In 1992, a document presented as James Maybrick's diary surfaced, which claimed that he was Jack the Ripper. 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. 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."
Generally, the current consensus is that the diary is a hoax. This conclusion was reached after various investigators noted that the diary contains mistaken notions about the Ripper crimes that were only introduced in the 20th century, as well as some textual anomalies that seem to refer to modern Liverpool landmarks not present (or not known by the name given in the text) in Maybrick's time. Notably, he talks of "taking refreshment at the Poste House" which is a Liverpool public house which dates back to the time of Maybrick but was not given that name until the 1930s. Also cited are tests conducted on the diary's ink, suggesting the diary was written recently, and in only a few sittings, not over the several months indicated in the diary's entries. Among the investigators was skeptic Joe Nickell and document expert Kenneth W. Rendell. 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.
It has been agreed that the book was used as a scrapbook or photograph album and when the diary was examined by Joe Nickell he was found that some stains on the inner front cover were made by post Victorian roll film photographs. This suggests that photographs were also stuck to the missing 20 pages and they were torn out because the photographs could not be removed without trace and used for the "diary".
In January 1995, Michael Barrett swore in two separate affidavits that he was in fact "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.
Also presented shortly after the 'discovery' of the 'diary' was a pocket watch, with the initials "J.M." scratched on the inside cover, along with the words "I am Jack" as well as the initials of the five so-called canonical Ripper victims. Tests performed on the watch suggest that these markings are old, though these results have been disputed. If some modern experts are correct and the third victim Elizabeth Stride was not actually killed by the Ripper, it would point to the watch also being some sort of hoax.
A minority of persons, 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.