"I only ask that all accusations of ruthlessly suppressing the tapes and gatekeeping be directed towards me"
Keith Skinner, 9 December 2023
So have I got this right?
Keith was on the very brink of selectively, and most graciously, from the goodness of his heart, releasing a single tape recording out of the 15 tapes of the Gray/Barrett conversations - a small crumb from the table of the gods - but then, just as he was about to hit the magic "release" button, RJ Palmer said something howwwible about him and his friend Tom Mitchell, causing him to change his mind? So it's really all RJ Palmer's fault that we are not allowed to hear this one tape?
Can this be possible in real life?
Is Keith Skinner the most thin-skinned person in the world?
Well, frankly, a single tape wouldn't have been much good, anyway. We surely need to be allowed to hear them all. What's the point of releasing one while ruthlessly suppressing the rest of them?
In this respect, I can only congratulate Jonathan Menges for taking a principled stand and making clear to Keith that Rippercast would play no part in such a dreadfully suppressive scheme. It's either everything or nothing.
But let's just look at the reason Keith gave for changing his mind about releasing a single precioius tape. He said:
'I now won't be releasing any of the tapes, as it is clear to me that Mr Palmer, having referred to Tom Mitchell as a "grotesquely partisan gatekeeper" would also find fault in the authors account and criticise us for being selective and deliberately omitting detail he considers we should have included.'
Apart from the fact that Tom Mitchell is the most grotestquely partisan gatekeeper imaginable, as proved by about a million examples including his total misunderstandings of what Mike Barrett said on the April 1999 Cloak & Dagger recording, so that RJ Palmer was 100% correct, Keith's justification for this latest suppressive act makes no sense. Either the account of the tape given in 'Inside Story' omitted material details or it didn't. If it did, Keith surely has to take that criticism on the chin and hold his hands up to a mistake. There's no other option. If it didn't omit any material details, it doesn't matter what fault RJ Palmer might hypothetically find with Keith's twenty-year-old book, it wouldn't be legitimate criticism. So why would Keith even care about it?
Of course, if some material detail from the tape has been omitted from Inside Story, and Keith's motive in withholding the tape is to protect himself and his co-authors from criticism about this omission, that would be appalling and indefensible. The fact that Keith appears to think it would be a good reason to keep the tape secret is extraordinary.
What seems to sting Keith Skinner is the criticism he received for his performance as interviewer of Mike Barrett at the Cloak & Dagger event in April 1999. He keeps repeating his grievance at the way he's been treated about this, rather like Donald Trump keeps going on about how unfair life is that he keeps getting arrested. In his short exchange with Menges, the old grievances got an airing:
'I'm told my interview was inept and I did not ask one intelligent question'
Well, hey, his interview was pretty inept for the detailed reasons I gave in A Man in a Pub although I did concede that Mike Barrett wasn't the easiest person to deal with. Neverthless, it cannot be denied that Keith spent ages on irrelevant questions which weren't properly for Mike to answer, such as why Doreen wrote something in one of her notes, kept interrupting Mike rather than letting him speak and, rather than asking Mike genuine and useful questions about the mechanics and process of forging the diary (which he clearly believed he hadn't done), he seemed to be building up to his 'gotcha' moment in confronting Mike with the May 1992 date of Anne's cheque for the red diary, thus supposedly disproving Mike's claim that he purchased that red diary in order to fake the Maybrick diary, but it ended up rebounding on him, leaving him with egg all over his face.
Naturally, he remains obsessed over Mike's failure to produce the auction ticket during the evening but doesn't seem to appreciate that if he can change his mind over producing a tape in the blink of an eye, then perhaps Mike also changed his mind about producing the auction ticket in the blink of an eye.
I don't believe this is what happened because I happen to think that the auction ticket was probably destroyed in 1992 but I don't know this for sure. Perhaps Mike had hidden it or had lost it and found in again in 1999. Who knows? But it's the irony in Keith Skinner failing to allow for Mike to have changed his mind when he himself keeps changing his mind over releasing documents - and remember, exactly the same thing happened with the Barretts' diary transcript - that is so striking.
Regarding that auction ticket, the thin-skinned one's other big grievance as expressed to Menges was:
'I am told the reason Mike did not produce it was because I mentioned the fact that Don Rumbelow and Stewart Evans were in the audience and they were both police officers.'
Really? Who told him this?
Is he quite sure that the point being made wasn't that he told Mike that Stewart Evans, a former police officer, was investigating the authenticity of Anne's cheque and bank statement and that Mike became alarmed that he was going to be arrested that night, which might, just might (not definitely), have been what caused him to change his mind about producing the auction ticket, in the same way as something said by RJ Palmer caused Keith to dramatically change his own mind?
'I think I was going on to say that they would confirm the auction ticket was genuine and Mike's claim of forging the diary with Anne would be validated. I didn't get that far because if I remember correctly Mike immediately asked if he was going to be arrested which got a laugh.'
Keith's memory has, once again, entirely let him down. He never mentioned Donald Rumbelow to Mike at all at this point in the conversation, and the only the reason he mentioned Stewart Evans was to say that he had given him the little red diary and Anne's banking documents (a cheque book with stub and 'the account, statement'). Evans was going to confirm whether those banking documents were genuine, not the auction ticket. Hence:
KS: ...I’ve given it to Stewart because Stewart Evans keeps this as a closely guarded secret, he used to be a policeman for 23 years.
MB: I'm not going to get nicked tonight am I by any chance?
KS: No, no no. So I’ve given it to Stewart because -
MB: Hang on a minute… am I going to get nicked tonight?
KS: No, you aren’t.
MB: Alright that’s fair enough, I’ve done my time.
As we can see, Keith talks about Stewart Evans having already been 'given' something to examine. It's obviously not the auction ticket. Keith did actually go on explain why he gave these documents to Stewart when he told Mike a few minutes later:
KS: That’s why I’ve given them to Stewart to look at because Stewart will be able to say “statement forged, the cheque you actually got, the cheque, it’s all forged, it’s all rubbish.”
In his mind, recalling his exchange with Mike, Keith prefers to hears laughter so he can downplay it but there's no laughter that I can detect from Mike who sounds seriously alarmed that he might be arrested.
In his ludicrously defensive mode, Keith says:
'People can draw their own conclusions that - as with the original transcript - I am concealing information, (even from the people I work with), which conclusively proves the diary to have been created by Mike and Anne Barrett.'
No one is alleging Keith Skinner his concealing anything which conclusively proves the diary to have been created by Mike and Anne Barrett. What he is quite obviously concealing is Mike's first person account of the forgery in his own words as told to Alan Gray in 1994. It's remarkable that Keith doesn't think this would be of any interest to anyone. It is surely an important historical item on its own relating to the diary, regardless of whether it proves anything at all. For myself, the main reason I'd like to hear it is simply to see if it's possible to work out why Gray failed to appreciate that the diary was created in 1992 when drafting Mike's affidavit. After all, the fact that the affidavit appears to say that it was created in January 1990 is one of the main points put forward by diary defenders (especially the chief one) to argue that Mike's account set out in the affidavit was bogus. Keith doesn't seem to want to give anyone the chance to establish what Mike was actually telling Gray during the entire series of interviews.
Keith then follows up his comment about whether the tapes conclusively prove the diary to have been created by Mike and Anne Barrett with an astonishing non sequitur, saying:
'From what I gather the diary has already been proved to be a fraud by anachronisms and the scientific tests.'
Yes, it has. But Keith must surely be aware that the only remaining issue is who forged it. So the fact that the diary is known to be a fake shouldn't be a reason for withholding the Barrett tapes which can only possibly go to the issue of whether Barrett was involved in the forgery.
He then says something very strange:
'This added to Mike Barrett publicly confessing he forged it and then making a sworn affidavit to that effect should be enough for most people - and indeed I'm told is to all serious scholars and credible authorities of the case - although it is curious that Mike's affidavit of January 1995 does not quite reflect Alan Gray's belief of 1998? However, that is probably just me desperately looking for inconsistencies in order to keep the debate going for some ulterior motive which are other accusations that have also come my way.'
I mean, who cares what Alan Gray believed in 1998? Who cares if he believed something different to what was in Mike's affidavit of January 1995? Why would that, in itself, make Keith doubt that Mike was involved in the forgery?
In any case, Gray's conclusion in 1998 was not that Mike wasn't involved in the forgery, but simply that, 'Tony Devereux composed the storylines and Anne Graham wrote the diary' ('Inside Story,' p.226). Apart from the fact Gray could only have been speculating about this, making his opinion all but worthless, it's not exactly far away from what I accept might well have happened, if he meant to say that Devereux wrote the text while Anne did the handwriting at Mike's dictation from Devereux's script. That is perfectly plausible, although the fact that we find in the diary certain idiosycratic expressions used by Mike leads me to think that he did at least contribute to some parts of the diary text. But, if Mike's only role in the forgery was to seek a genuine Victorian diary or photograph album in which to write a pre-written text, I would have no problem with that.
What Alan Gray never said is that the diary came out of Battlecrease - which is what Keith Skinner presumably still believes to a 99% certainty (as he once told us) - so I don't really know why he cares about Gray's opinion.
Menges rightly cautioned Keith that 'witholding the tapes is not a good look' but this only seems to have made Skinner more stubborn because, having just told Menges that he might reconsider jhis decision if he could be 'persuaded there was significant interest from people who were not so entrenched in their belief as RJ Palmer and were capable of objectively assessing new information in context' - he then changed his mind again and said that he had now decided not to release the tapes, so it doesn't seem to matter if someone independent like Al Bundy or Fleetwood Mac, both of whom have called for the tapes to be released, would like to hear them. Keith's now not interested because of something Jonathan Menges said (so it's now Menges' fault!) and will not now allow himself to be persusaded.
If I read her correctly, Ally Ryder immediately accused Skinner of being 'a pompous, vindictive git'. Ouch! I don't know about that. True, he certainly sounded remarkably pompous and lacking self-awareness in his messages with Menges, and one could interpret his refusal to release a tape on the basis of a single post by RJ Palmer as pure vindictiveness, but I would say he is just so incredibly thin-skinned, self-righteous and incapable of receiving criticism.
His weaponisation of documents and tapes relating to the diary, giving them to True Believers to keep them faithful, and allowing them to use those tapes selectively and in a predictably partisan way, while ruthlessly refusing to hand them over to perceived opponents (and then actually blaming those opponents for his own refusal to release them) is disgusting and beneath contempt.
LORD ORSAM 11 December 2023