How is Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors Linked to Jack the Ripper?
By Adam Watkinson (Client Relationship Executive)
Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors dates back 200 years, first established in 1821. In that time, the firm has been connected with a number of interesting and high-profile cases and has co-existed at the same time as so many cultural events and prolific moments in history – after all, a lot can happen in 200 years.
This is a short article on the historical connection between Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors and infamous ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspect James Maybrick. The firm has a lot of history being as old as it is, however we’ve been researching a part of that history that many won’t know about.
Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors played a role in trying to connect James, a famous Jack the Ripper suspect, to a diary of confessions allegedly proving he was the Victorian serial killer.
Who was James Maybrick?
James Maybrick (24 October 1838 – 11 May 1889) was a wealthy Liverpool cotton merchant. His job meant he frequently travelled to London where he used to live making him familiar with the East End and, in theory, giving him the opportunity to escape back up North to avoid detection.
He died in 1889 after a suspected poisoning with his wife Florence Maybrick convicted and later acquitted of the murder.
The diary surfaced in 1992 when Michael Barrett, an unemployed former scrap metal dealer claimed a diary had been given to him by a friend called Tony Devereux. It had been in Tony’s wife’s family for as long as they could remember. Tony gave Michael the diary as he had literary aspirations.
The diary’s author is not named but the dates and references are consistent with Maybrick’s life. The diary goes into detail about the murders and is signed “Yours truly, Jack the Ripper."
In his book ‘Jack the Ripper The Final Chapter’, Paul H Feldman covers an interview with Mike Barrett discovering more about the diary and how it proved James Maybrick was indeed Jack the Ripper.
The first clue Mike Barrett gave to prove authenticity of the Maybrick diary was ‘once you know the name of my solicitor you will really know the truth’ – Barrett was represented by a Mr Bark-Jones. It just so happens that he previously used to work for Bell Lamb & Joynson in Liverpool before this case. The book then goes on to say: ‘you’ll never guess the history of Bell Lamb & Joynson - they used to be known as Raynor & Wayde Inc. and Cleaver and Cleaver.’
Rayner & Wayde was established in the 1930's and took over Cleaver and Cleaver in the 1950’s. Simon Rayner was active until the early 1970’s, by which time he had two partners- William Kelly and Anthony Byron. William Kelly retired in the early 1980’s leaving Tony Byron. Tony Byron amalgamated with Bell Lamb & Joynson in 1994.
Why is this important? Cleaver and Cleaver represented Florence Maybrick at her trial in 1889. Florence Maybrick was convicted of murdering James Maybrick by poisoning in a sensational trial known as the ‘Aigburth Poisoning’ case.
Sir Charles Russell of Cleaver and Cleaver of Liverpool advocated for Florence’s innocence.
Therefore, we can conclude that the man in possession of the alleged James Maybrick confession diary is represented by a solicitor previously from Bell Lamb & Joynson. It just so happens that the solicitor who represented Florence was from a firm who eventually became part of Bell Lamb & Joynson solicitors.
The diary is the primary piece of evidence used to argue James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper and he remains one of the official suspects. James only became a suspect when the diary was brought to light in 1992 and it is the only real evidence against him. This shows just how important the Bell Lamb & Joynson link is to connecting Maybrick to the Jack the Ripper diary.
There is other evidence linking Maybrick to the diary but there are several inconsistencies leading to many doubting its authenticity. Michael Barrett actually confessed he forged the diary but later retracted this statement.
While the authenticity of the journal may be hotly debated, it has yet to be proven a forgery. Whether it is real or a fake, it maintains remarkably in line with the known facts.
Whatever you believe, the connection being used as a piece of evidence truly emphasises the rich and sometimes surprising history of Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors, and really puts into perspective how to old the firm really is.