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THE MAYBRICK HOAX: A FACT-FILE FOR THE PERPLEXED
Melvin Harris 4/97

Paul Daniel has forecast that the revised Mabrick case uses a "staggering amount of researched evidence". But he bases this claim on just one encounter of just four hours; an event that was blurred, confused and exhausting. Such kaleidoscopic impressions can never be the basis for serious thought. Four hours are not enough to digest such a mass of material, especially when accompanied by frequent and fervent verbal advocacy. And remember that Paul Daniel had no one with him able to scrutinise, to act as a neutral observer, and advise caution. Experience teaches us that all previous Diary 'positive research' has been suspect, flawed, even worthless. In Daniel's case, I forecast that his euphoria will evaporate-in due time.

But for the perplexed, whose minds are free from blurring, I offer some facts not made known to Paul Daniel and many others. These are facts that rest on unimpeachable documentation that you can all study at leisure and free of pressure. They are facts not being given to you by anyone who has a commercial interest in promoting the Diary. And they are timely, since a great deal of the material touching on this Maybrick hoax is quite muddied, incomplete and innacurate. Let us start with; Part One:-

THE DIARY INK

The first tests on the ink of the forged Diary were made by Dr David Baxendale. His visual examination showed no signs of age-bronzing of the ink, and with a century-old iron-based ink some should have been evident. Indeed bronzing of iron-gall inks can take place at a very fast rate; among my collection of such samples are pieces less than eight years old that are bronzed in part, or in full.

Another of his tests disclosed the presence of the synthetic dye Nigrosine; while a solubility test, using a 50-50 mixture of distilled water and Pyridine, caused the ink samples to yield up colour while he watched. In short the ink dissolved at the fast rate one would find in a newish ink.

Begining in late August 1992, new and more complex tests, were carried out by Dr Nicholas Eastaugh. His reports of Oct 1/2 were published in part only and merely confirmed that the ink was an iron-gall based ink and therefore not in conflict with the type of ink used in 1888/9. Nothing was found that betrayed the ink as using any modern dye-stuffs. (Nigrosine itself, though little used in writing inks, was used in inks in the Victorian era, so its presence presented no problems)

In August and October 1993, independent visual examination of the Diary ink, by myself, by Dr Joe Nickell, by Kenneth Rendell, by Maureen Casey Owens and by Robert Kuranz, revealed no signs of ageing. We were all viewing a fresh, washed-out looking ink, that gave signs of having been diluted. So at that time there were six examinations that all pointed to one conclusion: the ink was new.

Regrettably, Eastaugh's results were used where they seemed to help give the Diary antiquity. But in reality these results did nothing of the sort. They were neutral. They simply recorded the existence of an iron-gall ink. But the chemical profile of an iron-gail ink made 50 years ago, or 2 years ago or even a month ago, will match that of iron-gall inks made a century back. This match will be a family match, of course, since no two inks match exactly; but there is no way of dating the age of such inks once they have oxidised on the page for 18 months or so. (In summer oxidisation takes place at a much faster rate than in winter)

There things remained static, until Mike Barrett came out with his 'confession'. I never at any time believed that he was the sole creator of this forgery, but he did have inside knowledge and, in this initial statement, he did point to a Liverpool source for the ink used in writing the Diary. He named it as The Bluecoat Art Shop. Checks with that shop led to the suggestion that the ink could have been a Victorian-style black manuscript ink made by 'Diamine' of Liverpool. Checks with the manufacturers showed that this ink was indeed an iron-gall based product, using some Nigrosine as a temporary colour. This was unusual and seemed to be the only known writing ink around using Nigrosine (it was normally used in stamp-pad inks, embossing inks and copying inks)

This could simulate a Victorian ink quite easily and pass all the tests done so far, but we were warned that this ink had a give-away extra component. It contained a small amount of a preservative known as Chloroacetamide. This compound, although known in Victorian times, was not put into commercial production until after the Second World War and was not used by 'Diamine' until 1974. Unless you were looking for it, this preservative would not be spotted by the standard types of ink analyses; these tended to concentrate on dyestuffs.

The Diary camp was urged to take action and test the Diary ink for chloroacetamide, but no action was taken, indeed Mrs Harrison even issued a dismissive statement claiming that the Diamine ink "...contains a modern synthetic dye that any of our analysts would have spotted in the ink of the diary." She was wrong. The ink contained no modern dyes and she had, in fact, been told so by the manufacturers. Make of that what you will. And note that this false information is still in print in her 1996 edition!

Fortunately for the truth, Robert Kuranz, the US forensic ink analyst, had retained 12 unused ink-on-paper samples taken from the Diary in Chicago (August 1993). These samples were placed in gelatine capsules (six to each capsule) and kept under optimum storage conditions. Robert Kuranz cooperated by sending over to me one of these capsules; this was then despatched unopened to the laboratories of Analysis For Industry and they were asked to test the six tiny samples for the presence of chioroacetamide.

The subsequent AFI report of 19.10 1994, concluded:-"When the six black ink dots were extracted with acetone and analysed using gas-liquid chromatography procedures chloroacetamide was indicated to be present in the ink used."

(At this point let me emphasise that these ink tests organised by surgeon Nick Warren and myself were not meant to prove that the Diary was a fake. We had already established the fact that it was a modern forgery. There were no doubts on that score. Our tests were simply aimed at seeing whether Barrett's claims would stand up to investigation.)

When the AFI report was published, Mrs Harrison's publisher, Robert Smith, decided that it was opportune to become helpful. approached me and agreed to further tests. We reached an understanding that these tests would duplicate the procedures used by AFI. It was accepted that identical tests, would be staged by two laboratories, one of these being AFI once more, the other being one chosen by them.

This never happened. The agreement was violated when Mrs Harrison arranged for quite different tests to be carried out at Leeds University. The original standards applied at AFI were never matched; the results were unsatisfactory and did nothing to resolve matters. One report from Leeds first showed the detection of chloroacetamide, then its non-detection on a re-test. The reason given for this clash was that Leeds had used contaminated equipment on its first run! AFI, by contrast, had used anticontamination tests before and after every one of its recorded runs, and it had shown that its apparatus could detect the preservative at extremely low levels (at nanogram levels)

Other tests at Leeds, invoiving a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM/EDX) led to the conclusion that the Diary ink did not use Nigrosine since that "...contained sodium salts. [and] The presence of sodium was not detected in any of the materials examined" (ie The Diary ink on its own and the same ink on paper)

Following this the Diary camp used the cry of "no sodium" almost as a victory chant. And Mrs Harrison confidently wrote "...the findings... show that there is absolutely no connection with Diamine ink.. there is no chloroacetamide or nigrosine in the diary ink..." (Dec 12 1994)

She went on to state "I believe that the responsible way forward is for me to offer Analysis for Industry and Dr David Baxendale the opportunity of re-testing the ink..." superficially this was a fair offer, but, like so many statements emerging from Diary sources, it proved to be nothing but window-dressing. More than two years have passed since that letter and no attempt has been made to organise new tests. You may draw your own conclusions.

So there it was, a laboratory test stating that the lack of sodium in the Diary ink ruled out the modern Diamine product. Conclusive? Seemingly so, but my experience of Diary antics led me to dig deeper. I tried to lay hold of the earlier report by Dr Eastaugh, since he too had used an Electron Scanning Microscope. So what were his conclusions? Why were they not being used to support the verdict from Leeds?

Finding a copy proved difficult. The paths were blocked, so blocked that it was not untIl December 1996 that I managed to secure his report. Thankfully 'The Sunday Times' had retained a photocopy in its Legal Department files; and that proved bad news for the Diary people. Very bad news. This once-elusive report was eye-opening. Dr Easthaugh had tested four samples of ink taken from the Diary and his verdict negated the statement from Leeds. EACH OF HIS TESTS RECORDED THE PRESENCE OF SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SODIUM IN THE DIARY INK!

Now consider this: that report was known to Mrs Harrison when she wrote the piece I've quoted above. In fact the report had been in the hands of Smith and Harrison since October 1992; it was also known to Paul Feldman. Why then did the trio rely on the Leeds report as if it was an accurate, solid, dependable, piece of research? In their very sight they had Eastaugh's graphs and texts that made nonsense of the "no sodium" claim.

If they fully understood the implications of Eastaugh's report and stayed silent, then their actions are to be condemned. If they did not understand that document and failed to seek advice, then they are equally to be condemned.

They have also failed to grasp the limitations of the ink ion-migration test that they cite so often. This attempt to date the Diary ink was made by Roderick McNeil of Polson, Monatana. Using a technique known as 'scaning auger microscopy', McNeil asserts that he can measure the migration of tiny particles in the ink and from those measurements, calculate the time the ink has been on paper. Now, ion-migration tests have been used for over sixty years by document examiners, but no one except McNeil has ever claimed that such tests could be refined to provide accurate dating. Such tests have simply been used to determine the difference in age between two writings supposed to have been created at the same time and under the same conditions.

McNeil was given a chance to date the Diary ink by the Rendell examining body, since he made great claims for his 'perfected tests'. He calculated its date as 1921, plus or minus twelve years, a date that was in clear conflict with earlier tests and with the textual evidence which showed it to be a recent concoction. Later on McNeil accepted that his results could have been distorted by artificial ageing of the document, (heating in a oven can do this and that technique was well-known as a result of the massive publicity given to the fake Mussolini diaries which had been oven-aged.)

Perhaps more important, was his acknowledgement that the heavy, unsized paper of album used to create the Diary would have defeated his attempts to match up with reference samples. This has been stressed by Dr Joe Nickell in his book 'Detecting Forgery', he states:- "...current evidence shows he [McNeil] also obtained an erroneous date.. .for the forged Jack the Ripper diary, one potential problem having been the diary's unsized (and thus extra absorbent) paper. In contrast, a British examiner used the relatively simple ink-solubility test to determine that the ink was barely dry on the pages." (page 194)

Oddly enough Robert Smith himself has written: " It is our belief that McNeil and Rendell will be unable to explain or provide a scientifically satisfactory explanation of his dating technique, or even to prove that a satisfactory test on the diary was possible. Our ink and paper expert, Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, took the diary to the highly respected auger microscopist, Robert Wild PhD, DSc, of Bristol University, who conducted several tests on the diary using the University's scanning auger microscope. No result could be obtained because when the machine bombarded the paper with electrons, it created a static charge which distorted the signals. Even if McNeil were able to show that he had discovered a breakthrough technique to combat the static charge, he must still explain to the scientific community how he can use the microscope to date manuscripts with any degree of useful accuracy. Dr Wild and Dr Eastaugh are 'sceptical' that he will be able to. Furthermore, it appears that his test has not been independently verified by scientists." (p314 'Hyperion' US hardback)

The assessment he records is sound, but despite that he still ends his piece with this cranky conclusion "...by ruling out the possibility of a recent forgery, Rendell contributes to establishing the authenticity of the diary." The truth is that the four examiners who met Smith in Chicago all agreed that the document was a recent product. McNeil's report was an 'extra' whose drawbacks were soon identified. It was never accepted by them as conclusive, or even helpful.. And remember this: their conclusions were reached on an independent basis, as was Dr Baxendale's. Not one of these examiners had any commercial interest in promoting any type of material dealing with the Ripper murders. And they were never under pressure to agree with each other, or return a verdict that went one way or the other.

So much for the ink. But how easy was it for the forgers to cook up the plot and secure the bits and pieces used in making up the written text? And what about that faked watch?

For answers: WATCH THIS SPACE.

Evidence Appendices


Related pages:
  Maybrick Diary
       Dissertations: 5th Int. Investigative Psychology Conf. 
       Dissertations: A Final Response to Mr. Harris 
       Dissertations: A Guide through the Labyrinth 
       Dissertations: A Nest of Forgers 
       Dissertations: An Article by Richard Scheib 
       Dissertations: An Article by Steven Fern 
       Dissertations: Bravo for Maybrick 
       Dissertations: Bristol University Surface Analysis of Maybrick Watch - 3... 
       Dissertations: Dear Diary 
       Dissertations: Facts Please, Not Fallacies! 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Hoax: Donald McCormick's Legacy 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Hoax: More Futile Floundering 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Hoax: Some Extra Guidance 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Hoax: The Roots File 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Hoax: Yet More Unacceptable Ploys 
       Dissertations: Maybrick Watch - Scientific Analysis 
       Dissertations: Platt Diary Report 
       Dissertations: Reflections on the Ripperologist Interview 
       Dissertations: The Caution was Given 
       Dissertations: The Maybrick Diary Analysis 
       Dissertations: The Maybrick Diary Ink 
       Dissertations: The Maybrick Diary Paper 
       Dissertations: The Maybrick Hoax: Evasions are Valueless 
       Dissertations: The Ripperologist Interview 
       Dissertations: Turgoose Report on the Maybrick Watch - 23 August 1993 
       Dissertations: Where was the Caution? 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: The Final Chapter 
       Ripper Media: The Diary of Jack the Ripper 
       Suspects: James Maybrick - Index 
       Suspects: Michael Barretts Confessions 
       Suspects: Michael Barretts Confessions - January 25 1995 
       Suspects: Michael Barretts Confessions - January 5 1995 
       Suspects: Photographs of the Maybrick Diary 
  Melvin Harris
       Authors: Melvin Harris (1930-2004) 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: The Bloody Truth 
       Ripper Media: The Ripper File 
       Ripper Media: The True Face of Jack the Ripper