Orsam Books

The Chittenden Mystery

The desperation of Miss Information must be immense because in her latest defence of the diary she's deployed an article written by Maurice Chittenden which was published in the Sunday Times of 3 July 1994.

I say she must be desperate because this is the very article, often referred to by RJ Palmer, in which Chittenden says of Mike Barrett that:

'For months he hunted the publishing houses of London, clutching a dusty black ledger in his hand'.

We know that she firmly believes (as, indeed, do I) that the idea of Mike spending months taking the scrapbook round to publishing houses in London was an invention by Chittenden, and we've been told that a doubting Keith Skinner once wrote to Chittenden to ask him where he got this information from, but received no reply.  Yet, Miss Information now wants us to believe that the other information in Chittenden's article is solid gold!!!

What is it about the article that she wants to draw our attention to?

Well, in part, it's the fact that Mike is said to have 'admitted that he spent 10 days tapping out the "confession" on a word processor in his Victorian  terraced house in Liverpool'.  She appears to be contrasting the 10 days here with the 11 days mentioned in his affidavit and also contrasting the fact that he later said that the 11 day period was actually him dictating the diary to his wife as opposed to him typing the diary.  Hence she writes:

'The ten days of tapping out Jim's confessional diary on his word processor later morphed into the eleven days Anne took to transfer Mike's tapping by hand into the photo album obtained at an O&L auction'. 

It's not a great point to begin with because we all know that Mike initially took full credit for the creation of the diary, while hiding Anne's role, so that he was never, in July 1994, going to be mentioning anything Anne did regarding the creation of the diary.  In any case, and more importantly, I can't for the life of me see why Mike couldn't have taken 10 days to type a draft of the diary on his Word Processor while he and his wife took 11 days to write it all out, with him dictating it. So it is far from certain that there is any discrepancy here.  

The main apparent discrepancy to which she wants to draw our attention, however, is the fact that Chittenden wrote that Mike:

'bought the ledger - an old photographic album - in a house clearance sale...'

What she says about this in #7529 of the Incontrovertible thread is:

'Either there was a serious misunderstanding about what Mike was actually admitting here, or he badly screwed it up in advance of his affidavit the following January'.

To the unwary, it makes it look like Mike started out with a false story about purchasing the photographic album in a house clearance sale before changing his story to having successfully bid for it in an Outhwaite & Litherland auction.  But this is certainly not the case.  For Mike had ALREADY informed the Liverpool Daily Post journalist Harold Brough that he bought the photograph album at an auction.  Hence, we find it stated in the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 June 1994, six days before Chittenden's article, that:

'He said that he visited premises of auctioneers Outhwaite and Litherland in Fontenoy Street, Liverpool, bought an old photograph album...'.

So the idea being punted here by Miss Information that the story about purchasing the photograph album at an auction only occurred to Mike after having told Chittenden that he found it at a house clearance sale is a non-starter.

In any event, there is no inconsistency between the photograph album coming from a house clearance sale and Mike purchasing it at an auction.  A large number of auctions contain items taken from house clearances.  It frequently happens that after someone dies the valuable contents of their house are put up for auction.  For some large and wealthy houses, you can have a single auction based on the contents alone. So it's entirely plausible that Mike could have told someone that the photograph album came from lots from a house clearance which was being sold at auction.  

Let's move to the key question: Where did Chittenden get his information?

Well the first thing to note is that Chittenden never said in the article that he had meet with or spoken to Mike Barrett (and being a journalist based in London it's unlikely he met with him in person) and there is only a single quote from Mike in the entire article which is as follows:

'I did it because I could not pay the mortgage and I fooled the world'.

I am very suspicious about this quote because it seems to be a cut and paste of two different quotes from Mike published by Harold Brough a few days earlier.  Thus, in the Liverpool Daily Post of 25 June 1994 we find Mike quoted as saying:

'I did it because I could not pay the mortgage'.

Then in the article of 27 June, 1994 Mike was quoted as saying:

'I  fooled the world'.

I think that Chittenden simply patched the two quotes together into one, adding the word 'and'.

We can certainly note that Chittenden says this (underlining added):

'For nearly a year Barrett maintained the book was authentic. However, last week he admitted he spent 10 days tapping out the 9,000 word confession....'

To me, the mention of 'last week' is a reference to the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 June 1994 in which Barrett's detailed 'confession' was published.  Did Chittenden take all his information from Brough's article?

Well if we look at what is contained in Chittenden's article we find almost everything in it about Mike's confession in the earlier Liverpool Daily Post articles.  If we take the statements one by one:

Liverpool Daily Post, 27 June 1994

'he typed the diary on a word processor at his home in Liverpool'.

Sunday Times, 3 July 1994

'he admitted...tapping out the 9,000 word confession on a word processor in his Victorian terraced house in Liverpool.' 

Liverpool Daily Post, 27 June 1994

'He...said that he had bought some ink from a shop at the Bluecoat Chambers in Liverpool'.

Liverpool Daily Post, 30 June 1994

'Paul McCue, owner of Bluecoat Art Shop said that Mr Barrett would probably have bought manuscript ink supplied by Diamine...Alex Voller, the chemist with Diamine, said: "Up to about two years ago we did make a manuscript ink almost identical to that used in Victorian times".' 

Sunday Times, 3 July 1994 

'He used ink made from a traditional recipe and bought from an art shop'.

Liverpool Daily Post, 27 June 1994

He...cut out the used pages...'

Liverpool Daily Post, 30 June 1994

'He...ripped out the used pages'

Sunday Times, 3 June 1994 

'He...ripped out the used pages' 

There's certainly nothing new there.  So Chittenden could simply have compiled most of his article for the Sunday Times from old copy without having spoken to Mike, or anyone else. 

Discussing what had happened prior to the new confession, Chittendon wrote:

'To blur any detailed examination of its origin, he pretended an elderly friend had handed him the diary on his deathbed.  Barrett claimed he pored  over it for six months, researching in his local library before establishing that it was written by Maybrick'. 

I don't think we need to spend too much time on working out the source of this.  Shirley Harrison's book had been published in late 1993 so that by July 1994 it was public knowledge that Mike had claimed to have been given the diary by the late Tony Devereux and had researched it in his local library. 

So there is really only the mystery about why Chittenden wrote that Mike had taken 10 days to type the text of the diary on his word processor and why he wrote that Mike had obtained it from a house clearance sale.

The problem the diary defenders have is that it is entirely unclear that Maurice Chittenden was told by Mike that he'd obtained the photograph album from a house clearance sale, especially as he had already told Howard Brough that it came from an Outhwaite & Litherland auction.  Chittenden could simply have misinterpreted what the Liverpool Daily Post had said about the auction.

As for the 10 days, while Chittenden may have had some inside information, given that it is very close to the 11 days that we find it stated in both Mike's 5 January 1995 affidavit AND at his April 1999 interview at the City Darts pub which Mike said was the time it took to create the diary itself, there is no special reason to think that the 10 day period of typing the draft was the same as the 11 day period of writing it. 

But perhaps Chittenden spoke to Harold Brough (as opposed to Mike) and was told about the 10 days.  If so, we are into an issue of Chinese Whispers and hearsay.  The men might have been confused about what the 10 days referred to.  Equally, of course, it might have taken Mike 10 days to type up the diary on his word processor prior to 31 March 1992 and then it took 11 days for him to dictate it to his wife after that date.  Why that isn't possible I have no idea.

Certainly, we can see that it was the Liverpool Daily Post which had introduced the idea of Mike typing up the diary on his word processor at his home.  Brough, therefore, seems to have been the source of this particular particle of information.   It doesn't really make much sense in the article because Brough wrote that Mike purchased the old photograph album, purchased the ink and THEN (for some unexplained reason) it is said that he had typed the diary on a word processor.  Nothing was said in Brough's article about how the words were written into the photograph album.  It's either a bad bit of journalism or Mike was remaining tight-lipped about the final step of the forgery out of a desire to protect Anne. 

Concluding her post, Miss Information tells us:

'I suspect that Mike was reading the diary, while Anne tapped it out on the word processor, making the odd understandable transcription error along the way - most probably between April 13th 1992, when Doreen first saw the diary, and later that month when she wanted to get cracking on attracting prospective publishers.  In Mike's mind, this amounted to producing the diary of Jack the Ripper, and was as close as either Barrett got to 'writing' it.' 

This is, of course, nothing more than speculation by Miss Information which ignores the fact that Mike was seeking a Victorian diary with blank pages in March 1992. In any case, as I already discussed in an earlier article here there is no evidence as to when the Barretts' created the transcript they produced: it might just have been prior to 13 April 1992 as after.  Most importantly, though, nothing in Chittenden's article assists with this issue.


Miss Information's sudden, dramatic, reliance on Maurice Chittenden's article is made in bad faith in circumstances where she doesn't believe Chittenden's portrayal of Mike plugging the diary to various publishers in London.

I've always been fully aware of Chittenden's article but never relied on it for anything because it isn't properly sourced.  It doesn't look to me like Chittenden even spoke to Mike Barrett.  The single quote from Mike in the article is suspiciously like two earlier published quotes from Mike being patched together.  Chittenden might have picked up gossip, rumours, stories from somewhere on some other minor points or might have simply got himself muddled and confused.

There is no good reason to think that Mike ever told Chittenden that he obtained the photograph album from a house clearance sale and, that being so, there is really nothing to be learnt from Chittenden's piece.   Another complete waste of time from the mistress of misinformation. 


21 January 2022