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The Maybrick Will -- The Crucial Key to a Shabby Hoax
Melvin Harris

I first saw the 'Maybrick Diary' long after 'the experts and advisors' had had their say. But before seeing it I made three predictions; it would be written in a simple iron-gall ink, which could not be dated; it would be written in an old journal with its front pages torn out; the handwriting would not match the known handwriting of James Maybrick. With time all three forecasts proved correct, but when first shown this document I was assured by Paul Feldman that no significant examples of Maybrick's handwriting existed. There was just one signature on his marriage lines, but nothing else:--"We have checked."

But dogmatic claims mean nothing, so I made my own checks; these brought to light James Maybrick's Will. It became evident at once that there was no possible connection between the scrawl in the 'Diary' and the authentic and distinctive penmanship of Maybrick. Document examiners here and in the USA agreed. So how did 'the true believers' keep up the pretence?

Robert Smith, for one, first simply brushed the Will to one side as of no importance. In his dealings with 'The Sunday Times' this Will was not even mentioned, indeed the newspaper knew nothing of it until their Legal Department consulted me. By that time Andy Aliffe had uncovered the Certified Copy of the Will, which confirmed James Maybrick's text in every small detail. But when faced with the Will, Smith then insisted that it was a forgery and differed from the 'original Will seen by Alexander MacDougall and included in his book of 1891.' This line was endorsed by Shirley Harrison and Paul Feldman, despite the fact that I'd demonstrated that MacDougall's text was nothing but a grossly faulty transcript. Later searches proved that the source of that text was just a newspaper report!... For all fair-minded thinkers, here now, is the evidence that proves the authenticity of the Maybrick Will and shows the worthlessness of all attempts made to denigrate it.

PREMISE: That the MacDougall 'Will' is a corrupt version of a newspaper text and no more; that his text is distinguished by typographical features found only in that newspaper setting; that a second Will taken to Grant stage is an impossibility.

1. On April 25 1889 James Maybrick wrote out a Will which was witnessed by George Davidson and George Smith. He was in good health at that time and in his office; Paul Feldman's claim that he was at home and ill in bed, is false and is contradicted by the Trial evidence. Now, no executors were named in that Will, so on his death it could not be dealt with by straightforward Probate. Under the Acts in force at that date the settlement of Wills fell into these four main categories:--

A. Probate, proper.
B. Letters of Administration with the Will anexed.
C. Letters of Administration, pure and simple.
D. Administration de bonis non.

Since the two brothers, Thomas and Michael, were named in the Will as trustees, they applied for a Grant of Administration under category B. This would give them the powers of Universal Legatees in Trust, but it also saddled them with long-term and unwanted, responsibilities. So it was the type of Will that made things awkward for them. It would have suited them far better to have a straightforward Will, naming executors, but they had to cope with the only Will that existed, and that was that!

On 29th July 1889 that Will of April was endorsed on the back with the details of the Grant of Administration. Thus the two-page Will (one large sheet folded) carried two distinct documents written at different dates. It also carried the official embossed stamp of the High Court; it carried the signature (in red ink) of the District Registrar T.E. Paget and his endorsement which stated:--"Affidavit of Search filed"; in other words, no document in conflict with the Will had been discovered or was known about.

2. When the Grant of Administration was made, a Certified Copy of this two-page Will was made as well, and its text included the details of the Grant as shown on the rear of the original. This copy was faithful to the Nth degree since it included all the ampersands and idiosyncracies present in the holograph copy. It was stamped by the Registry on its embossing machine; it was further stamped twice with the personal handstamp of Registrar Paget and then initialed by him. So, Paget was in effect saying 'This is the exact wording of the holograph Will of James Maybrick signed on 25th April, 1889, as examined by me and passed by me, without challenge, on the 29th of July 1889': REMEMBER THIS THROUGHOUT.

3. On July 30 1889, the day after the Grant of Administration, both the 'Liverpool Mercury' and the 'Liverpool Post' printed a verbatim account of the text of the Will that went to Grant on the previous day. Its text differs visually simply because it was read out. In short, the reporter taking it down employed his own regular, standard method of punctuating. Hence the absence of the ampersands freely used by Maybrick and the capitalisation differences etc. BUT the text of the newspaper reports (apart from one word -- an obvious error and of no importance) agree exactly with the text of the Will at Somerset House and its attendant Certified Copy. At this point we are entitled to write: QED. And that should be the end of it.

4. But we have entrenched interests to cope with, so we have to waste time dealing with MacDougall's blunders. First it can be shown that MacDougall was innacurate, inconsistent and neglectful when writing his books. Having absorbed that, now register the fact that MacDougall was not involved in any way with the Maybrick case until AFTER the verdict was pronounced. That involvement only dates from August 8th 1889, when he called for a public meeting to set up a committee of protest: a meeting that took place at the Cannon Street Hotel on August 13. So, at the earliest, his active interest began ELEVEN DAYS AFTER THE WILL HAD BEEN PASSED AND ITS TEXT RELEASED TO THE NEWSPAPERS.

5. Now start from the unchallengeable fact that the clerk making the Certified Copy supplied a text that agrees in every way with the holograph Will. Next accept that the newspaper text is based on the holograph Will and that it contains all the so-called 'missing words' that Feldman, Smith, and Harrison have been talking about. It is also the sole source for some few extraneous words about the 'Affidavit of due exeution.' Now ask: where does MacDougall's text with its missing words come from?

His book text is based on this newspaper text and nothing else. His text even repeats the one spelling error found in the newspaper, i.e. the word 'what' in line 4; it should read 'whatever'. It also picks up the 'Affidavit' words which can be found nowhere else. But all the manifold errors are his, or an assistant's; they do not represent the text of any Will that ever existed, or, indeed, ever could have existed, as I will prove. Indeed in his 'NOTICE TO THE READER' MacDougall actually states that his text is based on newspaper reports. His own Notes are always shown in italics and initialed. The newspaper extracts are in ordinary type, as is his Will section on pages 203-204 (1891).

6. The fact that MacDougall saw the Will at a later date is significant only in the sense that it makes his neglect even more serious. He never at any time bothered to check the text of the Will he saw, with his corrupt text. If he had done so he could not have avoided noticing all the missing words, both in the text of 25 April 1889 and in the later text written on 29th July 1889. For in his book there are ELEVEN WORDS MISSING from the solicitors' document written on 29th July. But those 11 words were present on the Will when read out to the reporters in July. It is an affront to logic to imagine that words written on this document by solicitors and known to be present on 29 July 1889, and recorded as such by a journalist, suddenly went missing.

7. We now have to pose two questions; questions avoided by all those who have misused the MacDougall text.

QUESTION A. They pretend that MacDougall saw a Will differing from the extant one. Since the text of the extant Will was vouched for on July 29th 1889, their plea means that there had to be TWO versions of this Will in open, side-by-side, existence in 1889. BUT MACDOUGALL DOESN'T SAY THIS AT ANY TIME, and he is the sort of man who would have jumped at the chance to make capital out of such a discovery. Neither does anyone else, around at that time, whether pro or anti Florence, mention such a fantastic anomaly. It is Paul Feldman alone, who is responsible for this fiction.

QUESTION B. The MacDougall text shows the solicitors' section of July 29th 1889 as integral with the Maybrick section of April 25 1889. And this is, of course, how it should be and how it is on the Somerset House holograph and its Certified Copy. How is it possible then, logically and legally, for two different wills disposing of exactly the same property, to have been passed for Grant on the same day, to the same Universal Legatees in Trust and with each of these differing Wills endorsed by solicitors Layton, Steel, and Springman as the very one passed?

Expand this to consider these details:--that the two brothers had to be sworn first, before the Grant could be made; that they had to swear an Affidavit of entitlement and intent; that they had to swear an Inland Revenue Affidavit and put up a Bond to double the value of the estate and pay all the fees for these services. How in all logic could they do this twice over, as the fairy tale about the two Wills demands? I repeat: how could the Registrar, the Commissioner for Oaths, and the Solicitors take part in such a meaningless and illegal farce? Just a moment's thoughts will reveal that it is legally impossible for such a series of events to have happened.

8. Which brings us to Paul Feldman's latest twist, his malarky that the 'original Will had an Affidavit of Due Execution attached to it.' If I describe this as childish invention, take it that I'm being polite! This looks like a desire to be right at any cost and involves a deliberate abuse of a snippet of information first found in the newspaper reports of 30 July 1889. The clerk reading out the Will did no more than provide the reporters with the name of the official supervising the Grant when he said:--"Affidavit of due execution filed T.E. Paget, District Registrar." As reported, this is not punctuated properly, thus it is not separated from the Granting statement, as it should be. That statement begins: "At Liverpool on the 29th July..." This can be confirmed by looking at the holograph and its copy. Even so, it is inexcusable to distort the meaning of these words, which in fact negate the very idea that the Will had anything attached to it. They state specifically that the Affidavit was FILED. Just so; all the Affidavits involved with this Will, together with the Bond, were filed in the Registry. This was standard practice and a legal requirement.

In brief, everything on public record does no more than allude to the standard filing procedures and confirms that the Will never had any other papers attached to it, since no such attachments were ever needed.

Feldman's conclusion, then, that "the Will that is currently at Somerset House cannot be the same document that was put forward for probate on July 29th 1889", can be shown to be nothing but bluster and folly.

Now that the facts are in front of you I ask you to consider the following questions. Are you really prepared to reject all the evidence now in your hands? Will you discard the evidence provided by the Registrar and recorded by the press at the time, in favour of the weird ideas used to rubbish this Will? Remember, Registrar Paget was in charge at the time; he authorised the Grant to the brothers on the very paper that I have seen, thus proving there was no Will in conflict; his verdict was never challenged; and the Will saw through to Grant stage is there at Somerset House, for anyone to examine and recognise as a perfectly sound legal document. And it was this document, and none other, that was further endorsed on the back in 1893.

It is a key document which on its own proves the 'Maybrick Diary' to be a crude forgery. It cannot be wished away. And no amount of money or verbal savaging can ever destroy its damning testimony.

Appendix Illustrations

Maybrick Will (Original)



Page 1


Page 2


Maybrick Will (Certified Copy)




Newspaper Reproductions (With Notes)



Readers should note that the versions of the Maybrick will printed in, THIS FRIENDLESS LADY by Nigel Moreland, and THE POISENED LIFE OF FLORENCE MAYBRICK by Bernard Ryan are both unfortuatley based on the false text found in Macdougalls book. And the version included in Shirley Harrisons book is inaccurare and has words missing. Furthermore Shirley Harrisons claim that in Dec 1888 Maybrick had torn up his will and written a new one is patently false, and is clealy contridicted by Florence Maybricks letter to her mother dated 31st Dec 1888.