That Man in a Pub
Updated: Oct 11
My article 'A Man in a Pub' from January 2020 has now been uploaded to the 'Historic Articles' section. I've split it into two parts because I always felt it was a bit too long to digest in one sitting.
If you haven't read this before, and have any interest in the Maybrick diary, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It was, if I may say so myself, and at the risk of sounding like Tom Mitchell in praising myself, a masterly forensic analysis of the recording of an interview of Mike Barrett at The City Darts Pub in Whitechapel on 10 April 1999.
From a rambling alcoholic, I didn't expect much from the recording but I was surprised at how much information I was able to extract from it which strongly supported the idea that Mike had been involved in forging the Maybrick diary in 1992.
I'm sure my article surprised Keith Skinner who had released the recording a few months earlier, in November 2019. I have no doubt that he thought it would demonstrate to everyone that Mike had played no role in the forgery and must have been quite shocked to discover that my analysis showed the complete opposite. Indeed, he was evidently so shocked by my article that he has subsequently refused to release any more recordings in case I find things in them that also support the idea of a Barrett forgery.
Keith had been obsessed by two things from that evening. The first was that, in his mind, Mike had alleged that his wife, Anne, was a psychopath. This came from a total misunderstanding of what his guest had told him that evening relating to Anne's handwriting, a misunderstanding so fundamental that I can hardly believe that someone as intelligent as Keith Skinner couldn't grasp what Mike was saying. The second was that Mike didn't produce the 1992 auction ticket for the scrapbook which he had supposedly promised to reveal that evening, albeit that he never at any time during the recording said that he would be doing so.
Even if he reneged on this promise, Mike is not the only person to fail to keep his promises. In 2018, Keith Skinner publicly promised to produce the Barretts' 1992 diary transcript for inspection but then decided for no good reason to renege and hasn't produced it to this day. He also promised to answer the question as to why Mike had been secretly attempting to acquire a genuine Victorian diary with blank pages but this is another promise he still hasn't kept. In addition, we were promised that the recording of the interviews of Mike Barrett by Alan Gray in 1994 would be made available on Casebook but this is one more unkept promise. So it is a bit rich for Keith Skinner, or any diary defender, to criticise Mike for not keeping a single promise (assuming that he had make such a promise beforehand) when Keith is an even worse offender.
What was so astonishing from the evening was that Mike told the story of the forgery exactly as it was told in his 1995 affidavit, but this time with the correct chronology. This strongly suggests to me that the erroneous chronology in the affidavit was down to Alan Gray who would have drafted it, not Mike.
During the evening Mike was consistent with the story throughout that Anne wrote the diary from a pre-prepared text in her handwriting. He never got caught out and one thing that really struck me was when he was in a flow talking about a piece of photograph he had found in the diary and said, 'When I bought it from Outhwaite & Litherland it was already there, I just missed it'. This seemed to emerge naturally, as if he was really remembering that he bought the photograph album from Outhwaite & Litherland.
In my article, I was the first to reveal something that had been missed by everyone who had attended the meeting, and had thus been unknown for over 20 years, namely that Mike had written articles for Chat magazine. This had never been mentioned anywhere before. Keith Skinner had, apparently, ignored it, perhaps because he wasn't interested in anything which demonstrated that Mike could produce written material for publication. The Chat articles were quite significant because they started in May 1986, the very month after Mike had purchased an Amstrad word processor from Dixons, clearly demonstrating a link between that word processor and Mike's journalism career. Yet. the true reason for the purchase of the word processor had been kept hidden by the Barretts (both of them!) from Doreen Montgomery, Shirley Harrison, Robert Smith, Paul Feldman and Keith Skinner et al during the early years of the diary investigation.
I found it rather amusing when, more than two years after publication of my article, in November 2022, Tom Mitchell carried out his own analysis of the recording of the April 1999 interview and created his own transcript. Ignoring all the points I had made showing that the recording supports the idea that Mike was involved in the diary's forgery, and also ignoring all the mistakes made by Keith Skinner during the evening, but desperate to find something in that recording consistent with Mike not telling the truth, Mitchell made an embarrassing post in which he claimed that Mike had said during the interview that there was an entire photograph remaining in the diary. I don't think it will surprise anyone to know that Mitchell had completely misunderstood what Mike was saying but, even if he had been right (which he wasn't), it would have done no more than show that Mike was a bit stupid. It had nothing to do with the authenticity of the diary.
As I explained in one of my 'Lord Orsam Says...' articles, what Mike had been saying to Keith Skinner, but which Tom Mitchell had failed to understand, was that, when he ripped out the pages with photographs from the diary in March 1992 in order to remove all trace of the scrapbook having been a photograph album, he accidentally left an unseen fragment of a photograph in a fold of the paper, a fragment which was found by Dr David Baxendale but lost by Dr Nicholas Eastaugh (another bit of startling new information which I extracted from the recording). It was a very simple thing Mike was saying, and it's difficult to know how Mitchell misunderstood it, but misunderstand it he did, causing him to post on 25 November 2022:
'Just like the receipt for the scrapbook, he didn't have the photograph he had just thanked Keith Skinner for identifying as his 'ace'. It was still in the diary, you see. You what??? I hear you all say - an entire photograph still in the diary??? Shurely shum mishtake???
No-one who knows what an utter moron Mike Barrett was will be in the least bit surprised to find that the 'photograph' to which he appeared to be referring was actually no more than the tiny edge of a photograph wedged in the folds of the scrapbook.
Master hoaxer, my arse.'
Although I pointed out Mitchell's mistake on my website in April 2023, and demonstrated that Mike was always fully aware that it was only a tidy edge of a photograph in the scrapbook, not an entire photograph, as Mitchell claimed, he never did post a correction. More importantly, he has never discussed my 'Man in a Pub' article or got to grips with the points I made in that article about the incredible consistency of Mike's story and how impossible it is that Mike could have been lying.
In fact, not a single diary defender has ever responded to the crucial points I made in the 'Man in a Pub' article back in 2020. Those points haven't even been acknowledged. All we got was that ham-fisted attempt by Tom Mitchell to try and paint Mike as an 'utter moron' incapable of playing any role in forging the diary, something which rebounded badly on him. And, as we can see, he is still fixated by Mike's 1994 claim that he was a master hoaxer, even though Mike was then attempting to protect his wife by not naming her as the person who, he would later claim, was the actual hoaxer holding the pen. It's typical of diary defenders to fight battles which were over long ago, just like Caroline Morris is still obsessed with Mike's habit of muddling up his capital and lower case letters, something which is completely irrelevant in circumstances where he abandoned his claim that he personally forged the writing in the diary.
As mentioned above, even though I extracted new information from the recording, Keith Skinner has decided not to release any more recordings, specifically citing my 2020 article as a reason for this. Here is the full text of a statement he recently posted via Jonathan Menges on Casebook on 6 October 2023:
'Releasing the Alan Gray tapes for public consumption would not resolve anything apart from perhaps giving you a more peaceful life (meaning me-JM) which in itself, of course, is a very good reason for sharing them! If there was anything on them which conclusively proved Mike and Anne Barrett created the diary then I would have long gone and wouldn't be here now. If anything they demonstrate that Mike and Anne did not fake the diary. Alan Gray knew that from spending many hours with Mike and I strongly suspect Melvin Harris reached the same conclusion as he was working closely with Alan Gray to expose the diary as a modern hoax, ruin Paul Feldman (they detested each other) and as Alan says on the tape, "bring down those terrible people in London" or words to that effect. Alan genuinely felt that Mike was being taken a[d]vantage of by a network of corrupt, despicable individuals who knew the diary was a fake but were continuing to extract financial gain from it, cutting out Mike in the process and attempting to silence him by intimidation or physical violence. The same theme of hidden agendas and pimping the diary is occasionally expressed on the Message Boards. Throughout the tapes you hear Alan cautioning Mike not to keep changing his story from day to day and growing more and more frustrated as Mike would not give him one piece of forensic evidence which would indisputably prove he and Anne wrote the diary. (The auction ticket would have done it but that doesn't get mentioned.) Alan becomes increasingly exasperated and reminds Mike of how much he owes him for the amount of time he has invested looking after Mike and running him around in his car. At one point, if I remember correctly, he tells Mike the cheque he (Mike) gave him had bounced. These were not sit down interviews with Mike but were sessions recorded by Alan using, I suspect, a concealed recorder which is what gives them their freshness and vitality. Alan also uses them to summarise where he is with his investigation. We do cover the Barrett/Gray relationship in Inside Story. Where Alan endears himself to me is that he dates everything! Thus it can be put in historical perspective with what else is going on which I believe is essential in order to extrapolate their real value. They are difficult to listen to in terms of clarity and many hours have been spent making notes from their content and transcribing them. When my April 1999 Cloak & Dagger interview with Mike was released - when he came to London to prove the diary was a modern hoax by showing the auction ticket - I was accused of being the reason Mike did not produce it. Apparently it was because I had mentioned to Mike that Don Rumbelow and Stewart Evans were in the audience and both were police officers. This apparently led Mike to think he was going to be arrested as some commentators have claimed. An excuse will always be found to explain Mike's irrational behaviour and lies and I strongly suspect it would be the same with the Alan Gray tapes.'
There is a lot wrong with this statement but we can see that Keith was irritated by the suggestion he evidently believes I made in my 'Man in a Pub' article that he was the reason Mike didn't produce the auction ticket that evening, to the extent that basically gives it as the reason for now suppressing the Gray/Barrett recordings. As we can see, he said:
'When my April 1999 Cloak & Dagger interview with Mike was released...I was accused of being the reason Mike did not produce it'.
This is a clear reference to my 2020 'Man in a Pub' article even though that's not what I said in that article. I didn't accuse Keith of being the reason Mike didn't produce the ticket. So Keith is giving a false reason for his failure to release the recordings.
We can see that Keith continued:
'Apparently it was because I had mentioned to Mike that Don Rumbelow and Stewart Evans were in the audience and both were police officers. This apparently led Mike to think he was going to be arrested as some commentators have claimed'.
Leaving aside that I never mentioned Don Rumbelow in this context, and that my point about Stewart Evans was not that he was in the audience but that Keith had foolishly informed Mike that he had given documents to an former police officer (Evans) to examine, it's bizarre that Keith frames the idea that Mike thought he was going to be arrested as something that 'some commentators have claimed'. No, it's not what some commentators have claimed, it's what Mike himself claimed immediately upon being told about Stewart Evans' involvement. It was the reason that Mike gave for not producing the auction ticket. It's not, in other words, a speculative idea a that 'some commentators' have dreamed up. It's simply repeating what Mike said, which is something that wasn't mentioned in the Ripperologist review of the evening nor in Keith Skinner's own book, Inside Story. Mike's own explanation for not producing the auction ticket had simply been ignored for over 20 years until I discovered it on listening to the recording.
Now, I stated clearly in my article that I don't personally think that Mike had the auction ticket in April 1999 but, equally, I don't actually know for sure if he did nor did not. My point was that we had never been told that Mike had given a reason for not producing the ticket and that this reason wasn't entirely implausible. Whether Mike was lying about it or not, it is completely wrong that we were never once told the reason he gave for not producing the ticket.
Keith has a very thin skin and obviously didn't appreciate that (in his mind) he was being blamed for Mike's failure. That, to repeat, wasn't what was being said by me though. I said it was a daft thing for him to have mentioned (to a con man and convicted mugger) police or ex-police involvement, and it certainly was. But that's obvious from the recording. Mike immediately sounded alarmed and worried that he was going to be arrested that evening. He literally said it was the reason why he wasn't producing the auction ticket.
The earlier part of Keith's statement is also very revealing and, once again, shows his ignorance of the arguments against him. He seems to think that the reason he is being called on to release the tapes of the Gray/Barrett conversations is that certain people think that there might be something on them which 'conclusively prove[d] Mike and Anne created the diary'. That is not for one second what I would expect to find on those recordings or why I keep asking for them to be released. I can't even conceive of how those recordings could possibly prove that Mike and/or Anne wrote the diary, and it's certainly not what I hope or expect to find on them.
The reason I have been asking for the recordings to be released, as clearly explained in my 'Man in a Pub' article (part 2), is to attempt to resolve a very narrow point about whether we can determine if Alan Gray misunderstood what he was being told by Mike which led him to include inaccurate facts in Mike's affidavit which he drafted. Diary defenders, of course, are not interested in the slightest about this because they want everyone to believe that Mike must have been responsible for every word in his 1995 affidavit, in particular the statement that the diary was created in 1990. But did he actually ever say that to Alan Gray? Or can we work out from the recordings that Gray misunderstood what he was being told? That is the key reason why the recordings might be of use. Not for any kind of positive point about who forged the diary but simply to establish if we can finally nail down why there are certain errors in the 1995 affidavit.
We can see that Keith thinks that 'if anything' the recordings show 'that Mike and Anne did not fake the diary' although he doesn't tell us how. If he's so confident of this, why hasn't he simply released the recordings? Well we know the answer. He's worried that some people (i.e.) me might find something in them that he doesn't like and write about, perhaps criticising him in the process. It's censorship in its purest form.
We can see in Keith's statement that he's reduced to speculating about what the late Melvin Harris thought about whether Mike faked the diary - although what Harris' views have to do with the price of fish I have no idea - and seems to inaccurately mischaracterise Alan Gray's own views on the matter, when even Inside Story tell us that Gray's final word was that the diary was created by the trio of Mike, Anne and Tony Devereux.
The short point is that there is no sensible or coherent reason given by Keith Skinner for failing to allow Jonathan Menges to publish the recordings. Don't forget that Keith told Menges some years ago that he would hand over the tapes to him for release. The only issue was getting them cleaned up to make them audible. Then it didn't happen and we were suddenly told that Keith wanted to use them himself for a forthcoming documentary. Now that the documentary seems to have been abandoned for reasons unknown, the excuse has become that someone might hypothetically use those recordings to make what Keith thinks is a bad argument in favour of a Barrett forgery. Hey, perhaps someone might also once again make Keith Skinner look a fool, which would of course be a terrible thing.
That is not a proper way of proceeding. To me, it just looks like Keith has something to hide, especially as selected extracts and summaries of the recordings were included in his book, 'Inside Story'. Were they accurate? The only way this can ever be checked is by allowing us to listen to the full tapes.
Even worse though is that the tapes have been provided to the diary defender's 'useful idiot', the Tucker Carlson of the diary world, Tom Mitchell, a man famous for his misunderstandings, for him to use for his selective propaganda purposes. On the very day, that Menges posted Keith Skinner's statement about his refusal to release the recordings with its ludicrously weak (and falsely premised) excuse, Mitchell of course stepped forward to tell us that he has listened to the secret tapes and wants us to take his word for it that, 'The tapes make it clear' that the idea that Mike created the diary is 'a hopeless fantasy of a hopeless liar'.
The problem is that Tom Mitchell will hear only what he wants to hear. Just like with the recording of the April 1999 interview in which he appears to have missed every single thing Mike said which supports the case for him being involved in the forgery and concentrated solely on what he said about a photograph which he completely misunderstood. Indeed, I have no doubt that if Tom Mitchell had been allowed to listen to the recording of the April 1999 interview before its release he would have told us that all it shows is that a stupid, drunken, rambling Mike Barrett evaded questions about how he created the diary while a superbly professional Keith Skinner tried to keep the interview on track, just as we were told by others had happened. He did the same thing with Martin Howells' September 1993 interview of Mike when a transcript of it was posted on Casebook about five or six years ago. His immediate response was to claim that it showed that Mike couldn't have forged the diary but, when pressed as to exactly how it showed this, he couldn't provide a sensible explanation, merely saying that it showed Mike was too stupid.
Mitchell doesn't have the cognitive ability to interpret evidence in this case properly because he will ignore anything and everything which doesn't fit into his obsessive preconceived idea that the diary was written by James Maybrick. He also has an unshakeable belief that for someone to have forged the diary they must have been a literary genius with incredible knowledge of the Ripper and Maybrick cases which is why he seems to think that any evidence that Mike was stupid, or an 'utter moron', is convincing evidence that he couldn't have been involved in the forgery. He is, in other words, the very worst person to be allowed to analyse the Gray/Barrett recordings, and his post about Keith Skinner's statement shows that he also doesn't understand the simple reason why they might be of interest, which is related solely to the drafting of Mike's 1995 affidavit, i.e. to allow us to understand what story Mike actually told Alan Gray in late 1994 about the forgery and how Alan Gray interpreted that story when he drafted Mike's 1995 affidavit.
What we can also see from Mitchell's post is the belief that the diary defenders hold about my 'Man in a Pub' article which is that I was twisting the evidence to fit in with the theory that Mike forged the diary. Look how Mitchell repeatedly used that word 'twist' in his post. Hence:
'I can imagine a day when the tapes are published and transcripts provided (or at very least the latter), but that day is evidently not today, which is ironically very good indeed for those who cling to every obscure nuance and twist it thoroughly until it bleeds a version of the truth which looks nothing like the truth for there is nothing in those tapes which they will be able to twist. Nothing whatsoever. They will hear the melodramatic interplay of the dynamic duo torturing each other with unfilled lust - Gray for his major pay day and Barrett for his desperation to remain relevant to at least one person in this world.'
That allegation of twisting is, to my mind, supposed to be a clear reference to my 'Man in a Pub' article to which every diary defender has been too scared to respond in any way but they comfort themselves by thinking that I must have somehow used my evil skills to twist things in a favourable way to my theory. That's not the case. What I did was to clinically and impartially analyse the recording. In doing so, I listened to what Mike was actually saying, and, with the use of extensive quotations from a transcript of the recording of the interview that I prepared, supporting everything I was saying in the article, corrected certain extraordinary misunderstandings of Keith Skinner and demonstrated that what Mike was saying cannot conceivably have been a fabricated story due to its consistency and corroboration with the known evidence in the case.
When it comes to the Gray/Barrett recordings, all I want to do is work out how Gray got certain things into his head. Mitchell wrote in his post:
'I don't think I owe the Good Lord Orsam nor his nitpicking acolyte any good advice that might ever serve them well, but I'll offer them this: the pursuit of the Grey-Barrett tapes can only end in tears for therein lies lies, disinformation, and an awful lot of Johnny Walkers.'
I'm sure he's wrong. The problem here is that if Mike said anything on the tape about him forging the diary, for Mitchell it is automatically 'lies lies, disinformation'. What he doesn't tell us is if the tapes reveal why Gray believed that the diary was created in 1990 as opposed to 1992, which is the year that Mike himself told us it was created when he told the story in his own words in April 1999. That is the key point at issue here. Yet, Mitchell says not one word about this. Instead, just l like Keith Skinner, he is still obsessed by the late Melvin Harris, someone he unaccountably now keeps referring to as a 'viper', as he tells us in his post about the recordings that:
'Eventually, Gray wised-up to Barrett's long-game of spinning a yarn for drunken company and he gave up. The viper Harris didn't even start - the pathetic affidavit of January 5, 1995, bursting every stupid bubble he'd ever tried to blow.'
I don't know what this even means. What has Harris got to do with the Gray/Barrett recordings? And how could Gray have given up in late 1994 (the period I understand the recordings to cover) when he went on to draft Mike's affidavit in January 1995? But if Gray truly did give up with trying to extract accurate information from Mike, do we find in that act of giving up an explanation as to why the affidavit doesn't accurately reflect Mike's own account of the forgery? You know, the account he gave in 1999? And does that mean we should ignore the 1995 affidavit and concentrate on what Mike actually said (in 1999) about how the diary was created?
I think the answer to this is yes, we must focus on what Mike said in his own words. The focus on the affidavit should be abandoned. Sure, it was a legal document sworn under oath but with Mike Barrett suffering from severe alcohol problems at the time not to mention the somewhat dodgy solicitor the affidavit was sworn before, that really means nothing. If we focus on what Mike said in his own words, the April 1999 recording becomes THE crucial evidence in this case. That is why my 'Man in a Pub' article is so important. I doubt very many people have listened to the recording in full. But they don't need to. I have analysed it and the results of that analysis are set out clearly in my article. An article that was so powerful that Keith Skinner has stopped releasing any more recordings.
10 October 2023