Has Jack the Ripper been found? Publisher claims new link between diary and suspect in infamous murders

Jack the Ripper researchers say they have found a new link between a Victorian diary unearthed 25 years ago and the British cotton merchant believed to have written it.

The diary, which is believed by some to have been written by James Maybrick, was initially made public in 1992 and published the following year by Robert Smith and author Shirley Harrison. In the decades since the publication, the community of Jack the Ripper scholars, known as "Ripperologists," has been divided on the authenticity of the memoirs.

The Telegraph reports that Smith claims in a new book that researchers have proven the diary was discovered in 1992 in the Liverpool home where Maybrick lived with his wife during the time frame more than a century earlier in which Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London.

"I have never been in any doubt that the diary is a genuine document written in 1888 and 1889," Smith said, according to the Telegraph. "The new and indisputable evidence that, on 9th March 1992, the diary was removed from under the floorboards of the room that had been James Maybrick's bedroom in 1889, and offered later on the very same day to a London literary agent, overrides any other considerations regarding its authenticity."

Details of a letter written by an individual calling himself Jack the Ripper are pictured during a press preview for the exhibition "Jack the Ripper and the East End" at the Museum in Docklands, London, Wednesday, May 14, 2008. The serial killer, who allegedly murdered at least five women in 1888 in London's East End, has never been identified.
Caption
Details of a letter written by an individual calling himself Jack the Ripper are pictured during a press preview for the exhibition "Jack the Ripper and the East End" at the Museum in Docklands, London, Wednesday, May 14, 2008. The serial killer, who allegedly murdered at least five women in 1888 in London's East End, has never been identified.

Credit: AP Photo/Akira Suemori

Credit: AP Photo/Akira Suemori

Smith said that the new evidence should elevate Maybrick to the status of prime suspect in the brutal murders. Maybrick died in 1889 of what was believed to be arsenic poisoning.

His wife, Florence Maybrick, was later convicted of his murder.

Maybrick had not surfaced as a Jack the Ripper suspect prior to the discovery of the diary, in which the writer confesses to the murders and identifies himself as the Ripper. Though the writer never uses his real name in the document, references within the writings led proponents of its authenticity to believe Maybrick was the author.

The diary was first brought to the spotlight by a scrap metal dealer named Mike Barrett, who claimed that he was given the diary by a family friend, the Telegraph said. That family friend died a short time afterward, so the diary's true origins could not be proven.

Barrett also signed a sworn affidavit in 1995 claiming that he'd written the diary himself, the Telegraph reported. He later retracted that statement.

Smith said that records show that workers with an electrical contractor were working in 1992 at Battlecrease House, the onetime home of Maybrick and his wife. They were working there on the day that Barrett, who reportedly knew one of the workmen, called a London literary agent claiming that he had Jack the Ripper’s diary.

The workmen have all denied being involved in the discovery of the diary, the Telegraph reported. Smith said he believes Barrett and the workmen hid where the book was found out of fear they would be prosecuted.

Jack the Ripper was the name given to a serial killer who killed and mutilated at least five women in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name comes from a letter written by someone claiming to be the killer, who was never identified by police.

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Some Ripper scholars believe that the killer was responsible for far more than the five victims killed in 1888. In the nearly 130 years since the killing spree, more than 100 people have been named as potential Jack the Ripper suspects.

Those suspects include everyone from Prince Albert Victor to author Lewis Carroll. Most of the proposed suspects have not been taken seriously by Jack the Ripper scholars.