The identity of Jack The Ripper may have finally been confirmed, new evidence suggests.
Researchers now say that they have proven the authenticity of a much-disputed Victorian diary supposedly written by the notorious murderer.
It remains one of the most enduring mysteries in British criminal history with a long list of potential suspects.
But the true identity of Jack the Ripper may have finally been confirmed, after researchers said they had proven the authenticity of a much disputed Victorian diary.
Twenty five years ago 'Ripperologists' around the world were stunned by the discovery of a previously unknown memoir, claiming to have been written by Liverpool cotton merchant, James Maybrick.
In the 9,000 word volume, Maybrick confessed to the brutal murders of five women in the East End of London, as well as one prostitute in Manchester.
He signed off the diary: "I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentleman born. Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper."
But within months of the book hitting the shelves, Ripper experts, who subjected it to careful analysis, began to question its authenticity.
The diary had first come to public attention via a former Liverpool scrap metal dealer named Mike Barrett, who claimed he had obtained it through a family friend, Tony Devereux.
Unfortunately Mr Devereux died shortly afterwards, and so the diary's true provenance was never fully explained, cementing the view among many that it was simply a sophisticated forgery.
But researchers - led primarily by Bruce Robinson, who have spent years poring over the story, believe they have finally unearthed compelling evidence that proves the diary is genuine.
According to a new book on the saga, the contentious memoir was actually discovered in Maybrick's former Liverpool home - putting him firmly back in the frame as history's most notorious serial killer.
Robert Smith, who published the original diary in 1993, believes Mr Barrett and those who supplied him with the document, kept this crucial fact secret because they were frightened of being prosecuted.
Mr Smith said: "When the diary first emerged, Mike Barrett refused to give any satisfactory explanation for where it had come from, but after painstaking research, chiefly by Bruce Robinson, we can now show a trail that leads us directly to Maybrick's home."
The wealthy merchant, who died in 1889, a year after the Whitechapel murders, lived in a grand property, known as Battlecrease House, in the Merseyside suburb of Aigburth.
In 1992 a local firm of electrical contractors, Portus & Rhodes Ltd, were working at the property carrying out various renovations. Among the workers were three local men, Arthur Rigby, James Coufopoulos and Eddie Lyons.
Mr Lyons was a regular in The Saddle Inn public house in Anfield, where Mr Barrett was also well known character.
According to time sheets obtained from Portus & Rhodes Ltd, Mr Rigby and Mr Coufopoulos were both at work on the morning of March 9 1992, the very day that Mr Barrett contacted London literary agent Doreen Montgomery with the immortal words, "I've got Jack the Ripper's diary, would you be interested in seeing it?"
Mr Smith said: "Barrett was a colorful local character who was always boasting about being an author, so when the electricians at the house found this book, they believed he was the man who would be able to help them sell it to a publisher.
"The truth was that Barrett's only significant literary achievement was to write occasional puzzles for the weekly TV children's magazine, Look-In. He had a highly impetuous nature. Just seeing or being told about the signature at the end of the diary would have been enough for him to reach for the phone. He was not very literate and the idea that he would have been capable of producing such a sophisticated and credible forgery is not remotely plausible."
When the diary was published, opinion was divided about its authenticity.
Some said many of the details could only have been known by the killer himself, while others suggested it was simply a sophisticated forgery that had been cleverly pieced together using press reports from the time.
Things were further complicated in 1995 when Mr Barrett signed a sworn affidavit claiming he had made the whole thing up. He later retracted the confession.
His alleged associates, Mr Rigby, Mr Coufopoulos and Mr Lyons have all since denied being involved in the discovery of the book, although their versions of events were all slightly different.
Throughout all this, Mr Smith has never wavered from his belief that the document is genuine.
He explained: "I have never been in any doubt that the diary is a genuine document written in 1888 and 1889.
"The new and indisputable evidence, that on 9th March 1992, the diary was removed from under the floorboards of the room that had been James Maybrick’s bedroom in 1889, and offered later on the very same day to a London literary agent, overrides any other considerations regarding its authenticity.
"It follows that James Maybrick is its most likely author. Was he Jack the Ripper? He now has to be a prime suspect, but the disputes over the Ripper’s identity may well rage for another century at least.”
A version of this article appeared in the telegraph
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer