James Maybrick
James Maybrick was a Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 cotton merchant. After his death, his wife, Florence Maybrick
Florence Maybrick
Florence Elizabeth Maybrick was an American woman convicted in Great Britain of murdering her considerably older husband, James Maybrick.-Early life:...

, was convicted of his murder by poisoning in a sensational trial. The "Aigburth
Aigburth is a suburb of Liverpool, Merseyside, England. Located to the south of the city, it is bordered by Dingle, Mossley Hill, and Garston.-History:...

 Poisoning" case was widely reported in the press on both sides of the Atlantic. More than a century after his death, Maybrick was named as a suspect in the notorious Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was disseminated in the...

 murders, but critics countered that such claims were hoaxed.


Maybrick was born in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, the son of William Maybrick, an engineer, and his wife, Susanna. He was christened on 12 November 1838, at St Peter's Church in the city. He was named after a brother who had died the year before and was the Maybricks' third of seven sons. He enjoyed Christmas as he would always carve the chicken; this is where he got his knife skills from.

Maybrick's cotton trading business required him to travel regularly to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and in 1871 he settled in Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

, to establish a branch office of his company. While there in 1874 he contracted malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, which was then treated with a medication containing arsenic and the result was that he became addicted to the drug for the rest of his life.
In 1880, Maybrick returned to the company's offices in England. Sailing from New York on 12 March 1880, he arrived in Liverpool six days later. During the journey he was introduced to Florence (Florie) Elizabeth Chandler, the daughter of a banker from Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, and their relationship quickly blossomed. Despite the difference in their ages he was 42 to her 18 they began to plan their wedding immediately.

The wedding was delayed until 27 July 1881, when it took place at St James Church, Piccadilly, London. The couple moved to Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 to live at the family home "Battlecrease House" in Aigburth
Aigburth is a suburb of Liverpool, Merseyside, England. Located to the south of the city, it is bordered by Dingle, Mossley Hill, and Garston.-History:...

, a suburb in the south of the city.

They had two children: a son, James Chandler ("Bobo"), born in 1882 and a daughter, Gladys Evelyn, born in 1886.

Maybrick continued to divide his time between the American and the English offices of his company and this may have caused difficulties within his marriage. He also resumed his relationships with his many mistresses, while his wife conducted an affair with an Alfred Brierley, a cotton broker. It is possible Florence embarked upon this on learning of her husband's infidelity.

In Maybrick's case a common-law wife, Sarah Ann Robertson, was identified. Sarah Ann is mentioned in her stepfather's will
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

 as "Sarah Ann Maybrick, wife of James".


Maybrick's health deteriorated suddenly on 27 April 1889, and he died fifteen days later. The circumstances of his death were deemed suspicious by his brothers and an inquest, held in a local hotel, came to the verdict that arsenical poisoning was the most likely cause, administered by persons unknown.

Suspicion immediately fell on Florence and she was arrested some days later. She stood trial at Liverpool Crown Court and, after a lengthy hearing, the fairness of which was the subject of some debate at the time, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The way in which the judge conducted her trial was questioned and this was probably the reason her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

, some of which she served in a prison in Woking, Surrey, and then at the "House of Detention" at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

A re-examination of her case resulted in her release in 1904. She supported herself through various occupations until her death on 23 October 1941. From her initial incarceration until her death, she did not ever get to see her children.


James Maybrick Jr. and Gladys Evelyn were taken in by a Dr. Charles Chinner Fuller and his wife Gertrude after their father died and their mother was convicted.

James Jr. changed his name to Fuller before he died in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 in 1911. He was a mining engineer in British Columbia, Canada. While at the Le Roi Gold Mine he died when he drank some cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

 apparently thinking it was just a glass of water. He was 29. Gladys eventually lived in Ryde, Isle of Wight, with her uncle and aunt Michael and Laura (née Withers) Maybrick before marrying Frederick James Corbyn in Hampstead, London, in 1912. She died in South Wales in 1971, where the couple lived in their later years.

James Maybrick's brother, Michael Maybrick
Michael Maybrick
Michael Maybrick was an English composer and singer, best known under his pseudonym Stephen Adams as the composer of "The Holy City," one of the most popular religious songs in English.-Early life:...

, was a composer who published many pieces and songs under the name "Stephen Adams". "Good Company" is one such example, but by far his best known work was the hymn "The Holy City".

Jack the Ripper Diary

In 1992, a document presented as James Maybrick's diary surfaced, which claimed that he was Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was disseminated in the...

. The diary's author does not mention his own name, but offers enough hints and references consistent with Maybrick's established life and habits that it is obvious readers are expected to believe it is him. The author of the document details alleged actions and crimes over a period of several months, taking credit for slaying the five victims most commonly credited to Jack the Ripper as well as two other murders which have to date not been historically identified.

The diary was first introduced to the world by Michael Barrett, an unemployed former Liverpool scrap metal dealer, who claimed at the time that it had been given to him by a friend, Tony Devereux, in a pub
Public house
A public house, informally known as a pub, is a drinking establishment fundamental to the culture of Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. There are approximately 53,500 public houses in the United Kingdom. This number has been declining every year, so that nearly half of the smaller...

. When this was queried, the story changed. Barrett's wife Ann, formerly Graham, said that the diary had been in her family for as long as she could remember. She had asked Devereux to give it to her husband because he had literary aspirations and she thought he might write a book about it. She had not wanted to tell him her family owned it because she thought he would ask her father about it and relations between the two men were strained. It was published as The Diary of Jack the Ripper in 1993 to great controversy. Few experts gave it any credence from the outset, and most immediately dismissed it as a hoax, though some were open to the possibility it might be genuine. Debate was often heated, and one writer notes that the "saga of the Maybrick diary is confusing, complicated and inescapably tortuous."

Tests carried out on the ink used in the diary produced contradictory findings. The first test, using thin layer chromatography
Thin layer chromatography
Thin layer chromatography is a chromatography technique used to separate mixtures. Thin layer chromatography is performed on a sheet of glass, plastic, or aluminum foil, which is coated with a thin layer of adsorbent material, usually silica gel, aluminium oxide, or cellulose...

 (TLC) revealed the ink contained no iron, and was based on a synthetic dye called nigrosine, patented and commercially available in 1867, and in general use in writing inks by the 1870s. The second TLC test found nothing in the ink inconsistent with the date of 1888, and that the ink contained iron and sodium, but no nigrosine. The third TLC test found nothing inconsistent with the Victorian period. A fourth TLC test was attempted, but could not be carried out.

Several tests were carried out to find out whether the ink contained chloroacetamide
Chloroacetamide is a chlorinated organic compound with the molecular formula C2H4ClNO used as a herbicide and preservative. It is a colorless or yellow crystalline substance with characteristic smell, readily soluble in water....

, a preservative, in an effort to definitively date the ink. According to one source, chloroacetamide was introduced into the Merck Index
Merck Index
The Merck Index is an encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs and biologicals with over 10,000 monographs on single substances or groups of related compounds. It also includes an appendix with monographs on organic name reactions. It is published by the United States pharmaceutical company Merck & Co...

 in 1857, but not used commercially in ink until 1972. In 1995, Dr Earl Morris of the Dow Chemical Company
Dow Chemical Company
The Dow Chemical Company is a multinational corporation headquartered in Midland, Michigan, United States. As of 2007, it is the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world by revenue and as of February 2009, the third-largest chemical company in the world by market capitalization .Dow...

 stated that chloroacetamide has been found in preparations as early as 1857. A fourth test, this time using gas chromatography, found chloroacetamide present, at 6.5 parts per million
Parts-per notation
In science and engineering, the parts-per notation is a set of pseudo units to describe small values of miscellaneous dimensionless quantities, e.g. mole fraction or mass fraction. Since these fractions are quantity-per-quantity measures, they are pure numbers with no associated units of measurement...

. A fifth TLC test found traces of chloroacetamide, but this was attributed to contamination from the control
Scientific control
Scientific control allows for comparisons of concepts. It is a part of the scientific method. Scientific control is often used in discussion of natural experiments. For instance, during drug testing, scientists will try to control two groups to keep them as identical and normal as possible, then...

. The test was carried out again, and no chloroacetamide was found.

Among the investigators were sceptic Joe Nickell
Joe Nickell
Joe Nickell is a prominent skeptical investigator of the paranormal. He also works as an historical document consultant and has helped expose such famous forgeries as the purported diary of Jack the Ripper. In 2002 he was one of a number of experts asked by scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr...

 and document expert Kenneth W. Rendell
Kenneth W. Rendell
Kenneth W. Rendell is an American dealer and expert in historical letters, manuscripts, and documents. He is president of Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc., in South Natick, Massachusetts, and the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery in New York City. Rendell is also founder of the Museum of World War II in...

. In Rendell's analysis, he was struck that the handwriting style seemed more 20th century than Victorian. He also noted factual contradictions and handwriting inconsistencies. Written in a genuine Victorian scrapbook, but with 20 pages at the front end torn out, he also found this suspect as there was no logical explanation for the purported author to use such a book.

In June 1993, a pocket watch
Pocket watch
A pocket watch is a watch that is made to be carried in a pocket, as opposed to a wristwatch, which is strapped to the wrist. They were the most common type of watch from their development in the 16th century until wristwatches became popular after World War I during which a transitional design,...

 was presented by Albert Johnson of Wallasey
Wallasey is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England, on the mouth of the River Mersey, at the northeastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula...

, Cheshire. The watch has "J. Maybrick" scratched on the inside cover, along with the words "I am Jack", as well as the initials of the five canonical Ripper victims. The watch was examined in 1993 by Dr Stephen Turgoose of the Corrosion and Protection Centre at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, using an electron microscope
Electron microscope
An electron microscope is a type of microscope that uses a beam of electrons to illuminate the specimen and produce a magnified image. Electron microscopes have a greater resolving power than a light-powered optical microscope, because electrons have wavelengths about 100,000 times shorter than...

. He stated:

"On the basis of the evidence...especially the order in which the markings were made, it is clear that the engravings pre-date the vast majority of superficial surface scratch marks...the wear apparent on the engravings, evidenced by the rounded edges of the markings and 'polishing out' in places, would indicate a substantial age...whilst there is no evidence which would indicate a recent (last few years) origin...it must be emphasised that there are no features observed which conclusively prove the age of the engravings. They could have been produced recently, and deliberately artificially aged by polishing, but this would have been a complex multi-stage process...many of the features are only resolved by the scanning electron microscope, not being readily apparent in optical microscopy, and so, if they were of recent origin, the engraver would have to be aware of the potential evidence available from this technique, indicating a considerable skill and scientific awareness."

In 1994, the watch was taken to the Interface Analysis Centre at Bristol University and studied by Dr Robert Wild using an electron microscope and Auger electron spectroscopy
Auger electron spectroscopy
Auger electron spectroscopy is a common analytical technique used specifically in the study of surfaces and, more generally, in the area of materials science...

. Dr Wild found that:

"Provided the watch has remained in a normal environment, it would seem likely that the engravings were at least several tens of years age...in my opinion it is unlikely that anyone would have sufficient expertise to implant aged, brass particles into the base of the engravings."

In January 1995, Michael Barrett swore in two separate affidavit
An affidavit is a written sworn statement of fact voluntarily made by an affiant or deponent under an oath or affirmation administered by a person authorized to do so by law. Such statement is witnessed as to the authenticity of the affiant's signature by a taker of oaths, such as a notary public...

s that he was "the author of the Manuscript written by my wife Anne Barrett at my dictation which is known as The Jack the Ripper Diary." Adding to the confusion, however, was Barrett's solicitor's subsequent repudiation of his affidavit, then Barrett's withdrawal of the repudiation.

Some people, including Robert Smith, the present owner of the diary and original publisher of the associated book by Shirley Harrison, insist it may be genuine. They argue that scientific dating methods have established that the book and ink used to write in it are from the nineteenth century; that the symptoms of arsenic addiction, claimed to be described accurately in the book, are known to very few persons; that some details of the murders provided in it were known only to police and the Ripper himself before the book's publication; and that one of the original crime scene photographs shows the initials "F. M." written on a wall behind the victim's body in what appears to be blood. These, they claim, refer to Florence Maybrick, James's wife, whose possible infidelities were the purported motivation for the murders. These claims are dismissed by the majority of experts.
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