Orsam Books

Wescott Confidential

I was interested to listen to Tom Wescott's 16 June 2019 lecture on the Casebook Podcast with advice to aspiring JTR authors, entitled 'Oh, Dear Boss - So you want to be a rock and roll star?'.   That podcast is here. The advice was basically to join the online forums and ask questions. Golly, I'd never have thought of that myself!  But the best part was Tom advising how an author should respond to criticism.  From Tom, it was very much 'Do as I say not do as I do', for he has so far proven himself unable to deal with criticism of his books in any kind of sensible way.

Shortly after publication of his first book, 'The Bank Holiday Murders', the mighty Stewart Evans made some perfectly reasonable criticisms of one aspect of it on JTR Forums to which Tom responded on 6 March 2014 (thread Bank Holiday Murders, #288):

'Hi Stewart, it never ceases to amaze me how you jump to conclusions about other writers as though it's not a thing to do so, but hold deep grudges whenever a writer should dare to question anything you've written. Here you tell the world that my conclusions are based on nothing but cherry picked press reports.  If that were the case, would people such as Paul Begg, John Bennett, DGB, etc be saying nice things about my book or would they not be joining you in a loud chorus casting it down with the Uncle Jacks and Fifth Victims.'

It's worth recording Evans' reply which was:

'Now there's a nasty thing to say.  I do not jump to conclusions about other writers and I do not hold deep grudges.  Many have questioned things I have written, some of them being friends I have never fallen out with.  Although not 'deep grudges' I do not like those who are dishonest with what they write and those who criticize from a false foundation.  And believe it or not I really do like Tom Wescott'.

We could see a pattern emerging when, three years later, after it was pointed out to him by Gary Barnett that he had made a serious factual error with his interpretation of a hospital record in his second book, 'Ripper Confidential', Wescott claimed (on 4 May 2017) that Gary did so because he was 'petty and jealous' (#207).  Now I could think up a lot of rather colourful and more accurate adjectives to describe Gary Barnett but I don't think he pointed out the serious error in Tom's book because he was being petty and jealous of Tom Wescott.

At the same time, when he received praise from Steadmund Brand on 10 May 2017, Tom couldn't contain himself, saying: 

'it's posts like yours that make it worth my while to put up with the occasional pettiness emerging from the losers table.'

So in his mind anyone criticizing anything in his book was a loser. 

This is what he said on the Podcast:

'That’s where these authors like Hallie Rubenhold, recently, comes in on the defensive, so she knows enough about the Ripper community to know her books are going to get -  you know, if you are putting out a book that is factually inaccurate, and you know you are, you have to reasonably expect you are going to get torn to shreds. And that’s why you see some authors go pre-emptively on the defensive before any of us even know what, you know – they’re just automatically saying “I’m going to get torn to shreds, the Ripper people are evil, they’re bad”.  And that’s an unfair statement if you’ve done your homework and are putting out something valid.  You know what I mean?  You will have critics.'

Oh yes, we know what you mean, Tom.  It's other authors like Hallie Rubenhold who come in on the defensive.  Not you, of course.   When speaking about his book, Bank Holiday murders, it must have completely slipped his mind that he had accused Stewart Evans of holding a grudge against him and of jumping to conclusions, Instead, he said, this:

'I’ve been in the Ripper community on the internet since its inception so I knew when I was putting out Bank Holiday Murders, number one my biggest fear was nobody would care, nobody would talk about it.  But I thought if they do talk about it, this is going to ruffle feathers and I am going to get some heat.  And I knew going in, although I tried not to have any mistakes in the book, you’re going to have some. And sometimes it’s not even a mistake when you wrote it. When I wrote Bank Holiday murders writing about Pearly Poll I only had so much information to work from and because of Bank Holiday Murders, researchers went out and looked for more information and found a bunch and in doing so they found new information that contradicted things that I wrote in Bank Holiday Murders which is great because, you know, but that doesn’t mean I made a mistake because I didn’t have that information, it didn’t exist prior to me writing the book, you know, one person’s not going to find everything.  But to me that was a mark that I did something right if it made people interested enough to go out and search for new information about the stuff I published, some of which incidentally confirmed my speculations or enhanced arguments I was making, other stuff they found totally shot down certain things.  So when I do another edition I’ll be able to incorporate all that and I’ll have a stronger book because of it.  But I knew all of this going in.  This was my hope, I think I even put it in the book that I hope this will happen. I hope I’m proved wrong, I hope I’m proved right because that means people are still looking and still finding new things and it did happen and I was grateful for it.' 

When giving his advice to budding authors, Tom failed to mention that it might be a good idea to review the books of other authors on Amazon without even reading them. Thus we find Tom giving Simon Wood's nonsensical 'Deconstructing Jack' a five star review on Amazon on 16 April 2015 in which he said, 'it's written exquisitely', it's 'a breezy read' and, 'I would recommend this book to any serious reader in the field'.

Yet, in my 'Suckered! Trilogy' thread on 29 May 2015 (#45), over a month later, he confessed that he hadn't yet read Simon's book!!!   He said he was currently reading it before getting round to finishing my own article. He further confessed to still not having read Simon's book on 23 June 2015, in #348, when he said: 'I still haven't finished his book'.  But it's all good because Simon had already given his own 'Bank Holiday Murders' four stars on Amazon!  Unfortunately, however, Simon hasn't yet reviewed 'Ripper Confidential' so this type of 'I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine' approach which is, of course, cheating any potential purchasers of the book who will have expected the reviewer to have actually read the book they are reviewing, doesn't always work.

Returning to the criticism of his own book, Tom continued in the Podcast:  

'If your book hinges on one big idea, you’d better make sure that idea stands up to the scrutiny. My books, like in Ripper Confidential I had like 100 different big ideas in there so a diligent researcher can knock down two or three and it doesn’t affect the overall book’s validity but when you’re doing a suspect book, generally it hinges on one, two or three big ideas.  You can call those your pillars. And you'd better make sure those pillars are strong or the entire thing will come tumbling down.  And we’ve seen that happen time and time again. And that’s not because there’s a bunch of Ripperologists, you know, sharpening their claws who hate you or want to see you destroyed.  If they wanted that they would go so far as to make up stuff to destroy your reputation.   And I don’t see that, I see things get heated like with me and certain individuals when we go back and forth. They might over-exaggerate and say “Oh well, I proved this thing wrong therefore your entire book is discredited” and I would point out that’s clearly not true because that has no bearing on this or this or that.  And you have those kind of back and forths but generally in the end people are just concerned about accuracy.  And this can help us in the long run. It’s okay if we get a reputation for being hard asses if that makes future authors stand up and want to avoid getting their book blown apart on the day of release and it forces them to take a little more care. And you reach out to people. Here’s the thing.  I’ve heard people say “Well I don’t go on the forums or the casebook because they’re all such minutiae oriented, obsessive this or that”.  You can have a membership to JTR forums and casebook and never post, you don’t have to post.  What you can do is go on there and read, read read. And then if you find certain posters, you go this person seems to be producing information that’s relevant to what I’m working on then you just go to their profile and click on all threads created by this person, all posts created by this person and study and make notes. When you have questions you can reach out to them in private message and ask. You can ask for further sources. '

When it came to discussing 'Ripper Confidential', Mr Wescott was really keen to distance himself from the type of tactics employed by Ms Rubenhold.  Thus, he said:

'Essays were written attempting to prove me wrong. Mostly they failed but they succeeded in certain respects because I made mistakes.  What I didn’t do was tell these people to go to hell and block them on Facebook, quit the forums. What I did instead was try to learn from them. Especially if they are going to take the time to go research, even if their purpose is to prove me wrong I can take advantage of that and learn from what they turn up and I did. And It’s going to make the next editions of these books better. And I thank them for it and they’re not bad people.  And I’m friends with most of them.  And that’s because their objective was never to - at times I thought their objective might be to destroy me and my reputation. That’s in the heat of the moment.  I realise that’s not the case.  They played fair for the most part.  Whenever they said this is wrong they presented their argument for that and a lot of times it was a valid argument. What that taught me is that these individuals, my next book I need to show it to them before I publish. Because I do show it to people.  But, you know,  It’s a process in other words. But it will make your book better.'

Then, at 33 minutes, 48 seconds into the Podcast we had this major confession from Mr Wescott:

'And I want to point out.... I made a whopper in Ripper Confidential that could have been avoided. I was arguing for there being a new victim.  A second victim on the night of the Bucks Row murder.  The newspapers had a lot of interesting articles about a woman running, screaming bloody murder, bloody handprints on Brady Street which is just around the corner from where Polly Nichols was murdered.   And I got the brilliant idea of saying this person probably sought medical attention and did so at the London Hospital which was very nearby.  So I ordered records from the London Hospital and I said “here she is”.  Sure enough right there was a woman with a big cut on her arm, like a defensive knife wound.  And I said: “This is her” and it made sense.  She didn’t live in the area. What was she doing there in the middle of the night? Well probably prostituting. The thing is, in the book I put she went in there on August 31st.  Because that’s what I thought the records – because I’d ordered starting on August 31st 10pm give me everyone who came in.  And I wrote this whole wonderful essay about this, and da da da da da da, and then the book is out and it’s the usual suspects, Gary Barnett and Ed Stow, looking at this and going “wait a minute, it doesn’t say August 31st it says September 1st”.  Now, and then they are, you know, demanding an immediate recantation from me and this and that.  I’m like what?  It took a while for me to process that. Because, you know, I’m not above making errors but this just seemed such a rudimentary – you know, how did I miss this?  And the reason I missed it was because I was so in the big picture of it all.  I’m looking at a hundred different pieces of evidence and correlating it but this one little thing, this one date I didn’t see or it didn’t process in my brain.  That was embarrassing, put it that way. 

Now, I was very amused to read about this 'whopper' as Tom described it.  This was the same whopper that Gary Barnett had pointed out on JTR Forums after Tom had claimed in his book that the records of the London Hospital showed that a woman called Margaret Millous (or Mallows), referred to as 'MM', was admitted to the hospital at some point between 10pm on 30 August and 3.30 am on 31 August 1888, and thus might have been a second victim of Jack the Ripper that night.  However, the records actually state that she was admitted on 1 September 1888. I became interested in that discussion when Tom described Gary as being 'petty and jealous' and claimed that he had misread the record but provided no further explanation. 

It seemed a very strange response.  The only sensible responses were either to say that Gary Barnett had got it wrong, and then to explain why, or to admit that he (Tom Wescott) had got it wrong.  That's all you can do.  Calling a person who has identified a factual error in your book 'petty and jealous' is a very poor way of responding, even if that person is Gary Barnett.  

We now know that Tom was 'processing' the fact that he had made what he finally admits to being 'a whopper' and was so stunned by it that he didn't seem to know what to do or say.  But this is where I came in because on 7 May 2017, in the Casebook Censorship Forum, in the thread on his book, I dared to ask him - a protected author - the following question (#225):

'Do you accept that the woman in question was admitted to hospital on a different day to the attack on Nichols or are you saying that MrBarnett has read the London Hospital records wrong?'

Now, pausing there, I do want to say to anyone reading this that you should not attempt what I did there because asking questions of authors on the Casebook Censorship Forum is now strictly forbidden and amounts to harassment. 

Tom's answer was a masterclass in obfuscation when he said(#228):

'Yes.'

The question I had asked him was an either/or question not a yes or no one.  And he knew that.

At the same time, he defended his comment about Gary Barnett, saying he didn't think it was unfair and that 'I believe pettiness and jealousies are something we leave behind in our youth.'   He was effectively repeating his claim that Barnett was petty and jealous.

I noted in #231 that Tom appeared to be ducking the question, so once again defying the forum rules by pressing a question on an author, I said:

'The question is this: what date was MM admitted to hospital?'

In #232 (responding to an invitation to ask him question if I had any) I repeated my question from #225. Here's what he said to me in #233:

'You're doing what Gary does. Isolating one item and obsessing on it.'

Bear in mind that I was asking him about something in his book which he now describes as a 'whopper' of a mistake. I was trying to establish the accuracy or otherwise of an important piece of information in his book.  In my reply (#235) I said:

'I'm not sure how asking you a question is a sign of me 'obsessing' about something. Would you mind answering the question?'

I appreciate that under Forum rules this would certainly now be regarded by the Administrator as harassment of an author, pure and simple, and the entire thread would be locked after the Administrator promised to contact the parties involved but then did nothing; but, at the time, I thought I would risk it nevertheless in the interests of getting to the truth.

In #234, Tom claimed to have answered my question in #225, saying that his answer was "yes" and that 'A question containing two possible answers is not a direct question'.

I responded in #236 to say that a question with two possible answers certainly can be a direct question but that he hadn't given me a direct answer. I told him to focus on my question from #231 if he preferred: 'what date was MM admitted to hospital?'

His answer in #237 was at least clear.  He said: 'Aug. 31st'.

In my response on #238 I noted that Debra Arif had said that: 'The admission record for her clearly states that she was admitted on Sept 1st'.  I said that I hadn't seen any of the records in question other that what had been posted by Gary Barnett which appears to show that MM's entry to hospital was on 1 September 1888, as it fell under the heading 'Sep 1' and I asked him if he could explain it.

Tom's response in #239 cleared up nothing for he said: 'Are you trying to get me killed? I know better than to say Debs misinterpreted a record'.

So we were now in the odd position of Tom Wescott saying that MM had been admitted to hospital on 31 August 1888 yet also saying that Debra Arif was correct to say that the record clearly states that she was admitted on 1 September 1888, which is exactly what Gary Barnett had said but Tom claimed he had misinterpreted it!   How to resolve this weird contradiction?  I put this to him in #264:

'It's a very stark difference of opinion.  She says the date of admission was 1 September, you say it was 31 August. You can't both be right so one of you must have got it wrong. If it's Debra who is wrong what is the possible harm in saying so?' 

Gary Barnett was also pressing Tom and in #249 said:

'Tom, why don't you stop the ****-stirring and personal insults and just explain why you are absolutely convinced that MM was admitted on the 31/8 when the record says 1/9.'

This was Tom's response, written awkwardly in the third person, in #267:

Tom has not 'misread a document, nor does Tom generally heed a command to 'explain himself', but I will make a rare exception in this case.

1) Tom doesn't have any psychic insight into Millous's wound. That much is obvious from the book. I know that her radial artery in her arm was injured, which is very severe, and she spent a long time in hospital. But clearly her injury wasn't so severe that she bled out dead on the street. Blood loss, however, must have been unavoidable (as that's what an arterial wound means.)

2) The archivist who provides these records had these as people being admitted on August 31st. I suspect, as the entry has Millous's injury noted, that at the time the entry was made she'd already received care from a doctor who had afterwards provided the necessary information to the registrar who created the document in question. Alternatively, Millous was quite well-informed and stood bleeding at the front desk, providing her name, address, particulars, and her diagnoses of radial arterial damage.
 

Beyond the above, I have no further information. She may have been admitted on Sept. 1st, or Oct. 1st, but I trusted the archivist to whom I paid my monies.

So it was all the archivist's fault!   But what Tom said there wasn't true because (as I commented in my #293) the archivist had said nothing to him about the people on the list having all been admitted to the hospital on 31 August 1888, and he was presumably expecting any competent researcher to be able to read a document properly for themselves.

But Tom had a theory: 'regardless of how she received the injury, she may have passed out from blood loss and then brought to the hospital by someone else on the morning of August 31st, not fully able to provide her details until the next day.  Hence the Sept. 1st entry.'

So now Tom was admitting that there was a 'Sept 1st entry' and was trying to twist this entry so that it reflected an admittance to the hospital on 31st August.  None of that, however, is in his book.

When I put this to Tom in #293, saying that none of what he was saying made any sense, his response in #296 was to say:

David you should know that it's okay with me that it doesn't make sense to you.  It doesn't need to. It all makes a great deal of sense to a great deal of people.  It's also okay with me if you choose to be semantical over my forum posts.  It's never me who ends up looking lost or silly.  I can only hope you write a book about my book the way you so honored Simon Wood, whose sales subsequently soared, leading him to win a book of the year award. My book is still at #1 on Amazon (Bank Holiday Murders is #7) so I don't know I need the help, but hey, free publicity!  Yankee Dollars.  But you'd better get on it.  Simon's working on his next best seller and I know that will keep you occupied.  And I don't want your essay series on Ripper Confidential to be a rush job!'

It's amazing how many authors turned temporarily barking mad when questioned by me on the Forum!

My response to him in #298 was very simple: 

'Is this your very long and weird way of you admitting you made a big mistake in your book Tom?' 

As I also said to him in #297:

'What I simply don't understand is how you reached the conclusion that Margaret was admitted to hospital on 31 August if you were aware that the documentary record states that she was admitted on 1 September.  There is no other evidence about her admission to hospital other than the documentary record is there?'.

I added:

'And when MrBarnett said that the record shows that she was admitted on 1 September you claimed that he had misread the record.  How did he do so if the record shows an entry of 1 September?'

In addition, I said:

'I certainly never read in your book that the record shows admittance on 1 September.  Were you deliberately withholding that information from your readers?'

He didn't answer any of these questions but we now know, of course, that Tom had realised that he had made a big mistake in his book.  But he must have still been 'processing' this information because he didn't admit it.  On the contrary, this is what he said in response to my #298 (in #300):

'Is that what you want David? You want me to have made a 'big mistake'?  Why would you spend your money on a book and then hope for a 'big mistake'?  That seems counterproductive and counterintuitive to me.  But then, I'm of the cut who champions such works and hopes for their success.  Does that make me the weird one?  The odd one out? 

And no, I don't believe I've made a 'big mistake' regarding Millous....'

That's what he told me on 9 May 2017, five full days after the issue had been raised with him, giving him plenty of time to 'process' the information.  As we can see, he said he didn't believe he had made a big mistake regarding Milous yet he now says for the first time in June 2019 that yes, he HAD made a big mistake, a 'whopper' in fact.  So I was perfectly correct; and that's what he should have admitted at the time. It's all he had to say.  But in true Hawleyesque fashion he dissembled and blustered and decided to attack me for having the nerve to question him about his whopper.  And now he likes to think of himself as a cut above Hallie Rubenhold!!

The sorry saga concluded on 11 May 2017 with me asking Tom ten numbered questions to try and get to the bottom of the issue (#460).  I pressed him and pressed him - which is, of course, against the Forum rules - but he point blank refused to answer them (see e.g. #499).  Nor would he explain why he was refusing to answer them.

This is the guy offering advice to authors on a podcast as to how to not be like Hallie Rubenhold! 

THE POINT OF THIS ARTICLE 

But all of that is really beside the point.  For the point of this article is to be found in what Tom then went to say in his podcast 'lecture' after having admitted to having made his whopper.  This is what he said (with underlining added):

It was rather embarrassing.  But it took me a while to process it.  And then a while to where I could get around to saying, what’s the ramification of this?  It didn’t destroy my theory, it just weakened it, for sure.  If she had gone in at August 31st at this time I think I’d more or less proved there was a Ripper victim. But because it’s September 1st either she didn’t go in until the next day, which doesn’t make sense, she didn’t - wasn’t injured, until the next day or that’s just when the cleric entered, created her admission, in other words it wasn’t written in at the moment she was admitted, they went back and wrote it in later and then filled in the date they were writing it in versus the time of her actual admission.  Because there is still a lot of other evidence suggesting there was in fact a second victim that night and she makes the most sense for that.  But I should have caught that prior to publication. I did not and I had to face consequences for my actions. But the thing is you don’t run from those, you learn from them.  And what I’m seeing happening now is people running from these things. And it’s cowardice, it’s weak and I don’t like it. And I lose respect for you if you do that.'

I hope you spotted that in there.  For Tom said: 

'If she had gone in at August 31st at this time I think I'd more or less proved there was a Ripper victim.'

It's a classic research error!  He has found a record showing the admittance of a woman to hospital on 1 September 1888.  That date doesn't fit with the woman having been attacked by someone (i.e. Jack the Ripper) in the early hours of 31 August 1888.  It was close but no cigar.  She wasn't, therefore, a Jack the Ripper victim.  But Tom genuinely seems to think that if the same woman had been admitted to hospital with the same injuries twenty-four hours earlier, it would definitely have made her a victim of Jack the Ripper.

NO IT WOULDN'T!!!!   

All that would have happened is that Tom would have been fooled, and he would have undoubtedly have managed to fool many others by a mere coincidence of a date.  It should be perfectly obvious to anyone that if Margaret had been admitted to the London Hospital twenty-four hours earlier with the same injury that she suffered on 1 September 1888, it wouldn't have had anything to do with Jack the Ripper, just as it obviously didn't have anything to do with Jack the Ripper on 1 September; unless Jack the Ripper was the cause of her admittance on 1 September which is highly unlikely.

Tom seems to have learnt nothing from the experience.  We can see that he is still twittering on about the possibility of Margaret being a Ripper victim but that is essentially based on nothing.

You might also have noted in one of the earlier extracts from the podcast cited above, that Tom said this of Margaret:

'She didn’t live in the area. What was she doing there in the middle of the night? Well probably prostituting.' 

Although he's here supposed to be telling us what he thought when he first saw the hospital records, this is a very revealing insight into Tom's thought processes.  I bet he actually thinks to this day that the hospital records show that Margaret was somewhere a long way from home 'in the middle of the night'.  They don't, of course.  They only show that she was admitted to the London Hospital at some point on 1 September 1888.  It could have been during the middle of the afternoon. But Tom just can't shake off the notion that Margaret was attacked during the night in the area of Bucks Row, near the London Hospital.  

Above all, he can't shake off the notion that if those records had only shown Margaret having been admitted 24 hours earlier he would have definitely discovered a new and hitherto unknown surviving victim of Jack the Ripper!  We can surely see where Tom has gone wrong even if he can't.

The significance of this point to the discovery of a timesheet showing electricians working in Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 should be clear to all.  We have to be very careful that a coincidence of dating is not taken as proof of a connection between two possibly unrelated events.

Lord Orsam
27 October 2019 

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