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  • Lord Orsam

Top 40 Diary Defender Fails

Updated: May 31


So I asked Lord Orsam, carefully prefacing my request by saying that I know he's extremely busy, adding some grovelling and abasing of myself in traditional fashion, but could he graciously provide for this website what he thinks are the Top 10 Diary Defender fails? I was hoping to receive something back within a few months but, in response, a few hours later, he sent me a package containing forty crumpled, rather grubby scraps of paper, each with his distinct but barely decipherable handwriting dealing with a particular diary defender fail, all covered by a post-it note saying "Top 10 isn't enough, I've done 40. Orsam." Given the very short turnaround, I find it hard to believe that he hasn't forgotten some - there have been rather a lot after all - and perhaps it could have been a Top 100 if he'd really applied his magnificent mind to it, but here's what he sent me after I typed it all up, counting down from number 40.....


Demonstrating that diary defenders don't even know the basics of the case, Robert Smith claimed in his 2017 book that Mike Barrett had himself placed his famous advertisement for a Victorian diary with blank pages in a trade journal and that HP Bookfinders (Martin Earl's company) responded to Mike's advertisement by sending him an 1891 diary. It was, of course, Martin Earl who placed the advertisement in a trade journal and he obtained the 1891 diary from a third party seller who had responded to his ad. For a book entitled The True Facts, it didn't half contain a lot of false facts.


In his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' essay, Tom Mitchell, like many other diary defenders before him, became excited by a mention in one of Florence Maybrick's letters, written in May 1889, that her husband had told her something that was 'pure fabrication' which was 'only intended to frighten the truth out of me'. Was it possible, Mitchell wondered, that James had told Florence that he was the Whitechapel fiend in order to to frighten her, but was now saying he'd made it up? Well, shrugged Mitchell philosophically, 'the truth of the matter cannot now be established'. But that's not correct. We know perfectly well that the truth Maybrick intended to frighten Florence into admitting was that she had stayed with a man in a hotel while in London in March 1889. The fabrication was a claim by Maybrick that he'd been making inquiries in London and was hot on the trail of the two lovers. It's all perfectly simple and easily understood, if you are not a diary defender.


Trip over! LOL!!! 🤪 'Nuff said.


In November 2021, Caroline Morris became obsessed with the fact that someone in 1891 had described a member of the Brentford Board of Guardians as "a bounding buffoon of Bumbledom", even though a "bounding buffoon" is quite obviously not the same as a "bumbling buffoon". Apparently, it was the appearance of the word "Bumbledom" within the same sentence which excited her. But the etymology and meaning of the word "Bumbledom" to describe an officious and pompous minor official, derived from Dickens's Mr Bumble, has no connection whatsoever to the word "bumbling", as any dictionary will confirm. As late as July 2023, she was still at it, saying, "I still think it's plausible that whoever wrote 'bumbling buffoon', in a diary meant to be Victorian, might well have considered it a fitting phrase, since the world and his wife would have been more than familiar with Mr. Bumble, and what Dickens wanted to convey about his character with the comical moniker." Any old invented nonsense to avoid confronting the fact that the language of the diary proves twentieth century fakery.


One of Tom Mitchell's many failures in his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' of 2019 was in respect of what he described as 'a photofit' of the murderer of Elizabeth Stride, actually being two sketches published in the Daily Telegraph in October 1888, which Tom believed were supposed to have been of the man seen by Packer with Stride. He was confused by the fact that one of the sketches was of a man with a moustache and the other of a man without a moustache, saying, "it is not clear why Packer was indecisive about the moustache as that seems hard to confuse". The simple answer to this question, as revealed in the Daily Telegraph itself (which Tom would have known had he bothered to check the primary source) is that the two sketches, said to be 'presented not, of course, as authentic portraits', were based on published descriptions of the suspect by Packer and others. According to Mitchell, the sketch of the man with the moustache, 'represented an extremely good likeness of James Maybrick', but, sadly for him, the Daily Telegraph records that, when Packer was shown the two sketches, he selected the one of the man without the moustache as being like the man he had seen. So that's the end of that.


On 21 November 2017, as part of her dizzying attempt to argue that Mike bought the red diary from Martin Earl because he needed "an invoice for an 1891 diary for the tune of £25" in order to negotiate with Eddie Lyons to fix a price for the diary, we were told by Caroline Morris-Brown, "IIRC, one of the early rumours was the detail that the diary found under the floorboards was finally sold to a chap in an Anfield pub for £20 [or was it £25?]". As I pointed out later that same day, it was obvious that she was thinking of the story told by Dodgson and Davies which involved an offer to sell the diary for £25 in an Anfield pub by someone who didn't own it. Asking her about her purported rumour, I said: 'Forgive me, but where is the evidence for this assertion? What is the source of it?" She didn't immediately answer me but later, on 6 December 2017, she claimed unconvincingly this was something which had been said to her privately by Robert Smith, even though he hadn't included any mention of it in his book nor had he previously mentioned it on any of his online posts. Hence, she said, "I was in fact reminded by Robert Smith in an email referring to the rumour that the diary had eventually been sold in an Anfield pub, that the price mentioned was £25". As of today, approaching seven years later, not a jot of solid evidence supporting the existence of this rumour has been provided and it must be the case that Caroline Morris-Brown got herself confused, thinking of the Dodgson/Davies yarn which Smith had related in his book.


In his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' essay, Tom Mitchell was in raptures about the existence of a letter in the Home Office files which shows that James Maybrick "did the London business of Gustavus Witt". That wasn't quite right, actually. Maybrick did the Liverpool business of Witt's London firm but we'll let that slide. The existence of this letter, written by Witt himself, is, according to Mitchell, "one of the deepest indicators of the resources which he [the diarist] was prepared to invest in his nascent work, and reflects a complexity many times more profound than he has ever been given credit for." Curiously, it would appear that Mitchell never read the letter itself, relying on Feldman's misleading extract of it. What Feldman didn't mention, so Mitchell didn't know it, was that the letter reveals that: (a) Witt strongly denied that Maybrick took arsenic, saying the idea was 'absurd', thus contradicting one of the central themes of the diary, (b) Maybrick visited Witt with Florence in June 1888 despite there being no mention of such a visit in the diary, and (c) Maybrick complained to Witt in June 1888 of his eyes watering but said nothing to him about having cold hands, which was the diarist's complaint. Nothing about the letter is actually consistent with the diary which doesn't mention Witt or even the fact that the diarist had a business partner in London and it takes us no further than the secondary literature which would already have told any prospective forger that Maybrick made frequent trips to London.


Without ever having provided any evidence for it, Caroline Morris-Brown has repeatedly claimed over many years that electricians spoke of one of their number finding an "old book". She always places the words in inverted commas as if an electrician actually said those exact words. To this date, not one single quote from an electrician has been produced in which they spoke of anyone referring to an old book. When challenged on her use of those words by RJ Palmer, Ms Morris Brown refused to produce any evidence in support but angrily snapped that Keith Skinner believes that it was said, as if that should be more than enough information for us mere mortals. Strange that the inveterate note-taker Keith Skinner never recorded it in any of his notes but this is diary defending we are talking about.


It's astonishing, after all these years of claiming that the letters "FM" are crystal clear on the wall of Mary Jane Kelly's room in the photograph of the crime scene published in Dan Farson's 1972 book, and in many other easily available books thereafter, that Tom Mitchell can't seem to understand that if he can see the letters "FM" with crystal clarity then any forger who wanted to create a fake diary pinning the blame on someone connected with a person with the initials "FM" could also have seen them and easily incorporated that observation into the diary by pretending (as the murderer) to have left those initials in the room. Nothing could have been simpler. Why he places it as his biggest argument in favour of the diary being genuine is a complete mystery to humanity.


Excited by the fact that Martin Earl's advertisement in Bookdealer of 19 March 1992 contained requests for three Jack the Ripper related books, Caroline Morris-Brown became convinced in her mind that Mike Barrett had requested them (as part of his research into the diary after 9 March 1992), even though Earl had said nothing about this to Keith Skinner. So we were told by Caroline Morris-Brown in respect of these three books that: "These were also enquired about by Mike at the same time". Despite the lack of any evidence that Mike had enquired about any of those books, this was said as a statement of fact, with the only caveat being "unless you fancy another curious coincidence to explain away." Then it was said: "They would seem to indicate his earliest efforts to research the subject of Jack the Ripper". Really? It fell to me to point out (with examples) that Martin Earl had placed requests for Jack the Ripper (and Maybrick) related books in other issues of Bookdealer, as had many other second hand book dealers. The silly claim that Mike Barrett had requested those three Ripper books in March 1992 was never made again.


The diary defending Bible, Jack the Ripper Diary: Inside Story, as part of its one-sided propaganda mission to undermine Michael Barrett's 1995 affidavit, quoted Kevin Whay of Outhwaite & Litherland saying (in 1997) of Mike Barrett's confession that, 'no such description or lot number corresponding with Barrett's statement exists. Furthermore we do not and have never conducted our sales in the manner in which he describes', and (in 1995) that, 'Anyone who tells you they have got a lot number or details of such an album from us is talking out of their hat'. Curiously, for reasons which have never been explained to this day, the authors didn't include Whay's confirmation that it would have been possible for Mike Barrett to have used a false name like 'Williams' to purchase items at one of their actions nor that a photograph album of the type described by Mike would have been part of a job lot marked 'miscellaneous items'. When challenged about this curious omission from the book, Keith Skinner said in a statement in January 2018, 'I can't now remember why it was not produced in its entirety', while Caroline Morris claimed feebly that if she and her two co-authors had included every relevant fact in the book they'd still be writing it today. With Caroline Morris-Brown herself being responsible for the inclusion and checking of the facts and details contained in the book, it's funny how it's only the facts that support the story told in Mike Barrett's affidavit which were omitted by the person who just happens to be a Mike-Barrett-hating diary defender.


In a cunning attempt to convince us that the spelling of the word panic as "panick" in the diary was a Victorian way of spelling the word, we were told by Thomas Mitchell in his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' that this is how the word was spelt in the 1844 edition of the New Dictionary of the English Language. According to Mitchell, this 'supports the contention that the diary is of Victorian origin'. Sadly, it was untrue. The word "panic" in the 1844 New Dictionary of the English Language and is spelt "panic". Mitchell was equally wrong in saying that the word "panic" in the 1889 edition of the Century Dictionary is spelt as "panick" in the alternative. It is not. As usual, it's falsehoods which are relied upon to support the contention that the diary is of Victorian origin.


In a Casebook post on 26 April 2018, Caroline Morris-Brown chided RJ Palmer for referring to Mr Alec Voller as just "Voller". He was, she told him, "Dr Alec Voller" and she commented caustically, "I note your funny omission here of his title". Except that Alec Voller is a plain Bsc and never obtained a doctoral degree. But please don't worry readers. Caroline Morris-Brown was able to blame someone else for her own mistake. Her good friend Robert Smith. As she told us: "Robert Smith refers to 'Dr Voller' on pages 4, 5, 6 and 8 of his 25 Years... I assumed Robert would know."


Tom Mitchell was in a tizzy of excitement when informing us in his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' that the letters "J" and "M" were on the envelope found next to the dead body of Annie Chapman. Those are James Maybrick's initials you see! Doing one of his famous statistical calculations of probability, for which is a highly renowned mathematical expert, he worked out that the likelihood of those two initials appearing on the envelope was 1 in 338 so that, "in statistical terms it is highly unlikely that this event occurred by chance alone". High on his own supply, he believed that this was a strong indication that the killer's initials must have been "J.M." "One thing was sure', he fanatically cited Feldman as saying, "our diarist was forcing us to reread source material that was to rewrite history." Well, not really. Not at all, actually. It's not the letter "J" on the envelope, it's the number "2". Another one down the toilet.


According to James Johnston, Brian Rawes never once, in all the interviews he conducted with him, claimed that Eddie Lyons told him about finding a diary. It was always either "a book" or "something" that Eddie said he'd found. So what was his response when I confronted him in January 2018 with a quote from his own 2017 essay entitled "I've found something under the floorboards, I think it could be important", included in the book The Diary of Jack the Ripper: 25 Years of Mystery, whereby it is said that Rawes purportedly told the police in December 1991 that, "Lyons said he had found a diary under the floorboards in the house, which he thought was important"? I can tell you. It was: "That is an error on my part and I take full responsibility for the confusion caused." A rare example of diary defender candour but exactly how such a curious error found its way into his essay remains unexplained to this day.


When diary defenders are under pressure, they tend to invent evidence to support their diary defending ways. When I posted convincing evidence that the references to the Liverpool Echo in Mike Barrett's so called "Research Notes" had secretly been taken from Bernard Ryan's This Poisoned Life, demonstrating that Mike had read this book prior to the summer of 1992, Caroline Morris-Brown suggested that Shirley Harrison was on record in about April, May or June 1992 telling Mike about Ryan's book, with Mike pleading ignorance of it, thus creating a need for him to pretend he hadn't read it when he provided his research notes to her. When pressed, however, it turned out that this was an evidence-free theory of hers and there was no record of any such conversation having occurred at that time.


In one of her barmier posts, Caroline Morris-Brown claimed on 17 February 2022, "it is an undeniable fact that Dr Fuller's words to Maybrick in 1889, as they appear in the diary, cannot be found in Ryan's book". So, her argument went, the diarist couldn't have used Ryan's book as their source when writing: 'Fuller believes there is very little the matter with me'. We don't actually know what Dr Fuller said to Maybrick in 1889 because the conversation wasn't recorded but Fuller's recollection when testifying in the witness box, as reported, was that, "I told him there was very little the matter with him". According to Ryan, Fuller "told his patient that he could find very little the matter with him'"(Ryan, p.42). This would seem to demonstrate that Dr Fuller's exact words to Maybrick (as he reportedly recalled them) are found in both the diary and Ryan's book. If you want me to explain what Morris-Brown was talking about, I remain unable to do so to this day.


Caroline Morris-Brown always likes to claim that Dr Kate Flint stated in 1993 that nobody could have used the expression "top myself" before 1958 or, alternatively (because she says different things at different times without apparently knowing that she's doing so), that Dr Flint had said that this expression was never in print before 1958. They are both nice strawman arguments for her to use to pretend her critics are completely wrong about language issues but the truth is that Dr Flint never said any such thing. She stated correctly that the expression "to top myself" meaning to commit suicide was not recorded until 1958. This was perfectly correct and does not mean for one second that "top myself" in a disputed diary supposedly from 1888 is not an anachronism (which it obviously is).


According to Robert Smith in his 2017 book (page 13), Michael Barrett hadn't been a professional freelance journalist, and, "he had only written a few puzzles for children's weekend magazine, Look-in, which centered on ITV's television programmes". This was about as wrong as it's possible to be. Considering that the person who checked the book for errors was one "Caroline Brown" (a.k.a. Caroline Morris-Brown) it's hardly surprising that book is full of nonsense of this kind.


Talking about the diary, does anyone remember when a number of diary defenders, including no less a personage than Paul Begg, said that if Mike had been intending to forge a Victorian diary in 1992, the very last thing he would have tried to acquire for the purpose would have diary? The document Mike showed Doreen in April 1992 they said, was not a diary, but then.....the very first words Mike is ever known to have spoken about it were: "I've got Jack the Ripper's diary...". So, yeah, he probably would have tried to find a diary to forge a diary. A few diary defenders were on the stupid pills, it seems.


When, egged on by a laughing Caroline Morris-Brown, Tom Mitchell posted a few supposed 'additional' diary pages written by Mike Barrett, he was expecting everyone to say, "they're so badly written they prove that Mike couldn't have written the diary". He was taken by surprise when I did what Anne Barrett would have done, assuming she had transcribed the diary at Mike's dictation, by tidying up the spelling and grammar, forcing Mitchell himself to admit that, once this is done, there is no material difference between those entries written by Mike and those written by the diarist. Mitchell was so shell-shocked by the outcome that, to this day, he refuses to post the remaining pages written by Mike for public inspection.


After hopefully contacting Martin Earl in 2020 for more information about Mike's 1992 diary purchase, Caroline Morris-Brown thought she'd neutralized the problem caused by Mike's inconvenient secret search for a nineteenth century diary containing blank pages. She even crowed about her triumph in JTR Forums, declaring that the mystery had now been solved. Oh really? Her claim was that because Earl had passed on a detailed description of the little red 1891 diary to Mike in March 1992, and because Mike had been entitled to return the diary without payment (or with a full refund) if it wasn't as described, this proves that Mike had been happy to accept a diary in which the date of 1891 was printed on every page. The bunting had to be taken down, however, when it was forcefully pointed out to her that the known description given to Mike by Earl made no mention of dates being printed on every page, and that if Mike had been entitled to return the diary if it wasn't as described, it follows that he was not entitled to return it if the description had been accurate, which is was. Furthermore, that description told Mike that most of the pages in the diary were blank, precisely what he said he was looking for, which the diary defenders still can't explain despite various colourful and dizzying attempts.


A diary defender who is not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer suggested in December 2022 that a search of the River Mersey with a metal detector would be worth embarking on to locate the knife the diarist wrote that he threw into the river. If you think the only problem with this suggestion is that the diarist appears to have claimed to have thrown the knife in the Thames you are probably a diary defender and should seek medical help.


In his 2017 book supposedly giving us the true facts about the diary, Robert Smith vomited up a number of patently false facts about the expression 'one off instance'. Claiming that 'the expression did exist in written usage during the Victorian and Edwardian periods', Smith told us that Green's Dictionary of Jargon (1984) contains a Victorian prison expression "one off duty". But Green's Dictionary of Jargon includes only modern twentieth century expressions and doesn't, in any case, include the expression ''one off duty", merely "one off" as opposed to "one on" (said by prison officers while handing over prisoners) with no meaning whatsoever of uniqueness. As for the Edwardian example, Smith told us that "one-off job" could be found in an issue of The Foundry from 1905 but he had been misled by a false reference in Wiktionary: the quote he provided was actually from an issue of that journal published in 1922.


As related by Paul Feldman in his 1997 book, Keith Skinner made an amaaaaazing discovery about the diary. Noting that the diarist had written that his medicine "will give me strength", Mr Skinner was struck by the fact that in a written statement by Captain John Fleming obtained after Florence's trial, it was stated that Maybrick had said to him some years earlier, “I take this arsenic once in a while because I find it strengthens me”. According to Feldman, the diarist had used this "precise word ('strengthens')", although he had not, but regardless of that, Skinner thought it couldn't be a coincidence that the diarist had used the word 'strength', so that the diarist, if a forger, must have known of Fleming's evidence which, we were told, was only published in an obscure nineteenth century book (The Necessity for Criminal Appeal by J.H. Levy). Thus, according to Keith Skinner, to have included the word "strength" in the diary: "Firstly, a forger would have to know the book even exists.  Then he would have to locate it and finally plough through the entire book to “lift” one single word – and Joe Nickell called this an amateurish fake!” (cited in Feldman's book). I guess the point being made was that the diary was not an amateurish fake but a professional one, which wouldn't have taken us much further. Keith Skinner's research, however, appears to have been somewhat limited (or shit, to use another word) because the fact of the matter is that Fleming's full quote, including the word "strengthens", is reproduced in Bernard Ryan's 1977 book (twice!) on pages 25 and 238, and is also found in Morland's 1957 book (page 13) not to mention other books such as Christie's 1968 Etched in Arsenic (page 230). Even Tom Mitchell worked this out in his otherwise pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' but he diplomatically avoided mentioning Keith Skinner's role in the fiasco, putting all the blame on "Feldman and his team" (page 33 of "Society's Pillar").


There was a time when it was said that a comment in the diary about the diarist being better at writing verse than his brother, who was famous as a singer and composer not a lyricist, showed inside knowledge because it's a little known fact that Michael Maybrick did write some basic lyrics to one or two of his songs. Why it had to fall to me to point out that Bernard Ryan in 1977 had described Michael Maybrick as both a composer and author of songs, while Nigel Morland in 1957 had expressly spoken of the moral nature of his lyrics, I've never been able to work out. Diary defenders can read, can't they?


The diary defending world fell apart somewhat after I queried whether the account set out in Mike's affidavit of his purchase of a photograph album at Outhwaite & Litherland might not be accurate if one simply substituted the word "ticket" in the affidavit for "receipt". In which case, there's nothing obviously wrong with his description of the process, undermining one of the diary defending trump cards which was that Kevin Whay of O&L had said that O&L had never conducted their sales "in the manner in which he describes". Unsettled by this, Morris-Brown and Skinner pestered an elderly Michael Litherland in 2020 for more material they could use to attack Mike's affidavit and thought they'd struck gold when he told them that a World War 1 photograph album would have been so valuable in 1992 that it wouldn't have been included in a normal auction sale. Morris-Brown trumpeted this on the forums as if it proved that Mike couldn't have bought the album from O&L but the entire claim fell apart when I found a contemporary published statement from none other than the manager of Outhwaite and Litherland in 1993 who said that a First World War photograph album was "of very little value financially". Another one bit the dust.


Tom Mitchell was delighted that there supposedly exists a Jack the Ripper letter written by someone claiming to live in Liverpool (albeit Prince William Street, not Riversdale Road). If someone was writing from Liverpool it could only have been James Maybrick, of course. According to Mitchell, this was a "letter dated September 29 (presumably 1888)". He got this from Feldman who got it from McCormick. But McCormick got it from a 1927 book by J. Hall Richardson in which it is clear that the letter, according to Hall Richardson, was only dated "29th inst.". No month was mentioned on the letter (or by Hall Richardson). No year was mentioned on the letter (or by Hall Richardson). If the letter even existed (and Hall Richardson seems to have been writing from memory, or imagination), it could easily have been written on, say, 29th July 1889. Who knows? Another diary defender failure to check the original reference source, probably because Feldman and Mitchell both liked what they were seeing and had no interest in checking that the information they liked was accurate.


Attempting to make something out of abandoned property, Robert Smith stated in the 2019 edition of his book that, "A sinister item was left behind by a guest at the Charing Cross hotel in London on 14th June 1888, just at the time that the diarist claims to be trying out a murder in Manchester, prior to the first Whitechapel murder on 31st August." He was talking about "wearing apparel and personal effects", which he deemed as "sinister" for some reason, but his timeline of events was hopelessly wrong because these items were not left behind at the Charing Cross hotel on 14th June 1888. They were left behind at some point prior to 15th September 1887, as stated in the very advertisement in the Times from which Smith obtained his information. Reading and comprehension has never been a diary defender skill.


In one of his series of useless diary defending blog posts, Jay Hartley told us that the little bit of verse in one of the Ripper letters about the devil with his microscope and scalpel had its origins in the Deep South of the United States. So, of course, that points to Maybrick as the author of the letter. (Don't ask me why, it's diary defender logic which has no rational explanation). It fell to me to point out to him that he hadn't done his research properly and that the rhyme was entirely English in origin. But don't worry, reader, he blamed someone else for his mistake.


This was, at one time, one of Tom Mitchell's favourites. He included it as one of his 12 examples of the forger having "extraordinary luck" in his very first post in the 'Incontrovertible' thread back on 30th August 2008. One could almost call it Mitchell's Egg. It was a story in the Echo of 1st September 1888 headlined "Who is Jim?" because a coffee-stall keeper a few minutes from Bucks Row on the night of the Nichols murder had heard a woman say to a man "Come on Jim, let's get home". In the diary defender mind, a man called "Jim" could only be James Maybrick, you see. The fact that the woman was never identified as Polly Nichols didn't seem to trouble Mitchell nor did the fact that the description of "Jim" was nothing like that of James Maybrick. After Mitchell repeated his point in February 2018, this time saying that it was one of six coincidences that couldn't be explained, I explained to him that the "Jim" in this report couldn't be Maybrick (it took me all of five minutes to work it out) to which Mitchell replied "I'll give you the Jim article". And that was the end of that one.


As usual, when the diary is challenged, Caroline Morris-Brown makes a knee-jerk reaction which inevitably turns out to involve a false statement in her misguided defence of the diary. After I demonstrated that Florence did not go to London in March 1889 to visit a 'sick aunt', or claim she did, as the diarist believed, but had in reality said she was going to see her godmother - a confusion that had arisen because prosecuting counsel at Florence's trial had mis-read his brief and said in court that it was an aunt, which falsehood was repeated in the secondary literature - Ms Morris-Brown claimed that the diarist might well have been talking about Margaret Baillie who Florence visited while she was in London. According to Morris-Brown, Florence might have known Margaret as her aunt because she was a longstanding family friend and thus, as children do, might have called her Auntie Margaret. Only it was nonsense because Margaret Baillie was not a longstanding family friend but had met Florence and her mother while they were holidaying together in Switzerland so that Florence would certainly not have known or thought of her as an aunt.


Amidst the distant sound of cuckoos, Tom Mitchell claimed in his pisspoor 'Society's Pillar' that a reproduction of the Goulston Street graffito in the official files revealed that the author of the Writing on the Wall had deliberately hidden the letters "FM" within his capital "B" at the start of the word "Blamed". It was a clue from the killer, you see, pointing towards Florence Maybrick. Alas, our hapless hero wasn't aware that the reproduction of the graffito in the official files was written in the handwriting of Sir Charles Warren who always formed his letter "B" in the same way, since long before the start of the murders. It took a while for this to sink into Mitchell's brain but it finally got through and the entire claim that coded names are hidden in the CSG has now been abandoned.


Attempting to defend the diary by trying to argue that some newly discovered evidence of Maybrick apparently being flush with cash in 1888 supported the diarist's statement that business was "flourishing", even though one doesn't in any way follow the other, Jay Hartley drew our attention in one of his poorly researched blog posts to the fact that James Maybrick owned a single share in a new start-up mining company in April 1888. Using diary defender mathematics, which bears no relation to the maths we all learnt at school, Hartley decided that in order to own this share Maybrick must have invested £3,571 (the modern equivalent of £25,000) in the business. Needless to say, Hartley was out by precisely £3,570 in his calculation, having failed to understand how a capital raising works. The company in which Maybrick owned a single share never traded and was worthless. It was the very opposite of a flourishing business, in fact.


In 2003, at a time when Mike Barrett's 1992 purchase of a Victorian diary was still a surprise and a mystery for most people, Shirley Harrison informed the world in her American Connection book that, 'The red diary was in fact purchased after the diary had been brought to London. (Anne has the receipt)'. Apart from the fact that Anne did not have 'the receipt', merely a cheque stub evidencing the (late) payment to Martin Earl, the truth of the matter was that diary came into Mike Barrett's hands (and had thus been purchased) more than two weeks before the diary was brought to London.


Paul Feldman started this particular hare (or horse?) running by claiming, in effect, that the race time for the 1889 Grand National was a virtual state secret, impossible for a mere mortal to ever establish. We were told in dramatic terms how his top researcher, despite scouring magazines and newspapers, "for days on end", and even visiting Aintree to quiz the experts, was unable to discover whether that Grand National could have been described as "the fastest" the diarist had ever seen, until by some miracle she located "an obscure magazine" which showed that the 1889 Grand National was the fastest run for eighteen years. Only someone who actually attended that race could know such details about it, you see. So the diary must be genuine! This charade continued for many years, with the Grand National issue being held up as a key defence of the diary, until I burst the balloon by noting that not only were the race times of all historic Grand Nationals included in a number of popular books about that race which would have been easily available in 1992, but the 1889 National wasn't all that fast once one took account of the fact that the course had been shortened from previous years.


Since time immemorial, until the start of 2024, Caroline Morris-Brown had been saying that Michael Barrett must have sworn in his (1995) affidavit to purchasing a photograph album and creating the diary in early 1990 and that he couldn't possibly have got the date wrong, so that there's no way he could have done it in 1992. Hence, as the only time he could have created the diary consistent with the evidence was in March 1992, he must have lied about doing it in 1990 which means, according to her, that he couldn't have created the diary at all. The entire edifice of this diary defending strategy collapsed in dramatic fashion when a previously withheld and suppressed tape from 29th January 1995 was released to the world which demonstrated in the clearest possible terms that Mike was, at that time (about 3 weeks after he swore his 1995 affidavit), confused about the date he purchased the photograph album, thinking it to have been in 1990, but that once he was able to locate a frame of reference by fixing the date when he came down to London to meet Doreen Montgomery, he was able to pinpoint the purchase of the photograph album as having occurred in the month prior to that meeting. As it is known for a fact that he came down to London to meet Doreen in April 1992, he must, at all times, have been saying that he purchased the photograph album in March 1992, despite having muddled up the dates. The longstanding Morris-Brown objection to Mike Barrett's affidavit was finally over.


The Diary Defender Bible, Ripper Diary The Inside Story, the greatest diary defending publication ever written, contains as its central theme the idea that the man the authors describe as "the volatile Barrett" told one story about the origins of the diary one day and, irrationally, a completely different story the next day, so that, the reader is supposed to think, nothing he says about the diary can be trusted. The absolute classic example of this comes with the description of what the authors say was, 'the most crucial interview Michael Barrett would give'. This was an interview with Keith Skinner, Shirley Harrison and others on 18 January 1995, a mere 13 days after he had sworn an affidavit claiming to have forged the diary with the assistance of his wife. Despite the fact that Skinner was one of the authors of Inside Story, the book gives a false and entirely fictional account of the purpose of this meeting as being 'to discuss his [Michael Barrett's] sworn statement'. This was untrue because Keith Skinner (and, we are told, Shirley Harrison too) didn't even know of the existence of Michael Barrett's sworn statement (i.e. affidavit) at the time, let alone that he had confessed in it to forging the diary with his wife. That was a secret being kept by Mike, contrary to the claim in Inside Story that his affidavit was 'made public' in January 1995. Skinner didn't actually know about it until two years later in 1997. The fiction continued in Inside Story with the statement that, 'It was clear from the outset that Barrett had no intention of defending his latest claim'. As those present were wholly unaware of Mike's latest claim, it couldn't have been clear at the outset of the meeting that he had no intention of defending it. This entirely false picture of Mike's motives, which made it impossible to understand what he was doing at the time, persisted for about 17 years until June 2020 when I spotted the contradiction between what we were being told about Keith Skinner first learning of the affidavit in 1997 and the account in Inside Story. After it was drawn to her attention a few weeks later, the first reaction of Caroline Morris-Brown, the person responsible for the error in the book, was to lash out, saying sarcastically on 30 July 2020: 'Apologies if Inside Story misled anyone by sticking to the chronology of what we know happened on what date, without always going the extra mile to explain who knew about it and when'. Don't worry, though, readers, it was someone else's fault, as she posted the next day: 'It is unfortunate... and I have no excuses, other than to clarify that it was primarily Keith's extensive research and documentation, which I used to create a chronology of events from 1992 to 2002, all of which gave Seth the basis for the narrative, which I then proofread and fact-checked, chapter by chapter.' This was posted shortly after Keith Skinner had issued a statement saying: 'I can clearly see... how the impression can be easily gleaned that Mike Barrett’s affidavit of January 5th 1995 may have been widely known about by the time of the meeting with Mike on January 18th 1995...But – yes – I agree Inside Story is misleading and it reads like Mike’s detailed account in his affidavit had already been examined in considerable depth'. Keith also said: 'I should have read that more closely in the context of what had previously been said... [there was] confusion resulting in, inadvertently, misleading readers'. We even had a rare admission of error from her ladyship, saying: 'I think the problem was my fault, because Seth was working on his narrative from my timeline, and wouldn't have seen from my entry for 5th January 1995 that the affidavit sworn by Mike that day wasn't quickly broadcast to anyone outside of Melvin Harris's inner circle, nor indeed seen by Shirley or Keith until January 1997.' She hadn't by this time even fully appreciated the full extent of the mistake because she subsequently wrote: 'I just realised that we wrote that Mike assented to the meeting at his house on 18th January 1995 'to discuss his sworn statement'. It was a mistaken assumption on our part'. Ah that's better, the blame for the mistake is now shared round with her co-authors. Having thought about it further, however, for Morris-Brown, it was, 'A minor error, I would suggest compared with the error made by Harris and co in keeping the statement under wraps for so long after it was made", an illogical and nonsensical comparison, attempting to compare a serious factual mistake in her book with a conscious decision made by Mike Barrett (portrayed for some reason, and without any evidence, as having been made by Melvin Harris) to keep Mike's affidavit a secret, which Mike and his associates were perfectly entitled to do.


Very close to sealing the number one spot, the attempts by diary defenders to find the Holy Grail of diary defending, a single example of "one off" to mean "unique" or "unrepeated" in the nineteenth century so as to explain the impossibly anachronistic "one off instance" in the diary still rank very high in the list of diary defender fails. Some have been batshit crazy but the two classics that make the chart are the discovery in 2016 by "San Fran", as he was then known, of a person called Paddy being described as a "one off" in the British Bee Journal which he thought in his excitement was from 1882 but which turned out to be from 1975 (and was thus less than one hundred years out, which isn't too bad for a diary defender). This absolute fail was then arguably topped by Harry's certainty that he'd found the use of "one off" in the Jamaican Kingston Gleaner of 24 June 1871 which, when the relevant extract - from an advertisement relating to the sale of currants - was eventually reproduced (some time after Harry's initial boast about his astonishing discovery), turned out to be the words "one on retail" which Harry had embarrassingly misread as "one off retail" due to a smudge on the copy. Diary defending doesn't fail much harder than this.


For a period of over twenty years, the sparkling centrepiece at the heart of the defence of the diary was the diarist's claim (supposedly written at some point in 1888) that Gladys was "unwell yet again". According to Paul Feldman in his 1997 book, it was only in "a private letter in the Home Office files" written in April 1889 by Margaret Baillie that anyone had written in similar terms of Gladys having been "ill again". There was, apparently, "nothing else" to suggest that Gladys suffered from any illnesses. So how could the forger possibly have known that Gladys was repeatedly ill, went the argument. Repeated over and over, this astonishing knowledge of the diarist seemed to prove that the diary was either written by James Maybrick or by someone who had intimate knowledge of his family. But it was all nonsense. As I was the first to demonstrate in September 2017, not only was the information in Margaret Baillie's letter publicly available, not just because it was in the National Archives but through having been read out at Florence's trial and included in newspaper reports, but it was also separately reported during Florence's trial that Gladys had been ill with whooping cough in 1887, and this fact had made its way into the secondary literature, including in Ryan's book which said that in 1887, "the children had whooping cough". For this reason, it would have been simplicity itself for the diarist to have believed that Gladys had been ill in 1887 so that when he (or she) cunningly made her ill in 1888 in the fictional diary it would have been for at least the second time in two years. In fact, Gladys had not come down with whooping cough in 1887. That was a misunderstanding of the evidence. She had been ill with that in March 1889, and, when Margaret Baillie was writing to Florence to say she was sorry that Gladys was ill again in April 1889, she was obviously referring back to the illness from the previous month. So, far from the diarist having any inside knowledge of Gladys' health, it looks like the forger made a mistake here by thinking that Gladys had been ill in 1887 when there is no evidence at all that she was. The twist to this story is that despite my debunking all this in September 2017, when he came to write his pisspoor "Society's Pillar" essay in 2019, Tom Mitchell repeated the 'Gladys' point, blissfully unaware that it was entirely false and had been shown to be so. A massive fail.


So that's Lord Orsam's Top 40 Diary Defender Fails. Has he missed any? Do you think he might have got some in the wrong order? Jeezuz give the guy a break, he's only human. Have your impertinent say in the comments, should you be so foolish as to disagree with his Lordship, or keep silent, you miserable bastards.


30 May 2024

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Jun 01
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Amazing and thoughtful as always. The thing I admire the most is that you are willing to take on anyone questioning or going against you and you never dodge anything. And impressively, you always seem to be right. Keep it up Lord O!

Lord Orsam
Jun 01
Replying to

The funny thing is that every diary defender has the opportunity to challenge me about anything on here and the few that have done so (only two, I believe) have run away every time under pressure. The rest appear to be too cowardly even to attempt it.


May 31

"Stop being so pious, it definitely isn't good for you."

I suspect you mean sanctimonious rather than pious, but if a man sets himself up as an 'Iconoclast' and heretic, as Tom has done, what better response can there be, other than pious admonishment?

Tom has strayed. He is repeating false doctrine. Repent, Tom.

Lord Orsam
May 31
Replying to

Only a diary defender could respond to that extraordinary collection of humiliating diary defending fails with a pointless observation of the most unbelievable triviality. The diary defender, paradox, of course is that however earnest they may wish to be in defending the diary, they can't do it without twisting the facts and making false claims. It's inherent in the very nature of diary defending, which is why we see all these fails. A very sad story.


May 31
Rated 1 out of 5 stars.

"One thing was sure', he added, "our diarist was forcing us to reread source material that was to rewrite history."  Well, not really. Not at all, actually.

Interesting. My reading of Iconoclast's 'Society's Pillar' is that he is adding nothing - what you have quoted is what Iconoclast quoted Paul Feldman saying. How many other 'facts' have you got wrong, I wonder? Might be worth slowing down a bit and checking your facts before you put stuff out there.

Lord Orsam
Jun 04
Replying to

Dear Diary Defender,

As I've said many times, I did not get it wrong. Tom Mitchell wholeheartedly adopted Feldman's claims and deserves to be castigated for doing so.

I already said, but in your rush of blood you appear to have ignored, that Mitchell did not quote Feldman for the purpose of challenging or disagreeing with him. He actually introduced the long quote in his essay with the words: "The coincidence deepens somewhat however through the efforts of Paul Feldman's research team [2, pp43-44]". Then he reproduced the long quote.

Why did he quote him at such length ? That's what you can't answer. The only reason is because he approved of everything that Feldman said and adopted it. …

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