First Seminar: Jack the Ripper
April 27, 2009
In the last decade, James Maybrick has become increasingly popular as a possible Jack the Ripper suspect. The most major aspect of his escalating popularity is the “Maybrick Diary”, which surfaced in the 1990’s. Many question whether this diary is in fact accurate. By interpreting the diary, and several other factors regarding his background, it is very plausible that James Maybrick committed Jack the Ripper murders. James was born into an established Liverpool family. Maybrick was born October 24, 1838. James’ brother, Michael Maybrick was a successful composer of popular music. Eventually, James became a well-known cotton merchant in Liverpool. Legal Records, which became available in 1992, gave evidence that James was married to Sarah Ann Robertson around 1868 (She was listed in her step-father’s will as the wife of James Maybrick.) Sarah lived very close to Whitechapel, and it is very possible that James became very familiar with the Whitechapel area because of Sarah’s location. In 1871, James was again unmarried, and living with his mother in London. In 1873, at a heightened time of his career, he formed Maybrick and Company (which was a cotton company), and hired his brother Edwin as a junior partner. In 1874 James temporarily moved to Norfolk, Virginia to establish a cotton port and a branch office. During his time in Norfolk, James contracted Malaria, and was eventually prescribed arsenic. Throughout the Victorian Era, arsenic use was extremely popular. James eventually became addicted to this substance. In 1880, he returned to England on the SS Baltic, which is where he met his future wife Florence Chandler. Florence was only a mere eighteen years old, and Maybrick was forty-two. Before Florence and James returned to Liverpool, they had already planned a future together, and were to get married the following summer. In July 1881, they were married in London. Maybrick and Florie gave birth to a son, “Bobo” in 1881. For the next 2 years, the family traveled between Norfolk and London. In 1884, the cotton business began to decline, and Maybrick was forced to move back to London. During this time, the economy worsened, and Maybrick became stressed over financial issues. His arsenic use continued, and his marriage began to struggle. They gave birth to a daughter, Gladys Evelyn, in 1886. At this point, James was engaging in substance abuse, and was having an affair with another woman, possibly Sarah Robertson (his first wife). Florie then had an affair, and the couple began sleeping in separate beds. On March 29, 1889, Florie and James had a very heated argument, which led to domestic violence and James gave Florie a black eye. Approximately a month later, Florie made a major mistake. In April, Florie purchased twelve flypapers. On the 26th of April, two days after Florie made the purchase, James became extremely sick because of an overdose of arsenic. James never regained his health, and eventually passed away on May 11, 1889. Michael, his brother, made his way to London, and took care of family affairs after James’ death. Florie was charged with the murder on May 14, 1889. James’ brothers and doctors all testified against Florie, as it was highly possible that she was poisoning James with arsenic from the flypapers. The trial was extremely unfair, and was completely based on suspicion. Despite the extreme lack of evidence, Florie was found guilty on August 7, 1889. Florie was put into solitary confinement, which lasted for approximately fifteen years. Shirley Harrison is a professional writer who published “The Diary of Jack the Ripper.” “When the book hit the stands, it was hyped as “the day the world’s greatest murder mystery will be solved’” (The Cases That Haunt Us, 72). Harrison, obviously a noted author, and credible source states in an interview: “No, I don’t think Florie killed James and I doubt if she had realized his possible Ripper connections. It is not uncommon, I am told by psychiatrists dealing with serial killers, for those nearest to them to have no idea what they are up to!” (Casebook). It is highly unlikely that Florie did in fact kill her husband James. In 1904, she was finally released from prison. She published “My Fifteen Lost Years,” which was a memoir regarding her life before the verdict, and what she entailed during her fifteen years in confinement. In 1941, Florie Chandler passed away at age seventy-nine. Before 1992, James Maybrick was not involved with Jack the Rippers, and the relating murders. The emergence of the diary made him a possible Ripper suspect. The diary was first introduced by Michael Barrett, who said a friend (Tony Devereux) gave him the diary in a pub. In 1993, “The Diary of Jack the Ripper” was published. It is said “Apparently electrical work had been carried out at Maybrick’s former home between 1990 and 1992 and there was speculation that the “diary” might have come to light at that time” (Ripperology, 183). The diary neglects to mention James’ name; however it includes several events and instances that follow Maybrick’s life exactly. The diary encompasses a period of several months, in which the writer admits to the murders of the five known victims of Jack the Ripper, as well as two others. For more than a decade, “The Diary of Jack the Ripper” has been greatly disputed. Many say that the diary is a hoax, however there is much evidence that prove otherwise. Apparently, the diary states several facts about the case that were not initiated until the twentieth century, and monuments in Liverpool were mentioned in the diary that were not in existence during the time of the murders. Document expert, Kenneth W. Rendell mentions inconsistency concerning the diary’s handwriting. He also notes that the writing seemed twentieth century like, and definitely did not seem like it was written during the Victorian era. There are several pieces of evidence in the diary, which may sway a reader to believe that the diary is genuine. For instance, throughout the diary, addiction to arsenic and the affects of substance abuse are explained extremely efficiently. Very few people in the twentieth century are knowledgeable about the personal affects of arsenic addiction. Since arsenic addiction was common in the late 1800’s, and the explanation was so in depth, there is a very good possibility that the diary was written during the Victorian Era. The diary also entails certain details about the murders, which were only known by the murderer himself and the police, before the book was even published. The diary was also written in a scrapbook from the correct, which Maybrick could have purchased. Many of these facts must be taken into account before terminating the idea of the diary. One of the original photographs from Mary Kelly’s murder gave hints to James’ possible motive. On the wall, the initials F.M. were written in blood. This could possibly relate to Florence Maybrick. Florence Maybrick could have been the incentive for killing the possible seven suspects written about in the diary. The diary explains “…the Ripper murders were caused by the writer’s grief and rage over the infidelities of his wife, whom he thought of as a whore. He couldn’t kill her, so he displaced that rage by killing actual prostitutes (The Cases That Haunt Us, 73). The fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, had a V shaped cut on both of her cheeks. Both of these V’s could have been created to shape an “M”, for Maybrick. At the scene of Annie Chapman’s murder, a piece of envelope was found in the vicinity surrounding her body. The letter “M” was on one side of the envelope. Maybrick could have left this piece of paper to hint that he was in fact the killer. Maybrick was also very familiar with the Whitechapel area, because of his ex-wife Sarah Robertson. During the time of the murders, James was living in London, which would make it very possible to commit these murders. The five known Ripper Victims were all murdered in late 1888. James passed away early 1889, which could explain the abrupt end to the disturbing murders. Why would a dangerous serial killer instantaneously stop killing? James’ death supports the answer to this question. On January 5, 1995, Michael Barrett confessed to writing “The Diary of Jack the Ripper” himself. He confessed to writing the diary, with the help of his wife Anne Barrett. In his confession, he states “I Michael Barrett, was the author of the original diary of ‘Jack the Ripper’ and my wife, Anne Barrett, hand wrote it from my typed notes and on occasions at my dictation, the details of which I will explain in due course” (Casebook). Barrett admits to writing the journal several times in January of 1995. Despite this confession, there are multiple reasons to doubt the factuality of his confession. In an interview with Shirley Harrison, she identifies Barrett’s undependable information: …readers should know that Mr. Barrett has also written to me on innumerable occasions and is recorded on tape swearing “on my daughter’s life” that he did NOT write the diary and that it was given to him by Tony Devereux. He has, at other times claimed that his former wife Anne wrote it. Since the publication of the paperback edition of my book Mr. Barrett has “confessed” among other things: that he is a member of MI5; has single handedly foiled the IRA; would be dead from cancer within 24 hours (three years ago); was re-married in Southport in 1996 and going to live in Russia (the same day he “proposed” to another lady in Liverpool); that he has had a colostomy (denied by his doctor) is on dialysis (denied by the hospital) and, most recently, is due to be a father in seven months time. Harrison uses slight sarcasm to prove that Barrett is an unreliable source of information, and in most cases should not be taken completely seriously. She basically informs people that he exaggerates many aspects of his life. In the first paragraph mentioned above, he confesses that he did not write the diary, and uses a very serious scenario (swearing on his daughter’s life) to express this. It is exceptionally hard to believe Barrett because of his previous questionable statements about his life. Another important aspect of James’ case surrounds a watch, which was made public in 1993, about the time that the diary was being published. Inside the lid of the watch, “J Maybrick” and “I am Jack” was scratched into it. The initials of the five Ripper victims were also scratched into the watch. This is immensely suspicious, considering that after examination, the watch appeared to be very aged. The idea that James Maybrick is in actuality Jack the Ripper makes much sense. The watch, the questionable confession of Barrett, and several other small clues in the diary allow the conception of Maybrick as the Ripper to be plausible. Works Cited http://www.casebook.org/suspects/james_maybrick/may.html Douglas, John. Olshaker, Mike. The Cases That Haunt Us. Simon and Shuster, 2000. Odell, Robin. Ripperology. Kent State University Press, 2006.