Orsam Books

Researching the Notes

When Mike Barrett spoke to Doreen Montgomery on 9 or 10 March 1992 he told her that he had done some 'initial research' on the diary (per 'Inside Story', page 2).  No doubt he said the same thing at the meeting with Doreen and Shirley on 13 April 1992.

This will explain the condition of the Collaboration Agreement signed by the Barretts and Shirley Harrison on 30 April 1992 that (underlining added):

"IT IS AGREED that the Owner will make available to the Author with mutually agreed safeguards for research purposes the Diary and his own research notes..." 

Mike was, therefore, contractually obliged to provide his research notes to Shirley. The reason is very clear as per the name of the agreement and its text.  It was for collaboration and research purposes.  In other words, it was to assist Shirley with the research for the book about the diary of which Mike Barrett ("the Owner") was to be a co-author, i.e. as mentioned on the title page to 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper' 

'The rights of Shirley Harrison and Michael Barrett to be identified as authors of the this narrative and commentary have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.' 

For the avoidance of doubt, therefore, the purpose of Mike providing his notes to Shirley was not to prove he had done any research prior to April 1992. He wasn't suspected of being involved in forging the diary at this time.   It was to help Shirley with her book (or rather the book of which Mike was to be the co-author).

We have no idea how useful the notes were to Shirley when she received them in July or August 1992.  Probably not much.  She must have started her own research into the diary by this time.

She probably didn't give the notes a second thought for some years, although she sent them to Keith Skinner for some unknown reason on 12 April 1994.  Skinner appears to have done nothing with them until 13 May 1995 when he sent them to Martin Fido.  Shirley might have mislaid her own copy because Keith sent the first page of the notes to her on 5 January 1997 and then the entire document on 23 January 1997.

The apparent reason for the sudden importance of the notes in early 1997 was that Shirley, at this time, was having to fiercely defend the diary in public against persistent allegations by Melvin Harris that Mike was the forger.

The public debate had reached a critical stage. Melvin had published a 30 page document entitled 'The Maybrick Hoax - a Fact File for the Perplexed' which made a powerful case that the diary was a modern hoax. It required a response from Shirley. 

One of the key parts of Shirley's response in 1997 was to mention Mike's research notes publicly for the first time.  She revealed in an online post that she had Mike's notes in her possession and that (underlining added):

'They were typed and collated for him by Anne, his then wife, while he was trying to make sense of the Diary, before he brought it to us.'

In 1997, therefore, Shirley clearly believed that the research notes had been typed by Anne prior to 13 April 1992 and reflected research done by Mike prior to that date.  The basis of her belief is uncertain, but that is evidently what she believed. 

In her 1997 response to Melvin about these notes, Shirley continued: 

Where he can't find what he wants, he writes, 'nothing to date'.  Or 'not known'.  Interestingly, there is a remark about the Diary reference to the Punch cartoon 'Catch whom you May'.  Mr Harris implies that the forger only had to look at the cover of Martin Fido's hardback 'The Crimes Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper' to see this reproduced. But Michael Barrett had never heard of Martin Fido at that time.  He relied on Paul Harrison, Colin Wilson and Robin Odell.  His research note says simply: 'check for copy of Punch around September 1888'.  This is not the strategic, forward-looking plan of a forger embarking on research!  It reflects the uncertainties of a man struggling to understand material that has already been written.'

This all seemed to be so important a point to Shirley Harrison as showing that Mike had no special knowledge about the diary that she repeated it verbatim in subsequent books including her 2003 book, 'The American Connection' at page 302, including the part about Anne having typed the notes before Mike had brought the diary to London.

The research notes were, therefore, being put forward as a key piece of evidence that Mike not only knew nothing about the contents of the diary, and was baffled by it, but that he had been investigating it prior to 13 April 1992. 

The notes were being put forward as genuine, reflecting the result of real research. 

As such, the research notes seemed to provide corroboration of Mike's story that he had been in possession of the diary for some time, having received it in 1991, from Tony Devereux, which, in turn, corroborated Anne Graham's story that she had given the diary to Tony Devereux.

On 21 January 2018, Keith Skinner posted in the Forum to say 'I have not ruled out Anne Graham's story'.  In his 2019 'Society's Pillar', Major Tom, as we know, was still punting the possibility that the diary had been handed down to Anne Graham through her family.

So Mike's research notes, if genuine, have retained great significance to this day.

In respect of the diary defenders' alternative theory that Mike only acquired the diary on or after 9 March, it has been admitted by the diary defenders that Mike must have faked the heading on his Research Notes which state, 'Transferring all my notes since August 1991', but, somewhat surprisingly, the notes have still been regarded as a genuine attempt by Mike to research the diary, except that he was supposed to have done his research between March and July/August 1992.

Now, for the very first time, we are seeing admissions that the contents of Mike's notes - not just the heading - might not be genuine, and that Mike, it is now admitted, was hiding his reliance of Bernard Ryan's book on the Maybrick case.  The references in the document are as fake as the heading!

This has never been admitted before.

And it's not just the references.  We can now see that when Mike said things like 'Nothing known' - the exact type of comment cited by Shirley Harrison as showing that he was struggling with his research into the diary - he was lying, because Ryan did provide more information about the very things Mike was saying that nothing was known. The notes are, in other words, nothing more than a scam by Mike.

Following publication of The Secret Source of Michael John Barrett it seems to be universally accepted that Mike MUST have been using Ryan's book as his primary source for the Maybrick information in his notes AND that he was hiding this fact from Shirley Harrison.

The reason he did this is perfectly obvious.  He knew that Ryan was the primary source used for the creation of the diary, as I have previously demonstrated.  But Miss Information in #8097 of the 'Incontrovertible' thread puts forward an alternative theory.  This is that Shirley had mentioned Ryan's book to Mike 'at some point after April 13 1992', at which unspecified time, Mike, 'didn't know Bernard Ryan's book from a bar of soap'.  She says that Mike couldn't then name Ryan as a source in his notes because, 'Shirley would have instantly rumbled that his  notes had not been compiled over several months, but only after she herself had made him aware of Ryan's book.'

It will be noted that no evidence has been presented by Miss Information in support of the notion that Shirley had mentioned Ryan's book to Mike prior to receipt of the research notes (or an explanation for why Shirley would have done so). Equally, and critically, here has been no evidence presented that Mike then informed Shirley in response that he didn't know Ryan's book from a bar of soap.

Until some actual evidence is presented of this exchange between Shirley and Mike it has to be assumed that there is no evidence of its existence which suggests that it probably did not happen.

It's certainly not mentioned by the authors of 'Inside Story' in their comprehensive account of the diary story nor is it mentioned by Shirley Harrison in any of her books.

Furthermore, given that Mike's notes are supposed to have been those made 'since August 1991' there was no reason whatsoever on the face of those notes (including anything said in the Collaboration Agreement) for him not to have included the results of any research carried out by him between April and July 1992 (as that period would still have included the period since August 1991).  While Shirley seems to have understood that what she was being given were the notes of the research carried out by Mike before he came to London, that's not what is stated on the notes themselves and it's impossible to understand why Mike should have been prohibited from carrying out further research after he brought the diary to London, including referencing Ryan's book, and including the results of that research in his notes.  

This fact was acknowledged by Miss Information herself in an invented conversation between Mike and Shirley which she posted in #5497 of the 'Incontrovertible' thread on 7 July 2020:

What we can see there is Miss Information imagining Shirley telling Mike about Bernard Ryan's book and then, once she received Mike's notes, Shirley supposedly said to him:

'Did you not make any notes? [i.e. from Ryan's book]  There's nothing in your typed up research notes to suggest you have consulted Ryan's book'.

Mike's supposed answer here, according to Miss Information, was NOT that his research notes only reflected research he carried out prior to April 1992 but that the notes DID reflect unsourced information from Ryan's book which he was only to happy to tell Shirley that he'd read!  The reason for this, according to Miss Information back in July 2020 was that Mike 'wanted to impress Shirley and understand what the diary was all about'.

It's a classic example of a diary defender desperately changing the story of what is supposed to have happened to try and fit the new evidence.  Now, following publication of my article, we have a situation where, instead of openly boasting to Shirley that he read Ryan's book at her recommendation, and including Ryan's information in his research notes, he feels the need to hide that from her!

We can also see that Miss Information - spreading misinformation as usual - was of the view back in July 2020 that there was 'nothing' in Mike's typed up research notes to suggest that he had consulted Ryan's book. 

So she's now learnt something from me (again!).

When you think about it, what would have been the point of Mike in July 1992 giving Shirley typed up notes of his research in circumstances where a number of questions were unanswered in those notes and in circumstances whereby he had been told of a key book relating to the Maybrick murder case but had failed to consult it?  Surely the whole purpose of the notes was to assist Shirley in understanding the diary in preparation for her forthcoming book.  It's hard to believe that she was interested in Mike's historic and out-of-date understanding of the diary at a time when no one was suggesting that Mike had played a role in forging it.  But if Mike had forged it, as far as Shirley knew, he could have done so in 1990, so that the notes themselves had no evidential value at that time in proving the diary to be genuine. 

Now look what Keith Skinner himself said about those research notes as published in the 2017 book, 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper 25 Years of Mystery'.  When introducing the notes, Keith wrote (underlining added):

'These notes were given to Shirley Harrison by Michael Barrett when she met him in Liverpool, July or August 1992.  Although they are a record of his research, some of the information and input came from Shirley and Mike added this to his own notes'.

If Keith is correct, and Mike was adding into his notes information received from Shirley after 13 April 1992, this totally demolishes Miss Information's theory that Mike needed to hide any information he obtained from Ryan subsequent to Shirley's tip-off about that book.  It would make no sense.  It only makes sense if Mike was trying to hide from Shirley the very fact that he knew about Ryan's book.

There is, however, some reason to think that Keith is wrong about Mike's notes containing information and input from Shirley.   In the first place, as we have seen, Shirley believed in 1997 (and still believed in 2003) that the notes were typed up by Anne before Mike brought the diary to London.  If that was true, they couldn't possibly have included anything she had told Mike because she would surely have noticed her own information and input in the notes, and would then have known that they had been typed up after 13 April 1992.  She couldn't, therefore, have written in 1997 that the notes had been typed by Anne prior to 9 March 1992 unless she was lying.

Furthermore, beneath Keith's annotation on the first page of the notes which says that the notes had 'been updated by Mike, on his word processor with information and input by Shirley', Keith then wrote 'apparently not' which seems to reflect some doubt on the matter. 

Nevertheless, as we've seen, in his introduction to those notes when published in the 2017 book 'The Diary of Jack the Ripper: 25 Years of Mystery', Keith repeated the claim that 'some of the information and input came from Shirley and Mike added this to his own notes'.

It's impossible to square this statement with Shirley Harrison's clear 1997 statement that Anne typed up the notes before Mike brought the diary to London. 

I did ask on the Forum back in 2017 what was meant by 'information and input', and was told in thread '25 Years of Diary of Jack the Ripper' (#530) by none other than Keith Skinner, who was obviously speculating, that:

'Shirley's input into these notes may have been the research she was suggesting to Mike he could do in Liverpool.' 

This doesn't explain what is meant by 'information' and barely explains 'input'.  Again, if Shirley recognized the results of her own research tasks in Mike's notes when she first saw them in 1992, how could she possibly have believed in 1997 that they had been typed by Anne before Mike had brought the diary to London?  It makes no sense.

Keith Skinner has no first hand knowledge of these notes, and it's entirely unclear who told him that Mike's notes contain Shirley's information and input and who then told him that they apparently do not.  For this reason, Shirley's understanding of the notes should probably be taken as correct, namely that they do not contain anything she had told Mike nor reflect the results of any research tasks she suggested he perform.

One can't help wondering if Keith Skinner was confused and that what he was actually told was that the manuscript annotations on the research notes reflected information and input by Shirley.  We know, for example, that the manuscript annotation on page 15 of the notes which says 'Inquest October 4' was by Shirley because Keith has written a note next to it saying that it was Shirley's handwriting.   The first page of the notes has some manuscript annotations by an unknown person  adding in the addresses of Richard Humphreys, Arthur Hopper and Charles Fuller.  There's another annotation on page 2 with the date of Gladys Maybrick's birth while there are also some scribbles on page 3.  If this was all Shirley, it might well explain why Keith was told that Mike's notes contained information added by Shirley Harrison.  It's just that the person who told him this didn't mean the typed bits, just the handwritten additions.

One thing is obvious though. If the typed parts of research notes DID contain information and input from Shirley, it would mean that they quite obviously reflected research done by Mike after 13 April 1992 which would mean that there was no apparent need for him to hide the use of a book about James Maybrick which Shirley had mentioned to him (if she did mention such a book), even if he had denied knowledge of that book.  On the contrary, it would have made perfect sense for him to use that book and include it in the references.

If, on the other hand, Shirley thought she was getting notes which had been typed up by Anne prior to 13 April 1992, she certainly would have been surprised to see references to Ryan's book, assuming she had mentioned Ryan to Mike after 13 April 1992 AND Mike had said in reply that he'd never heard of Ryan.  But did such a conversation take place?  There is no evidence of it, and it appears, at the moment, to be a fantasy.

Until actual evidence of any exchange between Mike and Shirley referring to Ryan's book is presented, as well as evidence of any positive representation by Mike that the notes contained (or were supposed to contain) only information found by him before April 1992, the clear and obvious explanation as to why Mike hid from Shirley his knowledge of the existence of Ryan's book is that it was because it was the source of the Maybrick information in the diary and that he knew this because he was involved in the forging of the diary.


22 January 2022
Published Orsam Day: 9 March 2022