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The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Chilling Confessions of James Maybrick

The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Chilling Confessions of James Maybrick

by Shirley Harrison

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The pages of The Diary of Jack the Ripper reveal the unimaginable—that more than a century ago, the legendary serial killer at work in London’s Whitechapel kept a record of his bestial mutilations of women. The writer of the horrific journal is James Maybrick, a depraved, drug-taking, womanizing, 49-year-old Liverpool cotton merchant


The pages of The Diary of Jack the Ripper reveal the unimaginable—that more than a century ago, the legendary serial killer at work in London’s Whitechapel kept a record of his bestial mutilations of women. The writer of the horrific journal is James Maybrick, a depraved, drug-taking, womanizing, 49-year-old Liverpool cotton merchant with a history of domestic violence. In this analysis of his diary, investigative author Shirley Harrison explains all about the origins of the text and the rigorous scientific analysis it has endured while revealing startling new information about Maybrick's shadowy background. This evidence, along with a chilling confession scratched into a watch—"I am Jack. J Maybrick," provide powerful justification that Maybrick was Jack the Ripper. The diary itself is reproduced in full, so that readers can judge whether these are the deeply distributing words of Jack the Ripper himself, reaching out from across the abyss of more than a century.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This controversial title, originally scheduled for publication by Warner Books and subsequently dropped, makes its American debut amid great speculation and skepticism. Is it real? Maybe, and then again maybe not. The diary's alleged author is James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton merchant who began his ghastly reign of terror as the infamous Ripper after discovering that his wife was unfaithful. The volume is divided into three sections: a lengthy explanation of the case that tries desperately to convince the reader of both Maybrick's guilt and the diary's genuine pedigree; photographs of the original handwritten entries and a typed transcript of the diary's text; and a critical report on the dating of the diary by document specialist Kenneth Rendell, which is rebutted by the diary's British publisher, Robert Smith. Before releasing the volume, Smith consulted several psychologists, forensic experts, and noted ``Ripperologists,'' several of whom agree the diary could be authentic. Many of the supposed clues clinching Maybrick's guilt, however, are as flimsy and ambiguous as those of the ``Paul is dead'' craze of 1968. True or false, this chilling read is still worth purchasing.-- Michael Rogers, ``Library Journal''

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John Blake Publishing, Limited
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4.30(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.40(d)

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The Diary of Jack the Ripper

The Chilling Confessions of James Maybrick

By Shirley Harrison

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 1998 Shirely Harrison and Michael Barrett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84454-917-7



Late one May afternoon in 1889, three doctors gathered in Aigburth, a suburb of Liverpool, to conduct a most irregular post-mortem. The body of a middle-aged businessman lay on the bed, where he had died, in his plush and mahogany bedroom, while his young American widow, distraught and confused, was in a mysterious swoon in the adjoining dressing room. Under the watchful eye of a police superintendent, two of the doctors dissected and inspected the internal organs while the third took notes.

The brain, heart and lungs seemed normal and were returned to his body. There was slight inflammation of the alimentary canal, a small ulcer on the larynx and the upper edge of the epiglottis was eroded. The stomach, tied at each end, the intestines, the spleen and parts of the liver were put into jars and handed to the police officer.

About two weeks later the same three doctors drove to Anfield cemetery, where the body had by that time been buried. They arrived at 11 p.m. and, in the yellow light of naphtha lamps, stood by the fresh grave while four men dug up the coffin. Without lifting the body from its container, they removed the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys and tongue for further investigation. An eye witness reported: 'there was scarcely anyone present who did not experience an involuntary shudder as the pale, worn features of the dead appeared in the flickering rays of a lamp held over the grave by one of the medical men.

'What everyone remarked was that, although interred a fortnight, the corpse was wonderfully preserved. As the dissecting knife of Dr Barron pursued its rapid and skilful work there was, however, whenever the wind blew, a slight odour of corruption.'

Eventually the authorities concluded that 50-year-old James Maybrick, a well known Liverpool cotton merchant with business connections in London, had been poisoned. His death certificate issued on June 8th shockingly pre-empted the course of justice: it stated — before Florie had even been tried let alone judged — that Maybrick died from 'irritant poison administered to him by Florence Elizabeth Maybrick. Wilful murder.'

That August, after a sensationally disorganised trial that gripped Britain and America alike, Maybrick's 26-year-old widow, Florie, was convicted of his murder and condemned to death. She was the first American woman to be tried in a British court.

* * *

Six months before Maybrick's death, Thomas Bowyer walked through Whitechapel, a squalid neighbourhood in London's East End. He was on his way to collect the overdue rent of 13 Miller's Court, let by John McCarthy to Mary Jane Kelly. It was about 10.45 a.m. on November 9th, and cheerful crowds were making their way to watch the passing of the gold coach amid the traditional celebrations that, even today, mark the annual inauguration of London's Lord Mayor.

There was no response to Bowyer's knock. Reaching through the broken widow, he pulled back the grubby, makeshift curtain and peered into the hovel that was Mary Kelly's pathetic home. On the blood-drenched bed lay all that remained of a girl's body.

It was naked, apart from a skimpy shift. There had been a determined attempt to sever the head. The stomach was ripped wide open. The nose, breasts and ears were sliced off, and skin torn from the face and thighs was lying beside the raw body. The kidneys, liver and other organs were placed around the corpse, whose eyes were wide open, staring terrified from a mangled, featureless face.

Mary Jane Kelly was the latest victim of a fiend who had been butchering prostitutes since the end of August. The killings all took place around weekends and within the same sordid square mile of overcrowded streets that was, and is, one of London's most deprived areas. The women were strangled, slashed and mutilated, in progressively more brutal attacks.

Mary Ann ('Polly') Nichols, believed to be the first victim, was a locksmith's daughter in her early forties who moved from workhouse to workhouse. Then came Annie Chapman, 47, Elizabeth Stride, 44, and Catharine Eddowes, 46. Now there was Mary Kelly, at about 25 the youngest of them all.

Hideous as these crimes were, they might have been forgotten or dismissed as an occupational hazard of the 'unfortunates', as prostitutes were called, had the police not been taunted by notes and clues. These came apparently from the murderer who, in one infamous, mocking letter had given himself a nickname that sent shudders through London and far beyond: Jack the Ripper.

No one in 1889 had reason to link the exhumation of James Maybrick in a windy Liverpool graveyard with that earlier blood bath in a squalid London slum, 250 miles away. Neither the police nor the medical men in Liverpool could possibly have connected the doctors' macabre midnight dissection of a respectable middle-aged businessman and the gruesome disembowelling of a young Whitechapel prostitute. That link was finally made 103 years later, in 1992, when a newly found Diary exposed the possibility that James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper.

* * *

On March 9th of that year, my literary agent Doreen Montgomery, managing director of Rupert Crew Limited, one of the capital's longest-established and best-respected agencies, took a call from Liverpool. It was from a 'Mr Williams'. He said that he had found the Diary of Jack the Ripper and would like to bring it to her for publication.

She was naturally cautious. Doreen has been my agent for many years so she suggested I should be present at the meeting; she would welcome a second opinion. In fact 'Mr Williams' turned out to be Michael Barrett, a former scrap metal dealer with a taste for drama. He arrived in the Rupert Crew office, wearing a smart new suit and clutching a briefcase. Inside, in brown paper wrapping, was the book which was about to have such a cataclysmic effect on so many of those whose lives it touched and cause uproar in the hitherto peaceful world of Ripper historians. It appeared to be a dark blue, cross grain leather, quarterbound guard book. The binding and paper were of medium to high quality and well preserved. To judge by the evidence of the glue stains and the oblong impressions left on the flyleaf, the book had served the common Victorian practice of holding postcards, photographs, reminiscences, autographs and other mementoes. The first 64 pages had been removed. The last 17 were blank. The writer's reference to his fear of being caught as early as page three — 'I am beginning to think it is unwise to continue writing' clearly indicates that what we are reading is the end of the story — not the beginning. For whatever reason the earlier text has been destroyed. Then followed 63 pages of the most sensational words we had ever read. Their tone veered from maudlin to frenetic; many lines were furiously crossed out, with blots and smudges everywhere. We were sickened by the story that unfolded in an erratic hand, reflecting the violence of the subject.

I will take all next time and eat it. Will leave nothing not even the head. I will boil it and eat it with freshly picked carrots.

The taste of blood was sweet, the pleasure was overwhelming.

Towards the end the mood softened:

Tonight I write of love.
tis love that spurned me so,
tis love that does destroy.

Finally, we read the words:

Soon, I trust I shall be laid beside my dear mother and father. I shall seek their forgiveness when we are reunited. God I pray will allow me at least that privilege, although I know only too well I do not deserve it. My thoughts will remain in tact, for a reminder to all how love does destroy ... I pray whoever should read this will find it in their heart to forgive me. Remind all, whoever you may be, that I was once a gentle man. May the good lord have mercy on my soul, and forgive me for all I have done.

I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentle man born.

Yours truly

Jack the Ripper

Dated this third day of May 1889

I was not a Ripper historian, but even after some 40 years as a professional writer I sensed, in this rather drab looking journal, the thrill of the chase! Was it true? Was it a forgery? I listened, still suspicious, anxiously waiting for clues as Michael Barrett talked.

Those who have read the original, hardback edition of my book and the subsequent paperback editions will be aware that some details of Michael's recollections have changed. We have been accused of altering the story to meet objections and so compounding a lie with a lie. Quite the reverse. Research is organic, it is not static. Over the five years since my first meeting with Michael I have learned a great deal. New information emerges every week and I have revised some of my interpretation of events accordingly, not to pervert the course of history, but to come nearer to the truth.


Michael told us how he had spent all his life in Liverpool, apart from time as a merchant seaman and working on the oil rigs. He was also a barman and then a scrap metal dealer. In 1976 he met Anne Graham in the City's Irish Centre and fell in love.

They were married within weeks. Michael described how some years ago he was injured in an accident and had been on invalidity benefit, unable to work ever since. So Anne went out to work as a secretary and he stayed at home to care for the couple's little girl Caroline, born in 1981.

'I did everything for that girl. I bonded her. Housework, cooking, I did it all and I also looked after the tiny garden in our back yard. That was my pride and joy. From 1989 Caroline went to school in Kirkdale and on the way to collect her I would drop off in the Saddle pub where Tony Devereux and I became good friends. He was about 67 at the time and I was 38. Tony fractured his hip around Christmas 1990 and I did a bit of shopping for him, smuggling in a spot of sherry which he hid under the sink.

'In March 1991 Tony went into hospital for a hip replacement but during that summer his health deteriorated. One day I dropped in and Tony was sitting there with a brown paper parcel on the table. He wouldn't tell me what it was. All he said was "Take it. I want you to have it. Do something with it."

'I went home and opened the parcel with Caroline. Inside was this book. I tried to read it but the handwriting was difficult and then when I turned to that last entry I just laughed.

'It was like a knife going into me,' Michael recalled. 'I just didn't believe it. Who's going to believe that in a million years? I telephoned Tony straight away and said "Who are you trying to kid?"'

The next day, Caroline remembers, her Dad went down to Tony's house and pestered him about the origins of the Diary. How long had he had it? All Tony would say was "You are getting on my fucking nerves. I have given it to you because I know it is real and I know you will do something with it."

Eventually, Michael said, Tony lost his temper when asked 'Who else knows about it?' The reply: 'Absolutely no fucking bugger alive today.'

Caroline remembers clearly how her Dad continued to pester Tony for information on the telephone. 'I trusted him,' Michael said. 'He didn't want any money for it. He would not have let me down. Anne and I sat together that evening and tried to make it out. There were some names of people and places which meant nothing to me. Battlecrease, Bunny, Gladys and Michael. Who were Lowry and Mrs Hammersmith? We didn't know anything about Jack the Ripper either.'

On that day the Barretts' world was turned upside down. The Diary, which should have secured their happiness, was to destroy their marriage and prove the final straw for Michael's already fragile health. Anne told us much later that, like many people in Liverpool, she was aware of the Maybrick case, but not its details. Michael became obsessed and threw himself into fact finding about the Ripper. He had always had dreams of being a writer and had actually published some short interviews with visiting celebrities and made up simple word puzzles for Look-in, a D.C. Thomson children's magazine. He liked to call himself a journalist. 'In fact,' Anne admits now, 'I usually tidied them up for him.'

In 1985, Michael had bought himself an Amstrad word processor with money lent by Anne's father, Billy Graham, and now, at last, it came into its own. He told us that he made copious notes in the Liverpool library, which Anne latterly transcribed onto the Amstrad. But at this stage Michael had not connected the Diary with James Maybrick. One day, he told me, when he was in a Liverpool bookshop, he found a copy of Murder, Mayhem and Mystery in Liverpool by Richard Whittington Egan, a much-respected crime historian whose family hailed from the city and had even driven with the Maybricks to the races. In the book there was a piece entitled 'Motif in Fly Papers' which began: 'When first I beheld it in the fast fading light of a late May evening, Battlecrease House looked very much like any other of the solid respectable relics of the mid-Victorian period ...'

This was the connection Michael needed. The name 'Battlecrease' also appeared on page two of the Diary. In fact, Battlecrease House, in the agreeable suburb of Aigburth, is a name still known to many Liverpudlians acquainted with the tragedy of the ill-fated couple. James and Florence Maybrick had moved there in 1888, their last turbulent year together. Could it be that the Diary in Michael's possession linked the stories of the outwardly respectable, loving father, a middle-aged merchant broken by a lifetime of secret drug-taking, with the best-known murder mystery of all time?

'I suddenly realised that I could become the man who had finally caught Jack the Ripper,' he said.

In August 1991 Tony Devereux died in Walton Hospital and with him, we assumed, had died the key to the mystery of the Whitechapel killings. By February 1992 Michael knew he was out of his depth. He had no idea how to verify the Diary, much less how to get it published. So he rang Pan Books because he had some of their paperbacks at home and asked if they would like to publish his story. London publishers are not so easily enthused and advised Michael to get himself a literary agent, recommending Doreen Montgomery.

* * *

We listened to Michael with suppressed disbelief. On the face of it the Diary's pedigree was extremely doubtful. A former scrap-metal worker from Liverpool? A friend in a pub who was now dead? I suggested, on the spur of the moment, that we should take the Diary immediately to the British Museum round the corner from the Rupert Crew offices and see if we could elicit an opinion from their experts. An instant appointment was made with Robert Smith, then a curator of 19th century manuscripts. It all seemed so easy at the beginning!

The front entrance to the British Museum is monumental. Inside, the scale is no less massive; the silence of 3 million learned tomes carpeting the walls, envelops the visitor. Michael clutched my arm nervously as we walked, carrying the Diary, through the maze of corridors that form the administrative arteries of the building. Elderly manuscript historians peered at the pages through magnifying glasses, poring over the dramatic words again and again.

'Fascinating,' said Robert Smith. 'Quite extraordinary. It looks authentic. But of course you will have to take it to a document examiner. We just don't have the facilities here.' I was astonished by this admission.

On a whim, I popped into Jarndyce, the antiquarian bookshop opposite the museum, where Brian Lake looked up from his first edition Dickens and was also reassuringly enthusiastic. Brian, the shop's owner, is a specialist in 19th century literature and recognised the potential value of the Diary. But he agreed with Robert Smith that we should have to find a forensic scientist to establish the book's precise date.

On April 30th 1992 a collaboration agreement was drawn up to be signed by Michael Barrett, his wife Anne and myself. It bound us to share the responsibilities, expenses and royalties from any future book. In the meantime we had all also signed confidentiality agreements, binding anyone with access to the Diary to secrecy. Because of its potentially sensational nature, we were all afraid the story would leak before we were ready and so lessen its impact.

Michael Barrett went home to Liverpool. He returned with Caroline, his daughter, on June 3rd to be present at the two-day auction which Doreen Montgomery had decided to hold for the publishing rights to a book about the Diary, which I would write. My colleague, researcher Sally Evemy, took Caroline off for a day's sightseeing and then Caroline and her father spent the night at my home. Anne was still working and unable to join us. Among the contenders the next day, June 4th, was another Robert Smith, managing director of Smith Gryphon publishers. He had some years earlier published The Ripper Legacy by Martin Howells and Keith Skinner and had invited Keith to accompany him to Doreen's office.


Excerpted from The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison. Copyright © 1998 Shirely Harrison and Michael Barrett. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Shirley Harrison is the author of Jack the Ripper: The American Connection.

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