There are many circumstantial quirks when it comes to assessing the candidacy of James Maybrick as ‘Jack the Ripper’. Many within the Ripperology community dismiss him as a viable suspect because of their concerns around the Victorian scrapbook. Whether it be the use of perceived modern language, handwriting inconsistencies, inconclusive ink testing, alleged confessions or the sheer provenance of how the artefact came to be – there are many reasons why cynics refuse to consider the former cotton merchant as a suspect.

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK…

As I have stated before, I do not subscribe to the belief that there has been enough damning evidence to dismiss the authenticity of the scrapbook as not being written by James Maybrick. I believe there is every chance it could well be a fake, as much as there is every chance it could well be genuine. Until the killer blow comes, we must continue to treat the artefact with an open mind. But it is not the only artefact. What about the watch? This item convinced me of Maybrick as being ‘Jack the Ripper’, and it remains so. The cynics believe the watch was also faked to cash in on the furore surrounding the scrapbook at the time. Except it was never sold and remains in the family that brought it to light.

“Ironically, it gets dismissed due to ‘timing’. The arguments against the authenticity of the watch are weaker than the scrapbook.”

The provenance and scientific evidence surrounding this piece is far more robust than that of the scrapbook. Ironically, it gets dismissed due to ‘timing’. The arguments against the authenticity of the watch are weaker than the scrapbook. The cynics don’t want you to consider that. Focus on the scrapbook is their strategy. I say focus on the watch. If you are interested in finding out more information regarding the Maybrick watch, you can click this link.

Artefacts aside, what evidence can we muster? About the same level of hard evidence as any other named suspect can generate. Which after 130 plus years is very little. We do, like so many different suspects, have a lot of circumstantial evidence. Knowledge of Maybrick’s movements in the 1880s is widely available due to reams of data that many excellent researchers have gathered. Most credit must go to Keith Skinner. Still, I cannot find anything that suggests that Maybrick was not in London on the dates of the canonical five murders. Even Martin Fido, a vocal opponent of the diary, admitted this fact remains the most challenging point for those looking to dismiss Maybrick.

With every dig comes that little more circumstantial evidence. Like the next nugget, I have unearthed for your perusal.

THE EYES HAVE IT

In my book, I suggest that Maybrick suffered from syphilis. This is not a new theory; some on the numerous Ripperology forums have pondered this previously. It is most likely he contracted it whilst living and working in America before marrying Florence Chandler. We know Dr Ward visited him and announced on his medical record he had contracted malaria. Which at the time would have been treated in the same way as syphilis, with a cocktail of drugs such as mercury, arsenic and Fowler’s solution. There was no unified code of ethics across the United States regarding how they handled syphilis patients at that time. Dr Ward was entitled to put whatever he wanted on Maybrick’s medical file. Like so many things, syphilis was open to wide variations as to how symptoms would present when they would present and even if symptoms would present at all.

“He most likely had symptoms such as skin blotches, nervous system issues, bouts of mania and a side effect disease called bilateral madarosis.”

I believe by 1888, James Maybrick was in the tertiary stage of neurosyphilis. He most likely had symptoms such as skin blotches, nervous system issues, bouts of mania and a side effect disease called bilateral madarosis. The latter is of extreme interest to me. Why so? Several eyewitnesses across numerous murders mentioned that the potential suspect they saw might have had either eyebrows or eyelashes missing. Or they are referenced as having weak eyes. I’m particularly drawn to the testimonies of Best & Gardiner who saw this man with Elizabeth Stride outside The Bricklayer’s Arms. Guess what symptoms Madarosis presents? You guessed it.

“So what?” I hear you cry. Just because I think it might be true, what does it matter?

A DISCOVERY…

Well, we might have a connection. One of the most well-known critics of the diary alerted me to a letter that I never knew existed. In August 1889, a letter was received by the Home Office written by Mr Gustav Witt. A long-time business associate and friend of James Maybrick. The letter contains Mr Witt’s disbelief that during the trial of Florence Maybrick for the murder of her husband, James Maybrick had somehow become branded as an “Arsenic eater”. But that was not the exciting part of the letter.

He goes on to write, ‘‘I saw Mr Maybrick at his office and dined at his house whenever I had to run down to Liverpool.  Last year in June Mr and Mrs M. both came up from Liverpool and were our guests, and my wife and I at the time commented on the evidently unsatisfactory state of affairs.  I remember that when again Mr. M visited us a few months later he complained of his eyes watering and giving him trouble and I chaffed him about getting old. I did not see him this year as I have been travelling for 9 months in the East and only returned a few months ago, finding my poor friend dead.” 

In trying to defend his friend from being labelled as an ‘Arsenic eater’, he inadvertently corroborates the timings of Maybrick’s issues with his eyes, with that of the suspect witnesses saw with sore eyes. He categorically states “a few months later” after June 1888, which by most accepted definitions is usually three months – September 1888. Even if we didn’t take that, we could work back in the opposite direction. He wrote the letter in August 1889 after being back in England only a few months, having been nine months away, which brings us again to September 1888.

Not only that, census records suggest that Gustav Witt was living in Denmark Hill, Camberwell in London at the time. Less than five miles from the centre of Whitechapel. So now we have him placed in London suffering from eye issues in September 1888.

Elizabeth Stride & Catherine Eddowes were murdered on the 30th of September 1888, often referred to as the ‘double event’. Later that night, graffiti appeared on a wall on Goulston Street which I believe was written by James Maybrick. I think he was writing it for the attention of Best, Gardiner & Sir Charles Warren.

That blog post will be for another day.

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