Engraving on watch may help to solve Jack the Ripper case - Crime - UK - The Independent

Engraving on watch may help to solve Jack the Ripper case

Scientific analysis of a scratched, 18ct gold pocket-watch was presented as evidence yesterday that one of the most controversial theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper might be true.

Scientific analysis of a scratched, 18ct gold pocket-watch was presented as evidence yesterday that one of the most controversial theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper might be true.

The notion that James Maybrick, an outwardly respectable Liverpool cotton merchant who frequented brothels and was addicted to arsenic and strychnine, may have been the man who murdered five women in Whitechapel, east London, in the 1880s is based on a 64-page diary confession, revealed in the mid-1990s by a former Liverpool scrap merchant.

With rather good timing, the watch was discovered in Liverpool soon after the diary. It bears the scratched initials of five Ripper victims as well as the words, "I am Jack" and "J Maybrick" across its centre.

Although sceptics have dismissed the lettering as a late 20th-century inscription, the watch's owner has had it analysed by the University of Manchester, whose results appear to offer some encouragement.

With the aid of electron microscopy, Dr Stephen Turgoose found minuscule brass particles embedded deep in the engraved initials. The brass would have been deposited by the tool used to engrave the words and the corrosion on the particles suggests the work was not done in modern times.

The watch was also sent to Bristol University's interface analysis centre. Dr Robert Wild concluded that the markings were "tens of years old". But the watch had been polished 10 years before his analysis and that made it difficult to date the scratches.

"[They] could have been very, very old and were certainly not new but it is difficult to be precise," Dr Wild said.

The Maybrick theory has not been short of supporters in the past 10 years, among them the writer and film-maker Paul Feldman and the TV presenter Jeremy Beadle, who said after the diary emerged: "Whether you like it or not, the mystery is solved."

But before the proposed 100,000 print run of the diary was off the presses, Scotland Yard was asked to investigate claims that the document "unearthed" by the scrap merchant, Mike Barrett, was a hoax which could net more than £4m in TV and newspaper rights.

The most fundamental criticism was that the handwriting did not match that on the marriage certificate and will signed by Maybrick, who died six months after the final Ripper victim, Mary Kelly. The use of 20th-century expressions such as "top myself" did not help.

The Manchester findings delighted the watch's owner, Albert Johnson, a college caretaker, who spotted the piece, dated 1846, in a Liverpool jeweller's window and paid £225 for it in 1992. He now considers the watch's importance to the case to be inconclusive.

"We could go on for for ever getting the watch tested but it wouldn't make any difference to some people," he said. "In my own mind, I have no doubt who the Ripper was."

In the Ripper chatroom casebook.org, views on the authenticity of the watch scratch theory remained mixed yesterday. A least one devotee insisted there are seven initials in the watch, not five, the number that tallies with the murders. "OK, I am prepared to suspend my disbelief," said another.

Trevor Marriott, a murder squad detective with Bedfordshire police for 28 years who has spent years combing Scotland Yard's files on Jack the Ripper, remains unconvinced.

The destruction of some Ripper files convinced him that the Yard has covered up the killer's identity.

"It is also suspicious that the police inquiry was closed shortly after the fifth murder," he says. "Was there a cover-up? Fiction abounds, but facts in this case are limited."

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week