Orsam Books

The Secret Source of Michael John Barrett

Providing"research notes" on the Maybrick case for Shirley Harrison during the summer of 1992 must have created a problem for Mike Barrett.

One can imagine that he didn't really want to waste his time in a library during fake research. Of course he didn't. He'd already done the actual research for the diary! He wasn't in any case, one would think, a guy who liked to spend time in libraries, reading through old books and newspapers when he could have been in the pub or watching TV.  But, equally, when providing his notes to Shirley, he wouldn't have wanted to give away the simple fact that his main source for the Maybrick information in the diary was the 1977 book by Bernard Ryan, 'The Poisoned Life of Mrs Maybrick'.

With the information about the Ripper murders, it wasn't such a problem.  There were loads of easily accessible books on Jack the Ripper, so he could happily cite pages in his research notes from a couple of books, Wilson & Odell and Paul Harrison, without giving away his main sources.  But, with Maybrick, there was really only Ryan and Morland out there. 

Morland might have been more difficult for Mike to access, being a 1957 publication, but it's important to note that the entire book was serialized in the Liverpool Echo during December 1956 and January 1957 so that references in his research notes to the Liverpool Echo could, in theory, mean references to Morland but, as we shall see, that's not the case.

The point I want to make here is that Mike was faced with a problem in providing his research notes to Shirley. 

What was he to do?  If he accurately listed a lot of facts about Maybrick which he either couldn't source or sourced to Ryan it might have made Shirley suspicious.

It will be noted that Mike only gives THREE sources for any of his information about the Maybricks in his research notes.  The first is a single mention of 'Tales of Liverpool' (as discussed in Lord Orsam Says...Part 22), the second is a bare mention of 'probate records for 1889' or 'library' (twice-mentioned) while the third is the Liverpool Echo (mentioned eight times).   The majority of the entries, however, are unsourced.  Some of them are inconsistent.  For example, on the first page of the notes it is stated:

'James Maybricks office: Knowsley Buildings - off Tithebarn Street - recorded in Liverpool Echo' 

Yet, on page 4, under "QUESTIONS ON MAYBRICK' is written:

'Where was Knowsley Buildings?' To date cannot find.'

That's a bit odd but could be explained by confusion in Mike's original research notes. We'll come back to this.

The notes don't tell us at any point the dates of any  issue or issues of the Liverpool Echo that Mike consulted.  I happen to think that was deliberate, for I don't believe that Mike used the Liverpool Echo.

I've mentioned that I don't see Mike as someone carefully reading through old newspapers and I certainly don't see him as someone reviewing old newspapers on microfilm as I assume would have been the case at the Liverpool library.

I also suspect that Mike would never have dreamt that one day it would be possible for someone to word-search old digital copies of the Liverpool Echo and, in the process, discover that he was lying about his research.  In his mind, if he put 'Liverpool Echo' as a source for any information on Maybrick, no-one would ever be able to dispute that he'd found that information in an issue of that newspaper and, if he was ever asked for the date, he could say that he'd forgotten it.

But, of course, we are now able to search all back issues of the Liverpool Echo to a reasonable degree of accuracy and it is rather eye-opening to discover that what Mike says came from the Liverpool Echo clearly did not.  Rather, much of what is found in his research notes (whether sourced to the Liverpool Echo or not) came from Ryan's book.


Florence is said to be:

'Great-Great Granddaughter of the Reverend Benjamin Thurston - Nothing know (sic) about him' (MB Research Notes, p.2)

Where did Mike get this bit of rare genealogical information from?  He doesn't source it to the Liverpool Echo. And I certainly don't find it in the Liverpool Echo, or in any other newspaper for that matter. So where could he possibly have got it from?  Don't tell me he did his own detailed genealogical research into Florence's American family.

Here, I think, is the answer:

Ryan page 17: "She was the great-great granddaughter  of the Reverend Benjamin Thurston".

While Florence Maybrick did mention this in her own 1905 memoir (albeit that she shortened 'Reverend' to 'Rev.'), and was probably Ryan's source, after this I only find it in Ryan's book. In that book, there is a little bit more information about Thurston who is said to be a Harvard graduate (as mentioned by Florence) but I think Mike was covering up his source by saying nothing was known about him.


'She met James Maybrick on the ship 'Britannic' they were engaged within a week of meeting!!!' (MB Research Notes p.2)

This is a particularly interesting and important one.  Most sources say that James met Florence on the White Star Line steamer the Baltic.  Morland (p.4) says it was the Celtic.  As far as I know, it is ONLY Ryan who says that the couple met on the Britannic in any publication prior to 1992. On page 15, which is the first page proper of the book, Ryan makes a big deal about the couple meeting on that steamer.

Ryan was actually wrong; the correct ship was the Baltic as discussed in The Curious Case of the White Star Line Steamer.

And guess what, Ryan also has the ship's captain making an announcement of the engagement of Florence and James to the first class passengers over dinner, by raising a glass to the couple and saying, 'events have moved swiftly aboard the Britannic since we sailed from New York seven days ago' and then Ryan writes: 'Miss Chandler and Mr Maybrick engaged!  After only one short week together aboard ship!'  There is Mike's week of meeting! Morland, by contrast, gives no specific time period, simply commenting that they met on the second day of the voyage and that, before the journey was over, they had arranged to be married. 


Now this is another big one, for it's information Mike sources specifically to the Liverpool Echo:

'She arranged two rooms (No 9 and No 16) at 'Flatmans Hotel, Cavendish Square, London'.  On the 21st March 1989, she arrived alone.  Brierly joined her later.  See Liverpool Echo - the hotel porters statement. Alfred Schweisso.'  (MB Research Notes, p. 3)

A BIG giveaway here is the spelling by Mike of 'Alfred Schweisso'.  This wasn't a contemporary spelling of the man's name in newspapers, including the Liverpool Echo, during the 1889 criminal proceedings where his surname was usually spelt Schwieso, which is certainly how it was spelt by the Liverpool Echo in 1889 when reporting on his evidence at the Police Court and during the trial (it didn't report on his inquest evidence in the surviving issue).  Here is a sketch of the man from the Liverpool Echo of 3 August 1889:


The change of spelling from Schwieso to Schweisso came from Macdougall in 1891.  He reproduced a letter received from this witness and spelt his name as 'Alfred Schweisso'.  Both Morland and Ryan followed this new spelling (and thus we do find it spelt this way in the Liverpool Echo of 1956/7 when serializing Morland's book).

For that reason we can entirely rule out the idea that Mike got this information from an 1889 issue of the Liverpool Echo.  This raises the next question of where did he get the information about the two rooms being number 9 and number 16?  This is fairly obscure information because it wasn't mentioned during the trial nor was it mentioned at the inquest. Morland also doesn't mention it, hence it isn't in the Liverpool Echo in 1956/7.  The original source of the information about the two room numbers (and the only source) is Schwieso's evidence during the Police Court proceedings.  This was reported in the Liverpool Echo of 12 June 1889 but, aside from the different spelling of Schwieso's name in that report, we can be certain that this wasn't Mike's source because the hotel was never contemporaneously referred to in the Liverpool Echo during 1889 (and certainly not in the Echo of 12 June 1889) as 'Flatman's hotel'.  It was only referred to as 'a private hotel'.  Hence we know for sure that Mike didn't get his information here from the Liverpool Echo.

We once again turn to Ryan's book and, sure enough, on Page 34, Ryan tells us that, 'They agreed that number 9 bedroom and Number 16 sitting room which adjoined each other in the Henrietta Street part of the hotel would do nicely for Mr and Mrs Maybrick'.

The fact that Florence arrived alone and was then followed by Brierley is common information but it is certainly mentioned by Ryan on page 35. 

Page 34 of Ryan also refers to 'The small hotel known as Flatman's consisted of adjoining buildings around the corner from each other on Henrietta Street and Chapel Place in Cavendish Square in London'.  While Mike could, in theory, have extracted from this 'Flatman's Hotel, Cavendish Square, London' it's not a perfect match by any means.  In his research notes, Mike put the address in quotation marks as if he'd taken it from somewhere. If Ryan was Mike's source it is strange that he omitted to mention Henrietta Street and Chapel Place (but especially Henrietta Street which is the building in which rooms 9 and 16 were situated). 

The Liverpool Echo of 10 December 1956, from Morland's book, refers to 'Flatman's hotel, a private temperance hotel just off Cavendish Square, London'.  This is a lot closer, admittedly, but it doesn't mention the two room numbers so can't have been Mike's source.  Ultimately, I can't identify an exact source anywhere for what appears to be a quotation in Mike's notes of 'Flatman's hotel, Cavendish Square, London'.

Perhaps the most curious part of Mike's entry is the reference to 'the hotel porter's statement'.  During his evidence at the inquest, police court and trial, Schwieso stated that he was the head waiter, not a porter.

Subsequent writers, noting that, during the criminal proceedings, Schwieso produced a memorandum book in which he had made entries concerning Florence's and Brierley's stay at the hotel, appear to have assumed that he also had the role of a clerk. Ryan describes him variously as 'waiter and clerk' and a 'room clerk...who functioned also as a waiter when room service was demanded'.  

Ryan wasn't the first person to have had this thought. In a 1954 book, 'The Girl with the Scarlet Brand' by Charles Boswell and Lewis Thompson, the man is described as 'combination waiter and desk clerk'

Interestingly, James Morton in a 2015 book 'Justice Denied' describes Schweisso as a 'hotel porter and room service waiter'.  I don't know where he got the idea of him being a porter from.  I assume it wasn't from Mike's research notes!  So it's possible there is another source of which I'm unaware from which both Mike and Morton borrowed.  Equally it's possible that it's a coincidence and Mike simply misread or misremembered 'waiter' as 'porter'.

The Liverpool Echo of 16 January 1957, based on Morland's book, simply describes Schweisso as a waiter, so that wasn't Mike's source.

The other very interesting thing is Mike's reference to Schweisso's 'statement'.   While it's not clear entirely clear what he meant - and perhaps he was trying to refer to Schweisso's testimony - it is rather interesting that in a letter written by Schwieso, or Schweisso, to Alexander Macdougall after the trial, and first published in 1891, Schwieso said, 'I give you this statement voluntarily' (page 17).  Ryan at page 228 refers to Macdougall: 'Rechecking the testimony of trial witnesses, he obtained a statement from Alfred Schweisso that he had been able to recognise Mrs Maybrick only when an inspector took him into the room where she was waiting, and that he did not recognise Alfred Brierley even when he stood beside him' 

Mike's research notes seem to follow this concept of Schweisso having provided a 'statement'.  One doesn't get this from Morland or the Liverpool Echo.


This is another very important one.  One of Mike's facts on Brierley is:

'He was a senior partner of Brierly and Wood, cotton brokers - Liverpool Echo' (MB Research Notes p. 3).

I'm sure that the source of this information is not the Liverpool Echo.

Had Mike dug down into the Liverpool Echo from the 1880s he might have seen it stated in its issue of 13 August 1889 that: 'Mr Brierley is the senior member of the firm of Brierley and Wood, cotton importers'.

There are two key differences here from what is in Mike's notes.  Firstly, the Echo says 'senior member' not 'senior partner'.  Secondly, it describes his company as 'cotton importers', not 'cotton brokers'.

Had Mike been looking in the Liverpool Echo in 1956, using the extracts from Morland's book, he would only have found it said that 'Brierley....no longer attended his prosperous little cotton merchandising firm of Brierley, Wood & Company'.  This was cited in the Liverpool Echo of 29 December 1956.

Brierley, Wood & Company was the correct name of the company sometimes referred to as 'Brierley and Wood' and, although Morland also wrote later in the book (as appeared in the Liverpool Echo of 25 January 1957 that 'Brierley and Wood was no more'), it is nowhere stated by him that Brierley was a 'senior partner' and that his company were cotton brokers.

If, however, we turn to Ryan's book, we find the obvious source of Mike's entry. For Ryan states on page 30:

'His name was Alfred Brierley...He...was the wealthy senior partner of Brierley and Wood, cotton brokers...' 

This is the only source in which we find all the elements that Mike needed: 'senior partner', 'Brierley and Wood' (not Brierley, Wood & Co) and, crucially, 'cotton brokers'.


We've already seen that Mike's notes on page 1 contain the entry:

'James Maybricks office; Knowsley Buildings - Off Tithebarn Street - recorded in Liverpool Echo'

While the Liverpool Echo from 1889 (15 May and 28 May) will certainly tell us that Maybrick was a merchant of 'Knowsley Buildings, Tithebarn Street' , and it reported that Mr Addison in his opening speech referred to 'Knowsley-buildings, which is somewhere out of Tithebarn-street' (31 July 1889), there is no reference in any issue of the Liverpool Echo that Knowsley Buildings was OFF Tithebarn Street.

However, by pure chance (not!), we find it stated in Ryan (page 26) that Maybrick:

'maintained a fine office in the Knowsley Buildings, off Tithebarn Street'

As far as I've been able to establish, it is ONLY Ryan who places Knowsley Buildings as being off, as opposed to in, or out of, Titheburn Street.

So I think we can say that Mike has given himself away once more in trying to disguise a Ryan reference as one from the Liverpool Echo.


The other entries sourced by Mike to the Liverpool Echo can't really be proved or disproved either way. The Liverpool Echo of 13 August 1889 gave Brierley's address correctly (although the next day spelt it wrongly as 'Huckisson' Street) but all reports and books on the case state that Florence addressed a letter to Brierley at 60 Huskisson Street so Mike's entry on this subject, as quoted below, isn't mysterious other than to query where he got the idea from the Brierley was Florence's second lover:

'Alfred Brierley - Second lover of Florence Maybrick - 60 Huskisson Street - recorded in Liverpool Echo'

I don't believe that the Liverpool Echo says anything about Florence having had a lover before Brierley.

Mike also attributes to the Liverpool Echo the claim that Maybrick had five children with his mistress.  If he was truly getting this information from the Liverpool Echo it MUST mean that he was consulting the serialisation of Morland's book from 1956 and 1957 because that's the only place in the Liverpool Echo where we find it. Hence, in the Echo of 25 January 1957 it is said:

'James Maybrick's mistress in England had borne him three children, and two after his marriage - when his earlier intimacy had resumed'.

Even Mike was probably capable of adding three and two.

But Ryan's book (page 28) also says the same thing:

'She [Florence] learned that he [James] was the father of three children borne out of wedlock before his marriage, and that he had sired two more children by the same woman since he and Florence had been married'.  

I don't find the Liverpool Echo telling us specifically that Florence was born in 'Mobile, Alabama', as stated on the second page of Mike's notes, other than in its issue of 6 December 1956.  This also notes that her mother's third marriage was to Baron Adolph von Roques (although the research notes only say 'Baron von Roques').  Needless to say, Ryan tells us that Florence was a native of 'Mobile, Alabama' (p.16) and on the same page that her stepfather was 'Baron von Roques'.  Mike's research notes say that nothing was known about him, whereas Ryan states that he was a cavalry officer in the Eighth Cuirassier Regiment of the German Army, but I think Mike was deliberately playing dumb here.

That Florence met Brierley through James, which is a snippet attributed to the Liverpool Echo, is too widely mentioned in modern books to be isolated to a single source but, nevertheless, this wasn't mentioned at all during the legal proceedings and doesn't appear to have been known in 1889.  Hence, in the Liverpool Echo of 13 August 1889, when Brierley was asked when he first met Mrs Maybrick, he simply said, 'I met her once or twice during last year in this city.  We were merely distant acquaintances, however, up to last November'. Ryan (p.30) tells a slightly different story that the first meeting was in December 1888 and that Brierley was one of James' friends.  Morland (p.19), and thus the Liverpool Echo of 10 December 1956, says that Alfred entered the scene when he attended a dinner at Battlecrease as a guest of James (although Morland at page 24 appears to date this to 'the late summer of 1888').  So Mike could have obtained his information from the Liverpool Echo of December 1956 but not from anything in 1889, where one would have thought he would have been looking for information on the Maybricks.

Mike also attributes to the Liverpool Echo that Maybrick returned to his office in Knowsley Buildings on 3 May 1889.  This was available information from the trial evidence but could have been taken from Ryan, page 50.  Hence, Ryan states:

'On 3rd May he stayed in bed...Soon after Dr Humphreys had gone, Maybrick decided he felt better, went to his office, stayed only a short time, went home again.' 

Finally, we have a question by Mike about whether Michael and Thomas sold the Maybrick office furniture about which he says: 'Nothing in Liverpool Echo'.  Here is the full entry (lacking apostrophes, just like the diary!):

'Why did Michael and Thomas sell the furniture of Battlecrease before Florence was tried?  Does not make sense when you read James Maybricks last will.  They must have known something, but what? Did they sell Maybricks office furniture as well?  (Nothing in Liverpool Echo)'.

Was Mike seriously trying to say that he had scoured every issue of the Liverpool Echo in 1889 looking for an obscure reference to a sale of Maybrick's office furniture?  The idea is absurd, and basically I think that what Mike was really saying there was that there is nothing about it in Ryan who nevertheless does tell us (page 91) that Thomas and Michael ordered all the furniture in Battlecrease to be packed up and carted off.

Had Mike actually scoured through all editions of the Liverpool Echo, he would have found it stated in the issue of 17 July 1889 that the money from the sale of the furniture would be applied towards Florence's defence thus answering his question as to why it was done before the trial (albeit that on 14 August 1889 Florence's mother was reported as asking why it was done and where had the money gone).

If Mike really had scoured through all the editions of the Liverpool Echo he would have known what items of furniture were sold because that was reported in detail in the Liverpool Echo of 8 July 1889 yet Mike asks in his research notes 'What items were sold? Nothing to date'. Ryan does give a few general examples such as sofa, chair, piano (and one specific example being Florence's writing pad and blotter) but I think Mike was hiding this little bit of knowledge.  Ryan also tells us (page 111) that the auctioneers were Messrs Branch and Leete of the Hanover Gallery as included in Mike's research notes.

I've reviewed every result of a search in the Liverpool Echo of 'Maybrick' AND 'furniture' and nowhere do I find it stated in that newspaper that the sale was arranged by Michael and Thomas.  So how did Mike find out about it?  As I've said, this is something mentioned by Ryan.

I should say that it is true that Maybrick's will (reproduced in the Echo of 30 July 1889) does state that Michael and Thomas were to be the trustees of the will, and the Liverpool Echo of 8 July 1889 included a notice of the sale of the furniture and effects of Battlecrease which was said to be by order of the trustees but if Mike read those two issues of the newspaper and put those two facts together to work out himself that Michael and Thomas had ordered the sale, no-one can say any more that he was stupid.


I believe I've produced sufficient good evidence for it to be concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that Mike's secret source for his research notes relating to the Maybrick case was Ryan's 1977 book, 'The Poisoned Life of Mrs Maybrick'.  There can be no possible doubt that the information about James and Florence meeting on the Britannic came from Ryan, there being no other existing source in 1992 for that information, and the argument is very strong that Mike's information about Brierley, Benjamin Thurston, Schweisso and Knowsley Buildings came from Ryan also.  That being so, we can see that he deliberately avoided including any mention of Ryan's book in the 'research notes' he presented to Shirley.  Instead he camouflaged them and led her to think he had been researching through old copies of the Liverpool Echo.


The answer should be obvious.  Ryan was the primary Maybrick source used for the forgery of the diary as I've already demonstrated in Diary Deep Dive.  Mike would surely have thought it would be far too dangerous for him to mention Ryan's book only a few months after he'd produced the diary.  He pretended to be in total ignorance even of the existence of Ryan's book!!!  Other than a single odd reference to Tales of Liverpool, Mike was giving the impression of spurning the easy life by using secondary sources to learn about Maybrick, and the reader is supposed to think that he spent days if not weeks in the Liverpool library diving down into primary newspaper sources to collect all his information.

Only now, due to the ability to electronically search all back issues of the Liverpool Echo, can we see through Mike's ruse.  He gave himself away to us by copying too closely from Ryan's book in places. 

None of Mike's disguise of Ryan makes sense if he obtained the diary from Eddie Lyons on 9 March 1992 and was genuinely interested in finding out more about the Maybrick case after he supposedly made his famous discovery that the diary related to Maybrick from seeing mention of Battlecrease in a copy of 'Tales of Liverpool'.  There would be no reason to hide from Shirley his use of, and reliance on, Ryan's book. None whatsoever.  This is true even if he was trying to convince to Shirley that his research had been carried out in or before August 1991 when he was claiming to have received the diary from Tony.  It only makes sense if he knew that Ryan had been used for all Maybrick related information in the text of the diary and he was creating a diversion. 

It was just another cheap magic trick by a master scammer who managed to fool so many otherwise intelligent people over the years.


21 January 2022