They All Love Bruce
Bruce Robinson and Charles Warren are very similar in many respects. Neither of them are very good at solving crimes but both seem to think they are. Sir Charles famously said that if he had a bit of time to sit down and think about it he would come up with the solution to the identity of the Whitechapel Murderer and Robinson has adopted this approach. He's thought very hard and tells us the murderer's name was Michael Maybrick but he could have solved this in August 1888 as soon as Martha Tabram was murdered.
Detective Bruce, immediately realising that the murderer was a Toff, would have had the Toynbee Hall in George Yard taken 'to pieces', even though such an act would have been illegal, and located the murder weapon concealed at that location by Maybrick which would surely have led him to Maybrick himself, thus stopping Jack the Ripper before he even got started.
Had, for any reason, Maybrick escaped his clutches in August 1888, then, following the murder of Elizabeth Stride, Detective Bruce would not have done anything foolish like taking the details of all the men present at the club in Dutfield's Yard. No, that type of boring police work is not for Bruce. He would have let them go on their merry way because it was obvious that the murderer was an expert in freemasonry and thus of the upper class. Why carry out a proper investigation when you can just rely on instinct?
A full analysis of Bruce's meanderings in his book 'They All Love Jack' would be impossible but in this article I want to draw attention to some of the more obvious factual errors and misunderstandings committed by Detective Bruce in his misguided efforts to solve this crime. Let us start with the grapes....
The Disappearing Grapes
According to Bruce, there was a major cover up concerning grapes. Five 'on-site' witnesses, he tells us, saw grapes in Elizabeth Stride's hand (and this number rises to seven at one point) yet the police witnesses made the fruit vanish like magic.
But what was it about those grapes? Why were they of any importance? At least with Stephen Knight, who first stressed the significance of the grapes, it was because his suspect, Dr Gull, was supposedly known to like them, along with probably hundreds of thousands of others so it wasn't a great point to begin with. But with Michael Maybrick there is nothing about grapes as such that pointed to him.
Bruce doesn't ever spell it out but let's try and follow his chain of thought. If Elizabeth Stride held grapes in her hand then she must have bought them from somewhere, or possibly her murderer bought them for her. If her murderer bought them for her then he probably bought them from a local fruitseller. If that was the case then a local fruitseller might be able to provide a description of the murderer.
Apparently, the notion that someone could have provided a description of a man who might have bought Elizabeth Stride some grapes, and who therefore might (or might not) have been her murderer, was such a terrifying possibility to the police that they had to erase the grapes from existence. (Let's leave aside the fact that Packer described the man he sold grapes to as of 'medium height', whereas Michael Maybrick was a tall man, and that the police would have had little chance of identifying the killer from any description, however detailed, that Packer could have provided).
I will be arguing that seven witnesses did not see any grapes and that it is certain that there never were any grapes.
How did the idea that Elizabeth Stride was holding grapes come into existence?
It started with Louis Diemschutz, the man who found the body of Stride. He evidently gave two separate interviews to newspaper reporters on 30 September, one to a reporter working for the Daily Telegraph and one to a reporter (probably an agency reporter) for the Evening Standard (as well as other newspapers).
The two different interviews appeared in the form of 'statements' in the Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard of 1 October 1888 respectively. They are two different 'statements', clearly given to two different reporters on separate occasions (the full 'statements' can be found here). In the Telegraph version, the reporter has heard Diemschitz say that he was a steward of the club for 6 or 7 months, while the Standard reporter has heard him say that he was the steward for 6 or 7 years. There are plenty of other differences. For our purposes we must note the key sentence about the grapes. In the Telegraph version, Diemschitz says:
'She had a flower in the bosom of her dress. In one hand she had some grapes, and in the other some sweets. She was grasping them tightly.'
In the Standard version, consistent with the Telegraph version, but adding more detail as to when he saw the grapes, he says:
'Her hands were clenched, and when the doctor opened them I saw that she had been holding grapes in one hand and sweetmeats in the other.'
Also on 30 September, Isaac Kozebrodski gave an interview to a reporter which appeared as a 'statement' in the London Daily News of 1 October 1889. Kozebrodski was a Pole who, according to the newspaper, was born in Warsaw and 'speaks the English language imperfectly'. Clearly the statement that appeared was not given in the flowing form of perfect English that appeared in the newspaper. Kozebrodski was quoted as saying:
'While the doctor was examining the body, I noticed that she had some grapes in her right hand and some sweets in her left. I saw a little bunch of flowers stuck above her right bosom.'
This is very similar to what Diemschutz had said - with the addition of clarification as to what was in the right and left hands - and it is apparent that both men must have been stood watching the doctor examine the body, probably from a bit of a distance. The likelihood is that they were standing next to each other at the time and one of them might well have pointed out, or mentioned, the 'grapes' to the other.
One can also imagine that Diemschutz might even have acted as an interpreter for the journalist who spoke to Kozebrodski so that it was unclear whether Diemschutz was repeating Kozebrodski's recollections or was simply stating his own. It is also perfectly possible that the reporter, having already interviewed Diemschutz, asked leading questions such as 'Did you see the grapes in her other hand?' and a confused Kozebrodski, not fully understanding, answered 'yes'.
Certainly, had the 'grapes' actually been no more than bloodstains which, from a distance, looked like grapes, it would explain why both Diemschutz and Kozebrodski were quoted as having seen grapes.
But what about all these other witnesses?
1. Constable Lamb
The evidence offered by Bruce that P.C. Lamb saw any grapes comes from the same report referred to above, in the Daily Telegraph of 1 October 1888. Note that (like the statement of Diemschutz quoted above) this does not appear on Casebook's Press Reports section but has been checked by me from the original newspaper held on microfilm at the British Library. The report states:
'Stricken with horror, Diemshitz rushed into the club and raised an alarm, shouting out that something had happened, though not saying what. Then, accompanied by Eagle and another member named Isaac Kosebrodski, a Polish Jew, he went back to the yard, and after another match had been struck the trio reassured themselves that a foul murder had been committed. In all haste Eagle and Kozebrodski ran out for the police, and after some delay found Constable Lamb, 252 H Division, in Commercial-road. On the arrival of that officer he perceived that the dead woman was lying on her left side, and was clutching some grapes in he right hand and sweetmeats in her left.'
Leaving aside that it is ambiguous as to who the 'he' in that last sentence is supposed to be, to the extent that it is a reference to P.C. Lamb it is clearly no more than a journalistic summary of what P.C. Lamb would have seen when he arrived at the murder site based on what Diemschutz and Kozebrodski had told reporters. There is nothing in the report to indicate that it came from P.C. Lamb or that Lamb, in contravention of Police Orders, had spoken to a single journalist.
2. Mrs Fanny Mortimer
The London Daily News carried a statement from Mrs Mortimer who said she had been standing by the door of her house between 12.30am and 1:00am on Sunday in which she said she heard a commotion and:
'I went to see what was the matter, and was informed that another dreadful murder had been committed in the yard adjoining the club-house, and on going inside I saw the body of a woman lying huddled up just inside the gates, with her throat cut from ear to ear. A man touched her fact, and said it was quite warm, so that the deed must have been done while I was standing at the door of my house.'
Her 'statement' included some hearsay and speculation. For example:
'I was told that the manager or steward of the club had discovered the woman on his return home in his pony-cart. He drove through the gates, and my opinion is that he interrupted the murderer, who must have made his escape immediately, under cover of the cart.'
In respect of the grapes, the 'statement' said:
'The woman appeared to me to be respectable, judging by her clothes, and in her hand were found a bunch of grapes and some sweets.'
What is notable is that Mrs Mortimer does not say that she saw the grapes. Only that a bunch of grapes and some sweets had been found in Stride's hand. She could have been told this Diemschutz or even by a journalist, which she then repeated to another journalist. We cannot assume that because she said that grapes were found in Liz Stride's hands it means she saw those grapes. She does not say that she stood around watching the body being examined by the doctor like Diemschutz and Kozebrodski and, if she did not, then she could not have seen the grapes or the sweets which were only apparently visible after the hands were opened.
3. Walter Dew
The final 'on-site' witness offered up by Bruce is Walter Dew, which is surprising because he was neither on site nor a witness. Despite Bruce referring to him as 'Inspector Dew', he was only a constable (albeit detective constable) at the time and was never at the crime scene. His memoirs were published fifty years after the event, based on his fading recollections of what he remembered having heard or read about the crimes. We can ignore Walter Dew.
4. The Sisters
Bruce also offers up Mrs Rosenfield and her sister Eva Harstein as witnesses - they apparently saw a grape stalk stained with blood as they walked past the murder site on Sunday morning - but these two women were dragged up by the two unreliable private detectives, Batchelor and Le Grand, who seemed to have a point to prove about the grapes, and we do not have a first hand record of what they actually said they saw, only what the detectives claimed they said. Even if they did see a blood stained (or what looked like a blood stained) grape stalk on the ground it does not mean that it came from Stride.
Despite this, Bruce feels able ask, in reference to Diemschutz's quote about seeing grapes in Stride's right hand:
'Does anyone imagine that Diemschutz (and six others) was making that up?'
The 'six others' include three who were not at the crime scene and who never, by any stretch of the imagination, even claimed to see any grapes (Dew, Mrs Rosenfield and Eva Harstein) and that becomes four once we add P.C. Lamb who never said anything on the subject. Mrs Mortimer also never actually claimed to have seen grapes so we are left with just two: Diemschutz and Kozebrodski who probably both influenced each other and were simply mistaken about what they had seen from a distance while watching Dr Blackwell and Dr Phillips at work.
There was another important person speaking to the Daily Telegraph reporter on 30 September. This was Dr Blackwell. According to that newspaper on 1 October:
'His belief was that as the woman held the sweets in her left hand her head was dragged back by means of a silk handkerchief which she wore round her neck, and that her throat was then cut.'
Not a mention there of any grapes by Doctor Blackwell. Was it at all possible that he appreciated the significance (whatever that was) of the grapes on 30 September, within hours of the discovery of the murder, and, initiating his own cover-up, immediately pretended he hadn't seen them? Or is it more likely that, having closely examined the body, as Diemschutz and Kozedbroski had not, he was well aware that the only thing in Stride's hands were sweets?
It is, in my submission, perfectly clear that there never were any grapes in Elizabeth Stride's right hand. Had there been grapes in that hand both Dr Blackwell and Dr Phillips would have seen them and reported this fact to the coroner, whatever Bruce might tell us. The fact is that neither saw any grapes but they did both see the sweets or sweetmeats.
Before he gave his evidence to the coroner on 1 October, Lewis Diemschutz might well have been told that no grapes were found at the scene and he might well have accepted this and realised that he was mistaken. He didn't necessarily give contradictory evidence at the inquest though. When he was asked by the coroner if he noticed Elizabeth Stride's hands, it is likely that he was being asked what he saw at the time he discovered her body, not about half an hour later when the doctors were opening her hands. The coroner who asked him if he noticed her hands, was clearly trying to establish the position of her hands at the time of her death before others came along to touch the body (and Diemschutz tells us that a young man lifted up Stride's head before the police arrived). The coroner wouldn't have needed information about Stride's hands at the time the doctors were there because he could simply have asked them.
If this interpretation happens to be wrong then it could just be possible that Diemschutz was sensitive about his error with the grapes and didn't want to talk about the hands but that seems unlikely because all he would have had to say was that her hands were clenched.
What about Matthew Packer?
Well, once the information that Stride, or her murderer, might have bought grapes (even though she had done no such thing) was in the public domain we had the private detectives who took it upon themselves to speak to local fruit sellers. And lo and behold, Matthew Packer recalled selling a man and a woman some grapes some time before the murder occurred.
Of course, the police could not be 100% certain that Stride, or her murderer, did not purchase grapes. They knew there were no grapes in her hand but it wasn't impossible that she had eaten them or dropped them near the crime scene. So they had to check out Packer's story but, once it became clear that the story was contradictory, the police, knowing that the 'grapes' story was a myth started by Diemschutz, could be confident that Packer's story was false and that Stride never had any grapes in her possession.
The grapes were the fruit that never was.
The Phantom Night Courts
Bruce, as will be obvious to most readers, makes a number of silly points but none sillier than his questioning of Superintendent Arnold's report of 22 October 1888 in which the superintendent explained why it was impossible to keep a constable on each beat at all times in Whitechapel. Arnold says that this was because of 'the number of men absent from duty from sickness, leave, attending the police courts, or sessions...' to which a disbelieving Bruce adds in square brackets '[at night?]'.
How ridiculous, even mendacious, of Arnold, we are encouraged to think, that he is suggesting to the Commissioner that his officers were required to attend court during the middle of the night.
The answer is that of course they weren't but if any of his night constables made an arrest during the night they would be required to give evidence at court during the day, which would mean they couldn't then work during the night. It's such an obvious point and requires no specialist knowledge that it is surprising it did not occur to Bruce with his incredible detective's brain.
Here, for the record are Police Orders from 25 January 1888 showing the rules in respect of 'time off'.
The Phoney Police Officers
From his analysis of divisional police strengths set out in Police Orders, Bruce concludes that there was 'only a negligible variation in the numbers of police officers on the streets of Whitechapel throughout these crucial weeks.'
But do the Police Orders actually show the numbers of police officers on the streets?
The answer is no because what the weekly tables entitled 'Strength of Classes in Each Division', published in Police Orders, showed was no more than the number of officers within each division. They did not show when officers of one division operated in another division.
Bruce concedes that Superintendent Arnold's request in October 1888 for an extra 25 men was granted, as the number of uniformed constables within H Division increased from 471 as at week ending 28 October 1888 to 512 as at week ending 4 November 1888, an increase of 41. This increase, for all intents and purposes, corroborates the information given by Robert Anderson, referred to disparagingly by Bruce, who said that in November 1888 the division had been augmented by 42 constables (and those 42 constables are listed by name in Police Orders of 31 October 1888, to report to Leman Street on 1 November). Bruce says that what Anderson writes 'sounds the part', as if his figures were false, but, by Bruce's own calculations from Police Orders, were accurate.
But what about prior to November?
Bruce tells us that, 'for all his support in the Conservative press, there is not a single reference following the Double Event to any augmentation of officer numbers that can be officially confirmed' and he refers to Warren's 'phoney police' comprising 'a large body of men who were so secret that nobody had ever seen them.'
Bruce talks about official confirmation but, if someone actually saw these officers, surely they must have been there, no?
Let's look at what was said in the London Evening Post about police officers being brought into Whitechapel. Before we do, we should note that the Evening Post was certainly not a supporter of Sir Charles Warren. On 5 September 1888 an editorial in that newspaper said of Warren: 'it is becoming pretty clear, from the friction in Scotland Yard, and between Scotland Yard and the Home Office, that in his present employment his abilities are not turned to the best possible account.' In other words, Warren should resign.
On 16 October 1888, the newspaper made the point that the City Police were not to blame for the erasure of the writing on the wall and that, 'The Metropolitan police, and they alone, acting under high authority, rubbed out the writing, and the City police were unable to interfere as Goulston-street is out of their jurisdiction' , clearly pointing the blame for what it believed was a terrible decision at the Commissioner. On 18 November, it referred to Sir Charles as 'a despot' and said that he 'knows no law but his own caprice'.
More to the point, the newspaper said in an editorial on 4 October 1888 that, 'The police force in the metropolitan area is simply inadequate' arguing that 'The numbers of the police should be increased'.
Immediately after the double event, the newspaper sent out a reporter onto the streets who was critical about the lack of police he observed on the streets of Whitechapel. So it was by no means a conservative, police loving newspaper.
On 1 October 1888 the same London Evening Post reported that:
'Both Sir Charles Warren, for the Metropolitan Police Force, and Colonel Fraser, for the City Police Force, have since Sunday drafted a large force of men into the neighbourhood for special duty. The former has ordered constables on to Commercial-street and Leman-street Police stations from the "A" and "B" Divisions; while Colonel Fraser has drawn men from every district in the City for duty in that portion of the area nearest Whitechapel which is considered dangerous. These augmentations are only at night.'
So here we have mention of specific divisions from which augmentations at night were being made by Sir Charles in what was clearly an emergency measure. As constables from the A and B Divisions were not being transferred to H Division, the numbers would not make their way into the weekly class tables in Police Orders.
On Tuesday 2 October, the newspaper reported:
'A strong reinforcement of detectives from Scotland Yard and Lambeth arrived in Whitechapel this morning. The men are being appointed to various suspected districts to watch suspected houses and individuals.'
It also reported on the same day:
'This morning the large force of police and detectives drafted into Whitechapel are making a house-to-house visitation and leaving [handbills].'
Neither of these deployments, obviously, had anything to do with night patrols and, on 5 October, the newspaper carried a critical report about the Met Police, quoting a member of the Vigilance Committee as saying:
'Now, when we got within the City limits last night there was a policeman about everywhere. You could not walk 30 yards without seeing a constable in uniform or a man in plain clothes. But in Whitechapel this was not so. Of course the men may have been hidden, but notwithstanding the force that has been drafted into the district, I was sure from our experience through the streets last night that the police are not numerous enough down here to prevent a repetition of the crimes.'
On the following day, the paper reported:
'Our detective system has during the past week been increased to an almost alarming extent by men drawn from the ranks, and who have been sent out in plain clothes to patrol the streets.'
Thus far, no doubt, Bruce would tell us that the Evening Post was swallowing the official police line and reporting phantom police arrivals into Whitechapel. But the key report that I want to focus on is a report in the Evening Post of 8 October 1888, referring to a reporter's eye witness account of what had happened in Whitechapel during the evening of Saturday 6 October, the first weekend following the double event, when clearly another murder was feared. The Evening Post reporter said:
'Early in the evening at the headquarters of Leman-street, Whitechapel, presented a scene of most extraordinary character. The large yard was completely filled with constables, drawn from almost every division; and, in addition to these, hundreds of plain-clothes men were present. The former were inspected by Mr. Superintendent Arnold, and at once told of their respective beats, with the injunction "to keep a sharp look out". As regards the detective force, they patrolled the nooks and corners of the locality in question, and were particularly observant of the doings of the unfortunate women who were strolling about, apparently without a home, or the few pence required to pay for the lodging. At midnight the last batch of constables were despatched to their allotted posts, including the scenes of the recent murders.'
Here we have a reporter having personally seen a large yard filled with constables from all divisions and hundreds of plain clothes men getting ready to patrol Whitechapel that Saturday night. In his book, Bruce tries to get around the fact that the extra constables had actually been seen by reporters by saying, 'I have no doubt that cosmetic displays for the press were occasionally organised'. Yet, the clear impression one gets from Bruce's book is that there were no extra police provided at all, hence his reference, quoted above, to the 'large body of men who were so secret that nobody had ever seen them'.
In his letter to the Whitechapel Board of Works on 3 October 1888 (following a call from that body for more police in the neighbourhood) Sir Charles stated:
'A large force of police has been drafted into Whitechapel district to assist those already there to the full extent necessary to meet the requirements, but I have to observe that the Metropolitan police have not large reserves doing nothing and ready to meet emergencies; but every man has his duty assigned to him, and I can only strengthen the Whitechapel district by withdrawing men from duty in other parts of the metropolis. You will be aware that the whole of the police work of the metropolis has to be done as usual while this extra work is going on, and that at such times as this extra precautions have to be taken to prevent the commission of other classes of crime being facilitated through the attention of the police being diverted to one special place and object.'
Resources were not, in other words, unlimited.
I submit that Sir Charles Warren was doing everything possible to ensure that another murder was not committed on the night of Saturday 6 October - and one could even argue that he succeeded.
It may also be noted that in an internal report submitted by Chief Constable Monsell and Superintendent Arnold to the A.C.A. on 22 October 1888, reference was made to 'the presence of 125 extra men every night' which had calmed the inhabitants of Whitechapel (as reproduced in 'The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook' by Evans & Skinner).
Elizabeth Stride's Mouth
Perhaps no issue better highlights Detective Bruce's misunderstanding of the inquest evidence than the issue of Dr Phillips' examination of the inside of Liz Stride's mouth. Bruce draws attention to the doctor's evidence in which he told the coroner that he had made a more careful examination of Stride's mouth than previously but 'I could not find any injury or absence of anything from the mouth', about which Bruce remarks 'What was he talking about? Her teeth or her tongue?'
The answer is neither. But one needs to have followed carefully the evidence given at the inquest to know this.
At the inquest on 3 October, Elizabeth Tanner said that she identified the deceased as 'Long Liz' both from her features 'and the fact that the roof of her mouth was gone' (Evening Post, 3 October 1888). She told the coroner that 'Long Liz' had accounted for losing the roof of her mouth by saying that she was on the Princess Alice when it went down, and her mouth was injured.
It was for this reason that Dr Phillips went back to examine Elizabeth Stride's mouth. A better representation of his evidence was given by the Evening Post on 5 October, which reported that:
'Dr Phillips said that since the last occasion he had examined the roof of the deceased's mouth, and could not find any injury to or absence of any part of either the hard or soft palate.'
In other words, the reason that Bruce could not understand what Dr Phillips was saying was due (a) to his failure to have read the entirety of the evidence and (b) due to his reliance on a poor newspaper report of the evidence when other, better reports were available.
One would have thought that if the entire murder investigation in 1888 was a sham, the government would have quickly bowed to public pressure and offered a reward for the capture of the murderer. After all, they knew the murderer was a toff and no-one in his upper class, freemasonry, circle was going to betray him for a couple of hundred pounds were they? So why not just offer a sham reward to cover-up the sham investigation?
After all, says Bruce: 'Rewards were in fact issued all the time'.
To support this statement, Bruce provides only one example, an offer of a reward supposedly made by the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, to the Bradford City Council as revealed in some 'secret' minutes. We will come back to that.
As a result of this purported discovery, and in line with his conspiracy theory, Bruce feels able to say that it was 'curious' that Henry Matthews did not mind 'slipping a hundred quid' to Bradford but would not approve a penny to catch Jack the Ripper.
Strangely, and inconsistently, Bruce also says that the 'supposed cessation of rewards' was done 'in an attempt to stamp out police corruption', something which not only doesn't make any sense - because the rewards in question were for members of the public - but is based on an assumption that such rewards had ceased, which Bruce has already told us was not the case.
Let us look at some facts.
It is perfectly true that, up to 1884, rewards to members of the public to assist in capturing criminals were frequently offered by the Secretary of State in cases of murder and, occasionally, serious crime (MEPO 2/553). Such rewards were offered on the recommendation of either a magistrate, a coroner or a chief officer of police. The amount of the reward was usually £100 but could sometimes be much higher (MEPO 2/553).
The reason why rewards were discontinued was because of an 1883 case in which it was discovered that, in the expectation that they would obtain the reward they believed would be offered, there had been a conspiracy by a number of men (not police officers) to plant documents on an innocent person to suggest that this person had carried out a dynamite explosion at the German embassy (Case of R. v Woolf, Times, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 21 January 1884).
Consequently, no reward was offered to catch the perpetrators of actual dynamite explosions at Scotland Yard and St James's Square in May 1884 and, when a police constable, P.C. Chamberlain, was shot and seriously wounded a few weeks later, no reward was offered then either, despite the recommendation for one of £100 by the Commissioner of Police. The then Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, wrote, in a memo dated 2 July 1884, 'since the German explosion case I have profound distrust of rewards.' (MEPO 2/553).
Further cases arose over the next few years when a reward could easily have been offered but was not. In a memo dated 18 March 1886, the then Assistant Commissioner of the C.I.D., James Monro, wrote:
'On the general question of rewards I see no reason to depart from the rule laid down. As a matter of fact, the offer of a reward very very seldom brings any real information - its only effect is to administer a little eyewash to the public, and make them believe that every effort is being made to get at some offender.' (HO 144/167/A42639).
It's just the type of straight talking that you'd think Bruce would have loved.
After four years of no rewards being offered for any serious crimes, a young girl named Elizabeth Oliver was horribly murdered on 8 February 1888 in East Hull, having first been 'outraged'. The Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, was asked in the House of Commons on 27 February 1888 if the government would offer a reward 'for the discovery of those concerned in this outrage and murder'. The Home Secretary replied:
'The Home Office has for some years past discontinued the practice of offering rewards in such cases on the ground that they have been found by experience not only to be ineffectual towards the detection of crime, but even to operate prejudicially. I do not feel justified in departing from this practice in the present instance.'
So there we the government's policy on rewards loud and clear and unambiguous, some five months before the Ripper went to work in Whitechapel. Even the murder of a little girl would not change the Home Secretary's mind.
And what the above clearly shows is that rewards were not being offered all the time, as Bruce claims. They were not being offered at all. The Home Secretary was hardly likely to have been able to get away with making such a statement in the House if the government had been offering rewards for other crimes.
So why does Bruce feel able to say that rewards were issued 'all the time'?
It's all based on a single entry Bruce says he has found in 'Secret Council Minutes' at Bradford which records a 'Letter from Home Secretary', who, Bruce informs us, was Henry Matthews, purportedly dated 13 August 1887, 'offering £100 reward'.
One has to ask oneself: why does Bruce need to look in secret minutes for the Bradford murder reward. Why wasn't it public? What's the point of offering a reward if no-one knows about it?
More importantly, what was the murder?
I have reviewed the Bradford Observer, which was a daily newspaper, for the entire months of July and August 1887 and I can see no report of any murder having been carried out in Bradford in that period nor of any murderer having been convicted. A James Doyle was tried at the Yorkshire Assizes on 4 August 1887 for a murder at Huddersfield on 17 May and found guilty of manslaughter. Then, on 5 August, Henry Hobson was tried at the same Assizes for a murder committed in Sheffield on 23 July. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
But the town of Bradford seemed to pass happily through these summer months with not a murder in sight. So what does Bruce think he has found?
Given that there was no murder in Bradford during July or August 1887 there cannot have been a reward offered in any murder case in Bradford. My conclusion is that Bruce has been too clever by half and misdated a document based on the fact that it contains dates of Saturday 6 August and Saturday 13 August (with either no mention of a year or the year is indecipherable) from which he has assumed that this document must have come from 1887 because those two dates were Saturdays. He has also simply assumed that the Home Secretary being referred to was Henry Matthews.
We need to ask ourselves a question: In which other year was 6 and 13 August a Saturday? Well, the closest year to 1887 when those dates fell on a Saturday was 1881. In that year, we find Saturday, 6 August 1881 and, by a process of mathematics, Saturday, 13 August 1881.
Was there a murder in Bradford in August 1881?
Oh yes! On 3 August 1881, a 29 year old woman called Mary Bowell was stabbed to death. Her uncle, Joseph Taylor, who was living in her lodgings, but who had fled, was the prime suspect (Times, 4 August 1881; Sheffield Independent, 6 August 1881). Taylor was still on the run as at 6 August (e.g. Sheffield Independent, 11 August 1881).
And then lo and behold, we have a report on 13 August 1881 of the Home Secretary offering a reward of, guess what amount, yes, £100 for information leading to the apprehension of Taylor (Leeds Times, Saturday 13 August 1881).
Mystery solved and, oh dear Bruce, only six years out on that one. The Home Secretary wasn't Henry Matthews at the time, it was Sir William Harcourt. The offer of a reward wasn't a secret.
To complete the story. Taylor was arrested in Retford on 12 September 1881. He was found guilty of manslaughter at the Yorkshire Assizes on 9 November 1881 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Just to repeat: no rewards were offered by the Government to catch murderers, or any type of serious criminal, after 1883. That is why no reward was offered for the Whitechapel murders.
Talking of rewards, Bruce tells us that within weeks of the double event, 'Establishment gratitude' to the police for failing to catch Jack the Ripper and for covering-up the evidence was extended to Inspector Reid, Sergeant White and P.C. Dolden in the form of a recommendation for reward by Robert Anderson. The footnote reference he gives for this assertion is Police Orders of 13 December 1888 (thus ignoring a similar recommendation for a reward for Reid and Dolden in Police Orders of 27 November 1888, which was made for their arrest of George Bartlett on 12 November, but it's obvious Bruce is primarily interested in Sergeant White due to his role in the Packer affair).
It is true that those three officers were recommended for a reward on that date but what Bruce fails to mention, or perhaps he hasn't noticed, is that the rewards for Reid, White and Dolden are said to be because they effected 'the apprehension of persons wanted for offences committed', and a date of 1st December 1888 is given in respect of this apprehension.
From examples of similar recommendations for rewards, a subject that was discussed in a Casebook thread entitled 'Commendations - Challenge!', it can be deduced that the date in the Police Orders, where it is different to the date of arrest, relates to the date of recommendation for the reward by the relevant superintendent - in this case Superintendent Arnold - which usually followed soon after an arrest.
In the Times of 1 December 1888 we can see that Inspector Reid was at Thames Police Court on 30 November 1888, leading the prosecution of four men: Henry Fife, George Saunders, Alfred Dodd and Thomas Cook, who had been arrested the previous day for conspiring together to steal a horse and van, set of harness, and a quantity of silk and velvet with a value of £1,800. A report in the Times of a further remand hearing for these men on 14 December 1888 stated:
'Detective Inspector Reid, Sergeant White, and Detective Dolden, K Division, represented the Criminal Investigation Department' (Times, 15 December 1888)
Further information is gleaned from a report in the Times of another remand hearing on 21 December 1888 in which Inspector Reid gave evidence stating that he, Sergeant White and Detective Dolden were all involved in the arrests of the men.
Dodd was cleared but Fife, Saunders and Cook were all convicted at the Central Old Bailey on 15 January 1889.
Had Bruce taken up the 1889 volume of Police Orders he would have seen the following entry in P.O. of 26 January 1889:
'The following were commended by the Judge and Jury at the Central Criminal Court Sessions, ended 17th inst:-
H. Inspector Reid, P.S. White, and P.C. Dolden (C.I.D.), for skill displayed in apprehending three men for larceny and recovering a large quantity of stolen property.'
I'll let Bruce into a little secret. It was for the apprehension of those three men for larceny on 29 November 1888 that obviously earned Reid, White and Dolden their recommendation for reward in Police Orders of 13 December 1888 (the recommendation evidently having been made by Superintendent Arnold to the Commissioner on 1 December 1888). It had absolutely nothing to do with the Jack the Ripper murders and was certainly not a reward for their involvement in any type of cover-up.
The three officers, incidentally, received their rewards on 8 February 1889 according to the P.O. of that date. Inspector Reid was awarded fifteen shillings, Sergeant White got 10 shillings & sixpence while Detective Constable Dolden walked away with the princely sum of eight shillings.
There are a number of terrible arguments in Bruce's book but perhaps none worse than his claim that Superintendent Arnold could not have known about suspicion having fallen on John Pizer a.k.a. Leather Apron because he had been on holiday between 2 and 28 September 1888. The answer is so obvious it's hard to believe it actually needs to be said. Arnold could have read all about it in the newspapers while he was on holiday.
The reason Bruce mentions it is because he doesn't like Philip Sugden's argument that Inspector Reid could not have had first-hand knowledge of there having been farthings found at the scene of Annie Chapman's murder because Reid was on holiday at the time. Sugden's argument is a good one. If Reid never saw the murder scene he could not have known from his own personal knowledge what was there.
Bruce's response that Reid could have been told about the farthings by a colleague is fair enough but it seems that Bruce thinks that the equivalent of Sugden's argument as applied to Arnold is that the superintendent could not have written in his report about the erasure of the writing on the wall that, as a result of his knowledge of the Pizer affair, he feared a riot against Jews. However, this did not require any form of first hand knowledge. The whole country knew that suspicion had fallen on a Jew named John Pizer. One did not need to be an officer in the Metropolitan Police to be aware of it.
I don't refer to this simply to point out a bad argument. I want to refer to the evidence that Arnold was on holiday between 2 and 28 September 1888 as Bruce claims. Bruce gives the reference to Police Orders of Thursday 23 August 1888 to support the date of the holiday. In those Police Orders we find this:
'H. Superintendent Arnold is granted 28 days leave of absence from 2nd prox. Chief Inspector West will have charge of H Division during the absence of Superintendent Arnold.'
Now, there is some very simple mathematics involved here. Twenty-eight days from, and including, Sunday 2 September takes us to Saturday 29 September, not (Friday) 28 September as Bruce claims.
This means that Arnold's holiday did not end until midnight on Saturday 29 September.
On one level, you would think this assists Bruce's case because Arnold literally must have arrived on the scene of the crime within hours of his holiday finishing.
On the other hand, it means that Arnold would literally have had no time whatsoever to be briefed by his colleagues about anything that had happened while he had been on holiday. Thus, when Bruce says:'Of course Arnold knew about Pizer, just as Reid knew about the farthings....How? Because all were senior policemen and someone had told them', this can't possibly be right in Arnold's case because there was no time for any such conversations to have taken place between the time he was called to the scene and him making a decision that the writing on the wall should be erased.
Yet Arnold said in his report (of 6 November) that he knew about Pizer when he made his decision to erase the writing (a decision which was confirmed by the Commissioner). So he must simply read all about it in the papers or discussed it with friends or even work colleagues out of hours. He was on holiday for 28 days, not in solitary confinement. The Leather Apron story was even reported in foreign newspapers so unless he went to Timbuktu he would almost certainly have been aware of it.
Did Bruce just make a mathematical mistake in calculating the holiday period or did he realise the implications for his argument and decide to give Arnold a whole day at the station to catch up on what had happened while he had been away? We may never know.
Of the hundreds of letters sent to the authorities claiming to be from Jack the Ripper, Bruce has found five with envelopes on which the author has omitted a stamp but written 'On Her Majesty's Service' (or rather one saying 'On Her Majesty's Service', one saying 'on her magystes service', one saying 'On Her Majesties Service', one saying 'On her Majestys Service' and one saying 'on her majesterys service', the differences not troubling Bruce in the slightest) and two labelled O.H.M.S.
All the letters are addressed to different people and are all in different handwriting. One says 'no money to post it' on the envelope, one says 'Strictly private' and one says 'immediately'. But, according to Bruce, Michael Maybrick wrote them all.
It doesn't seem to matter that other envelopes reproduced by Bruce don't bear the words 'On Her Majesty's Service' or 'O.H.M.S.' These still came from Maybrick. Bruce even reproduces one with only a manuscript 1d 'stamp' which has been drawn on, but this too is from Maybrick. We are told that Maybrick does not like stamps. So does that mean that the stamped envelope enclosing the famous 'Dear Boss' Jack the Ripper letter from 25 September 1888 was not from Maybrick? Not a bit of it. With stamps, without stamps, marked 'On Her Majesty's Service' (with any spelling) or not marked 'On Her Majesty's Service', they were all from Maybrick.
But let's just take those seven envelopes with O.H.M.S. on, either in its abbreviated or full form; does this method of postage mean they must all have come from the same person?
I can't answer this but I suspect that marking unstamped letters to an official government body (including to Scotland Yard) with 'On Her Majesty's Service' was not an uncommon practice in the 1880s and in this respect I would draw attention to the wording of the Post Office Protection Act, 1884 which states:
'A person shall not, without due authority...Make on any envelope, wrapper, card, form or paper in imitation of one issued by or under the Postmaster General, or of any foreign or colonial postal authority, or having any words, letters or marks with signify or imply or may reasonably lead the recipient to believe that a post letter bearing the same is sent on her Majesty's service.'
A fine for breaching this Act not exceeding 40s could be imposed and I imagine that the reason why this Act was introduced was because people were falsely labelling envelopes with the words 'On Her Majesty's Service', perhaps as a way of making the recipient pay the postage or of sneaking a letter through the system for free. No doubt frauds were being carried out too. That this practice continued after 1884 can be seen by the fact that a reminder of the terms of the Act was issued by the Postmaster-General in October 1894 and published in the Times on 31 October 1894.
Bruce doesn't consider at all whether the practice of marking an envelope 'On Her Majesty's Service' could have been a common one, or just one used by a small number of people, and, unless he is able to demonstrate that it was virtually unique, his point rather falls apart.
Two Frightened Ladies
Jack the Ripper, a.k.a. Michael Maybrick, we are told, sent a postcard from Folkestone to the Chief Constable of the City of London Police on 11 November 1888, two days after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, in which Maybrick referred to Kelly's murder as 'a good Job' and said, 'a good joke i played on them three Ladies one Died two frightened'.
This postcard is referred to in a letter written from Leeds two days later (in which a 'William Onion' is accused of having written it and of being the murderer) and then the letter from Leeds is referred to in a letter dated 27 January 1889 and signed 'Richard Whittington the second'. Bruce concludes, not unreasonably, that the same person wrote all three letters although, it must also be the case that if the author showed the postcard of 11 November 1888 to a friend then his friend might have written the letters of 13 November 1888 and 27 January 1889.
Leaving that aside, however, it is curious that Bruce does not pick up on the reference to the 'two frightened' ladies. Because it is obvious who these ladies were.
Quoting a Mrs Kennedy, the Evening Post of 10 November 1888, the day after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, said:
'On Wednesday evening, about eight o’clock, me and my sister were in the neighbourhood of the Bethnal Green-road, when we were accosted by a very suspicious man, about 40 years of age. He was about 5 feet 7 inches, and wore a short jacket, over which he had a long top coat. He had a black moustache, and wore a billycock hat. He invited me to accompany him into a lonely spot “as he was known about here, and there was a policeman looking at him.” She asserts that no policeman was in sight. He made several strange remarks and appeared to be agitated. He was very white in the face and made every endeavour to prevent them “looking him straight in the face.” He carried a black bag. He avoided walking with them, and led the way into a very dark thoroughfare, “at the back of the workhouse,” inviting them to follow, which they did. He then pushed open a small door in a pair of large gates, and requested one of them to follow him, remarking, “I only want one of you,” whereupon the women became suspicious. He acted in a very strange and suspicious manner, and refused to leave his bag in the possession of one of the females. Both women became alarmed at his actions, and escaped, at the same time raising an alarm of “Jack the Ripper.” A gentleman who was passing is stated to have interrupted the man while the women made their escape. Mrs. Kennedy asserts that the man whom she saw on Friday morning with the woman at the corner of Dorset-street resembled very closely the individual who causes such alarm on the night in question, and that she would recognise him again if confronted with him.
The description of the man suspected of the murder tallies exactly with that in the possession of the police, and there is very little reason to doubt that the murderer entered the murdered woman’s home on Thursday night or early on Friday morning.'
This story appeared in a number of newspapers around the country.
So the two frightened ladies must have been Mrs Kennedy and her sister. That does present a problem for Bruce. While the 48 year old Maybrick could have passed as 40, he was over six foot tall yet the man these two women saw was only about five foot, seven inches. So, if Bruce is right, these two women could not have been frightened by Jack the Ripper which suggests that the author of the Folkestone postcard was not from the murderer.
Ah but perhaps it was just a game that Maybrick was playing with that postcard from Folkestone, corroborating a false story to put the police off the scent. He was a cunning chap that Maybrick.
The Unlikely Forgery
Bruce was sent a document by the Secretary of the Orpheus lodge entitled 'Petition for A New Lodge' from 1877 which states:
'...we pray for a Warrant of Constitution empowering us to meet as a regular Lodge, at Freemason's Hall on the last Saturday in February, March, April, May, June, July, November and December...'
Once the Warrant of Constitution was granted, this seems to mean no more than that regular meetings would be held eight times a year at Freemason's Hall. It says nothing about a prohibition on holding any other ad hoc or additional meetings during the year, either at Freemason's Hall or any other location.
Bruce thinks he has proved this document is a forgery from the fact that on the last Saturday in October 1888 a meeting of the Orpheus Lodge was advertised to take place at the Holborn Restaurant in 'The Freemason' journal.
To a normal person this does not seem to prove the 1877 document was a forgery at all.
Furthermore, the petition was created some 11 years before 1888. Who is to say that the lodge did not decide, between 1877 and 1888, to change the timings of its monthly meetings? There is nothing in the petition to say that the months in which the meetings were held could not be changed. So why does the petition have to be a forgery?
The Two Bromleys
It has already been pointed out by others, such as Ed Stow on the JTR Forums board, that Bruce has confused Bromley in Kent, where Michael Maybrick performed on 30 October 1888, with Bromley-by-Bow in East London. When an anonymous person wrote a 'Dear Boss' letter to the police (on about 23 October 1888, according to Bruce) saying: 'I am going to Poplar and Bromley and Plaistow', Bruce is extremely interested because of his candidate's performance in Bromley seven days later. The fact that he can't place Michael Maybrick in Poplar or Plaistow doesn't seem to trouble him but he certainly should be troubled by the fact that the Bromley referred to by the letter writer is obviously Bromley in East London, because both Poplar and Plaistow adjoin it in East London, not Bromley in Kent where Maybrick performed.
By way of just one example to prove that Bromley-by-Bow in East London was referred to as Bromley, below is a report from the Evening Standard of 28 December 1887 of an inquest carried out by Wynne Baxter (the coroner for East London) at Bromley. From the fact that the dead woman, Jane Dowman, lived at '104, Teviot-street, Bromley' we can be certain that it is a reference to Bromley in East London, not Bromley in Kent because Teviot Street still exists and has an E14 postcode.
We can also see that Bromley is linked with Poplar in the press report just like the Bromley referred to in the anonymous letter.
Personally, I have little doubt that this error will not trouble Bruce because it will turn out to be one of Maybrick's little games, deliberately inserting the Kentish Bromley between Poplar and Plaistow of East London in his letter to mislead the police and have some amusement at their expense when they failed to realise that Jack the Ripper had told them exactly where he would be but they looked in the wrong part of London.
Bruce you can have that one for free.
Before moving on from this topic I can confirm that the Bromley mentioned in a second (undated) letter referred to by Bruce, addressed to 'Inspector Reilly, Bromley Police Station' in which 'Jack the Ripper' says that if he was not given £100 by the police to tell them where the Whitechapel Murderer was hiding, he would 'start work on some of the hores of Bromley' , was indeed the one in Kent because the inspector to whom the letter was addressed must be Inspector James Reilly who was in 'P' Division (Camberwell) in which Bromley Police Station was located.
It doesn't seem to trouble Bruce that no Ripper murders were actually committed in Bromley but perhaps Inspector Reilly paid up the hundred quid.
Letters from Mike
Jack was on his 'provincial tour' around England in the autumn and winter of 1888/89 so it's a shame we don't get told much information about where Michael Maybrick was during his own 'provincial tour' of that period or even where he was at the time of the Whitechapel murders.
We do learn he was performing in Manchester on 20 November 1888 and then in Glasgow on 22 November, having performed in London on the 21st. Bruce doesn't explain why Maybrick was in Glasgow on 19 November but he must have been because Bruce tells us he was the author of a card (with a halfpenny stamp affixed!) posted from that city on that date and addressed to the Metropolitan Police Office in London.
Strangely, Bruce doesn't mention a letter posted at Stratford on 19 November 1888 to Scotland Yard saying, 'I am Jack the ripper catch me if you can...Look out for me at Woolwich'. Last time I checked a map, neither Stratford in East London (which is obviously where that card has come from), nor Stratford-upon-Avon, is situated between Manchester and Glasgow, so even with changes at termini and changes of trains, how did Maybrick manage to post one letter in Stratford and one in Glasgow on the same day? Did he really come down from Glasgow to London and then head back north to Manchester just to post that letter?
And what about the card posted in Weston-Super-Mare on 19 November (albeit bearing a written date of 17 November) in which the author, addressing 'Dear Old boss' said he was now going to make his way to Paris? As of 19 November, Maybrick was about to head to Manchester in the opposite direction to France. And Western-Super-Mare is also nowhere near Glasgow or Manchester.
If Jack the Maybrick was posting a letter from Glasgow on 19 November he must have got up early to write on the wall of a house in Whitechapel the words 'Dear boss - I am still about. Look out. Yours, Jack the Ripper' as reported to have been found that morning in the Manchester Evening News of that date.
Surely we know where Maybrick was on 23 November. Bruce tells us he was in Glasgow on 22 November and Edinburgh on 23 and 24 November. So on 23 November we can place Maybrick in Scotland with a fair degree of confidence. Yet we have a letter signed 'Old Original Jack the Ripper' which was posted in Birmingham on 23 November.
Hold on, here's a thought. Perhaps one person didn't write all the Jack the Ripper letters. Radical, I know.
Above letters sourced from Letters from Hell by Stewart P. Evans and, er, Keith Skinner.
Jack the Singer
Bruce doesn't find room in the 850 pages of his book to tell us where his suspect was on the evening of 8 November 1888. You know, the night on which Mary Jane Kelly was murdered.
From the Surrey Mirror we learn that Mr Maybrick performed at the Market Hall in Redhill during the evening of 8 November 1888 in a 'Grand Evening Concert', arranged to raise funds for the Redhill and District Conservative Club. He sung 'The Bedonin's Love Song' in the first part of the show and then 'I'm a Roamer' after the interval in the second part (Surrey Mirror, 3 & 10 November 1888).
This doesn't mean it was impossible for Michael to have been Jack. The Reigate, Redhill, Dorking and Epsom Journal of 13 November 1888 says that the concert terminated at 10.15pm with the playing of the National Anthem and, with the train journey from Redhill to London Bridge being only about 50 minutes, he could easily have been in Whitechapel by around midnight - and Bruce believes that the murder was committed during the morning of 9 November (after 8:00am) in any event - but it would have been nice to have been told, assuming Bruce was aware.
The Bent Death Certificates
Bruce is not happy about the death certificate of little Johnnie Gill which names William Barrit as his murderer. He calls it a 'bent certificate' containing a 'phoney entry'. And what do you know, he found another one where Florence Maybrick was identified on James Maybrick's death certificate as his murderer before her trial.
Hard to say what Bruce thinks is going on here but it was standard practice for a death certificate in suspicious cases to be issued at the conclusion of an inquest, and if the jury at the inquest identified the person they thought was the murderer - as they were perfectly entitled to do - that person would be named as the murderer on the death certificate.
This happened in 1907 to Robert Wood who was named on Emily Elizabeth Dimmock's death certificate as her murderer, after a coroner's jury decided he was responsible, despite being cleared of the crime at the Old Bailey a few months later. Thus, the death certificate reads:
'Syncope due to lack of blood from injures to the throat inflicted with some sharp instrument wilful murder against Robert William Thomas George Cavers Wood.'
It was also the case with Alice Mary Wheatley in 1915 who was named on the death certificate as the murderer of Annie Wootten after the verdict of a coroner's jury was that she had shot Mrs Wootten with a revolver.
Thus Mrs Wootten's death certificate reads:
'Syncope, Haemorrhage into left plural cavity consequent upon passage of bullet through aorta and left lung due to the act of Alice Mary Wheatley. Wilful murder.'
This was despite the fact that Miss Wheatley was (subsequently) found 'not guilty' of the murder of Mrs Wootten at the Old Bailey.
In the case of Robert Wood, one of his descendants recently had the certificate officially amended to state that he was cleared of the murder at the Old Bailey. Thus the words 'Tried and acquitted' were added in 2006.
Amusingly, the registrar didn't seem to quite understand the system in place at the time and added a note to the certificate explaining the amendment as follows: 'Clerical error in Column 6 corrected on 15th May 2006 by J. Grant Superintendent Registrar on the authority of the Registrar General'. It was never a 'clerical error' on the certificate. The death was registered on 1 November 1907, long before Wood was found not guilty on 18 December of that year. The entry was, therefore, deliberate and intentional.
It was a quirk of the system that an individual could be named as a murderer on a death certificate despite being innocent (until proved guilty) but that's the way it was. It does not indicate any kind of conspiracy against William Barrit or Florence Maybrick.
The Conduit Street Clue
Missed to researchers for the past 125 years, Bruce has shown us that Jack the Ripper gave the clearest possible clue as to his identity. In an undated letter with a received stamp of 22 July 1889, 'Jack the Ripper' informed the police that he had digs (or 'diggings') in Conduit Street and that they should watch Conduit Street at 10.30pm that evening.
It's obvious to Bruce, as it must be to everyone, that Conduit Street points to 9 Conduit Street which was the address in 1889 of the Society of Biblical Archaeology which points to the leading freemason William Henry Rylands, a friend of Sir Charles Warren, and when we learn that Michael Maybrick once wrote a letter bearing the address of 9 Conduit Street well, I mean, that just clinches it.
Having said that, 9 Conduit Street was the base of a number of societies and organisations in 1889, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Architectural Association, the District Surveyors' Association, the Nineteenth Century Art Society, the Provident Institution of Builders' Foreman & Clerk of Works, the Sunday Society and, perhaps most significantly, the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. You know, like, with there being Maybrick's connection with the fine arts. It was also the address of Hutchings & Romer, music publishers.
But hold on, let's just get back to the JTR letter of July 1889. It didn't actually say anything about number 9 Conduit Street. There were 67 properties in Conduit Street. If we look around Conduit Street we see at number 48 there was a surgeon living there - a Dr John Holm. Didn't someone once say that the Ripper might have been a doctor? Perhaps we have found him. Or perhaps it was Dr Samuel Kennedy, a physician at number 14:
Or are we taking the wrong approach by focusing on individual addresses? Perhaps a more holistic approach is required. Was Conduit Street well known for anything? Looking at the entire street the answer would appear to be yes. Out of the 67 addresses, no fewer than 31 are tailors, many of these being military tailors. A further 9 are dressmakers. Out of 28,000 streets the Ripper has identified a street in the west end associated with tailoring and dressmaking. Surely he was telling the police something here?
But no, I have the answer. It is buried in the Maybrick files in the National Archives and Bruce has missed it.
In June 1892, Messrs Lumley & Lumley, solicitors acting for Florence Maybrick's mother, Baroness von Roques, presented a legal opinion supporting the innocence of Florence Maybrick. This is the letter:
Whoa, what's the address on that letter? We need a closer look to be sure:
No way! Out of 28,000 streets in London, Mrs Maybrick's mother chooses a firm of solicitors in Conduit Street to provide an opinion on her daughter's innocence. And the postal records show that Lumley & Lumley were at the same address, 37 Conduit Street, in 1889. The same street to which Jack the Ripper drew attention to the police and from which Michael Maybrick once wrote a letter.
This is a terribly tangled web and the conspiracy clearly goes very deep.
Or it could all just be coincidence?
Mrs Briggs' Something
Bruce quotes from a deposition of Mrs Briggs at the inquest of James Maybrick:
'On Wednesday May 8th I went to Battlecrease. When I got there Alice Yapp said something, and in consequence I went into Mrs Maybrick's room.'
Bruce gets agitated about this:
'Alice Yapp said something? Something about what?'
He draws attention to the fact that elsewhere (in a newspaper apparently) Mrs Briggs had claimed that Alice Yapp had told her that Florence Maybrick was 'poisoning the master'. He wonders how Mrs Briggs could possibly have forgotten hearing such a statement.
It's understandable that Bruce is confused at this point but what I believe happened here is that Mrs Briggs' evidence at the inquest was 'censored' for legal reasons. I think she had been told that she was not allowed to repeat what Alice Yapp had said to her because this was hearsay which was prejudicial to Florence Maybrick. If Alice Yapp believed that Florence was poisoning her master, that evidence needed to come directly from Yapp, although such belief itself would have been inadmissible.
Mrs Briggs' evidence could not be completely removed because she needed to explain why she went into Maybrick's room. All she was allowed to say was that she went into Mrs Maybrick's room because Alice Yapp had said something to her (the details of which she was not able to reveal).
It's a very common way of proceeding and, for example, I came across it when researching my book 'The Islington Murder Mystery'. When Albert Wootten came home to find his wife dead, he was told by his young daughter that a few moments before her mother had died she had been visited by 'Mrs Higson's friend' which was the Woottens' code name for Marie Wheatley. But in his evidence at the police court, Wootten said 'when I went into my bedroom my daughter said something' which, he explained to the magistrate, gave him the idea that there had been foul play. Of course, Albert Wootten had not forgotten what his daughter had told him but he had obviously been told what he was and was not allowed to say in the witness box. What his daughter had told him was hearsay and such evidence could only come from the little girl herself.
Rules of evidence were less strict at inquests than in judicial courts but it would appear that the same bar on hearsay evidence was applied in Mrs Briggs' case.
As it happens, we find Michael Maybrick saying something similar at the inquest in his evidence. As stated in the Times of 29 May 1889 it was reported that:
'The following day, the 10th of May, he saw Nurse Gore, who told him something, in consequence of which he removed from a little table near the window of his brother's room half a bottle of brandy.'
Clearly Nurse Gore told Michael of her suspicion that Florence was poisoning James but he wasn't allowed to include this in his evidence because it was both hearsay and prejudicial to Florence. When it came to her own evidence at trial on this conversation, all Nurse Gore was allowed to say was, 'I made a statement to Mr Michael Maybrick about the bottle and saw him take it away' (Times, 3 August 1889). There is nothing strange about this type of thing, it was perfectly normal, being designed to protect the prisoner, in this case Mrs Maybrick.
Was Sir Charles Russell deliberately trying to get his client executed? I doubt it. The fact that Bruce says he was, is itself good reason to make me think he wasn't. But one thing I do know is that the fact that a barrister tries to exclude evidence which might be beneficial to his client is not in itself good reason to draw such a conclusion.
That might sound strange but the reason is that any piece of evidence which might be beneficial might also be disadvantageous. If you bring in a document as evidence or call a witness, you are bringing in the entire document or the entirety of the witness's evidence. In respect of witnesses, they also might have personalities which are likely to go down badly with juries or a propensity for saying things which they cannot justify, thus ensuring that they will be a disaster when cross-examined. One of the most difficult decisions for a defence barrister is whether to adduce evidence which has both benefits and disadvantages to his or her client or call witnesses who might be helpful yet might also ruin their client's case. But such decisions are made all the time.
When the result goes the wrong way, with hindsight it can look like negligence or incompetence (or, to some, like they were trying for a conviction) but even the most experienced barristers can be guilty of miscalculation. The point is that barristers are not involved in bringing out the truth. They are involved in a complicated game of chess. It can involve co-operation between the defence and prosecution counsel because they both know the rules of the game and sometimes they both want to exclude certain evidence because that evidence does not fit with the theory they each want to persuade the judge and jury to believe in.
Clients can sometimes think there is a conspiracy against them but it's not the case. Sir Charles Russell might well have miscalculated about certain evidence and certain witnesses but it is highly unlikely (to say the least) that he did so deliberately in order to protect Michael Maybrick.
One thing is absolutely certain. Bruce's claim that Charles Russell refused to allow Florence's mother, Baroness von Roques 'anywhere near the witness box' because he 'knew only too well that she was a major threat to the frame-up' is absolutely false.
According to Bruce, the Baroness could have confirmed that flypapers were commonly used as a cosmetic, and 'it wasn't by accident' that she was excluded from the trial. To support this extraordinary claim, Bruce refers to a petition of the Baroness after the trial in which she said she had been 'ready and willing' to be called as a witness but that she was not called.
Had Bruce taken some of the 15 years he supposedly spent researching his book to read the evidence in the files held at the National Archives in the Maybrick case, he would have been able to understand very quickly why Baroness von Roques was not called as a witness at her daughter's trial.
In an affidavit sworn by Caroline von Roques on 16 August 1889 she said (underlining added):
'Mr Cleaver the solicitor for my daughter proposed that I should give evidence at her trial as to my knowledge of the use of arsenic as a cosmetic, and of its use by my daughter for that purpose, but I appealed to him not to expose me to the pain of appearing in Court on such an occasion to give evidence as to what I apparently wrongly thought as a trivial and unimportant point unless I might be allowed to testify to my experience of my daughter's blameless life previous to the present year. This he informed me would not be deemed material and it was accordingly arranged that I should not be called as a witness.'
Here we have the actual reason why Baroness von Roques was not called as a witness. It was at her own request!
It may be noted here that her condition that she was only prepared to step into the witness box if she could testify as to her daughter's 'blameless life' would have been a disaster for the defence if fulfilled because it would have opened her up to cross-examination about Florence's adultery with Brierley in London. No wonder Charles Russell did not call her.
In fact, it was the decision of Florence's solicitor, Richard Cleaver, not to call the Baroness. As Cleaver explained in a memo to the Home Office dated 14 August 1889 (HO 144/1638/A5068):
'The question of calling the Mother of the Prisoner to speak to her knowledge of the use by her daughter of Arsenic for Cosmetic purposes was considered and abandoned on the ground that the value of such evidence did not appear to warrant the infliction of the pain of such an appearance, and as there was no other point connected with the history of the charge as to which she had any knowledge or could depose.'
Concluding this point, we may note that Charles Russell did call evidence about the use of arsenic in cosmetics although you wouldn't know this from Bruce. Hugh Lloyd Jones, a chemist, testified at Florence's trial that he sold fly-papers to ladies at times of the year when there were no flies about and that he understood there was an impression in the trade that arsenic was used as a cosmetic, while James Bioletti, a hairdresser, gave evidence that arsenic was used by ladies to remove facial hair and that it was also supposed to be good for improving the complexion (Liverpool Daily Post, 6 August 1889). Consequently, Charles Russell probably calculated that there was no need to call Florence's mother whose evidence would probably have been thought by the jury to have been partial in any case.
What Killed James Maybrick?
You would be forgiven for thinking that Bruce says that James Maybrick died of strychnine poisoning. I can't say that I'm entirely sure but I don't think he is saying that. I think he plumps for laudanum poisoning to fit in with the story told by Robert Reeves (about which more below).
What I want to concentrate on here is the way he disposes of the notion that Maybrick died of arsenic poisoning.
Bruce cites the evidence of Professors Charles Tidy and Rawdon Macnamara who both stated that Maybrick was not poisoned with arsenic. To this, Bruce states (as if he is in the nineteenth century himself):
'And there you have it, gentlemen of the jury. You have heard the evidence of two of the leading experts of our day, men whose reputation is revered far beyond these shores, and both are categorical in their certainty that James Maybrick did not die of arsenical poisoning. Any honourable defence counsel would have been on his feet to remind the jury of the prosecution's charge 'that she murdered her husband by administering to him doses of arsenic.' Except she didn't, and two of the most eminent toxicologists in England said she didn't.'
It was all so easy and Charles Russell's failure to ensure Florence Maybrick's acquittal on the basis of this evidence shows he must been corrupt.
I am not going to argue here that James Maybrick was murdered with arsenic - there is a strong case to be made that he was not - but it wasn't as simple as Bruce suggests. He claims that in opposition to the two great experts, all the prosecution had were doctors Carter and Humphreys. The prosecution's main medical witness, Dr Thomas Stevenson, is virtually written out of the story, being mentioned just once in Bruce's entire book and then only to say, in passing, that a crown analyst at Guy's Hospital in London called 'Dr Stephenson' (sic) - he doesn't even bother to get his name right - had found miniscule amounts of arsenic in Maybrick's viscera. It's like a junior person had found something insignificant which everyone ignored.
In actual fact, in addition to being the Royal College of Physicians' appointed scientific analyst for the Home Office, Dr Stevenson was a physician and professor of forensic medicine at Guy's Hospital. He said in his evidence at the trial: 'I have had considerable experience in cases of poisoning by arsenic'. (Times, 5 August 1889). This experience supposedly went back thirty years. His conclusion was that: 'From the 4th to the 11th the symptoms point to an irritant poison, and especially to arsenic...I can have no doubt that the cause of death was irritant poisoning and I found the irritant poison' (Times, 5 August 1889).
I am not trying to argue that Stevenson was necessarily correct by any means but demonstrating that he was wrong was the problem that Charles Russell was faced with. It wasn't anything like as simple for him as Bruce suggests. He could not just point to the testimony of his own defence witnesses, say there is no case to answer because Maybrick wasn't poisoned by arsenic then sit down. He had to deal with an experienced prosecution witness who was saying that Maybrick was murdered by arsenic poisoning.
Furthermore, Bruce fails to point out that the defence medical witnesses were in difficulty because they were unable to say positively what killed Maybrick. While it was for the prosecution to prove its case and the defence did not need to prove what actually killed him, a jury likes to have clear answers and it can't have helped Charles Russell that Dr Tidy suggested that something like a sausage could have been the irritant that caused the gastroenteritis which killed Maybrick, because Maybrick hadn't eaten any sausages. Thus Dr Tidy's evidence under cross-examination as reported in the Times was:
'I have known of cases of poisonous sausages...In Mr Maybrick's case whatever it was killed him, I cannot suggest what it was if it was not arsenic...The intense thirst, dryness of the throat, and glazing of the throat I cannot explain. They are signs that occur in arsenical poisoning, and are a consequence of any irritant substance in the stomach....I have not overlooked the vomiting'. (Times, 5 August 1889).
Furthermore, while Dr McNamara stated that in his opinion the death of Maybrick was not caused by arsenic, it did not help that he disagreed with Dr Tidy on certain aspects of the evidence. Thus, as the Times reported his evidence under cross-examination:
'I do not agree with Dr Tidy as to the causes which may set up gastro-enteritis. All the symptoms of the deceased were symptoms of arsenical poisoning, and also of poisoning by other irritants.' (Times, 6 August 1889).
Like Dr Tidy, he was unclear as to what killed Maybrick, saying, 'I cannot particularize the food which may have caused Mr Maybrick's illness.' (Times, 6 August 1889).
Against the evidence of Mr Stevenson, therefore, on a very complicated issue, it was a struggle for Charles Russell to prove that Maybrick did not die from arsenic poisoning, not the open goal that Bruce would have us believe.
It Clearly Wasn't Arsenic
It might be said that Professor Stevenson was a freemason, or corrupt, tailoring his evidence to ensure the judicial murder of Florence Maybrick, thus allowing Michael Maybrick a.k.a. Jack the Ripper to roam free. He couldn't possibly have truly believed that James Maybrick was poisoned by arsenic could he?
Well the British Medical Journal of 17 August 1889 asked a number of professors of medical jurisprudence to send in their views on the verdict at the trial. While views diverged and some said that Florence should have been acquitted we should note that:
Arthur Edward Sansom M.D. F.R.C.P. Lecturer in Medical Jurisprudence at the London Hospital Medical College said: 'It is difficult, indeed, on the extant evidence, to come to any other conclusion than that the case was one of arsenical poisoning'.
Arthur Pearson Luff M.B. Bsc, Lecturer in Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology at St Mary's Hospital, stated that: 'A careful analysis of the evidence given...can leave little doubt but that the evidence is a just one....The symptoms preceding death, the post-mortem appearances, and the results of the chemical analysis clearly indicate that death was due to arsenical poisoning.'
David W. Finlay F.R.C.P., Lecturer on Forensic Medicine at Middlesex Hospital agreed with the prosecution witnesses that 'the cause of death was arsenical poisoning.'
A. Bostock Hill M.D., Professor of Chemistry and Practical Chemistry and Professor Toxicology at Queen's College, Birmingham said: 'I have no hesitation in saying that I strongly support and endorse the chemo-medical evidence of Dr Stevenson. I consider that it was conclusively proved that the deceased died from the effects of arsenical poisoning.'
Michael McHugh M.A., M.B., Examiner in Medical Jurisprudence at the Royal University, Ireland said: 'The cause of death, in my opinion, was arsenical poisoning, a possible explanation of which is furnished by alleged habit of deceased.'
None of this is to say that James Maybrick did in fact die of arsenical poisoning, only that the opinion of Dr Stevenson was not as obviously ludicrous an opinion to everyone (and the only important people were the judge and the jury) as Bruce suggests.
Florence Maybrick's Secret
Bruce claims that a letter dated 'Wednesday' believed by the prosecution at her trial to have been written by Florence Maybrick on Wednesday, 8 May 1889, in which she controversially referred to her husband being 'sick unto death' was a forgery (or that a part of it was genuine but it was written in March; it's hard to know exactly what he is saying).
One of the reasons Bruce claims that the letter is a forgery is that it contains the statement that her husband was 'perfectly ignorant of everything' . Bruce notes that Florence wrote to Dr Hopper on 11 May 1889 saying: 'Michael, whom Jim informed of the unhappiness existing between us last month'.
Twisting Florence's words in the way that only Bruce can, Bruce summarises this as James having told Michael 'everything' in April. Thus, he asks:
'How is it remotely possible for Florence to write that James had told Michael everything in April, and then to write that James 'is perfectly ignorant of everything' in May'.
But Florence did not use the word 'everything' in her letter to Dr Hopper. She only said that her husband had informed her brother of the 'unhappiness' that occurred in April (or more accurately the end of March). That unhappiness arose from the fact that Florence had walked arm in arm with Alfred Brierley at the Grand National on 29 March which had caused a major row in which James gave his wife a black eye.
However, Florence's comment in her letter that her husband was 'perfectly ignorant of everything' is not a reference to anything that happened at the Grand National. It was a reference to her husband's ignorance that she and Alfred Brierley had spent three days (two nights) living together as man and wife in a hotel in London. This can be perfectly well understood by a knowledge of the letter from Brierley that Florence was replying to.
Brierley had written to Florence on 3 May (sent the next day) a letter signed 'A.B.', informing her that in a fortnight's time he was planning to take a trip to the Mediterranean for about six or seven weeks, and he said in his letter:
'Supposing the rooms are found I think both you and I would be better away as the man's memory would be doubted after 3 months.' (HO 144/1638/A50678).
What this means is that Brierley was worried that James Maybrick would discover the hotel in Henrietta Street, in London, in which he and Florence had stayed together. Up to that point, all Maybrick knew was that Florence had walked with Brierley at the Grand National. He was completely unaware of any sexual impropriety.
So the plan was that Brierley would leave the country and if he was ever identified on his return by the hotel waiter (who had seen them together), it would have been so long afterwards that he could say that the man was mistaken.
To this, Florence responded:
'I now know that he [i.e. her husband] is perfectly ignorant of everything, even to the name of the street, and also that he has not been making any inquiries whatsoever.'
In other words, Florence was reassuring her lover that Maybrick was ignorant of everything concerning their stay in London and was not likely to find out anything about it. Thus, she said to Brierley in the same letter, 'You need not therefore go abroad on this account, dearest, but in any case please don't leave England until I have seen you again.'
Consequently, Bruce's claim that this letter was a forgery because Florence could not have said in May 1889 that her husband was ignorant of everything is made on a wholly false basis.
There is no way that James Maybrick could have told his brother about the illicit visit to the London hotel. He never knew about it. Michael Maybrick testified at Florence's trial: 'I am sure my brother did not know of his wife going to London to meet Brierley' (Times, 1 August 1889).
The only evidence that James might have known about his wife's infidelity came from Florence herself during her trial when she made a statement to the court on 5 August 1889, in which she said that, on the day before her husband's death, i.e. on 10 May, 'I made a full and free confession of the wrong I had done him' (Times, 6 August 1889). What she meant by this has never been entirely clear but, whatever it was, it is entirely consistent with James Maybrick having been 'ignorant of everything' on 8 May.
A second reason that Bruce thinks the 8 May letter was a forgery is because Florence says, 'Since my return I have been nursing M - day and night'. He thinks that the reference to 'return' must be her return from London on 28 March, whereas she had secretly met Brierley on 6 April, so that the forger has been caught out by a lack of knowledge of this meeting. But Maybrick did not become ill until 27 April so it would not have made an sense for Florence to have claimed to have been nursing him day and night since she returned from London on 28 March.
She must have been referencing her return from shopping on 6 May (when she supposedly wrote another letter to Brierley, although that one has not survived). In other words, she was telling Brierley that she had been nursing her husband for the past 48 hours since she last sent him a letter from the town, where she had been shopping.
Furthermore, Florence's letter states, 'The doctors held a consultation yesterday...' which can only be a reference to the consultation which took place between Dr Humphreys and Dr Carter on Tuesday 7 May 1889 (evidence at trial of Dr William Carter, Times, 3 August 1889).
The third reason Bruce says the letter is a forgery is because it refers to John Baillie Knight ('John K') being used as a go-between for Brierley's letter whereas Bruce claims he only acted as a go-between in March. However, the basis for this claim appears to be no more than an affidavit by Brierley in which he says that he told Florence on 24 March that they should not meet again other than in public. On that basis, Bruce thinks that the relationship was over and, his argument goes, if the relationship was over, then John Baillie Knight could not have been acting as a go-between. In fact, Bruce could not be more wrong; Baillie Knight never acted as a go-between for any letters from Brierley in March. He only ever did this once, on 4 May.
Had Bruce read the entire affidavit by Brierley - something he doesn't appear to have managed to do in the 15 years of researching his book - he would have seen that in the first sentence of that affidavit, Brierley says (underlining added):
'I am the writer of the letter signed A.B....which letter was to the best of my recollection and belief written on the 3rd of May last and addressed to the care of Mr. J. Baillie Knight in London.' (HO 144/1640/A50678)
So here we have a statement from Brierley that he sent a letter of 3 May 1889 (addressed to Florence) to John Baillie Knight, thus entirely corroborating the first sentence of the reply to Brierley which Bruce claims to be a forgery or dated in March 1889, in which Florence says to Brierley 'Your letter under cover to John K --- came to hand just after I had written to you on Monday'. Far from the arrangement with John Baillie Knight coming to an end, it had only just begun. As Florence says in the next sentence of the letter to Brierley, 'I did not expect to hear from you so soon and had delayed in giving him the necessary instructions'. She is referring to John Baillie Knight and the instructions for him to forward letters marked with her name.
From John Baillie Knight himself, in a signed statement dated 18 July 1889, we have the clearest possible evidence. He says:
'I once sent a letter to Mrs Maybrick which was addressed to my house. I have no doubt that this is the letter referred to in Mrs Maybrick's letter to Brierley [i.e. the letter dated 'Wednesday' [8 May 1889] ]. I sent no other to her.' (HO 144/1638/A50678)
Here he is corroborating that he certainly did send a letter from Brierley to Florence and this is more explicitly described in an affidavit he swore on 17 August 1889 in which he says: (underlining added)
'After she returned home [from the London trip] she informed me by letter of her quarrel with her husband after the Grand National Race and stated that he opened all her letters. She requested me to permit her letters to be sent to my home address which I refused to do. Notwithstanding this one letter for her was addressed to my care and one only which I forwarded to her on about the 4th May. I did not know who the writer was but now conclude this was the letter signed A.B.' (HO 144/1638/50678)
He did not, therefore, send any letters to Florence in March - so Bruce's theory that the 'Wednesday' letter was written in March is a non-starter.
There is even contemporary evidence of the arrangement for John K to forward correspondence. In a letter written by John Baillie Knight to Florence on 7 May 1889, Baillie Knight says:
'I am quite in the dark as to what all this mystery is for. And am I to receive letters for you? Why cannot they be sent to your own house now.'
This corroborates entirely what Florence said to Brierley in her letter of 8 May about the fact that she had not properly warned Baillie Knight to expect to receive letters addressed to her. He had received one letter on 4 May and passed it on but here he was complaining about having had to do so.
Florence even told her mother on 22 August she had written to Brierley on 8 May. As recorded in a document provided to the Home Office by Florence Maybrick's supporter Alexander Macdougall, who is liberally quoted by Bruce, Mrs von Roques asked 'Florie how came you to write this letter' to which Florence replied, 'Mama I don't know, I was half distracted with all that had taken place and I had had no sleep for four days and nights. He had been kind to me, and I was very miserable.' (HO 144/1640/A50678).
For completeness, we may note that, in his affidavit, after stating that he met Florence on 6 April 1889, Brierley says, 'Shortly afterwards I received two short letters from her, written as I have been informed and believe at the instance of Dr Hopper, and in consequence of a reconciliation which that gentleman was instrumental as deposed in his evidence. Those letters I destroyed.'
This further proves that Florence was continuing to write to Brierley after the meeting on 6 April and that their relationship had not, by any means, come to a complete end.
Bruce does, would you believe, make one possibly decent point about the murder of James Maybrick although it all gets rather lost in his ranting about freemasons.
He refers to a statement in the Home Office file by a prisoner called Robert Edward Reeves who claimed in 1894 to have overheard a conversation by two men at the Liverpool Exchange in which they appear to have been plotting a murder.
At the time he made his statement, Reeves was serving a sentence of five years in Lewes Prison, having been convicted of housebreaking at the Brighton Sessions on 3 July 1893. He had a long criminal record which had begun when he was only aged 10 when, under the name of Robert Tapner (or Tapnor), he was convicted in Brighton for stealing eggs and served 7 days in prison. A year later, under the name Robert Reeves Tapner, he was whipped, and given 14 days hard labour, for stealing newspapers. Later the same year, as Robert Tapner, he served a month in prison for wounding another boy by stabbing him with a knife, as well as 4 years in a reformatory school, which didn't reform him because in 1886 he was convicted of housebreaking (2 months hard labour) while in 1887 he was convicted of stealing brushes (3 months hard labour) and then in 1888 of warehouse breaking for which he served a year.
By his own account, Reeves joined the army (Liverpool Regiment) after being released from prison in 1889 but then deserted before being caught. His prison record does not show any conviction for desertion but there is corroboration that he did desert from the army, for in June 1891, at Hayward's Heath Police Court, a Superintendent Denman told the magistrate that 'prisoner had lately been discharged from prison as a deserter' (Sussex Agricultural Express, 12 June 1891). Before this, however, in April 1890 he was convicted of stealing a clock, a tricycle and various other items for which he was sentenced to nine months hard labour. He was then convicted in June 1891 for the offence of stealing a pony belonging to a Henry Munster in Sussex.
The pony theft showed that Reeves was capable of pulling off a confidence trick because it involved him telling Mr Munster's gardener that Mr Munster had asked him to take the pony and ride it into Brighton to meet him at the Brighton County Cricket ground. After being allowed to take the pony, Reeves rode it to Wandsworth where he was arrested (Hull Daily News, 21 June 1892). It is unlikely to have been coincidence that in the following year, after being released from prison, Reeves broke into a house belonging to Henry Munster and stole a large quantity of furniture and other items, for which he was sentenced to twelve months hard labour (Sussex Agricultural Express, 8 July 1893).
The full statement by Robert Reeves from 1894, which is unsigned, is reproduced here:
'What I heard one night as I was standing under a place they call the Royal Exchange, near Dale Street in Liverpool. There was two young men talking by themselves not far from where I was standing. They could not see me as I was behind a pillar. I drew as near as I could to hear what they were talking; then one said to the other, "how will you manage this". The other said "I will manage that alright with the servant. I will get her to put a bottle of laudanum in Mrs Maybrick's drawers and leave one on the table just as if it had been used and we can get Mr Maybrick to go to have some drink with us tomorrow and you can engage him in talking about the business, and I will slip a strong dose into the drink that will settle him by tonight." Then the other said "the blame will fall on our sister." The other said "what do that matter, you know she don't like Mr Maybrick and she is keeping in with that other fellow that she seems to like best. She will be glad to get him out of the way, you know that they can't prove it was her poisoned him. If they do send her away the whole business will fall to us you know and we shall be two lucky fellows then it don't matter about getting rid of one or two out of this world will you agree with me about it." The other said, "Yes you will see that that will manage this business all right." Then the other said, "It is settled". The other said "Yes". They then left their hiding place and went as far as the Merchant Tavern close by. I followed them. I could not go in as I had no money with me at the time I was a deserter at the time else I should have gone to Dale Street Police Court I was afraid of getting taken back to my regiment. I belonged to the Eight of Kings Liverpool Regiment. My regimental number was 2955. I was at the depot at Warrington so I went home to my young girls house No 5 Vaughan Street Park Street Toxteth Park and I told her brother John Crane all I had heard them two young men say. He said, "Don't you have anything to do with it. You might get caught and taken back to your regiment". So I said nothing about it. Soon after I was taken by Detective Wilson in Manchester Street. One night so soon after I heard how Mrs Maybrick poisoned her husband and that she was sent for trial. I did not think it worth while to say anything about it but it has been on my mind ever since. I even think of it at night when I lay awake such a think could be done against a lady that is innocent.' (HO 144/1639/A50678).
There are, it has to be said, some problems with the statement on its face. Assuming that the two men he heard were Edwin and Michael Maybrick, which is what he must be saying, it is strange that he refers to them as 'two young men'. Michael Maybrick at the time was 48 and Edwin was ten years younger. Reeves, however, was only 21 in 1889 so it seems odd that he would be referring to two men who were quite significantly older than himself as 'young'. The other part of the statement that doesn't sit right is the notion that the two brothers would refer to James as 'Mr Maybrick' and to Florence as 'Mrs Maybrick.' In that context, it then seems very strange that they also refer to Florence as 'our sister'. It is, however, possible that this could be explained by Reeves filling in the gaps in his memory and, after five years, adding things that were never said.
Of course, the fact that Reeves took five years to step forward is problematic but at least this can be partially explained by the fact that he was in prison for much of that period.
As Bruce says, the most convincing part of the statement is that he attributes the death of James Maybrick to laudanum poisoning when any invented theory would surely have claimed that he was poisoned by arsenic.
Bruce tells us that an empty bottle of laudanum had been found by Alice Yapp in a chocolate box inside one of Mrs Maybrick's trunks but he rather spoils the revelation not only by referring to an 1891 book by Alexander Macdougall as his source for this but also by making clear that Macdougall was referring to a solution of liquid morphia, as if liquid morphia and laudanum are the same, which they are not.
I can, however, confirm that some laudanum was found in Mrs Maybrick's room but it was by Mrs Briggs not Alice Yapp. Here is an official list of bottles found in Mrs Maybrick's room:
So there was some laudanum found and it is highly unlikely that Robert Reeves could have known this. It doesn't seem to have been mentioned in the legal proceedings and reported in the newspapers. This was not the solution of morphia that Bruce refers to in his book because that was categorised separately.
The strange thing is that Bruce doesn't tell us whether any of James Maybrick's symptoms are consistent with laudanum poisoning. It's like he doesn't really care.
I have considered the 24 symptoms of laudanum poisoning which can be found online in a 2010 PhD thesis by Karen Jane Merry entitled 'Murder by Poison in Scotland during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries'.
1. Stupor, 2. Giddiness, 3. Slow respiration, 4. Insensibility to external impressions, 5. Power of motion completely lost, 6. Eyes closed or half open, 7. Pulse slow, 8. Bronchial irritation, 9. Loud breathing, 10. Pale countenance, 11. Comatose state, 12. Unable to swallow, 13. Initial feeling of well being, 14. Headache, 15. Weariness, 16. Sense of weight in limbs, 17. Skin moist and warm with perspiration, 18. Pupils strongly contracted in early stages, 19. Pupils insensitive to light, 20. Nausea and vomiting, 21. Falling of body temperature, 22. May be postural hypertension, 23. Breath may emit odour of opium, 24. Muscles become relaxed.
A few of them fit. James Maybrick was said to have been very pale in the early days of his illness and he later suffered from headaches and vomiting. However, many of his symptoms - such as an offensive feeling in the mouth, unsteady hands, a feeling of a hair in his throat - do not apply at all and Maybrick's pulse shortly before he died was said by Dr Humphreys to be 'almost too rapid to count' (Times, 2 August 1889). Yet, as we can see, one of the symptoms of laudanum poisoning is a slow pulse.
It is hard to conclude therefore that James Maybrick could have died of laudanum poisoning. Without that, it is perhaps understandable that Reeves' account was described as 'absurd' by the Home Office.
A Grand Footnote
Footnote 23 to chapter 9 tells us that 'Le Grande briefly appears as a 'witness' in the Parnell frame-up'. In fact, he was never a 'witness' to anything and never gave evidence at the Special Commission.
Operating on the Appendix
After his 15 years of researching and writing 800 pages of text it seems that Bruce must have become exhausted. by the end. When he got to the Appendix ('The Parnell Frame Up'), he clearly wasn't going to bother with anything difficult like research or checking his facts. Why tire oneself out with such tedious activities? It's a lot easier just to make things up. Especially about Robert Anderson.
Thus we are told that the logistics of accruing evidence for the Parnell Commission, including the bribing or blackmailing of witness, 'took up Anderson's every minute throughout the autumn of the Whitechapel murder'. Yes, he really does say that in his book. No footnote, or other reference is provided to support this extraordinary statement and Bruce doesn't seem to have found Robert Anderson's long lost diary.
Yet he thinks he can say that Anderson was focussed 100% in compiling a case against Parnell which included the bribing and blackmailing of witnesses. Just one small piece of evidence to support such a ridiculous statement would be nice but we don't find one in his book. He's just invented this and plucked it out of his imagination.
Most of the points made by Bruce were already refuted by me before his book was even published. Anyone interested should read parts 1-3 of my Quadrilogy on this website.
I'm not going to repeat everything in that Quadrilogy and I will try to include some new information here.
Let's just take a few of the nonsensical, misleading and downright false statements made by Bruce in this Appendix.
The Times Advert
Bruce draws attention to an advertisement in the Times of 21 December 1886 requesting autographs which, he says, without explanation, was 'the precursor of one of the filthiest conspiracies in British history'. He says that 'somebody' placed that advertisement but it was, as Bruce must know (because it is explained in the official History of the Times to which he refers), placed by the proprietors of the Times itself. In fact, had Bruce not omitted the final two sentences of the advertisement when reproducing it in his book, his readers would have seen that it said that the autographs should be sent addressed to 'J.C.M' who was, of course, James Cameron Macdonald, the manager of the Times.
Having already received the letters supposedly written by Parnell from Edward Caulfield Houston, the Times wanted to acquire examples of Parnell's handwriting for comparison and verification purposes. So the advertisement was a perfectly understandable and even proper way of proceeding. All it shows is that the Times was attempting to establish whether or not the Parnell letters were genuine.
The Labouchere Information
Bruce tells us that the Times was alerted to Pigott being the source of the Parnell letters by Henry Labouchere in his journal 'Truth' of 21 April 1887. 'Did nobody in the Times see this? Could not the most humble office boy have pointed it out?' He doesn't seem to be aware that 21 April was too late. The facsimile of the Parnell letter was published in the Times of 18 April 1887, so exposing the author as Pigott on 21 April 1887 was neither here nor there. It was too late.
In any event, did the Times claim that it had never heard of Pigott? Bruce tells us: 'The world's worst newspaper was later to claim that it had never heard of Richard Pigott, a man everyone in Dublin had heard of, and especially the cops'. How does a newspaper claim anything? It is comprised of individuals.
If we look at the evidence at the Special Commission of James Cameron Macdonald, the manager of the Times, we find that he stated that he was told by Edward Houston that Pigott was the source of the Parnell letters in about March 1887 (Times, 20 February 1887). So Labouchere in April 1887 did not, via Truth, tell him anything he did not already know. As to whether he had heard of Pigott at that time, he said that he had indeed heard of him and knew that he had been the proprietor of the Irishman.
Bruce tells us that he found in the indexes of the Times a reference to Pigott's 'career in misfeance and four months in jail' and that this information should have alerted those at the Times to Pigott's untrustworthiness. What Bruce does not reveal, however, is that Pigott's sentence of four months in jail was back in 1871 and it was for no more than being the publisher of the Irishman which had published a scandalous article (not written by Pigott) about an Irish Head Constable Talbot who had been assassinated earlier in the year by a Fenian.
Irish Nationalists regarded Talbot as a spy and a traitor. The Times of 24 July 1871 noted with disgust that, 'The enemies of Talbot pursue his memory with insatiable malignity. They trample on his grave with savage satisfaction.' The Irishman article, for which Pigott went to prison, had called the late officer, 'a miserable rowdy and swashbuckler, a perjurer, a braggardocio, a wretch, a tipsy bully and a scoundrel' (Times, 14 November 1871) all the kind of stuff that you would have thought Bruce would have loved.
In other words, Pigott went to prison for publishing a radical Irish Nationalist newspaper, something which would only have heightened his credentials for Mr Macdonald. If the Parnell letters came from a radical Irish Nationalist newspaper proprietor there was a fair chance they were genuine. Furthermore, Mr Macdonald said that he knew that Pigott had sold his newspaper to none other than Parnell himself.
Not Bruce's best point in other words.
The Special Commission
Parnell was 'out of options' says Bruce. He had to accept the Special Commission. Not really. He could have sued the Times for libel but decided not to. Yes, there would have been a risk to him of losing but it was an option.
The Two Jobs of Robert Anderson
One of the more obvious errors by Bruce is to say that Robert Anderson was both the Assistant Commissioner of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Secretary of the Prison Board at the same time. Of course he wasn't. He gave up his role of Secretary to the Prison Commission when he took up his new job in the Metropolitan Police in September 1888. This was confirmed in the Pall Mall Gazette of 15 September 1888 (and in an answer in the House of Commons by Henry Matthews on 22 March 1889) and he was replaced by Robert Charles Chester Eardley Wilmot.
We can see it in the directories. This is the London postal directory for 1888, which, due to publishing deadlines, reflects information as at late October 1887:
And here is the equivalent from the 1889 directory, reflecting information as at late October 1888:
But Bruce's error means that he thinks that Robert Anderson was 'in charge of everyone Her Majesty locked up' while he was Assistant Commissioner. This mistake leads him to believe that Anderson had authority to approve prison visits during the period of the Special Commission.
When it comes to the visit in Chatham prison of the convict John Daly by Richard Pigott on 3 December 1888, Bruce asks:
'Who had sanctioned this visit? How was Pigott able to swan in and out of prisons at will?'
Now, I don't know about you, but if someone is described as swanning in and out of prisons at will, I would expect that they must have made more than one prison visit; in fact, lots more. But Pigott only ever made one visit to one prisoner. How is that fairly summarised as an example of a person who can 'swan in and out of prisons at will'? It is, however, a typical example of the hyperbole Bruce uses to make his points which usually ends up destroying them.
'Only two men in the Kingdom could have authorised it' is another statement that Bruce has drummed up from his imagination. He means the Home Secretary and Robert Anderson (because he thinks the latter was the Secretary to the Prison Board) but, after September 1888, Anderson was not in a position to authorise visits to prison. So does that mean only one man in the Kingdom (the Home Secretary) could have authorised the visit? No, it does not.
Had Bruce bothered to check the position, he would have discovered that the Directors of Convict Prisons (who, as can be seen from the above postal directory extracts, were William Fagan, Captain Stopford and Robert Sidney Mitford) could authorise visits to prisoners if the prisoner requested such a visit, which is what happened here.
As the Home Secretary explained in the House of Commons on 19 March 1889:
'Mr Richard Pigott did, in December last, visit John Daly at the prisoner's own request as a private visit under the prison rules' (Times 20 March 1889)
He explained that Pigott applied on 12 November 1888 and that his visit took place in the presence of the deputy governor of Chatham prison.
The following day, Henry Matthews provided more information to the House:
'The Home Office was not consulted about Pigott's visit as it was under the ordinary rules. Pigott applied to the Directors [of Convict Prisons] for permission to visit Daly on "private business". Daly was entitled to a visit under the rules, and after being informed of Pigott's application, he expressed a wish to be allowed to see him, and permission was accordingly sent to Pigott.' (Times 21 March 1889)
It may be that Pigott duped Daly into agreeing to see him but Robert Anderson had nothing to do with the visit.
I think I know why Bruce made this mistake though. When the issue of Robert Anderson's authorship of the 'Behind the Scenes' articles was debated in Parliament more than 20 years later, in April 1910, it was wrongly conceded by the Prime Minister that Anderson had been the Secretary of the Prison Commission at the time of the prison visit.
Thus, the following exchange occurred on 21 April 1910 (as reported in the Times of 22 April 1910):
'Mr. J REDMOND - The Home Office must have given permission to visit the convict.
Mr. ASQUITH - Permission must have come from the Prison Commissioners.
Mr MACVEAGH - And Anderson was secretary to them.
Mr ASQUITH - I agree. That appears to be the case.'
Mr Asquith, the Prime Minister, was mistaken but it led the Irish Nationalist MP to say during the same debate:
'During the time of the Commission agents of the Times and officials of the Government paid visits to certain of these penal servitude prisoners in the convict gaols of the country, and he said they could not have paid these visits without the permission of the Home Office. The Prime Minister said that those visits were made by permission of the Prisons Board or Commission, or whatever it was. At that time Robert Anderson was secretary of that body.'
Bruce has just followed that line without checking it.
We might also note at this point that Bruce says that Anderson was in 'regular contact' with Pigott but this looks like another of those things that Bruce has simply made up.
According to Bruce, Mr Macdonald of the Times 'repeatedly denied' any knowledge of the author of the 'Parnellism and Crime' articles. It had, says Bruce, 'obviously slipped his mind that he'd written to one of them [Anderson] only a few weeks before.'
It is not true, however, that Macdonald repeatedly denied knowledge of the various authors of the articles.
What happened is that Macdonald was asked during the Parnell Commission inquiry, on 19 February 1889, who wrote a single article in the Times on 13 June 1887 (not one of those in the 'Behind the Scenes' series which had been written by Anderson). He said he could not say who wrote that particular article without checking. He did not want to say who wrote the other articles unless ordered by the judges to do so. He was clearly uncomfortable - one of the authors, as he knew, was now the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police - but he never denied knowing the author of the 'Behind the Scenes' articles.
The Attorney-General objected to Macdonald being asked to produce this information on the basis that it was not relevant or material. There followed a legal discussion about whether the defence was even entitled to ask him to reveal who the authors were. In the end, Asquith (who was conducting the cross-examination on behalf of Parnell) was allowed to ask the question 'Do you know, or can you by reference to your books ascertain, who was the writer of a particular article?'
So Asquith started taking Macdonald through the articles one by one and, in the process, Macdonald confirmed that Flanagan had written those published on 7 March 1887 and 10 March 1887 but did not know the author of one on 14 March 1887 nor the author of the leading article in the paper on 18 April 1887 which was the day the facsimile letter was published.
Asquith might have gone through the rest of the articles, including those in the 'Behind the Scenes' series but, at this point, Sir James Hannen, the President of the Special Commission, asked, 'Is it necessary to know who was the writer of all the articles?' and Asquith decided not to press the point, moving to a different subject. As a result, Macdonald was never actually asked who wrote the 'Behind the Scenes' articles.
The Letters of Robert Anderson
Bruce makes a point that James Monro got into a muddle in his letter to Melville Macnaghtan of 9 April 1910 referring to Anderson's 'letters'. He points out that Monro contradicts Anderson's reported assertion that he and Anderson had agreed that Anderson 'should write the letters & that they should be offered to the Times'. Of this, he says, 'Monro is here confusing Anderson's articles with Pigott's letters'. I believe this is a mistake on Bruce's part but at least one of his more understandable mistakes because the language used by Monro was confusing.
When Monro wrote to Macnaghton on 9 April 1910 he was responding to an article in the Westminster Gazette of 7 April which Macnaghton had sent him for his comments. That article clearly refers to Anderson getting permission from Monro for his 'articles'. There is only one reference to a single letter alleged to have been written by Pigott so there was no reason for Monro to have been confused.
Certainly in his letter to the Home Office dated 13 April, Monro said that he was unaware of the author of the 'articles' which had appeared in the Times in 1887 but that he was later informed that Anderson had written one or more of the 'articles' at which news he felt 'much annoyed'. So he was perfectly aware of what the issue was. Both of his letters were perfectly lucid and show no signs of confusion on Monro's part.
Bearing in mind Monro's use of the word 'letters' to mean 'articles' we should note that on Tuesday 18 April 1910, in the House of Commons, Arthur Balfour was reported in the Times of 19 April as saying (underlining added):
'He understood that the Prime Minister had promised the Nationalist Party that they should have an opportunity of discussing Robert Anderson's letters, and there were other things which the hon. gentlemen were anxious to discuss'.
At this stage, Anderson had only had a single letter published in the Times of 12 April 1910 about the controversy and, as Balfour was speaking of 'letters' plural, he could not have been anticipating a debate about that single letter.
The debate referred to by Balfour took place on 21 April 1910. On that day, having referred a few times to Anderson's 'articles' on Parnellism and Crime, Churchill said in the House (underlining added):
'The letters on 'Parnellism and Crime' occurred 23 years ago, and their authorship is only now revealed by the garrulous and inaccurate indiscretion of advancing years.'
I don't think that either Balfour or Churchill believed that they were talking about letters of correspondence. It seems, therefore, that 'letters' and 'articles' were, strangely, regarded as interchangeable terms.
Bruce tells us that two R.I.C. officers had sworn on oath that they were 'protecting Pigott'. Despite Bruce wrapping up the words in quotes, they had said no such thing. They were not employed for Pigott's protection. They were tasked with ensuring that he was not mobbed or interfered with. They were neither protecting him as such nor imprisoning him in the hotel. That is why Pigott was able to freely move around and leave the hotel in order to leave the country.
The 'Assassination' of Richard Pigott
In one of the most confused passages of the book, Bruce gets into a terrible mess about the flight of Richard Pigott to Spain and the subsequent police attempt to catch him.
The problem starts when Bruce seriously misquotes a report in the Times. According to Bruce, when Inspector Littlechild was shown a telegram from Pigott in Spain (in which Pigott asked for money to be sent to 'Roland Ponsonby' at the Hotel Embajadores), received by Joseph Soames on 28 February 1888, Littlechild decided not to reply to Pigott by telegram but determined that 'a letter should be sent, with the object of detaining Pigott in Madrid until he could be arrested.' This sentence is obviously derived from a report in the Times of 4 March 1889, after Pigott's death, but what that report said was as follows:
'Mr Shannon, who was leaving for Ireland, wrote out a letter to be sent in reply, denying the statement that any promise of money had been made. Before, however, this letter was sent, and after Mr Shannon had left, the police authorities, through Inspector Littlechild, requested that the letter might not be despatched, but that instead a letter should be written by one of Mr Soames' clerks, with the object of detaining Pigott in Madrid until he could be arrested.'
In other words, it wasn't Littlechild who was going to write the letter as Bruce implied, it was the clerk to Mr Soames, and the reference to 'detaining' Pigott in Madrid was not to physically detaining him (by force) but to ensuring that he waited there (so that the Spanish police could pick him up). It was, in other words, a stalling tactic to give the police time to take action; the Times reproduced the text of the letter sent to Pigott on 28 February which basically said that Shannon had been called back to Ireland and would be back in London in a day or two.
Bruce then asks some questions which he seems to think are unanswerable but which are extremely simple to answer. Let's take them one by one:
Bruce Question 1
'If Pigott had vanished from Paris and arrived in Madrid on the morning of 28 February, how by the following day did the Spanish police know more about his location than the British?'
The answer is that Inspector Littlechild, having been shown Pigott's telegram by Soames, told Robert Anderson and/or Commissioner Monro that Pigott was probably staying at the Hotel Embajadores in the name of Ponsonby. This information was passed to the Home Office, and the Home Office informed the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office then sent Pigott's description to the British Ambassador in Madrid by urgent telegram with instructions that he should apply to the Spanish authorities for a provisional arrest if the man called Ponsonby turned out to be Pigott. All the correspondence between the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the British Ambassador has been set out, with references, in Part 3 of my Suckered! Plus Quadrilogy.
So it is all very straightforward. The reason Bruce is unable to answer the question - leaving aside the fact that he appears to have done no research on the issue - is that he confused himself into thinking that 'the only policeman in England who knew of Pigott's whereabouts was Littlechild, and he wanted them kept a closely guarded secret'. This is just nonsense. The fact that Littlechild told a member of the public (i.e Soames) to keep the letter a secret did not mean that Littlechild was not going to report it to his superiors, which he clearly did.
Consequently, Bruce failed to understand the nature of the stalling tactic in requesting that the letter be sent to Pigott. It wasn't so that nothing would be done for two or three days. It was exactly the opposite, so that something would be done (to catch Pigott) in that period.
Bruce Question 2
'If Pigott's address and alias were known only to Littlechild (via the telegram received on 28 February), how did the Spanish police come by this information the following day, 1 March?'
Bruce thought his first question was so good, he repeated it. But it is based on a misunderstanding. Littlechild was not the only person who knew Pigott's address and alias. On the same day as Soames received the letter - i.e. 28 February - that information had been forwarded by telegram to the British Ambassador in Spain and thence to the Spanish authorities and on to the Spanish police. Frankly it's so simple that, even on the information provided by Bruce, a child could have worked it out.
Bruce Question 3
'How did the Spanish policeman know that 'Roland Ponsonby' was Richard Pigott?'
Because the British Ambassador had given the Spanish authorities a description of Pigott. Who'd have thought it?
Bruce Question 4
'And what precisely was this Iberian copper supposed to be arresting 'Roland Ponsonby' for?'
The answer is that the Iberian copper was supposed to be arresting Ponsoby a.k.a. Pigott for perjury under a warrant obtained by Parnell's lawyers.
It becomes clear from what Bruce then goes on to say, that this question is based on a strange belief that the arrest was to be carried out in a warrant 'under the wrong name, and miraculously procured overnight'. Has he talked himself into believing that Roland Ponsonby actually existed? I really don't know. He has stopped making sense.
Everything seems to be traced back to his mistaken (and bizarre) belief that Littlechild kept the information in Pigott's telegram to Soames a secret from everyone else in the world.
It wouldn't be so bad but Bruce actually quotes a report from the Times of 7 March saying that a full description of Pigott, and the name he was staying in a hotel under, was telegraphed from the Foreign Office to the British embassy with instructions that the British Ambassador should ask for the his arrest 'according to the custom in such cases'. Bruce obviously doesn't believe a word of it and queries the bit about 'custom' - because the extradition treaty between Britain and Spain had only recently been ratified - but all it means is that in extradition cases it was customary for a person whose extradition was sought to be detained at the request of a foreign government until the arrest warrant and the necessary papers in support could be produced to a magistrate or equivalent judicial authority. The extradition was never going to be quick.
Yet Bruce goes on an on. 'We are asked to swallow', he grumbles, 'that the Foreign Office telegraphed Madrid on the very afternoon (28 February 1989) that Littlechild had issued his fervent plea to Soames 'not to disclose to any person, under any circumstances, the receipt or the contents of the telegram.' ' Surely it's not so difficult to work out that Littlechild telling Soames not to disclose the contents of the telegram does not mean that Littlechild won't ensure that the contents were passed on to the Foreign Office. Yet, Bruce seems to think the only way the Foreign Office could have got that information is if Soames had 'paid no attention whatsoever to Littlechild, and contacted the Foreign Office as soon as the bastard walked out the door.' I can only think that Bruce has become so deeply immersed in conspiracy theories that he can't even imagine that a Scotland Yard inspector would be doing anything other than something criminal. The idea that Littlechild, in line with his duty as a police inspector, would have attempted to ensure that Pigott would be arrested in Spain does not seem to have occurred to him.
The funny thing is that, while Bruce thinks it would have been a miracle for a warrant to have been produced by the British authorities overnight to arrest 'Roland Ponsonby', he doesn't see anything problematic about those same authorities arranging a conspiracy with the Spanish authorities to murder Pigott in his hotel room within the same time frame. Based on a single newspaper report from a Spanish newspaper - and Bruce can't conceive of a reason why they would make up such a report, let alone make a mistake - he seems to believe that British secret service agents had followed Pigott to Spain and murdered him in his hotel. Considering that a Spanish police officer, and the hotel's interpreter, both said that Pigott was alive when they entered his hotel room, and the circumstances were such that it was impossible for anybody else to have been in that hotel room, it would have required those individuals to have collaborated in the murder. How is that even possible?
When we look at the actual Spanish newspaper report relied on so heavily by Bruce to doubt the credibility of Pigott's suicide, we find a misrepresentation of its contents so egregious, and so out of line with what was actually reported, that it is seriously troubling to conceive of how Bruce could have made such a dreadful error.
Firstly, let us remind ourselves what Bruce says about the Spanish newspaper report. In his book, in the context of stating that Anderson's detectives were 'able to arrive with such jet-propelled velocity in Madrid', Bruce tells us that the newspaper in question was La Vanguardia of 3 March 1889, and he claims that the newspaper said:
"Pigott was being followed by two officers of the English Secret Service and one from the Irish police. The latter was staying, for good measure, at the same hotel as Pigott".
On the face of it, this looks like important and damning information. If two secret service agents really were in Madrid following Pigott, while an Irish police officer was saying in the Hotel Des Embajadores, that would be extremely incriminating. Robinson comments on this newspaper report as follows:
"Thus Anderson’s emissaries didn’t need a tip-off directing them to Madrid. They were already there. I can conceive of no reason for a Spanish newspaper to make this up…Whatever Anderson’s detectives were in Madrid for, it couldn’t have been to make an arrest. In my view it’s implausible that secret service agents would allow some random Spaniard and his interpreter to breeze into Pigott’s hotel room. I give no credibility to this suicide."
By this stage of his argument, he might well have convinced you. As he rightly says, why would a Spanish newspaper have made up such a story?
Well the truth of the matter is that the newspaper said no such thing as claimed by Bruce. Here is what was actually reported, in Spanish, by La Vanguardia (in its issue of 5 March 1889, not 3 March as Robinson wrongly states):
"Pigott estaba vigilado en Londres por dos individuos de la policía secreta inglesa y uno de la policía irlandesa. Este último se había alt jado para mayor seguridad en el mismo hotel que Pigott."
Now you may not speak Spanish but I bet you can see the word "Londres" in the first sentence. For some reason, Robinson missed it. For when translated into English, that passage reads:
"Pigott was monitored in London by two individuals from the British secret police and one from the Irish police. The latter had been staying for greater security in the same hotel as Pigott."
In other words, La Vanguardia was not reporting about any British or Irish officers in Madrid. The hotel that the officer from the Irish police was said to have stayed in along with Pigott was in London (and was known to be Anderton's Hotel). All this information was being relayed second hand from the British newspapers. Everyone knew about the officers, both real and imagined, that had supposedly been keeping Pigott under surveillance in London.
I discuss the point in the Suckered! Quadrilogy Part 3. La Vanguardia was simply repeating this gossip. It knew nothing from its own sources about any British 'secret police' or 'secret service' officers in Madrid for the simple reason that there were none there. And there was no Irish officer staying in Pigott's hotel in Madrid.
We can't let this shockingly dreadful episode pass without commenting on Robinson's reference to the Spanish police inspector tasked to arrest Pigott as 'some random Spaniard' whom the British and Irish officers would not have allowed to 'breeze' into Pigott's hotel room. This, don't forget, was a police inspector who had been given orders to arrest Pigott at the request of the British government under the extradition treaty between Britain and Spain! I mean, even if there were British secret service agents and Irish police officers in the hotel, what were they supposed to do to prevent a lawfully authorized Spanish police officer from entering a Spanish hotel room to execute a lawful warrant? The answer is that they would have had no power to do anything about it at all. It's such a bad point, therefore, as to be breathtaking.
Anyway, we don't need to worry ourselves about it. The British 'secret service' agents were as imaginary as the Irish police officer. It is Bruce Robinson who lacks credibility, not the fact that Pigott committed suicide.
As to Pigott's suicide, we may note that the Spanish newspaper El Imparcial of 8 March 1889 revealed the results of the post-mortem on Pigott's corpse conducted by a Spanish doctor, Alonso Martinez, on 7 March. It said:
"The damage done by the projectile was terrible. It is already known how Pigott committed suicide: the bullet penetrated the upper part of the palatine veil, destroying the base of the skull, and consequently the basilar process, the cerebellum to its anterior part and in one of its two lobes, and finally, the occipital or posterior lobes of the brain, having its exit hole through the same occipital vertex, further fracturing the two parietals."
That's from a Spanish newspaper, entirely consistent with suicide, and, adopting Bruce's own maxim: what reason would a Spanish newspaper have had to make this up?
Bruce says confidently that the Spanish officer involved was 'never questioned', but the British (and Spanish) newspapers reported that a judicial inquiry was conducted in Spain about Pigott's death. The Evening Standard of 4 March 1889, after reporting the arrival at the hotel of a Spanish judge with a notary and other officials who drew up a 'detailed statement' about the event, carried a report from the Reuters news agency dated 2 March that:
'The judicial authorities continue to investigate the affair....During the afternoon the examining judge took the evidence of the hotel-keeper and the interpreter regarding the circumstances of the suicide and the proceedings of the deceased during his brief sojourn here.'
On 5 March 1889 the London Daily News reported:
'The judge to-day again examined the landlord, servants and interpreter of the Hotel de los Embajadores and the police-inspector who arrested Pigott. This officer explains that the quiet, composed demeanour of the prisoner, and the assurance of the interpreter that he was only going to get some visiting cards, put him off his guard. The inspector says that he even asked the interpreter if the bedroom had any other door. Just when the latter replied negatively, they heard the report of the revolver, entered the room, and found that Pigott had fallen, staining the floor and walls of the room with blood.
It was necessary to use force to unclasp the fingers holding the revolver...The bedroom was sealed and locked by the judge, and will remain shut until the whole proceedings have terminated.'
Thus, far from the 'Spanish cop' never having been questioned, as Bruce claimed, he was in fact examined before a judge in a judicial inquiry. That Bruce does not appear to be aware of this tells us all we need to know about his own investigation into the circumstances surrounding the murder on which he is prepared to opine.
The inquiry into the death of Pigott lasted four days and concluded on 6 March 1889; the Madrid correspondent of the London Daily News spoke of 'the police inspector who arrested him being exonerated of all blame.'
George Sims is somehow relied on to support the assassination theory. But he never actually claimed that Pigott was assassinated. In fact, he attempted to dispel such rumours because, in the Referee of 17 April 1910, in a very short paragraph, Sims said that it was 'rumoured at one time that the story of Pigott's suicide in the hotel at Madrid was untrue', adding, 'But though the whole story of this dramatic incident in the story of "Parnellism and Crime" was never told, Pigott undoubtedly died of a bullet wound.' He concluded the short paragraph by hoping that Robert Anderson would 'tell us the true story of the death of Pigott' whatever that meant, although it is unlikely that he expected Anderson to announced that Pigott had been murdered by Scotland Yard. And if Sims had any evidence to suggest that Pigott had been murdered why did he simply not publish it?
All that aside, there is an outrageous bit of misquoting with respect of Sims. This is what appeared in the Referee of 17 April 1910 in the last sentence of Sims' article:
'Now that Sir Robert Anderson is becoming so communicative with regard to the mysteries of the past, he may, perhaps, in a future statement tell us the true story of the death of Pigott.'
This is how Bruce transcribes it:
'Now that Sir Robert Anderson is becoming so communicative with regard to the mysteries of the past, he may, perhaps, in a future statement, tell us the true story of the death of Pigott?'
Can you see the difference? Well, there are two differences. One is irrelevant; a comma added after the word 'statement'. But the other is important. Bruce has replaced the full stop at the end of the sentence with a question mark, turning a statement into a question. This allows him to make the fatuous remark: 'Again, no answer is recorded'. But it was never a question so there was no reason for any answer to be given.
The 'Murder' of Professor Maguire
It doesn't help that Bruce gets the date of Professor Maguire's death wrong. He says it occurred on 3 March 1889, two days after Pigott's suicide (or murder as Bruce would have it) whereas the professor actually died on 26 February 1889. So it is not true to say of Maguire and Pigott, as Bruce does, that 'within twenty-four hours of each other both were dead.' Nice and dramatic but not true. It wouldn't even have been true if Maguire had died on 3 March because Pigott died on 1 March (as Bruce knows). And one has to wonder how Bruce can feel that he has carried out sufficient research to say that Maguire was murdered by the British secret service yet fails to get the date of the professor's demise right.
There was no murder here. The facts were set out in the Times of 27 February 1889:
'Professor Maguire died yesterday morning in London. He came over from Dublin on Wednesday evening last, having been requested in a telegram to be at hand in case he should be called as a witness before the Special Commission. For some weeks previously he had been suffering from inflammation of the trachea, and he had repeatedly refused invitations to dine out because he feared the effects of night air. On Thursday morning he complained of feeling somewhat unwell. He went out during the day, and is supposed to have visited the neighbourhood of the Law Courts in reference to the Commission. Upon his arrival in Eaton-place he appeared to be worse. But not until Monday was it deemed necessary to call in medical assistance. Dr. Nevill and Mr. Mackellar were then summoned, and they found him breathing with difficulty. During this evening he vomited a quantity of blood. This, combined with the continued obstruction of the windpipe, brought on extreme exhaustion, which was the immediate cause of death.'
In the House of Commons on 27 February 1889, the Home Secretary made the following statement concerning Professor Maguire:
'...my information is that he died yesterday morning of inflammation of the windpipe. A consultation of doctors was held on Monday and they contemplated the operation of the tracheotomy, but in consequence of his condition and disease from which he was suffering it was not considered safe to perform that operation. He sank under the disease in the course of yesterday morning, and as far as my information reaches there is no reason whatever why the coroner should hold an inquest, as the death was purely due to natural causes. Of course, if any suspicious circumstances should arise no doubt the coroner of the district will hold an inquest.'
It will be seen that, to all intents and purposes, this statement answers the question asked in the House on the same day by Thomas O'Hanlon (a few moments after the above statement was made) about whether it might be well to hold a post-mortem on Maguire, to which Bruce says no answer was given. The question had already been answered and it is no wonder that the Times records that the Home Secretary 'temporarily left the House' after O'Hanlon asked it.
If anyone thinks that Professor Maguire was murdered after all reading the above, they are probably mad.
First published: 18 November 2015