Orsam Books

Tales of the Unexpected

Chapter 11 of 'Tales of Liverpool: Murder Mayhem Mystery' by Richard Whittington Egan, entitled 'Motif in Fly Papers', is about the Maybrick case; and Battlecrease House is referred to in the first sentence.  The first mention of this book by Mike Barrett was to Shirley Harrison (presumably in 1992), as published in her 1993 book.  Mike told her:

'I bought all the Ripper books I could find and spent hours down at the library trying to research the Ripper story to see if the diary fitted.  Then one day I read a book by Richard Whittington Egan called Murder, Mayhem and Mystery.  It was about crime in Liverpool, and there was the name 'Battlecrease House' in an account of the Maybrick affair.' 

The book was, therefore, supposed to have been key to Mike's understanding that the diary was written by Maybrick.  Although Shirley Harrison did not then know it, Mike owned his own copy of the book but had lent it to Tony Devereux at some point in 1990 or 1991.  It is certainly known that, from about July 1991 at the latest to October 1993, the book was not in Mike's possession nor did he have access to it.  Therefore, he could not have been talking about reading his own copy of the book at any time after Tony Devereux's death (in August 1991).

As we can see, when speaking to Shirley Harrison in either 1992 or 1993, Mike was giving the impression that he found Whittington Egan's book in the library.  He made no mention that he actually owned a copy of the book which he had lent to the very person who, he was then claiming, had given him the Maybrick diary in the first place.

At some point before interviewing Mike in September 1993, Martin Howells had been given to understand from Tony Devereux's daughters that one of them was holding a copy of Mike's book which their father had borrowed from his friend in 1991. Howells, therefore, asked Mike about this during the interview (after Mike mentioned the book) and one can see Mike stalling furiously before answering the question:

MB: I was looking in all the books, Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper.  Well the opening page of the diary has got "Whitechapel Liverpool Whitechapel London", so I thought to myself "hang on a minute Mike, stop" but this is after many months - I emphasise many months.  Stop looking at Jack the Ripper and start looking at Liverpool murders.  Right and I got a book out by Richard Whittington Egan.  Right, and in that book it's got quite a lot of short stories, short stories, just very short stories...and I come across Florence Maybrick....and I found Battlecrease House.  I suddenly realised Battlecrease House is in the diary. So consequently it had to be.

MH: Did you ever show any of these books to Tony Devereux?

MB: No. Well Tony Devereux was dead.

MH: Yeah. It's just that one of the daughters has apparently said that in fact she remembers that book Murder Mayhem and Mystery being lent to the younger daughter's. Tony Devereux's.

MB: Well which daughter? Sorry.

MH: The younger one. I don't know the names.  In other words that the book that you had which was your book.

MB: Are you trying to imply that Tony wrote it?

MH: No.

MB: Quite honestly, I don't think that he had the capability of writing it. I'm not being disrespectful to a friend.

MH: No, you didn't give the book to Tony Devereux to read when you were investigating it?

MB: Not to my knowledge, no. 

We can see Mike stalling twice here. First, he asks which daughter Tony is supposed to have lent his book to, as if that matters. Then he asks if Howells is trying to imply that Tony wrote the book, which simply diverts from whether Mike lent Tony his book.  Howells has to repeat the question and Mike gives a strange answer.  'Not to my knowledge' he says.  Most normal people would say  'I don't remember doing so'  but, fair enough, Mike is not a normal person.

However, the most important thing to emerge from this questioning is that at no point does Mike deny that he owned a copy of Whittington Egan's book. It has to be said that it's a shame that Howells didn't start his line of questioning by confirming that Mike owned the book but Mike's answer seems to accept that he did.  After all, Howells had referred to the book as 'that book that you had which was your book.'

As we can see, though, Mike appears to have commenced the discussion on the basis that the book was a library book hence he said 'I got a book out by Richard Whittington Egan'.  While it's certainly possible that one could dig out an old copy of a book which one owned, most people would use the language 'I got a book out' to refer to a library book.

On that basis, one assumes that Mike was taken by surprise when Howells asked him if he had lent his book to Tony.  That certainly explains the stalling.  But, as we can see, Mike denied that he had done so, to his knowledge, even though it is a certain fact that he did. 

In October 1993, there was a Scotland Yard investigation and, during that investigation, according to 'Inside Story', Barrett was asked by the investigating officer 'if he knew the whereabouts of his copy of Murder, Mayhem and Mystery by Richard Whittington Egan.'.  Mike replied that 'he had given it to someone, but could not recall whom' (Inside Story, p. 68).  The investigating officer also told Fido that Mike 'went to look for the book' (letter from Fido to Warren dated 14 October 1994).  According to Inside Story, (p. 78), Nick Warren appears to have discovered that Mike 'was unable to produce a copy of a book (which he denied lending to a third party)' so, if that's correct, Mike point blank denied lending the book to Tony.

From this we can see that Mike was accepting that he owned a copy of the book (i.e. 'his copy') and he was aware that he had given it to someone (but not Tony).   In apparent contradiction of this, he searched his home to see if he could find it.  But the main point is that he was confirming ownership of the book.  He had it at some point. Yet we know for a fact that he didn't have it in his possession at any time from Devereux's death in August 1991 to October 1993.  So how could he have used it to discover that Maybrick lived in Battlecrease House if he received the diary from Eddie Lyons in March 1992?

Keith Skinner attempted to get to the bottom of the issue when he interviewed Mike on 14 April 1994.  According to Skinner, during that interview, Mike made clear 'that his first knowledge of the book Murder, Mystery and Mayhem was after he claims to have been given the Diary by Devereux, which he now dates to late May 1991, having bought it in the history section of WH Smith's' (Inside Story, p. 85).

As Mike was still saying he was given the diary by Devereux in May 1991, the effect of what he was telling Keith was that, at some point after May but before August 1991, he purchased the Whittington Egan book, spotted the Battlecrease connection and then lent the book to Devereux before his death. At the same time, he now told Keith that he wasn't entirely certain that he spotted the Battlecrease connection in Whittington Egan's book but, given that he had already volunteered this information twice, unprompted, once to Shirley Harrison and once to Martin Howells, we can ignore this late and desperate attempt to throw doubt on the matter.

As for Mike's claim that he was given the diary by Tony in May 1991, we don't need to worry too much about that because no-one is seriously arguing this any longer, and the key thing to note here is that Mike was saying that he 'bought' the book in WH Smith. Unless he bought two copies of the book in total (so that one is missing) this must have occurred before Tony Devereux's death so that it was impossible for him to have used that book for any purpose if he received the diary from Eddie Lyons in March 1992.

Mike was questioned further about the book by Doreen Montgomery on 6 May 1994 during which time 'he claimed not to know where the Devereux sisters came up with the idea that he had lent it to Tony Devereux...' (p. 87).  This is odd because Mike had claimed to have bought a copy of the book in WH Smith, so where was it at the time?  He certainly wasn't able to produce it for the police.  He obviously wasn't able to produce it for Doreen either. Well we know where it was.  It was in the possession of Janet, one of Tony Devereux's daughters.

According to 'Inside Story', Janet had asked her father if she could borrow it and was told the book had to be returned to him because it belonged to 'Bongo' (p.256).  The story told to the authors of 'Inside Story' by one of Janet's sisters, Nancy, was that Janet was bored because she had recently left work to begin maternity leave.  As her baby was born on 27 November 1991, this is not likely to have been before about 27 May (three months into the pregnancy) and certainly no earlier than about 27 February when the baby would have been conceived.  Janet's sister said the book was borrowed in either July or August 1991 but Caroline Morris, in an internet post, corrects this to January 1991 on the basis of a discovery by Keith Skinner in or after 2003 that Janet herself is supposed to have told someone in 1993 that this is when she borrowed the book. Unfortunately, as is all too typical with Caroline Morris, she fails to tell us to whom Janet is supposed to have said in 1993 that she borrowed the book in January 1991, nor how she could be so sure this was the correct month.

Caroline Morris claims that Janet's account should be preferred to Nancy's because it was a first hand account while Nancy's wasn't, but that's not true.  Nancy told Feldman that she personally recalled hearing Janet asking her dad if she could borrow the book with her date telling her, 'OK but let me have it back at the weekend; it belongs to Bongo' (Feldman, 1997, p. 139).  That is a first hand account, so her own memory of when this happened is of no lesser value than Janet's. She is not a 'secondary source' as Caroline Morris claims.

The date at which Janet borrowed the book, however, is a red herring because, if we assume that Tony didn't give the diary to Mike in May 1991 (or at any time), and that the only two possibilities are (1) that Mike and his wife (or some other unknown accomplice) forged the diary in March/April 1992 or (2) that Eddie Lyons gave it to Mike on or soon after 9 March 1992, having found it in Battlecrease, then it doesn't matter if Janet borrowed the book from her father in January or July 1991.  In both cases, it was unavailable to Mike between August 1991 and October 1993.

The above is all the information of which I am aware concerning the Whittington Egan book, save that in her 1998 book, contrary to the impression she had given in her 1993 book about Mike finding Whittington Egan's book in a library, Shirley Harrison wrote that Mike told her that 'when he was in a Liverpool bookshop, he found a copy of Murder, Mayhem and Mystery in Liverpool' and, noting the mention of Battlecrease, he 'suddenly realised [he] could become the man who had finally caught Jack the Ripper' (page 9).  Harrison doesn't make clear if this bookshop was WH Smith, as Mike had told Keith Skinner in 1994, nor does she confirm that he actually purchased the book, as Mike had told Keith he had done in 1994, but we might note that if the edition of the book seized by the police was published in 1967, a purchase from WH Smith makes no sense, because WH Smith only sold books which were in print. 

Anyway, what can be seen from all the evidence relating to this book is that if one is to accept that Mike first saw the diary on 9 March 1992, when it was shown to him by Eddie Lyons, and didn't acquire it until that date or some later date, the following FOUR highly implausible occurrences need to be believed:

1. By 1993, Mike had totally forgotten that he lent his copy of the book to Tony Devereux two years earlier.

2. Mike had not only forgotten by 1993 that he lent his copy of the book to Tony Devereux but also forgot that he even owned the book in the first place!

3. As at 9 March 1992, Mike had either never read the book (or, if he had read it, had forgotten its contents) and, despite having lived in Liverpool his entire life, had never heard of Battlecrease House and was unaware of its connection with James Maybrick. 

4. After 9 March 1992, Mike bought a SECOND copy of the book, having totally forgotten he already owned it and had lent it to Tony, which copy vanished into thin air.

These four highly implausible occurrences all have to be true otherwise the Battlecrease provenance theory is in big trouble.  For Caroline Morris has to explain not only why Mike denied lending the book to Tony Devereux when he spoke to investigators in 1993 but also why he told Shirley Harrison and Martin Howells that he discovered the Battlecrease connection at some point after 9 March 1992 from a book that he had owned for about a year, at least, but could not possibly have consulted at that time.

In #6143 of the 'Incontrovertible' thread, Caroline Morris attempts to resolve the puzzle by asking, 'could there have been two copies?'  Well, ha ha, but if there were two copies, what happened to the second one?  Where is it?  We know from Martin Fido (but not from 'Inside Story') that Mike made a show of looking for the book in his house for the police but couldn't find it.  So what happened to it?  It's a mystery in this tale of the unexpected.

With the 'Orsam theory' of events, however, this complex web becomes simplicity itself.  Mike was fully aware of the Battlecrease connection to Maybrick by no later than 1991 because he had read his copy of Whittington Egan's book (if he didn't already know of it) and he lent his copy of the book to Tony Devereux with whom he was very likely engaged in a plot to link James Maybrick to the Jack the Ripper murders in a forged diary.  When speaking to investigators between 1992 and 1994 he wanted to play down any knowledge of James Maybrick and Battlecrease House to throw them off the scent so he pretended that the first he knew of it was when he read Whittington Egan's book, long after receiving the diary. 

At this time, he was claiming to have been researching the diary from August 1991, if not before.  'Tales of Liverpool' is actually mentioned in the 'research notes' which he handed over to Shirley Harrison in July or August 1992 (which are headed 'Transferring all my notes since August 1991') as the source of James and Florence marrying in London.  So, when speaking to Keith Skinner in 1994, he was evidently placing the purchase of the book from WH Smith back to sometime in 1991.

This was, however, only after he had first falsely attempted to give the impression that he had found the book in the library.  Realizing that investigators knew he owned a copy of the book, he had to switch to claiming that he bought it in a shop while he was researching the diary.  Given that there is only evidence of him owning one copy of the book this makes his account of events utterly implausible and, indeed, impossible, but he was lying through his teeth.

We've seen his blatant attempt to stall answering Martin Howells' question about lending his book to Tony Devereux.  Of course he knew he had lent it to him. He feared he would be caught out in a lie so he hesitated.  But with one of Devereux's daughters saying that Janet had probably borrowed the book from her father in July or August 1991, this was actually just about consistent with Mike's story because it meant that he could have obtained the diary from Tony in early May 1991, bought the Whittington Egan book during the period he was researching the diary in July then lent it to Tony who lent it to his daughter shortly before his death.  Once again, the sheer incompetence of the teams of people researching the diary meant that they failed to uncover for ten years that Janet was apparently claiming to have borrowed the book from her father in January 1991 which would have made a nonsense of Mike's chronology. 

I submit that there is only one version of events which makes sense of the evidence relating to Tales of Liverpool and it's not the one being touted on the boards by Caroline Morris. 

 

LORD ORSAM
14 November 2020