His name is the stuff of legend with any number of films, books and TV stories speculating about his true identity.
Now, after well over a century of speculation, the true identity of the man behind the moniker of Jack The Ripper may have finally been revealed.
Responsible for at least five gruesome murders across the Whitechapel area of London in the years running from 1888 to 1891, any number of larger than life suspects have been in the frame from backstreet abortionists to mentally-ill medical students.
However, fresh evidence has come to light that may finally clear up, once and for all, who Jack the Ripper really was. It centres around a diary, allegedly written by James Maybrick, which surfaced some 25 years ago.
Maybrick was a Liverpool cotton merchant by trade who apparently confessed to the murders as well as the slaying of another prostitute in Manchester in a diary discovered at one of his homes in the early 1990s.
He even signed off one section of the diary with the words: “I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentleman born. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper.”
For years the book has discredited as a fake and forgery, having first been brought to light by a man named Mike Barrett, who refused to say how he had obtained it.
Barrett later went on to claim that he had created the book himself, alongside his wife. He even swore as much under oath. However, when he and his wife divorced she claimed otherwise.
And now a new book on the subject of Jack The Ripper, written by expert Robert Smith, is claiming that the pair didn’t want to reveal their source for fear of prosecution.
“When the diary first emerged, Mike Barrett refused to give any satisfactory explanation for where it had come from,” Smith said. “But after painstaking research, chiefly by Bruce Robinson, we can now show a trail that leads us directly to Maybrick’s home.”
Maybrick, lived in a wealthy area of Liverpool and died just a year after the last of the canonical murders. In 1992, renovations were being completed on his old home, Battlecrease House, by three local contractors.
One of these contractors, Eddie Lyons, was known to spend a lot of his time in The Saddle Inn pub – a pub also frequented by a certain Mike Barrett.
According to Smith’s research, Lyons and the other two contractors were working in the home the day Barrett contacted a publisher to reveal he had access to the Ripper diary.
“I have never been in any doubt that the diary is a genuine document written in 1888 and 1889,” Smith said. “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.
“It follows that James Maybrick is its most likely author. Was he Jack the Ripper? He now has to be a prime suspect, but the disputes over the Ripper’s identity may well rage for another century at least.”
The diary continues to befuddle experts, some of whom claim it features too many knowing details to be a forgery while some claim it was simply put together using newspaper reports.
What makes the story of Maybrick all the more interesting, however, is the fact he was also linked to another spate of murders in Austin, Texis. Dubbed the Servant Girl Annihilator, the killer struck eight times in the US between December 1884 and December 1885.
According to author Shirley Harrison, Maybrick was also responsible for those killings as well as the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper.