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The Finest Transcript

Updated: Jan 12

Keith Skinner should be congratulated for finally making the Barretts' 1992 transcript of the Jack the Ripper diary available to all (as should Jonathan Menges for hosting it on Casebook). That it was important for it to be made available was demonstrated almost immediately by the fact that a credible new interpretation of a key line in the diary has now been put forward.


FINEST v. FASTEST


There is no doubt that it looks like the author of the diary wrote that the 1889 Grand National was 'the fastest I have seen', but the Barretts transcribed those words as 'the finest I have seen'.


When I first saw this I was puzzled. Assuming Mike to have been the forger of the diary, for him to have known that the 1889 Grand National could have been viewed as a particularly fast race, he would have had to have gone to at least some trouble in checking the historical record, probably from a book about the National, which would have told him that the winning time of 10 minutes and 1 second was the fastest since 1871. Hence, it struck me as odd that he would have wanted to mislead Doreen and Shirley into thinking that Maybrick was saying it was the finest race he had seen, potentially wasting the research that he was presumably rather proud of.


At the same time, I knew it was important to bear in mind that the Barretts would surely not have wanted to produce a perfect transcript. That would have been so suspicious. While your typical diary defender can't seem to compute that any sensible forger transcribing their own written work would have wanted to sprinkle a few deliberate errors around their transcript, and are thus easily fooled by such errors into thinking that the Barretts couldn't possibly have been involved in creating the diary, the rest of us will already have known to expect such errors. Even if the thought of including deliberate errors hadn't occurred to Mike (which it surely would have done), Anne would certainly have cautioned him that their transcript should not be too good and should reflect the work of two ordinary people doing their best to make sense of a manuscript, but imperfectly.


We shall be discussing the mistakes in the transcript presently but, with regard to the Grand National line, it was RJ Palmer who, upon close examination, put forward the idea that the word which has previously been accepted to be 'fastest' in the diary might just be 'finest', which only looks like 'fastest' due to the way the ink has smudged. Indeed, when he posted an image of the word 'finest', as it is written earlier in the diary alongside the disputed word, they do seem very similar. Hence:



This comparison disposes of a later objection made by Michael Richards on the Forum that the long stroke on the final 't' going back to the start of the word indicates that there is an earlier 't' which is also crossed. As we can see, there is a long stroke on the final 't' in 'finest' but there is obviously no earlier 't' in the word.


Nevertheless, one's first impression was that the word was still likely to be 'fastest' but, then, friend of this website Jay Hartley, discovered that a reporter for the Liverpool Daily Post of 30 March 1889 had written that:


'The finish of the race was one of the finest on record.'


The reason for this description was that the first two horses ran neck and neck in the straight after one of them (Frigate) had been winning quite easily, so that it was all rather exciting.


This makes it entirely plausible that the forger of the diary, having seen this comment in the Liverpool Daily Post, creatively had the fake Maybrick write that it was the finest race he had seen.


That thought sparked an amusing comment by Tom Mitchell who wondered if it was being suggested that:


'Mike or Anne Barrett trawled the microfiche down at Liverpool Central Library for a reference to the 1889 Grand National and then - foolishly some would say - used a rather unusual term (for a horse race) in their nascent scrapbook hoax for 'authenticity'?'


Look at his use of the word 'trawled', designed to make it seem that it must have been very difficult for Mike (or Anne) to have located the report of the Grand National in the Liverpool Daily Post. But there wouldn't have been any trawling involved whatsoever. Knowing that the race was held on 29 March 1889, all one needed to do was locate the Liverpool Daily Post for the next day. Probably very easy to find on the microfiche held at the Liverpool Central Library.


We know that during 1992 Mike was fully aware of how to locate 19th century newspapers at the Liverpool Central Library. There are no fewer than seven mentions of the Liverpool Echo in his 'research notes'. If genuine, as Tom Mitchell presumably assumed they were for many years (until I demonstrated that they were fake references inserted by Mike to hide, for the most part, his use of Ryan's book), this certainly must have involved Mike trawling the back issues of the newspaper from 1889, especially to be able to report that there was nothing in the Echo about Michael and Thomas Maybrick selling their late brother's office furniture. Tom had no problem with that extraordinary amount of trawling whereas he now seems to think it would have involved so much hard work locating a specific newspaper report about a major racing event on a known date that he can mock the very idea. Clearly, it would have been a simple matter for Mike to have checked the report of the Grand National, not to mention a sensible thing for a forger to have done, and to have seen that it was described as the finest race on record.


So I would certainly conclude that if the word does indeed read 'finest' in the diary, it was inspired by a modern reading of the Liverpool Daily Post of 30 March 1889, albeit a somewhat corrupted one because it was only the finish that was so fine, not the entire race (which, the Daily Post reporter tells us, wasn't even visible to anyone in the stand or enclosure until the end), but that is a minor quibble.


The word 'finest' certainly makes more sense than 'fastest' because, as Tom Mitchell admits, it's practically impossible for a spectator to perceive that one horse race is faster than another, especially when the difference is a matter of seconds but, more to the point, the Aintree course was shorter than previous years so the horses were not even running especially fast in 1889. One would have expected someone like Mike Barrett to have known that people don't normally talk about horse races being fast, so the Barretts' transcript has a decent shout of being correct on this particular word.


While it would be nice to think that only the Barretts ever deciphered the word in the diary as 'fastest' that's not actually the case. Paul Begg read it as 'finest' also in a transcript he prepared independently of the Barretts' effort. I say it was independent of the Barretts because it doesn't seem to repeat any of the Barretts' other assumed errors. To take one example, the Barretts' 'Christmas soul the whores mole bonnett' is rendered by Begg as 'Christmas send the whores mole bonnett' (in contrast to Harrison's 'Christmas save the whores mole bonnett'). In respect of the Grand National, here is the relevant extract from Begg's transcript (as annotated by him in January 1993):



One can see a number of other differences from the Barretts' transcript in this short extract. The Barretts wrongly transcribed 'Did not the whore see her whore master' as 'Did not the whore see her whoring master'. They also capitalized the word 'True' whereas it is 'true' in the diary, as Begg has it. On the other hand, the Barretts correctly transcribed 'seeing the whore with the bastard' whereas Begg omitted the second 'the'. The Barretts also correctly have a comma after 'laugh' which Begg missed out. Begg also wrongly has a full stop after 'foolish fool' (albeit that there should be one there) whereas, in fact, as the Barretts correctly noted, it's a comma in the manuscript.


One other thing worth noting about the race being the diary author's finest or fastest he'd ever seen is that, whichever is the correct word, the sentence in which it appears is wrongly constructed.


Had the diary author written: 'true the race was the finest/fastest I had seen, but the thrill of seeing the whore with the bastard thrilled me more so.', that would have made sense. But we can see that the sentence continues so that it's not actually the thrill of the race being the finest or fastest the author had seen which was superseded by the even bigger thrill of seeing his wife in public with her lover. No, it's the thrill of Jack the Ripper being a few feet away from the Prince of Wales which is the thrill superseded by seeing his wife with her lover. So what is the purpose of the diary author mentioning the race having been the finest or fastest he'd seen? There isn't really one. He could easily simply have written, 'The thrill of seeing the whore with the bastard thrilled me more than knowing his Royal Highness was but a few feet away from yours truly...'. Or he could have written, 'His Royal Highness was but a few feet away from yours truly but the thrill of seeing the whore with the bastard thrilled me more'. Because, after all, that's basically what he does say. The fact of the race being the finest or fastest he'd seen gets forgotten and abandoned mid-way through the sentence, with the author introducing another (better) thrill into it. It smacks of the forger artificially attempting to wedge into an existing sentence his knowledge of the race being the finest or fastest that had been witnessed.


Anyway, returning to the Begg transcript, it is certainly interesting that Begg appears to have independently concluded that the word in the diary is 'finest' not 'fastest' which, to my mind, adds credibility to RJ Palmer's suggestion that this is the correct word. And if it is the correct word - something we may never find out for sure - it adds credibility to the suggestion that the Barretts authored the diary. They knew it. They didn't even consider the possibility of it being 'fastest' whereas others such as Shirley Harrison, Paul Feldman and Robert Smith decided it must be 'fastest' (and it's difficult to know to what extent they were influenced in this conclusion by their knowledge of the apparently fast race time as discovered by Feldman's researcher).


BARRETT TRANSCRIPT ERRORS


The diary defenders have, so far, pointed to two mistakes in the Barretts' transcript which, they say, show that the Barretts didn't author the diary but, to my mind, these two examples show no such thing. One of them is the 'Christmas soul' transcription which is more of an alleged mistake because no one really knows what the manuscript says (and I'll be discussing this further later) while the other strengthens the idea that they were the forgers.


Much is made of the fact that the first line of the Barretts' transcript reads:


'what I have in store for them they would stop this instance'


Whereas the diary manuscript obviously reads:


'what they have in store for them they would stop this instant'


Neither of the two words rendered incorrectly by the Barretts are difficult to read in the manuscript (although, having said that, Begg transcribed 'instant' as 'moment', no doubt confused by the fact that the 'i' isn't dotted). You can't possibly confuse 'they' with 'i' or 'instant' with 'instance'. So what I suspect we see here are examples of the Barretts so keen to produce an imperfect transcript that they included deliberate mistakes in the very first sentence.


It's overkill, in other words.


It should be said, however, that, while I am sure that some errors in the transcript were deliberate, it's not as easy as one might think to produce a perfectly accurate transcript of a document, even if that document was written by the person or people transcribing it.


If Anne was telling the truth when she said that the way it was done was that Mike dictated the text of the diary for her to type up, it's entirely possible that Mike could have read out certain words incorrectly. I've watched many YouTube videos of perfectly competent narrators reading out a document which is shown on the screen and either missing out or mis-reading some of the words. It's just something that is very easy to do, especially if reading quickly. I don't suppose anyone would need convincing that Mike could have jumbled up or otherwise confused his words. Unless she had checked very single word (which she doesn't say she did) Anne wouldn't have had any way of knowing what was right or wrong based purely on what Mike was reading aloud. It wouldn't matter if she had written out the entire diary at Mike's dictation during March. By mid-April, when the transcript was prepared, both of the Barretts would likely have been unable to remember precisely what had been written.


Certainly, I don't think that the Barretts could have taken a short cut and provided Doreen with the draft Mike had prepared on his word processor (if that was how Mike drafted it). One assumes that any poorly typed draft of the diary prepared by Mike on his word processor was very different to what ended up in the diary after Anne had the opportunity to edit and improve it. Just to take one example. In the written diary pages which Mike presented to Keith Skinner in 2002, there's a line which says that the diary author (i.e. Maybrick) wrote his diary 'to keep a record of the Bitch's flantings'. In my own transcription of his effort, I rendered the last word as 'gallivanting' and I suspect that Anne would have done something similar had she been presented with it, albeit that, in another part of the diary, she seems to have thought that the word 'writhing' was pronounced 'ridling' (or 'riddling' as it was transcribed) showing that she wasn't that clever. In the case of 'flantings' it's possible that Mike was thinking of 'flaunting[s]' but who knows? The point is that what Anne would have written would have been different to what Mike had drafted, likely causing Mike not to always know what was correct himself when he dictated the manuscript to Anne in April. And, like I said, Anne couldn't possibly be expected to remember everything she'd written at Mike's dictation some weeks earlier.


So, some of the mistakes made by the Barretts could just have been natural mistakes caused by Mike reading the wrong words, either because of carelessness or an inability to correctly decipher his wife's handwriting. Or they could have been deliberate.


Here are the other mistakes made by the Barretts that I noted (excluding very minor ones and mistakes which could easily be typos) of which, ignoring the possibility of Mike garbling the words on dictation, one could reasonably say that the author of the diary shouldn't have got wrong other than on purpose:


Diary page 6:


'Strolled by the drive' transcribed as 'Strolled along the drive'. [The word 'by' is somewhat smudged in the manuscript].


Diary page 7


'accompany me on my trip to Michael' transcribed as 'accompany me on my visit to Michael' [The word 'trip' is somewhat smudged in the manuscript].


Diary page 16


'I have left the fools a clue which I am sure they will not solve' transcribed as 'I have left the fools a clue which I am sure they would never solve'.


Diary page 19


'I shall award myself' transcribed as 'I shall reward myself'.


AND


'I will give them a clue but nothing too clear' transcribed as 'I will give them a clue but nothing too clever'.


Diary page 25


'their time has come' transcribed as 'there time has come'.


Diary page 34


'my sleepwalking has resumed' transcribed as 'my sleepwalking has reoccurred' [NB it looks like 'resumed' in the manuscript but 'reoccurred' is not impossible].

Diary page 46


'Encountered an old friend' transcribed as 'Entertained an old friend'.


AND


'I felt regret for was he not Jewish' transcribed as 'I felt regretfull was he not Jewish' [NB not possible to make this mistake from reading out the transcript but entirely possible for Anne to have misheard what Mike had read out].


Diary page 48


'Tonight I shall reward myself' transcribed as 'Tonight I will reward myself'.


Diary page 59


'curse him to hell' transcribed as 'damn him to hell' [N.B. 'curse' is written quite badly and looks a little like 'damn' but certainly isn't].


Diary pages 60 & 61


'Tis love that spurned me so' transcribed as 'Tis love that spurred me so' [N.B. one could argue that 'spurred' is the correct transcription here and it should be noted that the line on page 61 of the diary 'tis love she spurned' is transcribed by the Barretts as such, suggesting a deliberate decision to use 'spurred' for the earlier lines].


Diary page 62


'I do not have the courage' transcribed as 'I do not know if I have the courage' [discussed below].

Diary page 63


'I have redressed the balance of my will' transcribed as 'I have readdressed the balance of my will'.


I guess one has to make one's own decision as to whether these mistakes clearly demonstrate the Barretts' ignorance of the diary text or whether they were made deliberately, or by poor dictation and/or transcription techniques.


One supposed mistake which I haven't included in the list - being the second mistake focussed on by diary defenders to show that the Barretts didn't create the diary - is the one I've already mentioned: 'Christmas soul the whores mole bonnett'. The reason I don't include it as a mistake is that it's by no means clear that this isn't an accurate transcription of the line, even though it doesn't make sense. While the diary defenders claim that the author wrote, 'Christmas save the whores mole bonnett', this makes no sense either. The word in the diary looks just as much like 'soul' as 'save' (and we've seen that Begg thought it was 'send'). Indeed, just look at 'Curse his black soul' on page 51 of the diary. The word 'soul' here is virtually identical to the word after 'Christmas' on page 42, as illustrated below:


Christmas soul - per Barretts' transcript



black soul



By contrast, here are two images of the word 'save' as they appear in the diary (on pages 19 and 40 of the diary respectively):


save - diary page 19



save - diary page 40



They are, I would suggest, consistent with each other, especially in the downwards curl between the 'a' and the 'v', and the formation of the 'e' which looks like a sideways 'J' or a tick, but inconsistent with the word after 'Christmas'. Whereas the 'soul' in 'black soul', with its straight line between the 'o' and the 'u', and the curl of the 'l', strongly suggests that the diarist did indeed write 'Christmas soul', just as the Barretts transcribed it.


If the diary was written by Mike Barrett, who knows what was in his strange mind? Perhaps he thought that 'Christmas soul' was some sort of expression. It's certainly a known genre of music. Christmas Soul parties and concerts were held throughout the UK in the festive period during the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s (see the British Newspaper Archive for examples). Just by way of one example of the use of the expression, a radio programme called 'A Taste of Christmas Soul' was broadcast on the BBC World Service during December 1990, as recorded in the listings section of the Times newspaper of 27 December 1990:



It should be noted that the entire line in the diary involving 'Christmas soul' is crossed out so the diarist might well have realized at the time that it was somewhat nonsensical and, at the very least, unsatisfactory.


At the same time, a diligent reader of this website known as 'Yabs', has located two examples of 'Christmas soul' used in poetry. The first is from an 1807 poem by Benjamin Franklin Taylor entitled "A Birth-Day" and contains the lines: 'The Christmas coal that touched his lips/The Christmas soul that warmed his breast'.



The second is from a poem by an unknown author which appears to have been first published in Life magazine in 1921 and which contains the lines: 'Yet, though they ban the Christmas bowl/

They cannot down the Christmas soul'.



Having carried out some further searching, I find this mention in a short story by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps entitled 'Number 13' published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine of December1875 in which a character refers to a woman who has 'the Christmas soul':



I doubt if these are the only examples in literature so it's entirely possible that Mike Barrett (assuming he was the diarist) had seen something similar somewhere and that this is the type of thing he was getting at when drafting the poem in the diary, albeit that he did end up crossing it out.


We may also note one interesting element of the transcription which actually points towards Anne having been the scribe. The word 'bonnett', which should correctly have been spelt 'bonnet', is accurately transcribed by the Barretts, albeit that the spelling of 'bonnett' is incorrect. This suggests to me that both the diary author and Anne Barrett naturally spelt 'bonnet' as 'bonnett'. If Anne was simply relying on Mike to read out the words, then unless he spelt every single word to her, which clearly didn't happen, the fact that Anne's typed transcript contains the exact same spelling mistake as the diary author is indicative of Anne and the diary author being the same person. Sure, Anne might have checked this particular line in the diary herself during the transcription process and noted the incorrect spelling which she faithfully reproduced when she typed the transcript but such meticulous checking doesn't appear to have been done for other parts of the diary. Nothing proves anything but, like I say, it does point towards Anne as the author.


POINTS IN FAVOUR OF BARRETT AUTHORSHIP


Keith Skinner told us that there are some differences between the transcript and the diary's text which some people could find meaningful. He hasn't identified them but I would assume that one of them is the fact that the diary text on page 47 says, 'There was thrill', whereas the Barretts' transcript renders it has 'There was no thrill'. From the context, it looks like the diarist intended to write 'There was no thrill' but omitted the word 'no'. This is somewhat suspicious because, even if the Barretts thought that the diarist was saying there was no thrill, the addition of the word 'no' would be unfaithful to the text and not a correct transcription. Keith has noted that Anne told him that she believed that the transcript 'should be the same as the original' so the addition of the word 'no' should not have been as a result of an assumption by the Barretts that the diarist had missed it out. At the same time, it's entirely possible that Mike could have innocently added the word 'no' when reading out the text to Anne so I don't think one can draw any firm conclusions.


The other difference that Keith Skinner thought people might find meaningful may be the transcription of the words 'I have left the fools a clue which I am sure they will not solve' on page 16 of the diary to 'I have left the fools a clue which I am sure they would never solve' as mentioned above. While this could indicate that Anne wrote something different from what is in the manuscript, so that the transcript reflected Mike's draft, it's just as much a point against the Barretts as authors, and not something of any real evidential value.


There are some better points from the transcript which point towards the Barretts as authors of the diary.


SHINNING


The word 'shining' which is found on pages 47 and 48 of the diary is wrongly transcribed on both occasions as 'shinning' in the Barretts' typed transcript.


At first blush this might appear to be a point against the Barretts as forgers (if Anne was the scribe) because it would seem that the diarist knew how to spell 'shining' whereas Anne, as typist, must have thought it was spelt 'shinning'.


Yet, when transcribing the words 'my nice shining knife' on page 49 of the diary, the word 'shining' is spelt correctly (by Anne as the assumed typist) in the Barretts' transcript, proving that she could spell the word properly at times.


Now, here's the thing, on page 60 the diarist writes of his 'shinning knife'. Wow!



So both the diarist and Anne Barrett get confused about the correct spelling of 'shining', both spelling it on occasions correctly as 'shining' and wrongly as 'shinning'. What are the odds of that?


Robert Smith's transcript, incidentally, confirms that the diary does say 'shinning knife' on page 60. I'm not imagining it.


It's difficult to see an alternative explanation for this other than that Anne wrote the diary and typed the transcript.


WROTH


Another spelling mistake in the transcript which, at first blush, suggests that Anne couldn't have written the diary is the transcription of what is clearly the word 'wrath' on page 46 of the diary as 'wroth' in the transcript. If Anne could spell it correctly when writing the diary why would she have spelt it wrong when typing the transcript? Of course, a deliberate mistake isn't impossible but what's rather interesting is that it is arguable that, on page 9 of the diary, the diarist wrote, 'I will show my wroth':



Indeed, both Martin Fido and Paul Begg thought that the word here was written as 'wroth'. Here is a footnote confirming this in Begg's annotated transcript dated 19 January 1993:



'MF observes that 'wrath' seems to be written 'wroth', which indeed it does, though this may be caused by an illformed tail to the 'a'.


While the tail is at the bottom of the 'o' rather than the top, which is usually where the tail is on an 'o' written by the diarist, one finds it at the bottom of an 'o' on the previous page with the word 'done' which one could easily read as 'dane' (or 'dare').


Smith transcribes the word as 'wrath' so, while this point is inconclusive, it does mean that one can't say that the diarist wouldn't possibly have written 'wroth' like Anne typed, even if elsewhere (i.e. on page 46) it is correctly written as 'wrath'.


OFF


In her personal correspondence, Anne can be seen to write the word 'of' correctly on a number of occasions (i.e. 'in front of the school', 'into the habit of doing' and 'wide range of friends'). Yet, on one occasion, she wrote that her daughter couldn't make 'head nor tale off' Tolkien's The Hobbit.



So she usually gets it right but sometimes gets it wrong.


On page 3 of the diary, as confirmed by Smith's transcript, the diarist writes about 'the pleasure of writing off all that lays ahead' (showing he or she could spell the word correctly and incorrectly within the same sentence) while the Barretts' transcript, inadvertently correcting the diarist's grammar, renders this as 'the pleasure of writing of all that lays ahead'. The same is true of when the diarist writes 'I ate all off it' on page 16 of the diary whereas the Barretts' transcript says 'I ate all of it'.


Had we not seen Anne's letter in which she confused 'off' with 'of' we would think from the typed transcript that she never muddled those two words.


Again, adding to 'shining' v 'shinning' (possibly 'wroth' v 'wrath'), we have another extraordinary example of both the diarist and Anne occasionally muddling up the spelling of a simple word in the exact same way.


APOSTROPHES


The diarist only uses an apostrophe once in the entire diary text, which is when writing, 'I am still thinking of burning St James's to the ground'. What is striking is that the Barretts' transcript, which doesn't include any other apostrophes in words which require them, transcribes this accurately, with the apostrophe. But how? Did Mike, when dictating, mention that there was an apostrophe there? Or did Anne specifically check this line? That, of course, is entirely possible but here's the thing. How did Anne know that not a single other word needing an apostrophe has one in the entire diary? So, for example, when on page 13 of the diary, Mike read out the line about 'the whores hands', how did Anne know that there wasn't an apostrophe there? Surely Mike didn't think to mention it every time the diarist missed out the apostrophe, and equally surely Anne didn't check every instance when there should have been one. The same is true of 'the whores throat' on page 17 and 'the whores mouth' on page 19. How did Anne always correctly miss out the apostrophe on these occasions when typing the transcript?


It's a funny thing because Anne regularly omitted apostrophes in her own writing and typing. Mike's research notes, which Anne typed, are seriously lacking in possessive apostrophes. Those notes, for example, refer to 'James Maybricks will', 'Annies feet', 'a womans body', 'the whores 'M'', 'surgeons report', 'Eddowes possessions' (although Anne did type 'Polly's possessions' and 'Stride's hand' demonstrating her inconsistency once again). Similarly, in her personal correspondence Anne would miss off apostrophes, as in 'It is Helens birthday':



It really is curious, therefore, that the diarist had a habit of omitting apostrophes, just like Anne, yet on the one occasion when an apostrophe was included, Anne knew this and included it in the transcript.


REGARD[S]


The Barretts transcribed a line on page 5 of the diary as starting, 'Edwin asked regard Thomas...' I think we can all agree that 'regard' was a typo for 'regards' but the real question is how the Barretts managed to decipher the word 'regards' from beneath a large ink 'blot' which covered most of it, hence:



While one can imagine that the last two letters might be 'ds' it's difficult to make out an 'r' at the start. While it's true that Shirley Harrison's 1993 transcript has 'regards' for this word, Begg's earlier transcript thought the word must be 'about' and thus his transcript has: 'Edwin asked about Thomas...'.


It seems that the ink was scraped off the page for testing at some point after the above image was captured, along with some of the paper, so that now it's impossible to ever know exactly what was written there (and Smith's transcript says 'indecipherable smudged word').


So how did the Barretts manage work out 'regards'. A good guess?


This particular word is controversial because, in Mike's January 1995 affidavit, getting the relevant diary page wrong, it is stated:


'During the writing of the diary of Jack the Ripper, when I was dictating to Anne, mistakes occurred from time to time for example, Page 6 of the diary, 2nd paragraph, line 9 starts with an ink blot, this blot covers a mistake when I told Anne to write down James instead of thomas. The mistake was covered by the Ink Blot.'


Now it's fair to say that this can't be quite right because a sentence commencing 'Edwin asked Thomas...' is very unlikely to have been intended here (and certainly wouldn't fit in with the sentence as ultimately written). But it's not impossible that, when dictating, Mike did mistakenly say 'Edwin asked James...' which Anne wrote down before realizing that Maybrick would never have written such a thing so that drastic remedial action was required.


While I have no idea if Mike was telling the truth on this occasion, it can't be denied that this so-called ink 'blot' looks suspiciously like a deliberate marking designed to cover a mistaken word, rather than a genuine blot. If the word was the five letter name 'James', which was covered up, Anne might have added a visible 'ds' to make it appear that the word here was the seven letter 'regards'.


It's impossible to say for sure but the fact that the Barretts managed to decipher the word 'regards' is somewhat suspicious. It's not impossible that Mike or Anne could make out the word through the ink when the diary page was held up to the light but, if that's the case, it's surprising that no one who had seen the diary in 1992/3 ever mentioned it in response to Mike's 1995 affidavit, because it would certainly have disproved that part of it. For that reason, I can only assume that Shirley guessed that the word must be 'regards' when preparing her own transcript, possibly influenced by the Barretts' transcript.


NO QUESTIONS


This brings me on to a point first raised privately to me by RJ Palmer that there is not a single question mark in the Barretts' transcript to indicate uncertainty with any of the words in the diary. I agree that this is certainly odd. Surely the Barretts couldn't have confidently believed that they had successfully deciphered every single word, bearing in mind how many words aren't entirely legible. It's true that Shirley Harrison's transcript purports to transcribe every word without any indication of uncertainty but Paul Begg certainly had problems. For example, he couldn't work out for sure if the second line on page 3 of the diary read 'nothing shall lead the pursuers back to me' or 'nothing shall lead the powers back to me'. It certainly looks like 'powers'.



Smith transcribes it as 'porsuers'. But the Barretts seemed to have no difficulty in determining it was 'persuers' and it certainly seems that, if the word is supposed to be 'pursuers', the diarist couldn't spell it correctly because no way is the second letter a 'u'.


Once again the failings of the investigation into the diary are revealed because no one seems to have asked Anne what she and Mike did if they weren't sure of a particular word in the manuscript while preparing the transcript. Surely, if they had nothing to do with the creation of the diary, there must have been some words that were difficult for them to interpret. If so, did they both discuss what they thought the word was? Did they ever disagree over any particular interpretation?


Anne told Keith Skinner in May 1995 that the transcript was done 'fast' so does this mean that they didn't take much time over any difficult to decipher words? In which case, how did they manage to not have a single question about a single word they transcribed from the diary? These are such obvious questions which no one evidently asked. And the reason they weren't asked is almost certainly because the diary investigators believed everything Anne told them and didn't seriously consider that the Barretts were the forgers. Had they done so, they would surely have shown a lot more curiosity in how the transcript was prepared than allowing Anne to get away with the bland statement that 'Mike read it and Anne typed it, checking back against original every so often as she believed it should be same as original'. Indeed, one is tempted to ask why it doesn't appear to have been until May 1995 before Anne was asked about this transcript. Mike was apparently asked about it in April 1994 but, all we've been told about this questioning, is that Mike said he typed the transcript on his word processor (in contradiction to what Anne would later say). It's a real sorry state of affairs which underlines how badly the investigation into the origin of the diary was carried out in the 1990s.


LORD ORSAM 9 January 2024

Updated 12 January 2024 to incorporate some new information about 'Christmas soul'




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