I was working for BBC Radio at the time and I made contact after Radio Four had broadcast a drama based on the Kitchener book. It had been suggested to me that a 1926 hoax, touched on in the book, might make a programme in its own right. This was a hoax engineered by Frank Power, a journalist who claimed that there existed an "undivulged mystery in the story of Kitchener's death." the truth, he said, was being hidden by the Admiralty.
When I started to research the Frank Power story I found that McCormick's account was badly flawed. He told us that the hoaxer Power had been the 'TIMES' correspondent at the siege of Khartoum (1884) and had written the historic 'Letters from Khartoum'. This was absurd. The 'TIMES' reporter and British Consul at Khartoum in 1884 was the famous war correspondent Frank Le Poer Power, who was killed in September 1884!
This led me to make checks on other 'evidence' in his book. I ultimately reached this firm conclusion: the only new evidence (telling first-person 'revelations') was simply manufactured.
In 1981 I began to look into the influential Lees hoax and I kept the late Stephen Knight fully informed of my finds. Later I began to see that many Ripper studies were crippled by hoaxes, or were hoaxes in their own right. One of the prominent hoaxers turned out to be McCormick. I then outlined some of my researches to Richard Whittington-Egan, who insisted that they had to be published. This was an idea that I resisted at first, I was far too busy to devote time to it. But publishers Harrap heard of my work and asked me to accept a commission. As Knight's publishers they were now anxious to clean up the mess created by the Knight/Sickert fantasy. So in 1986 I accepted their offer and began to write my first book on the murders. It was meant for the centenary in 1988, but competition between publishers led to its premature appearance in July 1987. So it was launched minus index, minus extra research and minus a valuable group of appendices, one of which was meant to be a study of the 'Dutton' hoax.
Early in 1987, before the Harrap book was published, Yorkshire Television commissioned me to research and plan a programme on the Whitechapel Murders. It was given the codename 'Project 888', but its production title was to be 'JACK THE RIPPER: A CENTENARY INQUEST'. Two main presenters were decided on; one was to be the barrister Jane Belson QC; her male co-Presenter to be someone of equal stature. Among the many lined up to appear were Prof. Cameron, Richard Gordon, Don Dovaston, and Donald Rumbelow.
Contained in the plan for the programme was a Court Room question and answer session. This was never intended to be a trial as such but would follow normal inquest patterns. Any theorists would be questioned on their ideas and asked for proofs. Among those to be invited to face questioning were Joseph Sickert, Frank Spiering and Donald McCormick. All three, at that time, were deemed to be the leading living fakers.
Because I knew that McCormick's health was not good, I decided to soften any future blows by giving him prior warning. I rang him and gave him an insight into our plans. And bit by bit I made him aware that the bogus nature of his Ripper book had been well established.
I will not attempt to give a verbatim account of our conversation that will have to wait for my next book. But here, in brief, are all the essential points that were made on that day. Before giving them let me emphasise that I FIRST established with McCormick the chronological order of the 'Dutton' papers quoted by him. By that I mean his CLAIMED CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. This claimed order is of supreme importance when it comes to understanding just how this elaborate hoax was constructed.
At this point let me register the damning fact that McCormick stated that ALL the material dealing with Abberline's suspicions about Klosowski/Chapman and his hunt for the man in 1888, long PRECEDED the arrest on the poisoning charges in 1903. 'Dutton's material' was (so he said) taken from his early journals written in the 1890's at the latest. This was a statement made with full confidence; without any reservations whatsoever. He then stated that all the further comments on Chapman were drawn from 'Dutton's journals' for 1924 and from Dutton's remarks on H.L. Adam's "TRIAL OF GEORGE CHAPMAN", which was published in 1930.
Having established these all-important date claims, I then stated that none of the material alleged to be from Dr Dutton was accurate or even historically acceptable. Indeed, every claim linked with the name of 'Dutton' was faked. At this point let me drop the convention of talking about fakes and brand the material for what it is: a series of lies. These then are the lies as I identified them to McCormick. We move from the lesser to the greater:
LIE 1. The claim that the doctor had used MICROPHOTOGRAPHY to photograph the Ripper correspondence was absurd. Microphotography is a system used to produce MINUTE images and is quite useless for any high-definition examination of printing or writing. The system used by the microscope societies of the time was PHOTOMICROGRAPHY and the real Dr Dutton would have known that. It is true that a confusion was sometimes made, but this was due to false translations made by journalists who misunderstood the French terms 'Photographies microscopiques' But the practitioners of the system would never make such a mistake- the systems were poles apart. Such an error would be on a par with an experienced mariner confusing the bows of a ship with the stern!
There is no escape from this dilemma by presuming that there might just have been a confusion with the PHOTOMICROGRAPHY SYSTEM since that distinctly different method is still of no use in studying pages of handwriting. It can spot traces of erasures or added or superimposed letters and numerals,but its use is confined to such examining of localised, fine details.
LIE 2. Now if anyone thinks that this is a mere niggle let them examine page 105 of McCormick's book. There is the clinching proof that the Dutton photographic claims were made by someone with very limited understanding. The text reads: "I was asked by the police to photograph the message on the wall before it was washed off...the micro-photograph which I took definitely established that the writing was the same as that in some of the letters." Now to create a microphotograph, that wall writing would first have to be photographed onto a plate and then REDUCED through a second apparatus to a tiny and useless image. While using the OTHER system to photograph such large writing would result in a picture that would show nothing but the enlarged grain and texture of the wall-bricks and some fragments of the chalk dust! (Apart from that, we have the testimony of the police of the day that no photographs of the wall were taken)
LIE 3. That Wolff Levisohn claimed to have known Klosowski in Poland and had seen him in Warsaw in 1887 (pp 122-5). And had said this (to Abberline) of that Warsaw period "He wasn't a friend of mine, but he was much humbler in those days. Though I always said he was a boy with ambitions. Oh, bless you, yes! He was the budding genius, he was, in his own opinions. And now he wants to have nothing to do with people like me. Why he's more British now - all la-di-da, high hat and umbrella"
LIE 4. That, following the Stride murder, Joseph Lave told the police "There was a stranger in the club earlier that night...he said he was a barber and that he had a business in a basement at George Yard...Oddly enough he wore a peaked hat, rather like a sailor's."
LIE 5. That Lave's statement was acted on by Inspector Chandler.
LIE 6. That police inquiries at the George Yard basement led to a meeting with Klosowski.
LIE 7. That "shortly afterwards Klosowski disappeared to Tottenham." (p229)
LIE 8. That some weeks later (after Oct 1 1888) Abberline tracked down Klosowski "...who had taken another job in a barber's shop in West Green Road, Tottenham." (p121)
LIE 9. That Abberline planned to have him shadowed there.
LIE 10. That Klosowski left that shop one day before the police shadow arrived (p 124)
LIE 11. That "It was several days later that it was learned that he [Klosowski] had acquired a shop for himself in High Road, Tottenham." (p124)
LIE 12. That Levisohn then advised Abberline not to bother with Klosowski but to look for "...a Russian very handy with a knife" who lived in Walworth and who was spotted (by Levisohn) in the Commercial Road before midnight, on the night of the Berner St murder. (p 125-6)
The sequence of lies from number 3 to number 12, is of paramount importance, since the Levisohn and Chapman involvements prove beyond doubt that the 'Dutton papers' said to have been written in the 1890's, were in fact FAKED AFTER THE PUBLICATION OF H.L. Adam's 'TRIAL OF GEORGE CHAPMAN' in 1930.
The faker had failed to read Adam's book with care. So he took his lead from Adam's 53 page Introduction, without realising that Adam had lapsed into inaccuracy. These inaccuracies were then used to build the scenario involving Levisohn, Lave, Chandler and Abberline in an 1888 hunt for Klosowski that ended in Tottenham High Road. But here are the facts:
Adam wrote of Klosowski "In Warsaw he met a man named Levisohn, a hairdressers' traveller, who again saw and recognised Klosowski in this country about 1888 or 1889." This is, of course, what 'Dutton' is made to say, but the public records refute this. At the Police Court Proceedings of 7th January 1903 Wolff Levisohn attested that "He first met the accused (Klosowski) in a shop under the White Hart public-house 89 High Street, Whitechapel, in 1888". Then, at the later trial, Levisohn stated: "I have known the accused since 1888, when I met him in a hairdresser's shop in Whitechapel. I spoke to him in Yiddish. He said he came from Warsaw..." The so-called 1888 description "La-di-da, high hat and umbrella" is based on the 1903 Police Court records which read "'La de da' then with black coat, patent boots and high hat." (Adam p 201)
The absurd 1888 chronology of the hunt for Chapman is based on Adam's sloppy summary: "Klosowski did not remain long in his first English situation. After leaving the High Street [Whitechapel] shop, he obtained another situation in a barber's shop in West Green Road, South Tottenham. Subsequently Klosowski acquired a shop for himself in the High Road Tottenham." By relying on this misleading text McCormick trapped himself; the 1903 Police Court records prove this beyond doubt.
Those records show that the Tottenham episodes took place over SIX YEARS AFTER THE MURDERS. Klosowski did not move to West Green Tottenham until 1894. While the shop in the High Street, Tottenham was not taken over by him until January 1895! Indeed the very argreement signed by Klosowski was produced at the Police Court hearings and showed that Mr Braund, a solicitor from Greys Inn Square, had drawn it up on 7th January 1895.
Proof that it was McCormick HIMSELF who created this absurd history is further provided by his lines on page 202. They read: "The shop which Klosowski had acquired for himself in High Road, Tottenham, soon proved to be an unprofitable business and the Pole once again became a hairdresser's assistant. For several months he was employed by a hairdresser named Radin...Later he went to work in a shop in Church Lane, Leytonstone...But he never stayed in one place for long. By the middle of 1889 he was keeping a barber's shop in Cable Street."
For those who do not have a copy of Adam's book let me emphasise that the information on the shops in Leytonstone and Cable Street was supplied by witnesses at the Police Court and Trial hearings in 1903. McCormick has taken it from there, but he neglected to check on the rest of the chronology and blended that information in with the misleading words found on page 2 of that book. Thus placing the proven events of 1894-5 as events that happened PRIOR TO 1889! So it is MCormick, and no one else, who is behind this crazy story. And he who invents one crazy yarn is quite capable of inventing others. And such is the case.
Take the introduction of the Pedachenko theory. This marks nothing but McCormick's technique of fleshing out his book with uncheckable and bogus documents and statements. He simply draws on Le Queux's claims to have discovered Ripper Pedachenko in a manuscript written by Rasputin, and then brings in 'Dutton' to take the story one step further. He pulls the strings and his puppet Dutton obliges by bringing in faked testimony attributed to a Dr J.F. Williams.
But McCormick went too far when he dragged in the late Prince Serge Belloselski. He wrote of the Prince's "...scrapbook in which he pasted various newspaper accounts of pre-1914 Russian politics with his old handwritten comments on their veracity or otherwise. The Prince had this to say about William Le Queux's story on the Ripper:" Then follows a page-length piece which poses as Serge Belloselski's written comments on the Pedachenko case. In it the Prince is made to say that Pedachenko's real name would appear to have been Vassily Konovalov.
McCormick then states that the Prince backed up his words by showing him a lithographed copy of the Russian Secret Police bulletin the 'Ochrana Gazette'; a copy dated January 1909. One of its items had a text which opened thus: "KONOVALOV, Vassily, alias PEDACHENKO, Alexey, alias LUISKOVO, Andrey formerly of Tver, is now oficially dead." A later section was said to have read: "...a man answering to the description of the above...was wanted for the murder of a woman in Paris in 1886, the murder of five women in the East Quarter of London in 1888 and again for the murder of a woman in Petrograd in 1891." (It should be noted that in his later book 'A History of the Russian Secret Service' McCormick ALTERS the text of the alleged 'Gazette' by adding in the name Ostrog to the aliases. But this is a name that only came into consideration after the discovery of the Macnaghten papers in 1959.)
As I pointed out in 1987, at first glance this 'Gazette' looks authentic enough, it's unsensational, mild in tone, bureaucratic in style, and tersely effective. But it twice refers to the town of Petrograd. No authentic document of 1909 could use this name; a name that only came into use after August 1914! In 1909 that city bore the time-honoured name of St Petersburg. In making his translation the Prince would have that name and none other in front of his eyes. And it was the name he had grown up with, deeply engraved in his memory. No mistake would have been possible. But the man who did make such a mistake often was William Le Queux, the very man from whom McCormick borrowed the Pedachenko theory.
And consider the absurd episode which has Belloselski giving Le Queux his very special information and his advice. When Le Queux first advanced his 'Russian Ripper' claims he was without backing of any sort; that meant that his candidate was in fact ridiculed and rejected. Thus if the Prince had in reality written to him and told him about the corroborative 'Gazette', then Le Queux would have leapt into print and triumphantly flayed his critics. Yet there is no trace of a public defence by Le Queux. No trace whatever of any valuable support from Belloselski.
Fortunately, I have for many years had contacts within the exile Russian community in Britain. One of those contacts is the mother of the film-editor Michael Shadayan. She not only knew the Belloselski family well but actually worked alongside Prince Serge's brother, Prince Andre, at the BBC's Russian Monitoring Service at Caversham. She was adamant that Serge had never spoken about the Ripper in his lifetime. She insisted that if he had ever owned such an illuminating and interesting paper as the 'Ochrana Gazette' then everyone in their gossipy, narrow circle would have known it. Other members of the Russian community independently made exactly the same point. And this is how things stood in 1987.
Here I have to digress a little for, in 1992, I finally made contact with Prince Serge's daughter Marina, who lives in the United States. She was emphatic that her father never owned or kept a scrapbook, as McCormick alleged. What he did keep, though, was a large collection of photograph albums, but these were filled with nothing but photographs of family and friends. Since he sometimes used to carry an album around with him, a stranger might well mistake it for a scrapbook. But no one knowing him well would make such a mistake. He certainly never spoke about any Russian Ripper connection and he did not own ANY copies of the 'Ochrana Gazette'. Had he done so she would have known about it and everyone connected with them would have known also, for her father always enjoyed a good yarn about the old days.
(To this we can add that McCormick had visited the very hotel bar that Belloselski used to use almost daily. Perhaps that is how he developed the 'scrapbook' idea and later wove it into his later fiction. But note that this admitted contact with the Prince took place after 1945!)
But, even without Marina's testimony, by 1987 the case against McCormick was overwhelming. He had faked all the seemingly new information that he had used in writing his book. When I put that to himhe was truly staggered. No one had ever seen through the give-away bogus chronology before. He himself was blind to the fact that he had made a damning and fundamental blunder. Faced with the truth he could only wriggle and, first of all, try to blame Dutton. But his own false testimony about the AGE of the entries told against him.
He became philosophical about his exposure, especially when I said that I was prepared to describe the fakery as the work of a man with a wicked sense of humour. I stated that I was not going to ask for the name of the faker unless he wished to divulge it. Specifically, though, I drew his attention to the poem about the 'Eight little whores'. I was struck by the way that writers had cheerfully quoted these lines without any misgivings, and used them as if they were AUTHENTIC VERSES FROM 1888. At that time they had been used by Odell, Farson, Prof Camps, Rumbelow, Cullen and Michael Harrison.
I put it to McCormick that these verses had no antiquity; they were unknown before appearing in his book, IN 1959. While the reference to Henage Court showed that the writer had drawn on the PC Spicer story, which did not reach print UNTIL MARCH 1931. In short it was not a Victorian piece, but a 20th century concoction. Again, at no time did I ask him to name the faker. But I asked him to acknowledge it as a MODERN fake and stated that I would be content to describe it as being the work of a "very clever man who enjoys his quiet fun." McCormick accepted that formula AND WITHOUT ANY BLUSTER OR EQUIVOCATION ADMITTED THAT IT WAS A FAKE AND WAS INDEED INSPIRED BY THE SPICER STORY; A STORY THAT HE DISCOVERED IN A BUNDLE OF OLD PRESS CLIPPINGS AND THEN USED IN CONSTRUCTING HIS BOOK.
In truth it was McCormick who FIRST made the Spicer story known to Ripperologists. Until 1959 it had stayed forgotten in the newspaper archives. (As early as 1979 he had told me that the starting point for almost all of his books lay in the Kemsley Newspaper library which had masses of cuttings going back to early Victorian days. Other newspapers, he advised, held similar archives. They saved him a journey and a search at Colindale.)
That, then, is how things stood in 1987 and my hope was that the Pedachenko hoax and other such hoaxes, would be laid to rest in 1988 by our planned television 'Inquest'. But plans often meet unexpected obstacles. And in the case of the 'Centenary Inquest' our plans were unexpectedly blocked by an outside body. Since I am still bound by the terms of my original contract (and I have just checked this) I am not able to disclose the full details of this blocking. The most I can say is that it was a collision caused by inter-network rivalries.
This does not mean that the plans are dead forever. The original format is now with another TV company and may well reach the production stage in 1999. But the 1988 withdrawal meant that McCormick gained a welcome relief at a time when he was most vulnerable and perhaps even glad to get things off his chest.
Within the limits imposed on me by my contract I was able to issue warnings about the McCormick material in my first book on the Ripper. Among other things I directly identified the "Eight little whores" poem as bogus (p 122 THE BLOODY TRUTH).
With the TV programme on ice, I then decided to write more on this specific hoax. By then I had noticed that fresh writers had been sucked in by McCormick and were using this poem without caveats. Among those writers was Martin Fido. So I wrote to him in 1990 and queried his use. Then in a following letter I wrote this: "My question about the 'Eight little whores...' verse was not meant to be a catch question, but simply to find out where you took it from. It is bogus. It was, in fact, concocted by McCormick. His book is a deliberate fraud. Everything, his quotes from Dutton, from Belloselski, from Backert, from 'the London doctor who knew Sickert and whose father was at Oxford with Druitt', has been invented by him. One of these days I will publish everything I know about his duplicity. In the meantime let me say that it is a disgrace that Ripperologists ever took the book seriously. There are passages in the text that show at once that the thing is a hoax. Take the text on pp 121-2 (1970 ed.) this describes events that did not and could not have taken place. McCormick has relied on Adam's sloppy and misleading summary of the Chapman trial and trapped himself."
I have taken the trouble to quote this letter since this proves that I revealed the key to his hoax years ago. It also proves that I was specifically warning about that poem years before the Diary emerged.
It was this knowledge that allowed me to tell Feldman that the Diary was a hoax EVEN BEFORE I SAW IT. On the 13th of May, 1993, at our first and only meeting, he told me that the Diary contained important proofs in its texts. He especially delighted over what he described as the first drafts of the 'Eight little whores' poem. When I heard that, I stated that if his claim was true then that alone proved the Diary to be bogus. He agreed that IF the poem was bogus then the Diary was too, but he refused to accept that any Dutton quotes were faked. He believed in McCormick. He insisted that he would track down the 'Dutton Chronicles' and he later included an appeal for information about them at the end of his video. This in turn led to yet another hoax. An anonymous correspondent then wrote to him and gave a detailed and plausible account of having seen these chronicles. He even named the author who owned them, but that author would not play ball. (I will not name the hoaxer but his name is known to many Ripperologist circles)
Eventually, I met up with McCormick in the flesh. At the book signing at Camille Wolff's we talked and I put it to him that the Diary hoax had altered matters and I wanted to set the record straight in a new book. I asked him if he now wished to publicly name the faker of the poem, but he said he was not ready. He was still happy, though, for me to use the old formula, that it was faked by "A very clever man who enjoys his quiet fun", and he winked as he said it! Yes, he was a likeable rogue. But he was trapped by his very likeability. Over the years he had kept up the bluff with so many people that he found it hard to disentangle himself, as I found out when I later wrote to him. He was, by then, unwilling to commit himself in writing, instead he wrote letters full of teasing, enigmatic clues.
Finally in October 1997 I wrote to him and asked him to stop the fooling and write a candid letter fit for publication. Sadly the reply that came back read "I have an ulcer on my right eye and have great difficulty in writing at present. Please let the matter drop." I did and there was never to be a further chance. Within a short while I learned that he was dead.
But his legacy lives on. Fortunately for the truth one fragment of that legacy gives the lie to the false Diary provenance that tries to place it back in the 1940's. Not a chance. McCormick's poem is reflected in the Diary text. Both Feldman and Shirley Harrison agree on that. That poem did not exist until 1958, when it was composed and did not appear in print until 1959. And that is the rock on which the flimsy Ark of Provenance perishes.
A. In Fido's "Jack the Ripper" (p 199) is this misleading statement: "In support of this unlikely story, Le Queux cited the 'Ochrana Gazette', the bulletin of the Czarist secret police." This gives the false impression that there was INDEPENDENT support for the claims regarding the 'Gazette' text. But this is not true. The alleged text of the 'Gazette' exists ONLY in the pages of McCormick's book, written 32 years after Le Queux's death.
B. McCormick used very similar techniques in his other books. For example, his work on Maundy Gregory contains many faked events and conversations. While his "History of the British Secret Service" has too many inventions to list. And Professor Bernard Wasserstein has said this about McCormick's writings on Trebitsch Lincoln "These absurd statements belong to the realm of fiction."
C. McCormick's bogus chronology was given extra credence when it was used by Leo Grex (Leonard Gribble) in his essay "The Man Who Wasn't Jack the Ripper" of 1977. This appeared in his "Detection Stranger Than Fiction." and was later used in magazine form.
D. The new provenance offered by Anne Barrett and her father only emerged after Paul Feldman had developed obsessive fantasies. As Mrs Harrison attests "...I was aware of some of the fantastic flights of fancy he pursued and not a little puzzled by the number of times he had 'cracked it'...Keith Skinner noted at the time, somewhat ruefully, that 'Paul bases a theory upon a hypothesis, sinks it deep in speculation and confounds it with mystery.'" (page 286 rev. ed 1998)
Anne Barrett has written about the nightmare of 1994 with Feldman "...ringing everyone; my best friend Audrey, all the Barretts- everyone...in a blind fury I picked up the phone and called Paul's home...We were both screeching and shouting at each other...I was on that phone for four hours...From what I could make out he thought I wasn't Anne Graham/Barrett, Michael wasn't Michael- his sisters' birth certificates were wrong and my background had been destroyed by the Government. I thought he was mad! In fact I was very frightened. Paul appeared to believe that I knew more than I had been telling and was determined to get it out of me by fair means or foul. I thought 'I've got to get this man off their backs.'" (page 288 Harrison)
Of this period Martin Fido says: "Feldy becomes convinced that the only reason none of the certificates tie in with his theories is because wrong information has been deliberately fed into the system by the government in order to protect the identities of all the illegitimate children of James Maybrick aka Jack the Ripper." (page 289, Harrison)
In that ugly paranoid setting Anne eventually agreed to meet Feldman; of that meeting she says: "I felt as though I had come up against a brick wall. I was at the end of my tether. So I told him in no uncertain terms that Michael knew nothing of the origins of the Diary. It had been given to me by my father..." Later on, she records: "Paul said he would protect me from the media and from Ripperologists if I told the true story. He said he could send Caroline and me away for a holiday to be out of reach." (page 289, Harrison)
It is hardly amazing then, that a new provenance emerged. Given the relentless pressures; the constant badgering, it became peace at any price. But consider this. On 18 July 1994, just 13 days before Anne came up with her 'new story' she wrote this in a letter to Mike: "As you know I started the divorce proceedings the day the Daily Post printed the story...I don't want to add to your burden but I am afraid you left me with no choice after speaking to the newspapers." Now this was written THE DAY BEFORE her four-hour-long phone talk with Feldman. When she wrote it, her marriage was then dead and done with. If she had genuinely concealed anything before then, she was now free to talk about it. She had nothing to lose in telling the truth. The 'truth' could, in fact, have silenced Mike. But there is no attempt to tell Mike that the Diary was 'a family heirloom'. No attempt to tell him that his fantasy about a forgery could easily be refuted. Not the slightest hint that she was sitting on 'the true story'; a story that was of credit to her family.
But that is to be expected. The Diary is a lie that begets lies. It was created using just two modern Ripper books. And all the scanty Maybrick material was easily available, indeed just one book was able to provide all the Maybrick touches they needed. Look at the popular Penguin paperback by Ryan and you will find it all there. No archives were needed. No visits to remote repositories were involved. Not even an inch of microfilm had to be scanned. It was all there in easy-to-read form. AND IN THE RESULTING TEXT THERE LURKS THE DAMNING FRAGMENTS THAT OWE THEIR EXISTENCE TO A FAKE FIRST SEEN IN 1959.