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University experts examine 'Ripper' watch

Press release issued: 24 November 2004

A watch that may hold the key to the identity of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper, has been examined by experts at Bristol University's Interface Analysis Centre.

A watch that may hold the key to the identity of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper has been examined by experts at Bristol University’s Interface Analysis Centre.

An inscription on the watch suggests it may have belonged to James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton merchant who ‘confessed’ in a 64-page diary - discovered in the mid-1990s - to committing the notorious murders of five women in Whitechapel.   

The 19th century gold pocket-watch was discovered in Liverpool shortly after the diary confession.  It bears the scratched initials of the Ripper’s five victims and the words I am Jack and J Maybrick.

Although sceptics have dismissed the lettering as a late 20th-century inscription, the watch's owner had it analysed by the University of Manchester.  Tiny brass particles were found embedded in the scratched initials which would have been deposited by the tool used to engrave them.  The corrosion of these particles suggests that the engraving was not done in modern times.

The watch was also sent to Bristol University's Interface Analysis Centre where experts agreed that the markings were "tens of years old".  However, as the watch had been polished 10 years before this analysis, it was difficult to date the scratches exactly.

While the theory that Maybrick was Jack the Ripper has its supporters, many believe the diary confession is a hoax.  The most fundamental criticism is that the handwriting does not match that on existing documents signed by Maybrick.

The University's Interface Analysis Centre is a fully equipped technical centre with a multi-million pound range of analytical instruments, which offers extensive problem solving, analysis, and consulting services, including Surface Analysis, Failure Analysis & Electron Microscopy.  For further or more detailed information about the services offered, please visit

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