An amazing discovery was made recently regarding the origin of the Maybrick Diary which genuinely deserves the description of 'earth shattering'. It's important that everyone understands the significance of this discovery which, given the lack of online comment about it, might have been overlooked.
Regular visitors to this site will know that the Maybrick Diary has now been proved to be a twentieth century forgery due to one glaring anachronistic expression mistakenly used by the forger which, for some reason, it has taken more than 35 years to confirm as having originated long after 1888. But when exactly was the Diary created and by whom?
We can now answer this question with a high degree of certainty, thanks to a discovery by R.J. Palmer who has found a hitherto overlooked passage in the 2003 book, 'Ripper Diary: The Inside Story' by Seth Linder, Caroline Morris and Keith Skinner (p.235). This passage reveals that, at a lunch at the home of Camille Wolff in the Portobello Road, Notting Hill, on 9 April 1999, Michael Barrett told the invited guests, who included Keith Skinner and Andy Aliffe, that (emphasis in original):
'...he had contacted Doreen Montgomery before he had actually forged the Diary. When the agent took the bait, Barrett claimed, he found himself with just eleven days before their meeting to actually produce the Diary.'
It's impossible to overstate the significance of this statement - but it was ignored and overlooked at the time of the lunch in April 1999, and subsequently. Presumably, it just seemed to be another ludicrously tall story by Mike Barrett. But it was a classic case of the boy who cried wolf. For Barrett was here telling the truth about the origin of the Diary! Unfortunately, he had told so many lies in the past that no-one believed him.
And it must have seemed to the guests to have been a very unlikely story. Why would he have contacted Doreen Montgomery to interest her in a Jack the Ripper Diary which didn't even yet exist? And how could he possibly have created the complex and authentic looking Diary within eleven days? The whole thing appeared to be absurd.
No-one seems to have noticed that Barrett had said in a sworn affidavit some four years earlier that he had taken exactly eleven days to produce the Diary, so that the normally wildly inconsistent Michael Barrett was now telling a perfectly consistent story at a distance of four years apart. The likelihood is that even Barrett himself wasn't aware of what he had said four years earlier in that affidavit and the sceptical Ripperologists had probably forgotten it too. Certainly those at the lunch don't appear to have given his story any serious consideration. If they did remember what he had said in his 1995 affidavit it was probably that he had created the Diary with his wife and Tony Devereux in January 1990, more than two years before he had presented it to the agent Doreen Montgomery, so that the chronology of the story as a whole, as they understood it, made no sense.At a meeting of the Cloak & Dagger club at a Whitechapel pub the next evening, Barrett basically repeated his story from the previous day's lunch. According to the account of what he said at this meeting as provided in 'Inside Story' (p.236):
'Barrett insisted that the Diary had been written by Anne but created by him...Barrett returned to the matter of the red Victorian diary again, claiming he had bought it after contacting Doreen Montgomery. However, realising it was too small (not to mention the fact it was for 1891, two years after Maybrick's death), he then claimed to have bought a larger, black ledger from Liverpool auctioneers Outhwaite and Litherland.'
Again, this is literally earth shattering because while perfectly consistent with certain elements of his affidavit from four years earlier, it sets out a completely different chronology, in terms of the dates and years involved, for the creation of the Diary. And here's the thing. I wasn't aware of any of this when I offered up a theory on Casebook in September 2016 - now referred to by at least one experienced Ripperologist as 'Orsam's theory' - that Mike Barrett had purchased both the red Victorian Diary and a black scrapbook AFTER having spoken to Doreen Montgomery on 9 March 1992 and that the Diary was forged at some point between 28 March 1992 (when Barrett received the red Victorian diary) and 13 April 1992 when the Maybrick Diary was presented to Doreen.
From further research carried out in February 2017, I narrowed down the period of the creation of the Diary as quite possibly having been between Tuesday, 31 March 1992 (on which day there was an auction of Victorian and Edwardian effects at Outhwaite & Litherland) and Monday, 13 April 1992.
My theory was based entirely on one undisputed fact, viz. that shortly after Barrett's conversation with Doreen Montgomery, an advertisement appeared in a specialist bookselling magazine, Bookdealer, placed on behalf of Mike Barrett by a specialist book finding company, which requested a Victorian diary from the 1880s that was either completely unused, and thus entirely blank, or partly used, with a minimum of 20 blank pages.
For what reason, I asked myself, could Mike Barrett possibly have wanted a genuine Victorian diary with so many blank pages? Literally the only answer I could think of was that he wanted to use those blank pages to create a forged Victorian diary so that any tests of the paper would pass as being of the correct historical period. I challenged all members of the Casebook Forum to give me another reason for the purchase but no-one was able to come up with a single reason that made any sense.
Given that Barrett obviously appeared to be in the process of forging a Victorian diary during March 1992, it seemed obvious (a) that he must have been involved in the forging of what came to be known as the Maybrick Diary and (b) that the Maybrick Diary had not yet been forged at the time he placed his order with the specialist book finding company (and was probably still not in existence as at 28 March 1992, when the red Victorian diary arrived at his home).
I was simply following the evidence here and the consequence of the above conclusion was that there was only a very small window of time between 28 March 1992 and 13 April 1992 for the Diary to have been created. It was of great interest to me, therefore, that Mike Barrett had said in his affidavit sworn on 5 January 1995 that, 'Anne and I started to write the Diary in all it took us 11 days'.
That was just about the absolute ideal time that fitted perfectly with my theory. There were 15 days between 28 March and 13 April and, then, once we factor in that Barrett might have purchased an old scrapbook at the auction of Victorian and Edwardian effects on 31 March 1992, there were only 12 days between 31 March 1992 and 13 April 1992. How could Michael Barrett possibly have anticipated this scenario?
There didn't appear to be any reason at all for Barrett to have lied about this. On the contrary, more people would have believed him if he had said six months or two years or something like that. To the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 June 1994 he had said that, 'he worked on the diary for five years.' If he was lying in his 1995 affidavit, it's extraordinary that he imagined that he could realistically have created the forgery in such a short timescale. Hardly anyone thought it would have been possible to create the Diary in 11 days. But at the time when Mike swore his affidavit, no-one understood the actual chronology of events that led to the creation of the Diary.
Let me just pause here to refer to a comment made about the 'Orsam' theory by one of the co-authors of 'Inside Story', Caroline Morris, on JTR Forums on 6 August 2019 (posting under her new name of Caroline Brown, in the now famous 'Muppet thread' entitled 'one off' at #397):
'According to one well-aired theory, which relies on the truth of certain elements of this same affidavit [i.e. Mike Barrett's 5 Jan 1995 affidavit], while rejecting or adjusting the elements that don't fit, the scrapbook was not even obtained until the end of March/beginning of April 1992, and only then did the 11-day creation take place, just before the diary was wrapped in its brown paper and taken to London.'
It's a shame that a co-author of 'Inside Story' can't manage to summarize my theory in one sentence without falsely misrepresenting it. For my 'well-aired theory', as she must know, does not in any way rely on the truth of any elements of Mike Barrett's affidavit. I say that she must know this because I repeatedly stated it to her on the Casebook Forum when I was a member of it, e.g.'I'm not using Mike or his affidavit to prove anything. I'm relying on his proven advertisement and purchase of the 1891 diary in March 1992...' ('Incontrovertible' thread, #2930) and,'Frankly I don't care a jot for the "evidential value" of Mike's affidavit. I've never placed any reliance on that' ('Acquiring a Victorian Diary' thread, #331). My theory relies entirely on two established facts. Those facts are: (1) that on or about 9 March 1992, Mike instructed a book finding company to locate for him a genuine Victorian diary from the 1880s which contained a minimum of 20 blank pages (2) that such a diary (albeit dated 1891) was received by him on 28 March 1992.
It was on the basis of those two facts alone which, when placed into the known chronology of Mike contacting Doreen Montgomery on 9 March 1992 to inform her that he had a diary of Jack the Ripper and him not bringing this Diary to London until 13 April 1992, led me to conclude that the solution to this entire 30+ year old mystery was that the Diary had been forged in the period between 28 March 1992 (when Mike would have realized that the red Victorian diary was useless for his purposes) and 13 April 1992. Nothing in that theory is dependent in any way on what Mike Barrett did or did not say in his affidavit.
Even when we add on the possibility that Barrett purchased a scrapbook at the O&L auction of Victorian and Edwardian effects in Liverpool on 31 March 1992, this is not reliant on anything in Mike's affidavit because the existence of such an auction on that date is another established fact.
At the same time, it was certainly of interest that Mike said in his affidavit that it took 11 days to create the Diary because it was entirely consistent with the theory I had developed (and how could Barrett have known in 1995 that I would be developing such a theory in 2016?) but my theory did not rely on this at all. It was also of interest that Mike said he purchased the scrapbook at an O&L auction but, again, my theory did not rely on this at all and, as far as I am concerned, he could have acquired it at any place, from anyone, at the end of March 1992.
Now, Caroline Morris claims that I reject or adjust elements of Mike's story which don't fit my theory. But I'm not doing any such thing. What I am doing is attempting to get to the actual truth of the matter. In this respect, there are two important things to note. Firstly, Mike's affidavit was probably drafted for him by the private detective Alan Gray based on information he had verbally extracted from Barrett. Caroline Morris also believes that Barrett was 'helped along by Alan Gray' in drafting his affidavit (#4649 in 'Incontrovertible' thread and see also #1677 in 'Acquiring a Victorian Diary'). Whether Mike ever properly read the final version of the affidavit at the time he signed it is open to doubt. As a consequence, it is perfectly possible that Gray did not fully understand the chronological sequence of events being outlined to him by a possibly drunken, rambling and confused Barrett, so that the chronology in the affidavit is completely wrong. Secondly, it is the very fact that the chronology of events is so confused in the affidavit which actually strengthens the notion that the 'Orsam' theory is correct because it means that Barrett was NOT attempting to create a false but plausible sequence of events.
Let me explain why this is so.
In his affidavit, Barrett revealed for the first time ever that he (or, rather, his wife) had purchased a red Victorian diary. Thus, he said that, after he and his wife decided to go ahead and write the Diary of Jack the Ripper:
'...Anne purchased a Diary, a red leather backed Diary for £25.00, she made the purchase through a firm in the 1986 Writers Year Book. I cannot remember their name, she paid for the Diary by cheque in the amount of £25 which was drawn on her Lloyds Bank Account, Walter Street Branch, Liverpool.' [some spelling corrected]
From the affidavit, it would appear that this purchase happened in early 1990, for the preceding sentence states: 'Roughly around about January, February 1990 Anne Barrett and I finally decided to go ahead and write the Diary of Jack the Ripper'. The narrative of the story in the affidavit is that, after receiving the little red Victorian diary, Mike decided it was no use. The affidavit then tells us that Mike felt sure it was 'the end of January 1990' that he went to the auctioneer Outhwaite & Litherland to purchase the scrapbook.
One thing is for sure. According to Mke's account of events in his affidavit, the scrapbook into which the Maybrick Diary was written was purchased after he had acquired the little red Victorian diary.
The oddity here is that we know for a fact that the little red Victorian diary was purchased in March 1992 (having been despatched to Barrett's house on 26 March 1992), yet no-one would have known anything about that little red Victorian diary had Mike not mentioned it in his affidavit. Three years of various researchers peppering him and his wife with questions had, somehow, not managed to uncover the existence of this curious item. And, as we can see, in the affidavit Mike provides specific details about the purchase of the diary, including details about how it was paid for. It was these details which allowed Keith Skinner to establish, after Anne produced her chequebook stub revealing the name of the bookfinding company, that the red Victorian diary had been requested by Mike on about, or shortly after, 9 March 1992. In other words, Mike was here giving away the key information which would falsify the chronology of his entire story, and thus of his affidavit itself, should anyone actually check up on it.
Mike was, it can be said, a strange person but this is such strange behaviour that we do need to consider the possibility that Alan Gray messed up the chronology when he drafted the affidavit, perhaps not understanding that a plan to write a Maybrick-as-Jack Diary was cooked up in 1990 or 1991, with a pre-prepared text drafted (on a computer?), while the actual creation of the Diary itself, using an old scrapbook, did not occur until April 1992. Perhaps Mike did tell this to Gray but, like the Ripperologists after him, he didn't comprehend how it could have been possible for Mike to have contacted a publishing agent before he (and his wife) had created the Diary - and perhaps Gray didn't know when Mike contacted Doreen in any event.
So I have no interest in trying to make things fit. I can see how Alan Gray could have messed up the chronology. I've explained this to the Diary fanatics in order to try and assist them in understanding what Mike might have been trying to say to Alan Gray, and what Alan Gray might have been trying to say on Mike's behalf, just as I have explained that the account of the purchase of a scrapbook at O&L as set out in Mike's affidavit does fit with how O&L probably conducted their auctions in 1992 if one allows for some loose language used in the affidavit. But, frankly, it doesn't matter if Barrett (or Gray on his behalf) was lying through his teeth when the affidavit was created and if it's therefore impossible to reconcile his affidavit with the truth. Because, to repeat, I do not rely on Mike's affidavit. If it had never existed it wouldn't make any difference to what I am saying now. I would have been able to work out the entire theory purely from the evidence of the advertisement for the red diary, the date of its receipt by Barrett and the surrounding chronology of events regarding when Doreen Montgomery was first contacted and when she first saw the Diary. That's all I needed and all I used.
The fact that the notion of the Diary being created in eleven days, after receipt of the red Victorian diary, was sort of inadvertently revealed in the affidavit, almost as an aside, and hidden within the 1990 creation story, was obviously a bonus because it corroborated my theory. And we now know that the eleven days was not some kind of misunderstanding by Alan Gray because Mike Barrett repeated in person it four years later. And astonishingly, Mike (who some people think was lying through his teeth) actually managed in April 1999 to set out a chronology for the creation of the Diary within those eleven days, placing it at a time in history after he had first contacted Doreen Montgomery, which actually makes perfect sense when the documentary evidence relating to the acquisition of the red Victorian diary is taken into consideration, even if it didn't make sense to anyone in April 1999 (because no-one then knew the full truth of the story behind the acquisition of the red Victorian diary).
What cannot be denied is that what Mike Barrett said to the guests at the lunch on 9 April 1999, and again to the members of the Cloak & Dagger club the next day, is 100% consistent with the theory that I put forward in September 2016 knowing nothing of what Barrett had said on those occasions.
Why did I know nothing?
Well, I must say I wondered that myself. But on checking the position I quickly discovered why. I don't own a copy of 'Inside Story' and I read it through cover to cover only once, in August 2016. At this time, like everyone else, I understood Mike Barrett to have been saying in his affidavit that he had purchased an old scrapbook at Outhwaite & Litherland in about January 1990. So, if Barrett was telling the truth in his affidavit, that was, I assumed, likely to have been the time when the Diary was forged. Consequently, the story of the Camille Woolf lunch and the Cloak & Dagger meeting made no impression on me and was forgotten. Like pretty much everyone else, I carried away the memory of Mike failing to produce the receipt for the scrapbook which he said he had on his person at the Cloak & Dagger club meeting but nothing more.
It wasn't until mid-September 2016, having forgotten about the Camille Wolff lunch story in 'Inside Story', that it struck me, based on the evidence of the red Victorian Diary purchase, that the text of the Diary couldn't have been written in the scrapbook until the end of March and the start of April 1992. This just had to be the solution.
For some people this doesn't seem possible, probably because they misunderstand the nature of ink. Once it has dried, which happens very quickly, it can be all but impossible to tell from a visual examination if it was placed on the paper yesterday or 100 years ago. Forensic document examiners would use a solubility test and, as is well known, when Dr Baxendale applied a solubility test to the Diary ink, it failed that test and the expert's conclusion was that the ink had been applied during the twentieth century. In this article I don't want to get into the science of it, I'm just trying to explain one reason as to why some people have had difficulty in accepting the truth of my theory. But there is no actual reason why the Diary could not have been completed on a Sunday and brought to London on a Monday yet still have given the appearance of being a nineteenth century item. That's what forgers of historical documents do. They don't hide them away in a cupboard for years waiting for them to age naturally. They want to sell them and collect their money immediately.
Some think that it was impossible for an ordinary person like Mike Barrett to create a Victorian diary (with or without help) in such a short space of time - but the fact of the matter is that he only needed four things: (1) a reasonably convincing pre-prepared text, avoiding obviously modern words and phrases, (2) an ability by an accomplice to roughly recreate handwriting from the Victorian period, (3) a blank diary containing paper from the era and (4) ink similar to Victorian manuscript ink. Once he had those four elements, he had a good chance of passing any visual examination of a fake diary by any expert - because, after all, how can an expert visually prove such a document to be a forgery? Passing the test of a more scientific examination by a forensic document examiner is another matter and, of course, the Diary failed such a test in July 1992 but somehow, in this Alice and Wonderland Story that is the Maybrick Diary, it doesn't seem to have mattered!
At this point, it may be worth a brief discussion as to why it took until 2016 for the notion that the Diary wasn't created until after 9 March 1992 to receive serious consideration.
We've seen that no-one knew about Mike's receipt of a red Victorian diary until January 1995 because it was only then revealed in Mike's affidavit: something which, of course, turned out to be perfectly true, despite Barrett's reputation as a hopeless liar. When Keith Skinner asked Anne Barrett about it, he was told that Mike wanted to see what a genuine Victorian diary looked like in order to compare it to the Maybrick Diary which he was claiming he had been given by Tony Devereux. As no-one at this stage knew anything about Mike's requirement for the diary to be either unused, i.e. completely blank, or to have a minimum of 20 blank pages, this seemed like a reasonable explanation when it was published in 'Inside Story' in 2003, so the red Victorian diary appeared to be of no significance.
The pitch was queered even further by Shirley Harrison who included in her 2003 book 'The American Connection' (p.296) the highly misleading, if not downright inaccurate, information that, 'The red diary was in fact purchased after the Diary had been brought to London. (Anne has the receipt.)' Anyone who read this would naturally have concluded that the red diary couldn't possibly have been obtained prior to the creation of the Diary, meaning that what Barrett had said about it in his affidavit was false, so that they would have dismissed it as being a red herring. However, while the red diary was paid for by cheque in May 1992, the date of payment was completely irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the diary was advertised for and received in the month prior to the Diary being brought to London and that is the only significant date. A careful read of 'Inside Story' would have revealed this to anyone who owned both books and took the time and trouble to check the position, while also noting that the Diary wasn't brought to London until 13 April 1992, but that was asking a lot of a casual reader. Even then, the red Victorian diary would still not have been regarded of importance because, as we have seen, there was a very simple explanation, namely that Mike might have wanted to compare his Maybrick Diary to a genuine Victorian diary.
Furthermore, the authors of 'Inside Story' remarked, dismissively, that if Mike only purchased his scrapbook after he discarded the little red Victorian diary, it would have left him 'barely two weeks' to acquire the scrapbook and complete the forgery (p.237). For some reason, they didn't also note that Mike had already said it took him 11 days to complete the forgery (which would have been at a leisurely and easily achievable rate of less than 6 pages per day).
As I've said, no-one knew in 2003 of the existence of the advertisement placed on Mike's behalf in which what was required was not just a Victorian diary from the 1880s but one which contained a minimum of 20 blank pages, or was, preferably, totally blank. It was not until 20 May 2007, when Keith Skinner revealed it to an audience at a 'Trial' of James Maybrick at the Liverpool Cricket Club, that the news of the advertisement placed on behalf of Barrett, with its mention of 20 blank pages, was revealed (Skinner having discovered its existence, as I have been told, in December 2004). However, this news was rather overshadowed by the fact that Skinner also revealed at the same time that he was in possession of some secret documents which led him to the conclusion that if he went into 'a court of law' with those documents, the jury would conclude that the Diary was genuine. This dramatic revelation, combined with the fact that anyone interested in the story of the Diary after the 2007 Maybrick 'Trial' would probably have read and relied on one or both of the 2003 books, neither of which referred to the advertisement (which was not known about at the time they were published), seems to have meant that the advertisement was not regarded by most people as something worth giving any consideration to.
Chris Phillips cited the advertisement on JTR Forums on 27 May 2007 (#2 in thread 'Barrett's advertisement') and then Howard Brown shut the thread down within four hours of his post! No Diary talk was allowed on JTR Forums at that time, apparently. It arose again in September 2007 (in JTR Forums thread 'Let's discuss the diary!') when Christopher T. George repeated a strange theory he had first put forward in Ripperologist No.79 of May 2007, following Keith Skinner's revelation, that Barrett had wanted to rewrite the narrative into 'a more appropriate looking book'. Although Mr George has repeated this theory on a number of occasions since then, it makes no sense, not least because Barrett could simply have gone into a shop like Ryman or W.H. Smith and purchased a brand new, totally blank book for a fraction of the £25 it cost to acquire the 1891 diary; and Mr George doesn't explain why, or in what way, a partly used Victorian diary would have been 'more appropriate' than the scrapbook.
In any case, Barrett's handwriting reveals he didn't have the penmanship skills to even begin to reproduce the Diary in any form. But this daft theory was repeated, in slightly different form (with the claim now being that Mike might, for no rational or understandable reason, have wanted to copy 'a few of the more sensational extracts into a real diary of the period') by Caroline Morris in the JTR Forums thread on 22 September 2007, at which time she pronounced that, 'My own view is that Mike's actions, when he called Doreen, and when he placed the order, and the specifications he gave, do not amount to evidence that he was hoping to use this item for a forgery, and certainly allow for alternative explanations'. Unfortunately, she didn't feel the need to explain what all these these alternative explanations were, other than the one already mentioned, namely that Mike, whose handwriting, as I've mentioned, reveals he had no penmanship skills whatsoever, pointlessly wanted to copy out some of the text of the scrapbook into a real Victorian diary which just makes absolutely no sense on any level (and Morris appears to have since abandoned the idea).
I'm not trying to argue the case here, merely to demonstrate why it took until September 2016 for someone (me, as it happens) to put forward a theory that, on the basis of the advertisement, the Diary must have been forged after Mike's telephone call to Doreen Montgomery on 9 March 1992. It is, of course, a radical theory, for the reasons mentioned, and one really needs to have not only the existence and exact wording of the advertisement in mind but also a good grasp of the dates of all the surrounding events in March and April 1992. In addition, one also needs to discard the much loved notion that the Diary had allegedly been created in January or February 1990 or at some point in 1991 or, indeed, at any time other than April 1992.
Mike's affidavit, with its obviously wrong chronology, fooled everyone. It appears to have fooled Diary critics like Melvin Harris, and it also seems to have fooled Diary defenders like Shirley Harrison who apparently failed to ensure that Outhwaite and Litherland checked their records for the auction on 31 March 1992. So much time was wasted arguing the pros and cons of Barrett's affidavit story, based entirely on the Diary being forged in 1990 or, at the latest, 1991, that, inevitably, everyone got bogged down in a story that didn't work.
A few others, it should be said, did bring up the wording of the advertisement in the online forums but, for some reason, the discussions never went anywhere. No-one seems to have managed to put all the evidence together in a coherent form to draw the obvious conclusion about when the Diary must have been forged.
So now we return to R.J. Palmer's discovery of what Barrett undoubtedly said in front of numerous witnesses in April 1999. I don't think the importance of it can be overstated. Why on earth would Barrett have come up with a false story at the lunch about only having forged the Diary AFTER having telephoned Doreen Montgomery for the first time? What possible benefit could that story have been to him? It conflicted with the dates in his 1995 affidavit. It didn't seem plausible. No-one was likely to believe it. Why would he have made life so difficult for himself in this way? Why fabricate such a strange, complicated and apparently implausible story which didn't fit into any known narrative of the creation of the Diary? Unless of course he was telling the truth, in which case that was all he could say.
Let's go back to the 1995 affidavit. If he was making up a story about forging the Diary in 1990 or 1991, why make any mention of the red Victorian Diary which he must have known was only purchased after his first conversation (in March 1992) with Doreen Montgomery? It's not just that it doesn't fit the chronology. It's that, if that red Victorian Diary had been acquired for some sort of inexplicable but genuine reason by Mike Barrett in March 1992, after he had been given the black scrapbook containing Maybrick's Diary, why does he even think in 1995 to include any mention of it in his fabricated story which was about forging the Diary in circa 1990? What purpose does it serve? All he says about it in the affidavit is that he purchased it to use for the forgery and then discarded it. To the extent that anyone is going to check up on it (using the clue given that Anne paid for it by cheque) they will immediately find that it doesn't fit the 1990 (or 1991) chronology.
Yet, if Barrett wasn't involved in forging the Diary (and received it from a third party at some point on or before 9 March 1992), it means that he has taken a real event - the purchase of the red diary in March 1992 - and created an entirely new and false reason for that event, being a preliminary attempt to create the Maybrick Diary in January 1990 (or January 1991, which is probably what he was intending to say in the affidavit). But, again, one has to ask, why? Why not just make up a story about buying an old diary from a second hand shop or obtaining one from a house clearance, or something like that, in January 1990 (or in late 1889) if he wants to include in his affidavit a narrative whereby he made prior attempts to find a suitable Victorian diary prior to his purchase of the scrapbook. I mean, if someone had given him the scrapbook already containing the Maybrick Diary, the whole Outhwaite & Litherland story that he's invented must be a complete lie. It never happened. The whole Bluecoat Chambers Art Shop purchase of ink must be a lie. It never happened. Why suddenly throw in a genuine incident from the wrong time period into his completely imagined story? Even if he was so daft that he didn't realize that a brief investigation of his red Victorian diary story would show it to be a lie, due to it having been purchased after his call to Doreen in March 1992, it still doesn't make sense for him to have bothered to use a real purchase to support an imaginary story. Even if he didn't care whether his story was exposed as a lie or not the same is true. Why bother? Why would the thought even have popped into his head that he could use the purchase of the red Victorian diary as demonstrating a trial run of the forgery prior to acquiring the scrapbook, which is what he was saying had happened in his affidavit?
To me, it doesn't make any sense. No doubt someone will come up with some kind of answer that Mike Barrett was irrational and that it's not possible to explain his actions. But that is not satisfactory. It's too much of a cop out.
Then we need to think about the eleven days mentioned in the affidavit. Astonishingly, this eleven days makes perfect sense if the red Victorian diary really WAS a trial run, acquired before the scrapbook. How could Mike Barrett have constructed such a complex story of such an unlikely creation of the Diary (i.e. in eleven days, after discarding the red Victorian Diary and acquiring the scrapbook at an auction) which wasn't even apparent from the affidavit but buried so deep within it that it took over 20 years for someone (that's me!) to decode it and extract the truth from within the confusing and obviously inaccurate chronology.
Then, more than this, when he comes down to London on what must have been a big occasion in his life and he is taken to lunch to discuss the matter with senior Ripperologists and is brought to the Cloak & Dagger club, Mike then tells the VERY STORY that I would extract from the affidavit 20 years later. A story so implausible that no-one believed him in 1999. But a story that we must now recognize as the truth.
Mike Barrett, that much maligned figure, is, in a way, speaking to us from the grave. R.J. Palmer has found his story. His real story. One of the few times in his life that he was telling the truth.
There is no reason to think, incidentally, that Barrett was drunk in April 1999 when he attended the lunch. I don't know if any drink was flowing at that lunch (one assumes not, bearing in mind that everyone present knew Mike was a former alcoholic) but there is no indication from Keith Skinner's account that Mike was drunk, either at the lunch or the following day at the Cloak & Dagger club. Jonathan Menges quickly followed R.J. Palmer's revelation on the Casebook Forum by saying that he would be 'very surprised' if Mike had been sober that evening at the Cloak & Dagger club meeting ('Acquisition of a Victorian Diary' thread, #1725) but this is, apparently, based on nothing more than Barrett having repeatedly boasted that he had 'conned' Doreen Montgomery just like Paul Newman in The Sting and that he 'practically' yelled at the audience, saying'I created the Diary - FULL STOP'. I don't know why any of that necessarily means Barrett was drunk - and it's not clear if Menges was actually present at the meeting - but perhaps someone would think so if they just can't believe that Barrett really was involved in creating the Diary and really did con Doreen Montgomery. Once one realizes that he did both - i.e. he did con Doreen and he did have a role in creating the Diary - then Barrett's behaviour can be explained by being someone who was trying to tell the truth but was frustrated at not being believed. We may also note that a few weeks after the April 1999 meeting, Barrett wrote to Shirley Harrison on 21 June 1999 to say 'I am not an alcoholic. I have got my life back on track...'.
The much anticipated 'Battlecrease provenance' when revealed in September 2015 turned out to be a damp squib. Despite Keith Skinner's initial optimism, no jury was ever going to conclude that the Diary came out of Battlecrease on the basis of a single, inconclusive timesheet. The theory that an electrician found the Diary under the floorboards is hopeless, based on inconsistent and implausible stories, mostly extracted by Paul Feldman who probably contaminated memories, and speculation as to who was working in Battlecrease at the time and their connection with Barrett. That electricians might have been lifting the floorboards on the same day as Barrett was telephoning Doreen Montgomery is probably a coincidence but, if not, there is another far more simple explanation. The idea that the Diary fell into Barrett's hands on the same day as it was found is premised firmly on the notion that at least one of the electricians involved was friendly with Barrett. If that truly is the case then the overwhelming probability is that this electrician happened to mention to Barrett over the weekend of 7/8 March 1992 that he or his firm would be working in James Maybrick's old house in Aigburth on the Monday morning and this reminded Barrett of a fake diary text involving Maybrick as JTR that he had created a year or so earlier on his Amstrad word processor, possibly with the assistance of Tony Devereux, whose death had put a temporary halt to the project, and he now resolved to find an agent to help him publish his fake diary of Jack the Ripper.... just as soon as he had created it. What is for sure is that the Diary did not come up from the underneath the floorboards of Battlecrease.
Let's conclude this saga.
No-one ever saw the Diary before Barrett brought it to London on 13 April 1992. Keith Skinner has produced Doreen Montgomery's notes and there is nothing in them showing that Barrett had described the physical look of the Diary when he spoke to her on 9 and 10 March 1992 (just as I had predicted before those notes were made public).
It actually makes sense for Mike Barrett, who wasn't a wealthy man, not to have spent money purchasing a real Victorian diary or scrapbook, together with ink and writing material, before he had firm interest from someone in the publishing world for Jack the Ripper's diary. Once he had such interest, and after his failure with the little red Victorian diary, which was unsuitable for the project for a number of reasons, he might well have gone to an auction to purchase a genuinely old scrapbook from which he removed the existing used pages and ensured that a pre-prepared text of a fake Jack the Ripper Diary by James Maybrick, probably something he had prepared jointly with Tony Devereux in 1990 or 1991, but possibly also with the assistance of his wife and her father, was written into the Diary by someone who was able to disguise their handwriting and produce a fair attempt at a Victorian hand. Mike himself certainly didn't have the penmanship skills to even attempt this. In his affidavit, and in an earlier signed statement lodged at Walton Lane Police Station on 5 November 1994, and at the Cloak & Dagger meeting on 12 April 1999, and in his note to Shirley Harrison of 21 June 1999, Mike made clear that the person who did have these skills was his wife, Anne. Her real handwriting (as opposed to the specimen she provided to Keith Skinner for testing) DOES contain elements similar to the handwriting in the Diary, but with a different slope, leading to the conclusion that she might have used her wrong hand to disguise her handwriting, but, equally, Barrett could have had another (unknown) friend or relative who helped with this part of the task.
The precise details don't really matter. We can't expect to know everything connected with the creation of the Diary. But it's now pretty clear that it was created in 11 days between 28 or 31 March 1992 and 13 April 1992, a brief timescale which evidently stuck firmly in Mike's memory. Once completed it was brought to London immediately by an eager and greedy Mr Barrett. Perhaps an attempt was made to age the Diary beforehand (such as the use of an oven or a sun lamp) or perhaps not.
The excitement of the possibility of having uncovered Jack the Ripper's Diary seems to have led many responsible people in the early days to overlook the obvious flaws in the Diary which reveal it as a modern fake; in particular the inclusion of the anachronistic expression 'one off instance' which was not properly considered. Now, following R.J. Palmer's truly astounding discovery, we can see that Mike Barrett was almost certainly involved (with at least one other person) in forging the Diary within that famous period of the eleven days.
12 August 2019
(18 August 2019: Date of Notting Hill lunch corrected in line with new information).