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Shirley Harrison
January 3, 1997

I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond in Casebook to the questions sent me by Stephen Ryder. Hopefully I can clarify my position for readers who have become confused by the uproar that has surrounded the diary. It is not surprising to those who have studied the journal closely that it continues to generate such interest; nor is it surprising that over the three years since its publication that the never ending inflow of information and events has changed our understanding of the provenance of the diary. This is why a new edition of my book "The Diary of Jack the Ripper" is to be published.

We have a uniquely detailed diary of events since Michael Barrett first came to London in 1992 and by continually retracing our steps and re-examining the meetings and interviews over that time our understandig of the content of the diary is improving. This process is still far from complete.

I am as convinced personally of the diary's authenticity as I have ever been. Nonetheless, I shall continue research to support and prove my belief.

In some instances I have answered Stephen's questions with more questions because I have myself been astonished by some of the misinformation that is circulating and to appreciate how the rumours have arisen will help me to reply honestly.

My Background

I have been a professional writer for over forty years, starting, whilst still at school, as a BBC radio critic and Children's Hour contributor. I joined my local newspaper and then moved to a public relations agency in London, at a time when PR was a new and exciting skill. In 1954 I launched my own PR business but left after four years to live in the country where, with my husband, I brought up four children. I founded one of the first (and now oldest) parent-run, pre-school playgroups in the country. I continued as a free-lance feature writer working for most of the national magazines and newspapers.

When my husband died, in 1982, I turned to writing books. Since then I have published a variety of works: several travel guides (Collins) and investigative books such as "Cults, the Battle for God" (Christopher Helm), "The Channel -- Dividing Link" (Collins), "New Approaches to Cancer" (Century).

In 1992 I formed the Word Team with friend and researcher Salley Evemy. We were invited to provide scripts for visitor attractions such as "The White Cliffs Experience," "The Oxford Story," and "The Pride of Jersey." I also wrote a video script for the Mappa Mundi Exhibition at Hereford Cathedral.

The Word Team, while continuing to research for new editions of "The Diary of Jack the Ripper," has launched a series of local history books. We are at present commissioned to write a background book on Charles Dickens and the Rochester Dickens Festival.

1. How did you get involved with Ripper research, and specifically with the diary?

You ask how I came to be involved with the diary. This is well chronicled in my book "The Diary of Jack the Ripper." I was invited by my literary agent -- Mrs Doreen Montgomery of Rupert Crew Ltd (one of London's most respected agencies) -- to be present when Michael Barrett first brought the diary to London hoping that it could be published. Before that I had no experience of the Ripper story and no particular interest in crime. I certainly had no idea whatever of the huge public enthusiasm for the subject.

2. Have you uncovered any information since the book was published that further proves or disproves the authenticity of the Diary?

I am still unshaken in my belief that the diary is genuine and should, at the very least, take its proper place in the Ripper archives as a document worthy of serious continuing research. The supporting evidence is mounting -- enough to warrant my publisher commissioning a new and revised edition of the book. There remain some grey areas needing further investigations, but to quote Maybrick's own Coat of Arms, I believe that "Time reveals all"! Is it not remarkable that after three years the debate is as fierce as ever and the determined efforts to prove the diary a modern forgery have led nowhere?

3. What are the results of the Graham investigation? Is it ongoing? Can we expect a second book as a result of your findings?

The investigation into the possible family link between Florence Maybrick -- who used the name of Graham -- and Anne Barrett nee Graham, has been undertaken by Paul Feldman and, like everyone else, I am looking forward to reading his conclusions.

4. Have you considered attempting a forensics test on the body of James Maybrick? Do you think anything could be gained from hair/fingernail samples tested for the presence of arsenic?

Yes, we have considered an exhumation but decided the results would make no difference to our search for the origins of the diary.

5. Today, who owns or has possession of the Diary and the watch?

The watch is owned and cared for by Albert Johnson. The diary is under the protection of a security company.

6. What is your opinion of the Maybrick watch? Has any new information been found either supporting or refuting its authenticity?

I can find no reason to doubt the authenticity of the watch following the positive forensic test results conducted by the top metallurgists at the University of Manchester Department of Science and Technology (UMIST) and Bristol University. Again, more will, doubtless, be revealed in Paul Feldman's book about his research linking the Maybrick family with Albert Johnson.

7. Do you think Florie Maybrick was guilty of James's murder? Is it possible she may have thought James was the Ripper?

No, I don't think Florie killed James and I doubt if she had realised 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! On the other hand there is no doubt that something very strange was afoot in the Maybrick household during the last year of James' life. Even the servants were aware of an atmosphere of secrecy in which Michael and Edwin played no small part and many people felt at the time that Florie's trial had been manipulated.

8. Are you aware of any controversy surrounding the exact date of Florie's birth?

No, I am not aware of any controversy over Florie's birthday.

9. Regarding the alleged "FM" on the wall in Kelly's room: how do you explain its having remained unnoticed for over one hundred years, especially when inquest records tell us that the jury's attention was brought directly to the bloodstains on the wall, and yet there was no mention of any writing or initials?

The initials on Mary Kelly's wall are curious. I gather it is often the case that photographs can highlight something which is less distinct to the naked eye.

10. How extensive was the search for further samples of James's handwriting? Has anything new been found? Considering that James was a business person on two continents, why do so few samples remain?

A new source of James' handwriting has now been found -- and will, I understand, be illustrated in Paul Feldman's book.

11. What of the controversy surrounding Maybrick's will -- has anything new been uncovered? Do you still believe it to have been a forgery? Why?

I have never said that the will is a forgery... only that this might be the case. Paul Feldman's evidence, supporting such an idea, is interesting but I think the additional samples of Maybrick's handwriting that have now been located may throw a different light on the subject and detract from the importance of the will.

12. How involved are you with the current investigations being held by Paul Feldman?

I am not involved in any way with Paul Feldman's research although I have been kept in touch since his investigations spring from the content of my original book.

13. How do you respond to claims that the Maybrick diary investigations are motivated more by personal greed and ambition rather than by a simple desire to find the truth?

Of course any professional writer hopes that a book will make money! Why should it be a charitable enterprise? No fortunes have been made. I have not moved house or made any great investments. I did buy a computer! When I first became involved with the diary I personally had no idea just how deep was the international fascination with Jack the Ripper. I accepted the job because the diary presented the kind of challenge that any investigative writer would give their eye teeth for.

I am delighted that I was chosen, largely, I am told, not only for my writing but on account of my reputation for fairness and an ability to stay calmly at the eye of the storm. And storms there have been!

14. What is your opinion of the turn of events with Barrett and his many confessions? What of his claims that certain parties have threatened him with physical violence in order to keep him quiet?

You ask my opinion of Michael Barrett's "confessions:"

Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey in their book "Jack the Ripper the First American Serial Killer" say that Michael Barrett has made a "sworn affidavit" that he wrote the diary. This, they imply, is the final proof that the diary is indeed a forgery.

Could they explain their perception of this "sworn affidavit?" Who was it made to, when and under what conditions? What was Michael Barrett's state of health at the time and what was the emotional pressure he was under? His "confession" was immediately rebutted by his lawyer on the grounds that "he was not in full possession of his faculties."

These authors have not met Mr. Barrett, nor, like most of our critics, have they seen the diary.

Perhaps Casebook readers should know that Mr. Barrett has also written to meon 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 memebr 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.

When Michael Barrett can tell us exactly HOW, when and why he forged the diary -- either by writing a new version or by answering a questionnaire on the crimes of Jack the Ripper and the life of James Maybrick and then by showing us exactly how he made the ink, I shall be more inclined to listen.

Incidentally, the diary ink is NOTDiamine Ltd, according to their former research chemist.

I would also appreciate an explanation of the alleged telephone calls which, you say, Mr. Barrett interpreted as "threats." What is the source of this claim, by whom and when were these made and what action did they threaten?

15. What of Barrett's wife Anne? Why has she decided to side with the diary instead of her husband?

Anne Barrett is now divorced from Michael and uses her maiden name, Graham. Before answering I need to understand the meaning behind your question -- "why has she decided to side with the diary and not her husband?" Her story does not conflict with his original and most consistent statement that the diary was given him by Tony Devereux.

16. Does it discourage you knowing that a large majority of Ripper experts have denounced the Maybrick Diary as a forgery?

Am I discouraged by the attacks on the diary? No. I would be happier to be the toast of the Ripper Club! But I am certainly not discouraged by the denunciation of Ripperologists. After over 100 yeras all the Ripper buffs in the world have failed to find a conclusive answer to the Whitechapel murders. Of course readers are intrigued by this document which, apart from the Aberconway papers, the Swanson marginalia and the Littlechild letter, is the most challenging and provocative material to have arisen outside police records, since 1888.

There is so much disagreement between the Ripperologists themselves -- not only about when the diary was written and by whom but also about the events in Whitechapel in 1888. It's hardly surprising that such an extraordinary document as the diary should have added fuel to a fire that was already smouldering. The intensity of the Ripperologists makes me all the more confident about the diary's status as a historic document.

This is my first experience in the Ripper world. I have been stunned by the jealousy and hostility the diary has provoked and the lengths that have been countenanced by a relatively small group of people seeking to prevent publication not only of my book but of other projects arising from it. This is an intolerable attempt to interfere with my right to express honestly held views. These onslaughts, often abusive, have been spearheaded by Melvin Harris whose own suspect, D'Onston Stephenson is largely ignored by Ripper writers. The most recent attack, couched in abrasive and increasingly fenetic terms appeared in Ripperologist and has just been reproduced in the Casebook.

In January 1996 I wrote to Melvin Harris following his constant attempted character assasination of all those connected to the diary, however loosely:

"The diary has generated its own momentum. It has not been kept alive by the publishers and myself but remains because so many knowledgeable people have been captivated and refused to let it die. It has revealed much new historical material, especially about the Maybricks. It has also been a catalyst for a great deal of good, providing opportunities for original research in a great variety of disciplines."

Over three years Mr Harris has consistently claimed to know the names of those who, he says, "forged" the diary. In the Evening Standard of December 8th 1994 and quoted in "The Jack the Ripper A-Z" he says: "the identities of the three people involved in the forgery will soon be made known."

Why, I wonder, with the knowledge to end all speculation, does he fail to unmask the "forgers", resorting to secondary investigations of the diary?

I challenge him to name these "forgers" so that the appropriate action may be taken.

If he cannot or will not, I suggest that there is no evidence to support his contention that the diary is a modern forgery and that Mr Harris's postulations are proof of nothing and are no more than expressions of his personal opinion.

Related pages:
  Shirley Harrison
       Authors: An Interview with Shirley Harrison 
       Dissertations: Dear Diary 
       Ripper Media: The Diary of Jack the Ripper 

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