not to have seen the diary (which was in Anne's possession for some reason) for almost three years and was working from memory. While the diary was certainly very small, which would have made it difficult to fit in the entire text of the diary, it is my own opinion that Mike had forgotten that the real problem with it was that 1891 dates were printed on every page and, for that reason, it was useless for the purpose of creating a fake diary supposedly written in 1888 and 1889.

Having received it, Mike would not have been able to return the diary. He had committed to purchasing it and could now only return it if it didn't match the description. But it did. There was nothing in the description that was wrong. So he couldn't return it.

He probably hoped that, if he did nothing, Martin Earl would forget about it but, of course, he didn't forget about it. He chased for payment in May when he still hadn't been paid. By this stage, 30 days had passed since receipt and it wouldn't have been possible to return it even if the description didn't match. If Mike continued to withhold payment, Earl could have secured a county court judgment against him and the bailiffs would have come round. So there was no option but to pay, and his wife helped him out by writing a cheque dated 18 May 1992.


So those are the facts. How do they compare with what diary defenders are saying about it?

Well, having recently been told on the Casebook Forum that the little red diary was not what Mike 'ordered' as she had claimed - rather it was what he had received or accepted - she doubled down and said:

'Mike literally did order a tiny diary with 365 dates in it'

This can only be true if by 'order' she means 'purchase' but, if she means 'purchase', why has she used the word 'order'? For the word 'order' implies that he was specifically seeking a tiny diary with 365 dates in it. That's not what happened. The little red diary was literally the only diary that Martin Earl could locate for him which was even close to what he had asked for. We have seen that he had been told that 'Nearly all the pages' of the little red diary were 'blank'. That seemed to match his requirement for a minimum of 20 blank pages.

While he could have rejected the diary on the basis that it was 'small', or even that he had been told that there were three or four dates to a page, had he focused on that, or for any other reason, he would then have had nothing. No diary. Accepting the one diary that was available might have seemed like the sensible thing to do. He might have optimistically thought that if he had the thing in his hands he might be able to find a way use it, with all those blank pages.

But as soon as he saw it he realized it was unsuitable.

Where the real befuddling and disinformation comes is with the chief diary defender's next statement in her post in which she says:

'Full descriptions of any item located were given to the customer before taking an order, to prevent the unnecessary time and expense involved if an item had to be returned to the supplier because it didn't meet with their specific requirements. The year alone - 1891 - would have meant a potential rejection as it was outside of Mike's specified years.'

The evil of this is that she knows perfectly well what was contained in the description provided to Mike before he agreed to purchase it and that it said that nearly all the pages were blank, exactly what Mike had been seeking.

While she is correct that the year of 1891 could have meant a potential rejection, it's hard to see the purpose of her point because Mike obviously didn't reject it on that basis. He certainly could have done, but then he would have had no diary. It must be obvious that Mike took a decision that he could live with an 1891 diary. To the extent that the chief diary defender is saying that Mike could have returned the diary after receiving it because it was from 1891, that is false. He was told it was an 1891 diary over the telephone and agreed to accept it on that basis. He didn't specifically order an 1891 diary, but he agreed to purchase one.

The chief diary defender then says:

'It's just too silly for words to believe that Mike had to wait for the red diary to arrive in the post before he realised just how small it was, and even sillier that he gave its size as the only reason why it could not be used to create what is in the scrapbook.'

It is not 'too silly for words' to believe that Mike had to wait for the red diary before he realized how small it was. I can say that I personally wouldn't have been able to work out from the description alone whether it would have been too small to incorporate a text which can fit onto 20 typewritten pages. The description doesn't say how many blank pages were available in the diary. Did Mike measure out 2.25 inches by 4 inches while he was speaking to Martin Earl on the telephone? Who knows? Would that even have helped? He knew it was a small diary. Perhaps not ideal. Perhaps the handwriting would have to be reduced. Perhaps some of the text, especially the poetry, would need to be omitted. But, to repeat, it was the only option available to him as at 26 March. It was that little red diary or nothing. And at least nearly all the pages of the little red diary were blank, which is what he needed. He might well have made an instant decision during the call with Earl, knowing that he needed to provide something to Doreen in London pretty damn fast or she would lose interest, and agreed to buy the only Victorian diary with blank pages that Martin Earl had been able to locate.

As for Mike later having given the size as the only reason why it could not be used to create the diary, I agree that this could not have been the only reason. But I know myself that when I try and recall why I have or have not done something from years earlier, I can sometimes struggle to recreate all my thought processes. I am sure I am not alone in this. We know that Anne had possession of the little red diary. So he hadn't had a chance to refresh his memory by looking at it. I am not surprised that he couldn't remember all the reasons why the diary was unsuitable. The size is obviously what stuck in his mind.

The next thing we have is this:

'Even the advert, as it was worded, was never going to produce something that a hoaxer could have used, as no page size was specified for this "diary", nor the need for the unused pages to run consecutively, and asking for it to date from 1880-90 would have been asking for trouble.'

This is absolutely false. To say it was 'never' going to produce something that a hoaxer could use is, to use the chief diary defender's own language, too silly for words. Of course it could produce something he could use.

If we analyse the three specific complaints about the advertisement they are baseless.

  1. No page size was specified. So what? You just adjust handwriting size. What the chief diary defender seems to forget is that you don't want to limit your options in what you are asking for. A small diary would be better than no diary at all. The two key things that Mike knew he wanted was a diary from the 1880s and one with a certain number of blank pages (the more the better).

  2. The need for unused pages to run consecutively. This ignores the fact that the primary request in the advertisement was for an 'unused' diary. All the unused pages would then run consecutively. The normal way that diaries are used is that their owners write entries in them from the start and continue chronologically so that, virtually by definition, a 'partly used' diary would have all its blank pages running consecutively after the used pages. To the extent that, oddly, someone had not done this, any unwanted used pages could simply have been removed which is a complete answer to that objection.

  3. The date range. It's hard to know what is meant by 'asking it to date from 1880-89 would have been asking for trouble'. What trouble can she be thinking of? If you are planning to create a fake diary from the 1880s, one would have thought that asking for a diary dating from the 1880s would have been the best policy. Your chances of finding one from the precise year you are seeking of 1888 are unlikely (an 1889 diary, remember, would have been of no used for including murders committed in 1888 unless the pages were blank) so you do need to widen the search to include diaries from around the year you are wanting to re-create a diary from if you are trying to create a fake but authentic looking diary from 1888/9.

The fact of the matter is that the advertisement was perfectly suitable for Mike's requirements if he had been intending to create a fake Maybrick-as-Ripper diary. One also needs to bear in mind that Martin Earl had to pay for his advertisements by the line, so the advert needed to be as short as possible, focussing on the key requirements. With hindsight, and with no limit to the length of the advertisement, I've no doubt that it would now be possible to draft something better - although the chief diary defender has never once provided an example of exactly what it should have said - but Mike didn't have the benefit of hindsight in March 1992 and there was both a financial and practical limit to the requirements that could be included.

The final paragraph by the chief diary defender says:

'Mike had seen the scrapbook, but he didn't know who JtR was meant to be at that early stage, so he didn't know the period covered by the entries. May 1889 gave him the decade but very little else. The wording of the advert reflects that ignorance, which doesn't make sense if the Maybrick diary typescript had been sitting on his word processor, just waiting for him to find a suitable old book to put it in.'

This is just word salad, writing sentences which have very little meaning. She seems to be referencing her theory that Mike first saw the scrapbook when shown to him by Eddie Lyons in the pub but that is a totally different matter and doesn't begin to explain the content of the advertisement. The advert does make sense if Mike already had the Maybrick diary transcript sitting on his word processor, for the reasons I've already explained.

A few posts later, the chief diary defender returned to the topic of the red diary, saying:

'As for the red diary argument, it would have looked more suspicious if Mike had rejected it immediately on hearing it described over the phone, leaving him with no obligation, no red diary and no transaction in his real name. But then the advert might never have come to light unless Mike had been able to recall sufficient details when swearing his January 1995 affidavit. If he had been in the process of deceiving Anne over his plans, it would have been rather foolish to order this diary and keep it in the house without paying for it, resulting in her finding out and having to settle the bill herself in May. This was long after she learned that Doreen was serious about publishing what was in the scrapbook, and that Mike had lied about where it came from.'

I have no idea what she means when she says it would have looked 'more suspicious' if Mike had rejected it immediately on hearing it described over the telephone. What can she possibly be talking about? Mike was always free to reject the red diary before agreeing to purchase it, for any reason at all, if he had wanted to.

She is, however, correct to say that the advert might never have come to light had some details not been revealed in Mike's affidavit. But I don't quite know what point she is making here.

One thing she has never managed to be able to explain (to her immense frustration) is why Mike asked for a Victorian diary with blank pages in the first place. She seems to change her mind about it on almost a daily basis. These days she seems attracted by the doppleganger theory. Hence, when, in discussing her belief that Eddie Lyons falsely claimed to have found an old book at Battlecrease which he threw into a skip as, in her view, an attempt to explain away the recent rumours that he had found Jack the Ripper's diary in the house, she then says:

'To me, this would not be a million miles away from Mike thinking it might be a good idea to try and obtain a second diary from the LVP if he was going to handle and place the one signed by Jack the Ripper, which Eddie had taken down his local boozer on the Monday. He didn't need to have a specific purpose in mind for this second book, but it might come in handy if there was any trouble over the first, before he could get his diary ducks in a row.'

What amazes me about this theory is that, once again, the chief diary defender seems to have forgotten Mike's requirement for a minimum of twenty blank pages. Her theory that Mike thought it might come in handy to splash out twenty-five quid, which he didn't even have, for a random Victorian diary, without any specific purpose in mind, doesn't even begin to explain the requirement for blank pages. It can't ever explain it! For her to say that he didn't have a specific purpose in mind is bizarre when we know for a fact that he specifically wanted a minimum of twenty blank pages, demonstrating beyond any doubt that he did have some specific plan in mind for the Victorian diary he was asking Martin Earl to locate for him.

For the same reason, the explanation provided to Keith Skinner by Anne Barrett in 1995 for Mike's purchase of the little red diary, namely that Mike wanted to see what a real Victorian diary looked like, cannot be true. We now know from the Bookdealer advertisement, which was only discovered in 2004, that Mike had specifically been seeking a diary containing blank pages which he would have had no need for if all he had wanted to do was see what a Victorian diary looked like.

Indeed, in saying that he would be happy to receive an unused diary, Mike obviously had no interest in seeing what a used Victorian diary looked like, and clearly wasn't interested in the handwriting or the contents of a real Victorian individual's diary.

After almost twenty years since the wording of advertisement was first known, and after all the theories and discussions on the topic, it remains crystal clear that the only possible reason for Mike seeking a genuine Victorian diary with a certain minimum number of blank pages is that he wanted to write something on those blank pages. The only thing he could have wanted to have written as at 9 March 1992 which makes any sense is the very diary of Jack the Ripper that he had just told Doreen Montgomery over the telephone that he owned and which, a little over a month later, he was to magically produce to Doreen Montgomery in London.


There was a very revealing post recently by the chief diary defender in which she wrote:

'I really believe in everything I write about the diary not originating with the Barretts of Goldie Street.

Apart from that, I'm not too bothered about where it did originate or with whom. For me, it's not really about ripperology, but I do like to explore why people are so heavily invested in believing anything Mike Barrett claimed about the diary.;

We can see that the diary defender thinks that people are 'heavily invested' in believing what Mike Barrett claimed about the diary. But she is deluding herself. No one is heavily invested in believing anything Mike said.

The whole issue is very simple. Mike is known (for a fact) to have been secretly seeking a genuine Victorian diary with blank pages in March 1992 at a time before any living or dead person outside of the Barrett family has ever claimed to have seen the Jack the Ripper diary. The only reason for seeking a diary with blank pages is to write on those blank pages. The only thing that seems to have been likely for him to have wanted to write on those blank pages, or for an accomplice to write, is the diary of Jack the Ripper.

It's a logical, compelling, rational, evidence-based argument. It has nothing to do with anyone being invested in anything. So there is really nothing for the chief diary to 'explore' other than Mike's reason for wanting those blank pages, something she has notably failed to explain in almost twenty years.

There are other things which support the theory that Mike was responsible for the diary, such as the language used in the diary and the handwriting. It is known for a fact that it must be a late twentieth century creation due to the inclusion of the expressions 'one off instance' and 'bumbling buffoon' which severely reduces the number of possible candidates who could have forged it in that period. The chief diary defender herself admits that the diary must be a fake. The only thing that needs exploring is why she is so resistant to the idea that the Barretts were responsible for creating it, to the extent that, against the evidence, she stubbornly refuses to even admit to the possibility.

As to that, we can see her perverse stand that the only thing she is bothered about regarding the origin of the diary is a negative argument, i.e. that it did not come from the Barretts?

I do find that fascinating. Why is she so opposed to this idea? Why is she so heavily invested in the notion that they could not have done it? After all, she barely knew the Barretts. Someone who knew them much better than she did, Keith Skinner, was obviously completely fooled by Anne. He was also never told by Mike that he had once been a professional freelance journalist. There doesn't seem to be any good reason why Mike and Anne could not jointly have created that diary. So why does she think she is in a position to be able to rule out the Barretts as its creators? It's a mystery.

The mystery is compounded by the fact that many years ago I directly asked her this question on the forum and she was unable to give me any kind of sensible answer, merely saying that Mike didn't have the capacity (whatever that means) without even addressing my actual question as to why the Barretts couldn't have done it jointly. She had her big opportunity to convince me and she blew it. Here is the proof of what she said to me when I asked her, 'Couldn't he have forged it with his wife as he said he did?', back in October 2016:

It all seems for her to be about a gut instinct, or prejudice. She doesn't seem to realize that all her thoughts on the issue are subject to confirmation bias, or rather, in her case, negative confirmation bias. She also doesn't seem to have the self-awareness to realize that she is the one so heavily invested in the diary story, not those who objectively, rationally and calmly, without any prejudice, think that the evidence strongly points to a Barrett forgery.

Against the idea that the Barretts created the diary, all we have are fragments of a theory about the diary having been found under the floorboards of Battlecrease. While she can reasonably point to a coincidence of electricians working in Battlecrease on the very day Mike telephoned Doreen Montgomery to mention a Jack the Ripper diary, albeit that there is nothing remarkable about electricians re-wiring an old house for which the floorboards had already been lifted in the 1970s without anything having been found under them, nothing about the theory of a discovery under the nailed down floorboards of Battlecrease, at least as it has been explained so far, makes any sense, and, as virtually all the evidence relating to it is being withheld and suppressed, the Barrett forgery theory is really the only game in town.

It's a real psychological mystery that the chief diary defender is unable to even consider the possibility that Mike's requirement for a Victorian diary with blank pages was because he wanted to forge a Victorian diary. It isn't rational for her to be so opposed to the notion and she can't seem to explain it.

LORD ORSAM 23 October 2023

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Oct 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

To be fair, if I was going to forge the diary I probably would have bought the small red diary too.

I would be worried that when the diary hits the press with suspicions of forgery the bookfinders may call to mind someone looking for a blank or partially blank Victorian diary and that a person had rejected the little red one as not being suitable.

I would feel better if I purchased it as absolutely suitable for my needs.

Lord Orsam
Oct 24, 2023
Replying to

I can't see how it would make any difference. If the private transaction with Martin Earl was exposed, the press would have known Mike had been seeking a Victorian diary with blank pages. Him accepting or rejecting the 1891 diary would have made no difference to that. If we're going to play the game of saying what we would do in Mike's position to explain the rejection of the 1891 diary, we would surely just say that we wanted to see what a diary from the 1880s looked like and that 1891 was too late. The obvious explanation for Mike's acceptance of the 1891 diary was that he was out of options and his mind optimistically zeroe'd in o…

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