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Uncle Jack: A Victorian Murder Mystery

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  • Uncle Jack: A Victorian Murder Mystery

    Dear all,

    Many thanks to everyone who has contacted me this week about the republication of Uncle Jack, (republished as Uncle Jack a Victorian Murder Mystery) especially to Chris Philips, Jon Rees and Mike Covell.

    I am obviously bitterly disappointed, shocked and saddened by this recent development as we all thought I had managed to see off this particular theory 5 years ago. Clearly, I did not see this coming at all and as some of my research has filtered into other areas, such as Wikipedia, I have always hoped republication would not be an option.

    I’m not normally a fatalistic person but I find it quite a plus that this should happen after my interest in the subject matter had been re-ignited and refreshed by my recent talk at the Cardiff Job. I had already begun work on, at the suggestion of some ripperologist colleagues, a book on John Williams, which I hope to have finished this year, although of course, this now may be delayed by the need for further research based on the new edition of Uncle Jack. Rest assured, I have already begun to investigate the matters highlighted in the online article cited by Chris and others and have already made some steady progress and hope to make more very shortly (only day two of finding out!). I will try and find a suitable way of getting this information into the public domain if I turn up anything new in the new edition.

    Those who have mentioned my findings in relation to Mary Ann Nichols may be interested in the following extract of what I said/had written to say at Cardiff – although without the images -

    “The authors alleged
    “Mary Ann Nichols, on whom my Uncle Jack had performed an abortion, was the first victim of the killer” (Williams and Price, 2005, pp 16).

    The authors claim to have found an entry in Sir John’s notebook under the title ‘abortion’ that they state shows Sir John Williams performed an abortion on the first Ripper victim Mary Ann Nichols in 1885.The authors reproduce an image in order to show this entry.

    The authors state the image in their book is from a document in the National Library of Wales archive, they write “in his archive at the National Library of Wales, Sir John Williams left behind some of his notebooks. This volume was divided up by condition suffered by each patient” (Williams and Price, pp 16).

    I was able to obtain a copy of the notebook entry showing the page containing the heading ‘abortion’ and name ‘Mary Anne Nichols’ the document in the National Library of Wales archives (reference 320). It is in a notebook arranged by medical complaint.

    From viewing this image it can be clearly seen that the entry found in the National Library of Wales archives and the image which appears in Williams and Price’s book (page 16) differ substantially.

    Significantly, the Nichols name and details are not the same on page 16 of Uncle Jack as they are on the original document. The image reproduced on page 16 of Uncle Jack which appears to be a copy of a document held by the National Library of Wales is not a true copy of the original document held by that institution. There are also minor differences that can be seen by this overlay.

    Significantly in relation to what is on the actual document, this is a deeply troubling image. The handwriting of the Nichols name and details on the actual document is significantly different to that on the rest of the page. The handwriting does not match SJW’s on the rest of the page. It is as though the entry has been added in a hurry without time to properly complete it. It is not styled with a reference number like the other entries, as SJW’s references must refer to some other documentation why would he leave an incomplete reference? This does not make sense.

    Incidentally, after I pointed the fact the image they used in their hardback version was not what the record actually shows; the actual image appeared in the paperback.

    Ripperologist magazine solicited a response from the authors, which they published in December 2005. In this response they claim to not understand how the difference between the versions could have occurred.

    ‘neither of us noticed anything in the notebook that appeared to be in anyway different to the photocopy I held [Note it was this photocopy they claimed was reproduced in Uncle Jack]’.

    Later in January 2006 they had this to say on the Casebook message boards ‘The first point we would like to make is an apology; an apology to our readers for the fact that a wrong copy of a document found its way into Uncle Jack. We are both shocked and dismayed by this error.’ This seems to contradict their statement to the Rip. It also leaves one some-what baffled as to how a ‘wrong’ copy could have come about at all. Why would there be a copy at Orion or among the authors’ possessions that did not match the original document but had been altered in such a way as implied by this statement? The authors fail to explain how this discrepancy occurred. If one were so sure of the clarity and importance of the image when the photocopy was obtained, what reason would there be to alter this image for their work? This is a baffling point.

    Malcolm Edwards Deputy Chief Exec of Orion Publishing also felt moved to comment in light of statements being made on the Casebook thread they had started in order to respond to me in Jan 06 he said

    “It is clear that the document has not been tampered with, and as far as can be ascertained, all the entries appear to be contemporaneous with one another. Further, while the name Mary Anne Nichols is certainly in a different hand from other entries on that page, it is in the same hand as entries on the facing page of the journal. If Ms Pegg had troubled to do this extremely basic piece of research she would have known this was the case.”

    Of course, how stupid am I?! One thing is for sure; this is certainly an extremely basic piece of research to do. And when one does it this is what it shows

    So, perhaps Mr Edwards was the one who had needed to check his facts. As soon as he made the claim that there was similar writing in the rest of the document it was simple enough to double-check this. Further examination of the document reveals no similar writing on the facing page, as you can see here, in fact in the entirety of the document there is not one single entry in a different hand apart from the line Mary Anne Nichols. The independent researcher, Derek Bartley, who I employed looked through the entire document and he reported a change of ink that occurred in 1884 but no change in penmanship throughout the entirety of the document apart from the only line in a different hand, that I had highlighted, the very same one the authors used to try and link SJW to the Ripper crimes. To reiterate this is the only entry that does not match SJWs handwriting.
    One has to question how this line, which is clearly different to the rest of the document in its entirety, came to be in John’s notebook. One has to question who would benefit from such a line being there. The presence of Mary Anne Nichols name on the document in 1885 must not only be under dispute, but is significantly less likely in light of these finds, if not impossible. It seems clear from a visual inspection that these words were not written by SJW and we can be extremely confident about this point “

    Jeff Leahy kindly posted my full talk on vimeo at that is the most accurate and up to date account of my research at present. Hopefully, it explains the main points of my previous research pretty clearly.

    In relation to the new publisher as far as I can make out they are a small knit affair – producing only a few hundred titles per year. They are based in Cambridge UK. Humphrey Price works as a co-author in an almost ghost role for people. He recently collaborated with Jay O’Donnell on Rescue 194, a book about Mr O’Donnell’s work as a Navy search and rescue pilot.

    As I also said in Cardiff Sir John was a man whose only great crime in life seems to have been that he could not have children and that rather than leave his vast fortune to his distant relatives, he instead choose to leave it to the entire nation of Wales through his bequests to NLW and UCW Aber.

    Sir John Williams was a good man, I am determind to restore his reputation.

    Best wishes


    "be just and fear not"

  • #2

    Humphrey Price works as a co-author in an almost ghost role for people. He recently collaborated with Jay O’Donnell on Rescue 194, a book about Mr O’Donnell’s work as a Navy search and rescue pilot"

    I understand that Mr. Price is or has been distanced from the latest edition.
    Any ideas as to why ?

    Thanks for the important update on the Williams Saga.
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    • #3

      I understand that Mr. Price is or has been distanced from the latest edition.

      As it is, while Williams and Price got almost co-equal billing (in terms of name size) on the cover of the hardbound edition, his name was quite diminished on the cover of the paperback edition. Interestingly, Amazon is advertising new copies of the paperback version for 2 cents (used for one cent). That rather accurately describes the book's value, though I am guessing it is an error.



      • #4
        I thought that the page count might give something away, but sadly it doesn't.

        The 2005 hardback edition, 256 pages
        The 2006 softback edition, 336 pages
        The 2011 Re-issue edition, 246 pages.

        The front cover of the book features Mary Kelly looking out of her window sat on her bed. God knows how Uncle Jack is going to get her though as there is no door in the corner of the image. Maybe thats why the window was broken.


        • #5
          Hi How and Mike,

          Actually Mike, both Orion editons are 227 pages long they are basically the same apart from having the right image in the PB (amazon must be wrong) the new version appears to be 246 pages -which would explain the new information. Though that said it could also be explained by the change of publisher, I wait to see.

          How, both Orion editions list the authors as Tony Williams with Humphrey Price. Price has a background in editing, though the book refers to the research as being undertaken by we, it is difficult to actually know who did what (as Williams and Price state in the Introduction they have done this for ease and to make the text flow etc). It appears that Williams has gained a deal for his long awaited novel with the same publisher who are republishing Unlce Jack and therefore it seems to be the case, that nothing sinister has happened particularly, Williams is just going it alone.

          I am glad that my memory has already been refreshed on my research from before as it has been nearly 6 years since I did it before and a lot has happened since then

          best wishes
          "be just and fear not"


          • #6
            O M G that cover!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! aaaaaaaaagh!!!!!!!!!!


            • #7
              Hi Jenni, the pages and dates were taken from Amazon, having looked at my The 2005 hardback edition, and 2006 softback edition I agree that they are both 227.

              The role of Humphrey Price is outlined in Chapter 3 in pages 23-26 of the 2006 Orion Paperback. It is stated that Mr. Price had an interest in the Ripper and that Mr. Williams had shown Mr. Prince material that he had already copied which got Mr. Price interested. (Page. 23) One has to wonder whether Mr. Price was shown the altered material or the originals??


              • #8

                Thanks for explaining that to me/us...much appreciated.
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                • #9
                  I would imagine that it must be illegal to tamper with original documents held in national archives, is it not?



                  • #10
                    Hi Rob,

                    I would presume it to be criminal damage to write on a historical document. Of course we cannot say for certain when the line in question was written on the document and by whom (legally speaking). All we can can say for sure is that Sir John Williams didn't write it and it was highly unlikely to have been on the page in 1885 when it is purported to be written.

                    On a seperate note, we can say that the authors failed to adequately explain why the verison in the original hardback version of the book was different to the original document and why no one at the company seemed to notice this until it was pointed out to them by me. And also, when the shocking difference between the known handwriting of Sir John Williams and the line in question was put to the authors and to their publisher - at the time Orion Publishing - the explanation that they gave, I proved to be inaccurate and they then never explained why they were mistaken about this or how they felt it affected their theory.

                    From the online article Chris, Jon and Mike sent to me it seems to be highly probable (and remarkably) the case is that the Nichols abortion argument is still one put forward by Williams in his new updated book, even though the fact that the handwriting is not John Williams was pointed out to him 5 years ago. Of course, I await for my copy of the book to come before this can be fully assessed.

                    I hope this makes sense

                    Best wishes
                    "be just and fear not"


                    • #11
                      I have to say she gets her sheets nice and clean.