It is twenty five years since a diary surfaced which was claimed to have been written by Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick confessing to be Jack the Ripper. Significant doubt was cast on the authenticity of the diary at the time. However researchers now say they have uncovered further evidence to suggest it is genuine, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.
The son of an engineer, Maybrick was born in Church Alley, Liverpool in 1838 and educated at Liverpool Collegiate. Along with his brothers, Maybrick went into cotton trading and in the 1870s went to live in America, setting up a branch of the firm in Norfolk Virginia. It was while there that he contracted malaria, leading him to taking medication that contained arsenic and he became addicted to this drug for the rest of his life.
Maybrick was sailing back to Liverpool in March 1880 when he met Florence Chandler, daughter of a banker from Alabama, on board the ship. Despite him being 42 and her just 17, they fell in love and married the following year in London. In 1882 Florence gave birth to a son John, then four years later a daughter Gladys was born.
After the birth of Gladys relations became strained between the Maybricks. James was spending a lot of time away from home due to his business and resumed affairs with previous mistresses. Florence then engaged in an illicit liaison with another cotton broker, Alfred Brierley, who lived in Hope Street. They even spent time in a hotel in London together and went to the Grand National.
In 1889 Maybrick’s health deteriorated and he died on 11th May that year after being treated by doctors for dyspepsia. Maybrick’s brother Michael, a well known singer and composer, was convinced there was more to his death than met the eye. After establishing that Florence had bought arsenic and becoming aware of a letter she sent to Brierly three days before James’s death, he reported the matter to police.
Maybrick’s body was exhumed from Anfield cemetery and traces of arsenic found. Florence was charged with his murder and in one of the most publicised trials ever seen in England, she was found guilty and sentenced to death.
On appeal Florence’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, as the Home Secretary acknowledged that there was sufficient doubt as to whether James died as a result of arsenic administered by Florence. She now found herself facing a life sentence for administering poison, even though she had never been tried for that offence. After serving fifteen years in jail, she was released and returned to America and lived in Connecticut until her death in 1941.
When a the existence of a diary came to light in 1992 that was said to have been written by Maybrick and confessing to being Jack the Ripper, one of the reasons given for its authenticity was that the last Ripper killing was in November 1888. Despite nearly all ‘ripperologists’ claiming it was an elaborate forgery, its publisher Robert Smith has always believed it to be genuine and has now published a new book offering updated evidence.
After his delayed postmortem in 1889 Maybrick was re-interred Anfield cemetery where it remained virtually forgotten about for over one hundred years. However following the publicity of the diary in the 1990s his headstone was vandalised and it is now smashed in two. Maybrick is buried in the grave alongside his parents and youngest brother Edwin.