Jack The Ripper – The Diary of James Maybrick

Posted by By Jenny Phillips, Jack the Ripper Tour Guide on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 Under: Jack the Ripper

Jack The Ripper – The Diary of James Maybrick

This is a convoluted theory which I first became aware of in t1993 when I went to a book launch at the Alma Pub in Spellman Street,  just off of Hanbury Street where Annie Chapman was murdered.


The book told the story of James Maybrick, a cotton broker from Liverpool who lived in Battlecrease House with his American wife Fanny. The couple had met on a voyage from Britain to America. James was wealthy but a lot older than Fanny. They married and eventually settled down to live in Battlecrease House.


However, all was not well as James was addicted to arsenic which he called his powders, a man continually in fear for his health. I must state here that everyone believes that arsenic will kill you straight away but if it is taken in small doses it will not, but it will mount up in the body as it cannot be expelled and eventually it will amount to a fatal dose. This is what apparently happen to James Maybrick in 1889.


Unfortunately for Fanny, being an American she was not popular with the staff at Battlecrease House and after James died they informed the authorities of their suspicions (most likely unfounded) that Fanny had poisoned James. His body was duly exhumed and a post-mortem carried out and when they found traces of arsenic and other drugs Fanny was charged with his murder. She was the first American woman to be tried and convicted (on the flimsiest of evidence) and sentenced to hang, but her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment 25 years by Queen Victoria. When she was released she returned to live in the backwoods in America, a solitary existence for the remainder of her life.


But was James Maybrick, as he claims in the diary Jack the Ripper? Did he take a deliberate overdose as he was in fear of being exposed as the Ripper?


When the book first came out like all Ripper theories it caused no end of a stir and many of us really thought that the Ripper had been revealed at last. But doubts crept in as Michael Barret, the man in possession of this diary kept changing his story about how he came to have it. His original story was that a friend had given it to him in a pub after discovering it in the attic of Battlecrease House, when working there as an electrician. Later his wife claimed that it had been in her family for years and then Michael claimed that she had written it in a Victorian scrapbook and ripped out the used pages (there were a number missing) leaving a genuine Victorian empty scrapbook on which to write a diary. At one stage Michael went into his solicitors and refuted his story on oath.


 A book about the murder of James Maybrick was available in any library “The Life and Times of Fanny Maybrick”, and the date he died not long after the murders could have inspired a book like the diary to be written.


The most interesting thing about this theory happened in 1993 to my mind when Albert Johnson a semi-retired security officer, on reading about the diary and suspicions about James Maybrick being Jack the Ripper, came forward to show a watch that he had bought from a jewellers, in Wallasey Cheshire. The jeweller had apparently had it in his shop for five years before he sold it. Inside the case was scratched the name James Maybrick (similar to his signature on his wedding photo) and the initials of five of the victims of Jack the Ripper: MN (Mary Nichols; Polly), AC (Annie Chapman), ES (Elizabeth Stride), CE (Catherine Eddowes), and MK (Mary Kelly). The problem is that even after examination by experts they cannot say for certain that the scratches date back to the Victorian era or if they have been added at a much later date, so the mystery goes on I am afraid to say.

In : Jack the Ripper 

Tags: whitechapel  1888  murder mystery  serial killer 
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