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Acquiring A Victorian Diary

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  • It's extraordinary how many assertions are being made in this thread without the evidence being provided to support those assertions.

    The first and obvious one is that the floorboards on the first floor of Battlecrease were (a) only ever lifted once and (b) this was on 9 March 1992. But where is the actual evidence to support both these assertions?

    Secondly, it is asserted that Eddie Lyons was not employed by Portus & Rhodes in 1989. This is interesting because, before today, the last thing stated about that in this thread was a question: "When did Eddie start with P&R and when did he leave?" Now, today, we are told as a fact that he wasn't employed by them in 1989 but I've yet to see what date he started his employment or the evidence to support his employment period. Perhaps we are just supposed to accept everything we are told.

    Thirdly, it is stated that the only time the floorboards in Battlecrease were lifted while Eddie Lyons was in the employ of Portus & Rhodes was on 9 March 1992. But where is the evidence for when the floorboards were or were not lifted?

    Fourthly, we have been told that there is evidence that electricians discussed finding the diary amongst themselves in 1992. But what is it? When one asks what evidence is being referred to there is a lot of jibber jabber but no actual evidence provided.

    Fifthly, we were told that there were rumours that the diary was sold in a pub in Anfield for £20. Oh dear, that one seems to have fallen by the wayside. It wasn't true. A good example of why we cannot simply accept what people might be telling us from a possibly faulty memory.


    • I can't say I remember every word of the sketch but I don't recall Anne Elk being asked "why are you still here?", a question which I was asked in my thread by someone determined to hijack this thread with an endless stream of nonsense and a complete absence of evidence.


      • When I said of Eddie Lyons "it looks like he reverted to the truth in June 1993 and said he never found it", I was, of course, only referring to the issue of whether he found the diary. Whatever else he may have said to Robert Smith there was no claim by him, as far as we know, that he found a diary, let alone the diary of Jack the Ripper. If he lied about finding a book under the floorboards it might simply have been in order to give the impression to Smith that no-one had been lying to Feldman, only that there had been some confusion about what exactly had been uncovered. I don't know - but what I do know is that there is no evidence that Lyons was in Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 and that seems to be causing some problems for some people.


        • Those who claim the diary was a "hoax", written after Maybrick's death and placed under the floorboards in the hope that someone would find it one hundred years later, or whenever, so that they could have a good chuckle, have only had 25 years to come up with a half-plausible and coherent scenario as to who, with some knowledge of both Maybrick's life and the JTR murders, as well as access to Battlecrease, could possibly have done such a thing and why they would have done it. I'm still waiting to read such a scenario but until then such a thing has to be considered as literally beyond belief.


          • Here's a good example of the muddle and confusion at the heart of the Battlecrease provenance theory.

            On 30 October in this thread (#49) were were told this about Mike:

            "He is already denying this very real and potent connection between his diary and Battlecrease, long before anyone will make one, and continues to deny it for the rest of his life, so this requires a sensible explanation. He certainly isn't in the business of setting up a Battlecrease provenance for his diary, so we must look elsewhere.

            Here's one explanation I prepared earlier:

            Sometime in March 1992, a Battlecrease electrician approaches Mike in The Saddle: "Here you are, pal. Do something with it, but you didn't gerrit from me, right?"

            "Sometime in March 1992" is rather strange wording considering that such a conversation can ONLY have taken place on 9 March 1992 (if the diary didnít come out of the floorboards until that day and bearing in mind that Mike called Doreen that day too). But how is this in any way consistent with a supposed period of protracted negotiation over price that we are also told occurred and which was supposedly only resolved on or after 26 March once Mike discovered that the price for a Victorian diary was £25?

            Or did the electrician simply give the diary to Mike for free and then only ask to be paid a few weeks later once Mike had worked out what the value was? A rather odd way of going about business I would have thought.

            It is to be noted at this point that the attraction of the above "sensible explanation" for the Diary Defender is that everything happened just like Mike said it did with Tony Devereux only that, instead of Tony, one has to substitute Eddie - and bob's your uncle, it all fits. We have even been told that young Caroline got confused and genuinely thought that Mike's conversations about the diary were with Tony, not Eddie (even though, as I have quoted previously, Caroline made perfectly clear in her account that her father was discussing the diary with Tony Devereux, not anyone else).

            But none of this matters because, despite the above supposedly being the "sensible explanation" for how the diary was transferred to Mike, we actually had a different theory set out within ten posts! Thus we were told by the same person in #56:

            "If Mike was only shown the old book - signed Jack the Ripper, followed by blank pages - briefly on March 9th, and asked if he might be able to 'fence' it, he would have been left with little idea, when first speaking to Doreen, of what he would actually be flogging. Might that begin to make some sense of his equally impetuous telephone enquiry, made around the same time, for a real Victorian diary with blank pages, to give him some idea while he waited to see the old book again and hopefully to buy it cheaply for himself? If the diary only changed hands after Doreen's positive reaction, it would also explain why Mike had delayed setting a date to bring it to London."

            So the "sensible explanation" of Mike being given the diary in a pub and told to do something with it is suddenly not so sensible (and is abandoned) and Mike was only able to glimpse the book on 9th March before he made the telephone call to Doreen!

            Far from being told to "do something with it" and forget who gave it to him he is now being asked to fence it on behalf of that same person.

            The dizzying changes to the story are enough to make one's head spin.


            • James Johnston posted fleetingly in this thread on Saturday 25 November in a post whose central thesis was that in order to establish "the truth of the provenance of the Diary" one has to "go out and establish some discourse" with those "actually involved". If one doesnít do that, he preaches to us, oneís conclusions will be "rather ineffectual".

              But what does James mean by those who were "actually involved"? Involved in what?

              James lists 9 people he has spoken to in his research. Six of these were electricians who worked at Battlecrease (or in one case the brother of an electrician). Another was a man who spoke to one of the electricians. Another was the owner of Battlecrease who employed the electricians. The last of them was a police officer who interviewed the electricians.

              Do I detect a pattern emerging here? For it seems that in his choice of interviewees, James had already decided where the truth could be found and who was "actually involved". Sure the electricians were certainly involved in some electrical work but how do we know that they were involved in anything to do with the diary?

              James tries to convince us that he was not initially "predisposed to conclude that the diary had come from Battlecrease" and he tells us that the purpose of his essay is to "present clearly the facts, testimonies and sequencing of events which have been put forward to explain how the journal came into the possession of [Mike Barrett]" but the way he words his essay seems to contradict such pious statements.

              In the first place, he completely ignores the story put forward by Anne Graham that the diary had been in her family for decades. The story that Mike obtained the diary from Devereux is dismissed on the basis of his daughters saying that Tony would not have given such an important item to Mike. On the basis of this alone, James feels able to conclude that Mike did not receive the diary from Devereux and, he says, "So, if not from the hands of Tony Devereux, from whom might Michael Barrett have obtained the Diary?".

              Not so fast, one is tempted to say. If Anne gave Tony the diary in order for him to give to Mike then the belief of Tony's daughters that their father would have given them the diary is totally irrelevant. There really would have been no reason for Tony to have mentioned anything to do with the diary to his daughters, if Anneís story was true. But James, who is supposed to be open minded, doesnít give her story any consideration at all.

              Secondly, James uses expressions in his essay such as "It is thought that [the journal was concealed in a biscuit tin/removed from Battlecrease by the electricians]" and "It is understood that [the diary quickly came into Mike Barrettís possession]". None of these statements are questioned or challenged in any way by James and are based on a very dubious reading of the evidence (as I have already challenged him). It is no wonder that he forms the conclusion that the diary came from Battlecrease when this is the very premise of his essay. In truth, James used these apparently objective expressions to tell us what HE thinks about the provenance of the diary.

              Additionally, James tells us that it is "probable" that Barrett was contacted by the electricians due to his (Barrett's) journalistic experience although, oddly, he provides no quotes from any of the electricians he has spoken to that they were aware of this experience or even that they knew who Mike Barrett was in 1992.

              We are also told that Barrett returned with the diary to his home on Goldie Street having acquired it on 9 March 1992. This is stated as fact during the essay even though there is no evidence of it at all and it is no wonder that James reaches the conclusion he does given the way he writes his essay.

              The dangers and limitations of relying on interviews to establish "the truth" are evident from Jamesí response to my post last Saturday. Despite his essay containing a number of clear statements by Paul Dodd about his memory relating to extensive work done by Portus and Rhodes electricians in Battlecrease between 1989 and 1991, this all apparently turns out to be the result of false memories (and James was surprisingly quick to accept this based on an assumption that Colin Rhodes has released all of the timesheets relating to Battlecrease).

              But more problematic for James is that he doesnít seem to have found an electrician who will admit to having discovered the diary. James Coupofolous, he tells us, denies finding it. Eddie Lyons denies finding it. There wasnít, unfortunately, space in Jamesí published essay to include their denials, or even refer to them (other than a reference to a claim by Eddie that he told Feldman back in the 1990s that he fervently denied finding the diary, which is a different point). Itís not a great advertisement for Jamesí research technique in that, if he is right, at least one of his subjects was looking him in the eye and lying through his teeth to him. James told me that he is not surprised that Eddie denied finding the diary but then again nor am I. Itís exactly what I would expect him to say if the diary was a modern forgery.

              What about the other electricians? How did James fare in his interviews with them?

              Well Arthur Rigbyís brother (who spoke to Arthur on Jamesí behalf) said that Arthur did not find the diary and he didnít see anyone finding it.

              Brian Rawes didnít find it nor did he see anyone finding it. What he did was pass on was some speculation and a rumour. Eddie, he said, "must have found it". There was a "rumour" that he had it, apparently. As far as it is possible to tell, this all comes from something that Eddie said to Brian on Friday 17 July 1992, long after the diary is supposed to have been found in Battlecrease. For, on this occasion, according to Jamesí interview with him, Rawes claims to remember Eddie telling him that he had found "this book" under the floorboards and he didnít know what to do with it. Now, if Eddie had found the Jack the Ripper diary under the floorboards more than four months prior to this, it is a very strange conversation for him to be having with Brian. Surely by this time the diary had been sold to Mike Barrett who had already taken it to London and signed a collaboration agreement with Shirley Harrison. Indeed, by this stage the diary had already been examined by Dr David Baxendale. We may also note that in this version of the story, Eddie doesnít appear to mention to Brian that the "book" he had found was a diary, let alone that it was the diary of Jack the Ripper.

              However, James also refers to a statement made by Brian Rawes to the police (in October 1993) in which Eddie told him, not that he had found "this book" under the floorboards but that he had found "a diary under the floorboards" which he thought was important (although, four months after having found it, he doesnít say it was the diary of Jack the Ripper). Again Eddie is said to have added that he didnít know what to do with it and Rawes said he gained the impression that Eddie had recently found it even though it must have been months prior to this if the timesheet evidence is correct.

              But there is a third version of this story in which, according to Rawes (in a taped interview with Robert Smith in 1997), Eddie said to him "Iíve found something under the floorboards, and I donít know what to do about it. It could be important".

              So what was it? Did Eddie tell Rawes he had found a book? A diary? Or just "something"?

              One thing is clear. The conversation, whatever it was, occurred on 17th July 1992. And the first time that Rawes is asked to apply his mind to what was said, and relate the conversation to a third party, was in 1993, after Feldman had begun his investigation. Think about it. The big film producer comes from London convinced that an electrician found the diary under the floorboards and sold it to Mike Barrett. His questions are all directed to this conclusion. The electricians probably chatted amongst themselves, discussing which of them had found this amazing and valuable diary and when. Is it possible that Rawes had pieced together fragments of memories after having been told (by Feldman) that one of them had found a diary and convinced himself that what Eddie had said to him in July about finding something must have been the diary? I would say: yes it is. For Rawes used that very expression when he said that Eddie "must have found itÖunder the floorboards." That is reconstruction and speculation not recollection.

              One wonders why, if Eddie had stolen it and by this time sold it on to Mike Barrett, he would feel the need to blab about this theft to Brian in July 1992?

              So how does James deal with the problem that the conversation about the discovery of the diary is said to have occurred in July 1992 long after it was supposed to have been found in March 1992. By ignoring it basically. Just like Robert Smith.

              What about the conversation between Dodgson and Davies at the APS shop in Bootle? Well once we move the timeline of this conversation a full year and a month from the end of 1991 (when James said it occurred in his essay Ė another error caused by faulty memory in interviews) to a few months after November 1992 (when James now tells us it occurred, although the evidence that the APS shop opened in November 1992 has not been produced) we start to see the possibility that what Davies supposedly said might well have been influenced by Feldmanís investigation. For, in the story, Davies does a very odd thing in offering to sell a diary that he not only did not own and which was not in his possession but one which he appears not to have discussed with anyone for at least seven months (because he didnít know it had been sold in April) and, if the conversation took place in early 1993, possibly for as much as a whole year. No-one appears to have asked him to flog the diary to Alan Dodgson or Tim Martin-Wright, he just did it off his own bat apparently. In the conversation with Dodgson it is not mentioned that a diary of Jack the Ripper has been found, only that a leather bound diary was found in a biscuit tin along with a gold ring.

              And here we have a crucial problem with Daviesí story. Why did he think the diary had been found in a biscuit tin with a gold ring? Well, this is very interesting. According to James, interviewing Davies in February 2016, Davies said that Brian Rawes "or someone" had told him this. Now Brian Rawes has denied ever knowing or saying any such thing. As we have seen, all Rawes ever knew was that Eddie had found a book or a diary or something under the floorboards because this is what Eddie is supposed to have told him. He never even believed it was "leather bound" and he knew nothing about a ring or a biscuit tin. So where did Davies get the notion about the gold ring and the biscuit tin into his head? Well we donít know and for all James Johnstonís interviews he doesnít seem to have found a single other electrician who told Davies this yarn. Itís just come from nowhere by someone who did not witness anything being found in Battlecrease.

              Even worse, during his interview with Davies, James Johnston appears to have asked him if he remembers a gold watch being in the tin Ė the tin which, remember, he had never seen - and Davies was happy to go along with it, saying (not very confidently) "Yeah I remember a gold watch I think". Of course he does, the idea has now been put into his head in 2016 despite him apparently never having mentioned it before when questioned by Shirley Harrison and/or Robert Smith in 1997. It certainly doesnít feature in the account of Daviesí conversation with Dodgson as related by Smith and Harrison. For all we know, had Davies been asked if Tutankhamunís treasure was found in the biscuit tin he might suddenly have remembered that being in there too!

              And thatís basically it. James interviewed Graham Rhodes apparently but he doesnít seem to have said anything worth quoting in the essay. Detective Sergeant Thomas is also spoken to and said that he found "no indication" that any of the electricians had ever had any conversation with Barrett in the Saddle. A huge failure for the theory that Mike and Eddie were great drinking mates!

              As for that notion of Mike and Eddie being drinking mates, James produces as Exhibit A an article which he says was published in the Times in April 1993 in which it was stated:

              ďtwo [electricians] went drinking in the Saddle, where they might have talked about their work in the house famous for its murderĒ.

              Well we can safely ignore what the writer of this sentence thought the electricians "might" have done. But is it true that the Times established in April 1993 that two electricians went drinking in the Saddle?

              From a search of the Times, I have been unable to find any such article but it is curious that in a book published by the Sunday Times journalist Maurice Chittendon in 2017 we find this remarkably familiar statement about the electricians:

              "To a man they denied finding anything under the floorboards, but two said they went drinking in the Saddle, where they might have talked about their work in a house famous for its murderous history".

              Now, either Maurice Chittendon was plagiarising from the Times in his 2017 book or James Johnston has got himself very confused as to the source of a quote.

              Going back to DS Thomas. What else did he tell James? Well, unhelpfully for the Battlecrease provenance, he said that Rigby and Bowling were "adamant nothing was found". A mother of a young apprentice told him that her son had "nothing to do with it".

              As a result of all this lack of evidence, James Johnston somehow feels able to conclude on the basis of the "circumstantial evidence" and on the "first hand accounts of those directly involved" (even though no-one he spoke to told him that they were directly involved in finding a single thing in Battlecrease) that the journal was discovered and removed from Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 by one or more of the electricians. The problem is that it is not explained exactly how or why he comes to this conclusion. Not unless it is on the basis of a single timesheet, which, if that is the case, doesnít say very much for his thesis about the importance of getting up to Liverpool and speaking to those "directly involved".

              Famously James stated in his Casebook post that "the truth of the Diaryís provenance is not to be found on Casebook". But how does he know? What if we have already found it? What if the truth is revealed by Mikeís acquisition of a Victorian diary with 20 blank pages? It would mean that we can forget about the electricians because they had nothing to do with it and were not "directly involved" in anything other than some electrical work in Battlecrease.

              James has admitted that he is unable to satisfactorily explain Mikeís hunt for that Victorian diary. So what if he has been looking in the wrong place? If the electricians were not involved then it seems to me that the only purpose in speaking to them would be to challenge their version of events and effectively call them liars, not something most people would take very kindly to. Mind you, this would only really involve speaking to Colin Rawes and Alan Davies because they are the only electricians, as far as I can see, who have ever really provided any kind of account of something being found in Battlecrease, although it will be noted that their stories do not tally. Alan Rigby provided some weak support to something being thrown in a skip and something being taken to Liverpool University but in each case he couldnít say what it was and other peopleís speculation has filled in the gaps. Rigbyís priority seems to have been to help the big film producer from London to back up his hunch about the diaryís provenance and, in doing, so he was using hindsight to assist. Thus he said to Feldman "With everything that I've heard since about the diary and considering the trip to Liverpool University, I think I've solved your problem." Thatís not recollection. Itís not evidence.

              Iím not saying that interviews are useless. But perhaps someone might want to spend their time interviewing the now grown up Caroline Barrett. Perhaps she holds the key.


              • As a postscript to the above I should note that James Johnston told me in this thread:

                "It was Edward Lyons who remembered working with Arthur Rigby & James Coufopoulos at Battlecrease when lifting floorboards for storage heaters. "

                I must say that it’s baffling if Eddie Lyons really did describe working and lifting floorboards with James Coupofolous and Arthur Rigby in Battlecrease why this important information wasn’t included in James’ essay. At the time of publication he had seen the 9 March 1992 timesheet so why is he only revealing this in a post in response to a question from me?

                He certainly has not responded to my request for the full quote of what Eddie said to be posted.

                It should be obvious in the interests of transparency and an orderly debate that the full transcripts of interviews with the electricians should be published so that we can see exactly what they were asked and exactly what they said or did not say.


                • Those following this thread will know that some people have been struck by the "coincidence" of Martin Earl requesting three JTR books in the same advert that he requested a Victorian diary for Mike Barrett.

                  In response I said there really is nothing unusual in this because such requests can be found all over the place.

                  I'm now going to make good this assertion in a series of posts.

                  Here, as a starter, is an extract from an advert in Bookdealer of 5 March 1992, by a dealer from Gloucester, two weeks before the issue containing the advert for the Victorian Diary.

                  None of these books are actually JTR books but we have Acland's biography of Gull followed by Robert Anderson's Lighter Side, followed by MacNaghten's Days of My Years followed by a book about East London followed by a book about the curse on Mitre Square. So no prizes for guessing what topic someone is interested in here...
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                  • Next we have an advert in the issue of Bookdealer from 12 March 1992, by a Cardiff bookdealer, a mere two days after the diary is supposed to have been extracted from the floorboards of Battlecrease.

                    Look close enough and you can not only see books on Jack the Ripper by Melvin Harris, William Stewart and Peter Underwood but also a book about the Maybrick case.

                    An extraordinary coincidence? A significant development? Of course not. As you can see, there are plenty other true crime books in that list (and there are more on the previous page).

                    Nothing remarkable at all.
                    Attached Files


                    • Same dealer, same issue, a little bit further on in the list:
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                      • This is also from the issue of Bookdealer of 12 March 1992.

                        Not just Odell's book wanted but all Jack the Ripper books.
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                        • What about in the issue of Bookdealer of 19 March 1992 itself? Any more ads for Ripper books? Yes, here's one:
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                          • And here's another:
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                            • What about Martin Earl? Did he advertise for JTR books at any other time?

                              Well here's one of his adverts from the May 1991 issue of Bookdealer with another triple JTR request: Raper, Jones & Lloyd and Rumbelow. So March 1992 was by no means the first time he had been on the hunt for Ripper books.
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                              • It seems that Earl's 19 March 1992 advert for those 3 Ripper books was unsuccessful because he was asking for them again in the 16 April 1992 issue of Bookdealer:
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