Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer who stalked the smoggy streets of Victorian London and disemboweled young women, continues to fascinate for some bizarre reason. Maybe it’s morbid curiosity, or maybe it’s the mystery of the murderer's identity.
The latest claim (in a long history of claims) says the murderer's identity is revealed in a Victorian diary supposedly written by a wealthy cotton merchant from Liverpool called James Maybrick. As the Telegraph reports, the diary's author confesses to the bloody murders of five women in the East End of London and another woman in Manchester.
However, since the diary was found, doubts have remained about whether this is the real deal or not. The man who originally acquired the diary in the 1990s, Mike Barrett, said he obtained it from a family friend who died shortly thereafter. This meant it was impossible to find out where he had got it and led most people to think it was an extravagant get-rich-quick scheme.
Robert Smith has now written a book, 25 Years of The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The True Facts, claiming the dairy is legitimate.
According to his new evidence, the book was found in 1992 by three electricians working at a grand house where James Maybrick lived. Now, here’s where it gets a bit vague. Documents show the electricians were at Maybrick’s old house the same day Barrett phoned up a London literary agent to say “I've got Jack the Ripper's diary.” All of these men were also known to go to the pub together.
"Barrett was a colourful local character who was always boasting about being an author, so when the electricians at the house found this book, they believed he was the man who would be able to help them sell it to a publisher,” Smith told the Telegraph
"The truth was that Barrett's only significant literary achievement was to write occasional puzzles for the weekly TV children's magazine… He was not very literate and the idea that he would have been capable of producing such a sophisticated and credible forgery is not remotely plausible."
So case closed? It was the cotton merchant James Maybrick after all? No doubt the theory brings some interesting evidence to the table, but Jack the Ripper theories are ten-a-penny. Over the past century, there have been dozens of potential suspects, from esteemed surgeons and scientists to penniless artists. Chances are this cold case will continue to be a mystery. Then again, that’s half of the story’s wide appeal.