U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

"Jack the Ripper Diary": History or Hoax

NCJ Number
174927
Journal
International Journal of Forensic Document Examiners Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: January-March 1997 Pages: 59-63
Author(s)
J Nickell
Date Published
1997
Length
5 pages
Annotation
Experts in the areas of handwriting, ink analysis, and the study of historical documents conducted a joint document examination of a diary purported to be that of Jack the Ripper, who committed several murders in London, England, in 1888, and concluded that the evidence that this document is a forgery is clear and compelling.
Abstract
A Liverpool, England, scrap-metal dealer named Mike Barrett allegedly came into possession of the diary in 1991. This article's author and other experts hired by the diary's intended co-publisher performed several analyses. They conducted infrared and ultraviolet light examinations, an examination for indented handwritten impressions using the electrostatic detection apparatus, and ink tests using a thin-layer chromatographic analysis and an ion-migration test. The author addressed the issues of provenance, internal evidence, and writing materials. Results revealed suspicious circumstances surrounding the diary's alleged discovery, internal evidence suggesting that the text was derived from books and other publications, and the implausible nature of the scrapbook-turned diary. However, the handwriting provided the most significant evidence. The co-publisher canceled publication. Other events related to the diary included an earlier announcement by the Sunday Times of London that its panel of experts had also determined that the diary was a fake, the diary's publication by another United States publisher, Barrett's confession in 1994 that he had forged the diary, and his retraction of the confession. However, further testing confirmed the presence of a modern preservative used in the reproduction Victorian ink but not in the original variety. Photograph, 47 reference notes, and list of 4 additional readings