The discovery of a diary signed “Jack the Ripper”
The journal, dubbed the Maybrick diary, surfaced in 1992 when Michael Barrett, an unemployed former Liverpool scrap metal dealer, said the diary had been given to him by a friend, Tony Devereux. According to Barrett, Devereux refused to reveal where the diary came from or how he got it. The diary was signed, “Jack the Ripper”. Devereux died a few months after turning over the diary to Barrett.
The discovery was complicated by Barrett’s wife Ann, who claimed to know where the diary came from. She said the diary had been in her family for as long as she could remember. She explained that she had asked Devereux to give the diary to her husband as literary inspiration (she thought he might write a book about it). She did not want to tell her husband that her family owned the diary because Barrett and her father had been having a “tough time” and she did not want them around each other.
Later, it was rumored that the diary was discovered by electrical contractors while working on Maybrick’s former residence (timesheets for the workers show they were in Maybrick’s former home on the day Michael Barrett told an agent he was in possession of the Ripper’s diary).
In later years, Barrett said he wrote the diary himself. Then he retracted his confession and said he did not write it. Barrett’s hesitancy to reveal the origin of the diary invokes doubt. But, several pieces of evidence lend credence to its authenticity including recent laboratory analysis of the document itself.
What we know about the Maybrick diary
The diary was written in a genuine Victorian scrapbook. The first twenty pages have been inexplicably removed. The journal does not mention Maybrick by name and is simply signed “Jack the Ripper” (on the last page). However, there are enough references in the diary to make it clear the journalist was James Maybrick. If Maybrick was the author, the last entry was made about one week before he died.
Who was James Maybrick?
James Maybrick was born October 25, 1838, the third of seven sons. He was ordinary in appearance – high hairline, thickly folded eyes, and a long, dark mustache. Records show he became addicted to medication containing arsenic and strychnine (he was being treated for malaria) which was not uncommon at the time. He was a prominent Liverpool cotton merchant which required frequent travel to the United States. In 1871, he and his wife Florence, settled in Virginia, United States. They had two children, James (last name later changed to Fuller) and Gladys Evelyn.
During his travels between England and the United States, his wife had an affair with a family friend and was rumored to have had another affair with one of James Maybrick’s brothers. It is believed that the emotional pain from the situation destroyed him.
The death of Jame Maybrick
By April 27, 1889, Maybrick’s health had deteriorated. He died 15 days later on May 11, 1889 in the family’s palatial Battlecrease Housein Aigburth, Liverpool, England. Florence was ultimately convicted for his death and sentenced to death. Her sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment. A subsequent re-examination of her case resulted in her release in 1904.
Florence Maybrick’s final days
Using her maiden name Chandler, Florence moved to Gaylordsville, Connecticut and supported herself doing odd jobs. Locally she was known as the “Cat Lady”. Florence died on October 23, 1941 and was buried in South Kent, Connecticut.
From the time Florence was first put into jail, she never saw her children again.
Is the James Maybrick Jack the Ripper diary legit?
Upon discovery of the diary, critics were quick to call the journal a hoax. Forensic tests however, were not so conclusive. Experts analyzed the paper, handwriting, phraseology and via psychiatry, the mind of the writer. Tests show the ink is consistent with inks used since 1867 and the journal (a scrapbook) is from the Victorian era.
Anna Koren, graphologist to the Israeli Minister of Justice analyzed the diary’s writing and found the author to be “unstable, inner-conflicts, inferiority, hypochondriac, brutal, a distorted image of his masculinity, deep-rooted loneliness, exhibitionism, a tendency for his behavior to be repeated in cycles”. When asked if the writing could have been contrived to trick analysis, she responded, “Impossible”.
Only recently, researchers discovered that James Maybrick’s favorite pet name for himself was “Sir Jim”. The reference “Sir Jim” is found nearly a half-dozen times in the Maybrick diary.
Antique watch lends credence to diary evidence
Further evidence supporting the legitimacy of the Maybrick diary surfaced in June 1993. Author Shirley Harrison was researching a book on the diary when she came across a man who had purchased an unusual pocket watch. The watch, made by William Verity of Rothwell in 1847, was found at an English jeweler shop. It has “J Maybrick” scratched on the inside cover along with the words, “I am Jack” and the initials of the five canonical JTR victims.
The watch was examined with an electron microscope by Dr. Stephen Turgoose from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He concluded that the scratchings, wear and tear, and other markings on the watch indicated a “substantial age”. He noted that faking the scratchings would have been near impossible since many would not be visible even with optical microscopy.
The watch was examined a year later by Dr. Robert Wild using an electron microscope and Auger electron spectroscopy. Wild also concluded that the engravings were “several tens of years age”. He too noted that it was “unlikely that anyone would have sufficient expertise to implant aged, brass particles into the base of the engravings.”
Could James Maybrick be the Jack the Ripper murderer?
It should be noted that Maybrick’s description fits those of Jack the Ripper and after Maybrick’s untimely death, the Jack the Ripper murders suddenly stopped. Evidence found hints James Maybrick may indeed be Jack the Ripper.
Documents have been found suggesting Maybrick was previously married to a Sarah Ann Robertson before his marriage to Florence Chandler. Census records from 1891, only released to the public in 1992, appear to confirm this allegation. Records show that Sarah Ann “lived on Bromley Street, near Whitechapel, and on Mark Lane, across the road from Whitechapel”. Both locations would have placed Maybrick directly in the center of the Jack the Ripper murders.
Due to his business in the cotton industry, Maybrick would have had intimate knowledge of the East End of London and he travelled frequently between England and the United States. It has long been suggested that Jack the Ripper spent time in the United States, was likely a frequent overseas traveler, with extensive knowledge of the East London area where the murders took place.
Enhanced photographs of the Mary Kelly murder scene show the initials “F M” written in blood on the wall of Kelly’s room. Recently researchers theorized the initials could refer to Florence Maybrick, Maybrick’s hated wife. Florence was similar in build and appearance to Mary Kelly.
A newly discovered “Dear Boss” letter from Jack the Ripper notes that he was “on his way to Innerliethen tweed factories”. This area of London was the location of many cotton factories and anyone in the business would have frequently visited the area.
The Maybrick diary mentions an empty tin box that Catherine Eddowes was carrying. Eddowes’ police evidence list was not published until 1987. In the official report we find listed, “one Tin Match Box, empty”.