Orsam Books

Silence of the Anne

You will, of course, already have read the article with the best title in the history of the world, 'Blackmail or Mrs Barrett' (found here) containing exclusive extracts from a letter written by Anne to her separated husband on 1 February 1995 in which she complained about being blackmailed by him.

The important thing to bear in mind about this letter is that it was written at a time when it wasn't widely known that Mike had sworn an affidavit on 5 January 1995 in which he named Anne as the person who physically wrote the Diary text.

Frankly, this was news to me until it was revealed recently.  The authors of 'Inside Story' gave the clear impression that Keith Skinner and the other researchers all knew about Mike's affidavit when they went to interview him at this home on 18 January 1995.  But we now know that Keith wasn't informed about this affidavit until 22 January 1997, when Shirley Harrison received a copy from Mike and she then forwarded the first two pages to Keith.  According to Keith Skinner's spokesperson: 

'This was the first Keith knew of its existence.' 

I think we can safely say that if Keith Skinner, with all his contacts, was unaware of this affidavit until January 1997, it wasn't widely known about in 1995 (even though Bob Azurdia of Radio Merseyside evidently knew about it when he interviewed Mike in September 1995 and mentioned it to his listeners).   

When Keith asked Anne for a sample of Anne's handwriting on 18 January 1995, therefore, it must have been pure coincidence, done not knowing that Mike had accused Anne of writing the Diary, because, as far as I am aware, until his 5 January 1995 affidavit, Mike had made no public accusation that Anne was involved, although he did include this claim in a statement lodged at Walton Lane Police Station on 5 November 1994 when he said that, 'My wife Anne Barrett wrote the 'Jack the Ripper Diary' the actual manuscript'.

Presumably, then, it was Martin Fido's suspicions about Anne from November 1994 on the basis of a short research note she had prepared which prompted Keith to request a handwriting sample from Anne. 

Having said this, there is a strange comment in Shirley Harrison's October 1994 paperback which states that the Word team checked Mike's handwriting 'and that of Anne and Tony' (page 212).  No further information is provided as to how Anne's handwriting was checked prior to 9 September 1994 (when the book went to the printers) and by whom but, if she provided a sample of her handwriting at this time, it shows she was well prepared prior to providing a sample to Keith Skinner in January 1995 and wasn't take by surprise by Keith's request.

In any event, returning to the main issue, we can safely say that Keith did not know about Mike's affidavit for two whole years. 

Who DID know about it?

Well this is where it gets interesting.  In a letter dated 9 January 1995, just four days after Mike's affidavit was sworn, and published here for the first time, we find his solicitor writing to him as follows (underling added):

'...I confirm my advice to you regarding the sworn Affidavit typed up by Alan Grey which is that it ought not to have been delivered to Mrs Barrett.  I understand from our discussions that it is not in Mrs Barrett's best interest to publish the Affidavit, however she may try and use it against you in the custody proceedings. I would strongly advise that no further Affidavits or statements are made by you in the future as you will kill the golden goose'.

  

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So what is perfectly clear from that extract is that Mike must have personally arranged for Anne to receive a copy of his newly sworn affidavit on or shortly after 5 January 1995.  She was, therefore, fully aware of the allegation that he was making about her own involvement in the creation of the forgery, and everything else in the affidavit, by no later than 9 January 1995 (and clearly earlier than this).

The letter of 9 January, incidentally, was from Morecroft Dawson & Garnetts, under Richard Bark-Jones' reference, showing that Mr Bark-Jones was fully aware of Mike's 5 January affidavit, contrary to some recent uninformed speculation on the internet:

 

The fact that Anne was sent a copy of Mike's affidavit so soon after it was sworn raises a number of interesting issues.

Firstly, despite having a very close working relationship, and indeed friendship, with Keith Skinner, Anne mentioned not a single word about the existence of Mike's affidavit to him. She remained silent for two whole years (and even then SHE didn't give a copy to Keith).  Yet we know that Ann spoke to Keith in person on 18 January 1995 (when she gave him a handwriting sample) and on 24 April 1995 at a meeting with Feldman and on 1 May 1995 when she gave him her side of the story over the telephone and again on 30 and/or 31 May 1995 when she met Keith and Martin Howells in person and again in June 1995, when she and Keith went to the National Archives to spend many hours examining the Maybrick files, and again in the summer of 1995 when she and Keith visited Richard Whittington-Egan and again in August 1995 when Keith asked her about the acquisition of the little red diary and again in November 1995 when Keith had 'a long discussion' with her about the Grand National and again in December 1995 and January 1996 when they discussed the question of Florence's aunt (as recently revealed by Keith Skinner via Iconoclast). So there had been PLENTY of opportunities for Anne to have mentioned the affidavit to Keith but she appears to have taken none of them.

Secondly, when it comes to the issue of the little red diary, Anne had PLENTY of time to think about what she would say if Keith ever asked her about it.  We know from 'Inside Story' (page 237) that he did ask her about it in August 1995, having learnt about it on 20 July 1995 during a meeting with Mike, Feldman and Martin Howells.  Although this fact is not mentioned in 'Inside Story', it was revealed for the first time in a post by Caroline Morris on 4 September 2020 (#6100 of the 'Incontrovertible' thread).

The story has already changed since it was first revealed because on 31 July 2020 in #366 of the 'Special Announcement' thread, Iconoclast posted on behalf of Keith Skinner to say that he first heard about the little red diary on 5 July 1995, not 20 July. Hence:

 

No explanation has been provided as to why it was said to have been 5 July 2020 three months ago and it's become 20 July 1995 now, but there we are, that's diary defending for you.  No mention is made in 'Inside Story' of Mike talking about the little red diary in the account of the meeting that day at pages 202-203 of the book and, given the new importance of this meeting, which was recorded, we should really have a transcript provided to ensure that nothing else has been missed out of the summary.  But fine, we've established that Mike told Keith about the little red diary in July 1995, causing Keith to make inquiries about it.

Yet, the incredible thing is that despite being asked directly by Keith about the little red diary in August 1995 Anne STILL failed to mention Mike's affidavit to him, even though she must have known that Mike had relied on the purchase to support his story in that affidavit.  Instead, having had five months to prepare for such a question, she said that Mike 'had been curious to see what a Victorian diary actually looked like', something that we now know can't possibly have been the truth of the matter due to his secret request for a diary with blank pages. And she never thought to mention the affidavit to Keith at any time prior to January 1997.

Thirdly, Anne had plenty of time to consider whether she should provide Keith Skinner with the cheque stub showing that she paid for the little red diary in May 1992 (which she did at some point prior to April 1999).  As I've said a number of times, this fact wasn't damaging to her at all.   On the contrary, it seems that for FOUR YEARS, between 1995 and 1999, Keith thought that the May 1992 date in the cheque stub disproved Mike's story!  He foolishly wrote to Ripperologist on 27 April 1999 to say that the May 1992 date, 'raises the question as to why Mike Barrett should have bought a Victorian diary at a time when publishers were being lined up to bid for the rights to the journal'.   It seems that he didn't get to the bottom of the matter until July 1999 when Martin Earl revealed to Shirley Harrison that that the diary had been dispatched to Mike on 26 March 1992 (although the question of why Mike should have bought a Victorian diary at a time when Doreen Montgomery was waiting in London to see his promised diary of Jack the Ripper is one which Keith seems to regard as of rather less interest because I'm still waiting for his answer to it that he promised to give me more than two years ago and, as far as I'm aware, he hasn't written to Ripperologist to raise this question like he did with his 1999 question).  Even when learning of the red diary's dispatch on 26 March 1992, Keith still hadn't discovered that Mike had specifically and secretly asked for a Victorian diary with blank pages and it took five more years, until December 2004, before he found this out.

Fourthly, it leads to the very interesting possibility that Anne shared the contents of the affidavit with Shirley Harrison as soon as she received it and both women kept it secret from Keith Skinner.  It may be recalled that Shirley said in her 2003 book that Mike's affidavit was 'very soon in general circulation...'.  That strikes me as a rather strange statement to make from someone who immediately forwarded that same affidavit to Keith Skinner on 22 January 1997 after she had received it directly from Mike Barrett, suggesting that she assumed that Keith didn't already have a copy and was thus aware it was NOT in general circulation. We may certainly ask why would she have assumed that Keith didn't have a copy in January 1997 if she genuinely believed it had been in general circulation for the best part of two years?

Does her own secret knowledge of Mike's affidavit explain why she contacted O&L on 16 January 1995 to ask whether they sold Mike the old photograph album in 1990/91?  In response, as we know, she was told by Kevin Whay that, 'between 1990-1991', O&L held 300 auctions and that 'an old photo album' would have been in a job lot marked 'miscellaneous items'?  As I remarked in an earlier article, I'm not aware of Mike having said prior to his affidavit that he purchased the old photo album from O&L between 1990 and 1991.  That information only comes from Mike's affidavit.  The same is true of the information that Mike used the name 'Williams' at the auction and had mentioned the lot number, both of which were referred to by Kevin Whay on 16 January 1995, suggesting that Shirley had told him this. So did Shirley secretly and in confidence get shown by Anne a copy of Mike's affidavit (or obtain a copy of it) which then led her to make enquiries with O&L? 

Fifthly, we can put Anne's letter to Mike of 1 February 1995 in context when she says she will not be blackmailed into speaking to him.  Was the 'blackmail' a specific threat by Mike to release his affidavit to a wider audience?   If so, was one of Anne's counter-measures going to be that she had already told Shirley Harrison about it, thus had nothing to hide?

Sixthly, although the affidavit appears to have been the idea of Melvin Harris in late 1994 we can, perhaps, now understand Mike's motivation in swearing it, despite incriminating himself by doing so. Indeed, according to Caroline Morris, Mike's first (tape recorded) reaction to the suggestion in December 1994 was to say, 'I'll get nicked then' .  But it rather looks like he came to see that it would be useful to him as some kind of leverage or bargaining tool (possibly even as blackmail) against his wife who had instituted divorce proceedings against him. Even if he had already given up hope in the divorce proceedings due to a Decree Nisi having been obtained (but not yet the Decree Absolute), there were still custody proceedings ongoing (as his lawyer's letter of 9 January makes clear). It looks like the very first thing he did after swearing the affidavit was to rush it over to Anne. Now to me, that is the action of someone who was telling the truth and wanted Anne to know that he was telling the truth and was showing her that he had a sworn legal document ready to release to the world.  And that is undoubtedly what Mike was telling his solicitor, for we can see that Bark-Jones wrote that, based on what Mike had told him, 'it is not in Mrs Barrett's interests to publish the Affidavit'. One could even say that it was in her interests to suppress it!

Seventhly, in a letter written by Mike to Doreen Montgomery dated circa 30 March 1995, according to 'Inside Story' page 191, 'It was pure anger, he claimed, that drove his allegation, contained in his affidavit of 5 January 1995, that Anne was responsible for the handwriting in the Diary'.  Had Doreen seen the affidavit before the end of March 1995 then?  Surely she must have done for Mike to be explaining to her why he swore it. If so, how did she get hold of it?  Presumably she would have shown it to Shirley?  So why didn't Shirley send a copy to Keith prior to 30 March 1995?   Or was it the other way round and Shirley had obtained it from Anne and had shown it to Doreen, but not to Keith?

Ultimately we have to consider Anne's silence.  Why did she not say a word about this affidavit to Keith Skinner at any time after she saw it in January 1995, only speaking of it to Keith, presumably, after he saw a copy in 1997 (although I'm not aware of any record of her reaction to it)?  When she received a copy from Mike in January 1995, did she regard the contents of that affidavit as presenting a serious danger to her?  Did she nevertheless share it with Doreen and Shirley but NOT Keith?  Was she worried that Keith might investigate it and discover that it was the truth?  Was it safer for her to leave Shirley to contact Outhwaite & Litherland knowing she would not press too hard to get to the bottom of the matter?

Above all, though, when we look at a question asked by Caroline Morris on 30 July 2020 as to, 'why would Mike have felt obliged to admit to this 'fraud' if he did it?  Who was forcing him to incriminate himself, by swearing this affidavit in the first place?' (#333 of the 'Incontrovertible' thread), I think we can work out the answer from the fact that the very first thing he appears to have done after swearing the affidavit was to send it over to Anne in conditions of secrecy.  It wasn't done for the rest of the world.  It was done for Anne.

And don't forget he'd put his hand through a window pane (or something similar) at Anne's house only a few days earlier showing that he was after something from her.  Did he agree to swear to his fraud in the affidavit as one last (futile) gamble to persuade Anne to change her mind about the divorce? Or, alternatively, to persuade her to allow him some form of custody or visiting rights over Caroline?  If so, that suddenly makes sense not just of the affidavit but of his telling Keith Skinner et al on 18 January that he did NOT forge the diary (as well as telling Shirley three days earlier that it was 100% genuine).  He wasn't really changing his mind.  He had two different objectives.  In private, he wanted to let Anne know that he COULD blow the whole story wide open (which, in his somewhat deluded mind, he undoubtedly thought was what the affidavit would do) but in public he wanted to stick to the story of having received the diary from Tony in order to keep Anne pleased, not to mention keeping Robert Smith pleased so that the money would keep rolling in, as advised by his solicitors who told him not to kill 'the golden goose'.

This takes us back to a point I made in the last update. Anne had written to Mike in late July 1994 to tell him that the reason for the divorce was that he had blabbed to the Liverpool Daily Post about having forged the diary.  Immediately upon receiving this letter, Mike changed his story when interviewed by Roger Wilkes.  No longer did he say he forged it (as he had claimed to the Liverpool Daily Post in June) but he said he really did receive it from Tony Devereux.  He then wrote to Shirley Harrison in the first week of August to tell her the same thing.  

Privately, in September, he was plotting with Alan Gray to start to collate the evidence of his forging the diary.  He also couldn't help himself in revealing the source of the  Sphere quotation to both Feldman and Shirley but he's still, I think, being deliberately cagey in late 1994 about whether he forged the diary or not because he wants a reconciliation with Anne (or at the very least wants access to Caroline) and he thinks that the best way to go about this is to back up HER story about her having given the diary to Tony for Tony to give to him.

Nevertheless, according to Shirley Harrison in her 2004 book, after her paperback was published in October 1994, Mike 'changed tack and began to say that he 'created' the Diary but it was in Anne's handwriting' (p.293).  I'm somewhat suspicious that she is referring here to his January 1995 affidavit as opposed to anything he actually said to her in or around October 1994 (of which there is no record as far as I'm aware) but if it's true, this is the beginning of the truth coming out because Mike's got nothing left. He certainly signed a statement for Alan Gray in November 1994, which was lodged with Liverpool Police, saying that his wife wrote the diary. But until I see anything different, my view is that, with the possible exception of the Sphere incident (whereby Mike couldn't help himself but crow), he was at all times from late July 1994 until to at least September 1995 when he gave the Radio Merseyside interview (and possibly all the way up until April 1999) publicly committed to supporting Anne's story in order to keep the golden goose alive while privately threatening Anne with exposure of her role in the forgery, thus creating a secret written statement in November 1994 accusing her of having written the diary and a secret affidavit in January 1995 to the same effect.

On 20 July 1995, Mike did privately tell Feldman (with Howells and Skinner in attendance) that the diary was a forgery but I think that, in Mike's mind, Feldman was closely connected with Anne so that he didn't regard it as as a public statement. In any case, he quickly changed his mind during the same meeting, thinking better of it, and reverted to the story that he had received the diary from Tony, adding obviously false and invented details of Tony telling him to'Look to your bloody wife' as the source of the item, in order to support Anne's story that she had given it to Tony in the first place.

While I haven't seen the full correspondence that Mike had with Doreen and/or Shirley in March 1995, I can only imagine that, despite repeatedly having told Shirley that the diary was genuine, he was confronted by her or Doreen with his affidavit, which they presumably knew about from Anne, and he told them that he only swore it because he was angry with Anne.  To them both, he denied the truth of that affidavit which, of course, satisfied them because, after all, they didn't want to kill the golden goose either. 

The key factor here is that, in December 1994, Mike discovered that there was what he believed to be a large sum of royalties due to him from Robert Smith, to be paid in June 1995, so that if he did ever start letting slip to Shirley in October or November 1994 that Anne was involved in the forgery, he was probably now in December 1994 not sure which direction to go.

When he's alone over Christmas and New Year, things come to a head. In frustration, he smashes his hand through Anne's window or door in the New Year.  Realizing the divorce is going ahead he gives Alan Gray the green light and the affidavit is sworn. But it's a weapon against Anne.  Not a method by which he wants to prove the diary is a fake to the world (or to the various researchers investigating it).  He's still hoping that the large sum of film money promised to him in December by Robert Smith would be arriving in June 1995.  I don't think he has any intention at this stage of releasing or publishing the affidavit. So he tells Shirley on 15 January that the diary is '100% genuine' and he tells Keith and al on 18 January that he got the Diary from Tony, hoping to keep Anne (and Robert Smith) pleased with his public response, having tried to encourage Anne to take him back in private by showing her the affidavit which he COULD release to the world if he wanted to.  

But the plan fails.  He went to see Anne on 20 January, hoping for that reconciliation but instead was attacked by one of Anne's male relatives who kicked and punched him in order to make clear to him that Anne simply didn't want him back.

At the same time, I suspect that Alan Gray heard that Mike told Keith et al on 18 January that he got the diary from Tony and was horrified, knowing that Mike could potentially be charged with perjury, so he persuaded him to make a written statement confirming that what he had told Keith was untrue.  Mike, now pissed off with Anne, does so on 23 January.  He confirms in that statement that the diary is 'a Forgery'.

Suddenly, when viewed in this way, everything makes sense. 

CONCLUSION

The recent revelation that Keith Skinner wasn't aware of Mike's affidavit on 18 January 1995 and that the purpose of the meeting called on that day was NOT, after all, to discuss his 5 January affidavit, is game-changing.

Until now, Mike's behaviour looked odd and bizarre. It looked like he'd sworn an affidavit to tell the world about his and Anne's role in the forgery only to completely change his story within a fortnight, going back to his old story about receiving the diary from Tony.

I could only explain this dramatic switch in story by the fact that there was an unidentified person at the meeting (who was actually a former police officer) but now it's apparent that Mike was playing a more nuanced game.

The affidavit was a warning to his wife.  That's why he rushed it over to her immediately after signing it. 

Until now there didn't seem to be any significance in the fact that he had sent it to Anne.  After all, it seemed like he had sent it to everyone. Shirley, Feldman, Keith, they all knew about it didn't they, by 18 January?   Or so it seemed from 'Inside Story'.

But with Keith knowing nothing about it, that puts a whole new complexion on things.  It means that the affidavit was a secret document.  Only Anne was privy to its contents.

But what about Shirley?  She seems to have found out about it.  How else can we explain her meeting with Kevin Whay on 16 January 1995 in which she clearly discussed information which can only have come from that affidavit? As I've speculated above, this could be explained by Anne confiding in Shirley about the contents of the affidavit, with both women keeping it secret from Keith.

And it's the secret being kept from Keith which might be the key to the whole affair.  Why did Anne want the affidavit kept secret from Keith Skinner?  She had ample opportunity to mention it to him during 1995.  But we know that she didn't say a word to him about it, even when they were discussing Mike's acquisition of the little red diary. 

The whole Ripperology community will have seen the disarray amongst the authors of 'Inside Story' following the articles on this site which led to the exposure of a key error in their book about Mike's affidavit?   Why did they make such a mistake?  Clearly it wasn't deliberate.  It was an oversight due to a failure of checking.  But my belief is that it shows the danger of unconscious bias.  The notion of Mike changing his story so dramatically within 13 days just looked right to someone with an anti-Mike bias.  So it wasn't something that was questioned or challenged.  On the other hand, if something looked pro-Mike it would, I suspect, have been rigorously checked and examined.  It's a bit like the conversation between Whay and Harrison on 16 January 1995.  The information to emerge from that conversation wasn't helpful to anyone who believed that Mike's affidavit was all a big lie so it was omitted.  I don't say deliberately omitted but it just wasn't appealing or attractive to the authors, so it got forgotten about or overlooked.  To this day, Caroline Morris, the book's fact checker, doesn't seem to be aware of the details of that important conversation.

It's now time for a major reassessment of the facts behind the creation of the diary.  This article is the start of that process.  I don't know for sure who told Shirley about Mike's affidavit in 1995 and someone needs to get to the bottom of that.

We need to find out what is behind the silence of the Anne.  

 

LORD ORSAM
19 September 2020