There are a few major aspects of this case which must be considered: The statement of John Parkes, the statement of Lily Hall, Wallace’s raincoat which was found with his dead wife’s body, and the tidiness outside of the parlour when compared to the absolute mess within (which was not properly captured on camera, many bloodstains are invisible on the photos as explained by McFall in court). The series of events if also quite complex and so there are a few different ways with varying probabilities in which the murder could have taken place.
Alternative #1: William Herbert Wallace did it alone…
In this case, there are a few big differences that would have to be true as compared to the case made by the prosecution, based on modern knowledge of the evidence.
It can also be likely determined that the motive was something very sudden (within less than a month before the crime), rather than a lingering burning hatred of his wife. We can ascertain that from this diary entry because it was corroborated as being true. Wallace really did go to the police station concerned for his wife, and Prudential Colleague Albert Wood stated that he had seen Julia after this incident and she had told him how distressed Wallace had been over this incident.
That diary entry was on the 31st of December, 1930, less than 3 weeks to the day that Julia was killed:
31 December 1930: On arriving home, found that Julia had not returned. I waited until nearly 1 a.m., then thinking something surely must have happened, went off to the Anfield Road police station to see if there was any report of any accident to hand. None. So went back home and found that she had just turned up. It seems a laundry van had been smashed up on the railway line, the train derailed, and the line blocked. Julia waited at Southport Station until after ten o’clock and she had apparently no hope of getting a train she decided to take a bus. She arrived in Liverpool at 12.30 and reached home at 1. It was a relief to know she was safe and sound, for I was getting apprehensive, feeling she might have been run over by a motor car or something.
There are later diary entries that show love for his wife before the murder (as recent as the 7th of January), but the above entry is corroborated as having really happened, rather than being a cleverly planted decoy – at least, the odds seem very low it was part of the act.
If the motive is something only recent then we can only really guess as to what that might be. Perhaps discovery of an affair on the part of one of the two…
In any case, there is only one actual piece of evidence against William himself, and that is the raincoat. Unfortunately for us, two unbiased modern forensic experts I hired (one being at the top of the field and being the chief medical examiner for several police forces in the States) think the blood explained on the mackintosh makes it very unlikely to have ever been used as a shield in any way.
The more senior expert seems to believe the evidence of this is so strong that any theory which has the jacket used as a shield (even attempted unsuccessfully) can be discounted.
So if Wallace killed Julia himself, he did not wear the raincoat, and must have had other means of cleaning himself up, and possibly did not even realize how incriminating its presence would seem to later observers…
When it comes to the phone call which came in, the idea that William had called himself while discredited strongly by Samuel Beattie, has two main elements of support: The first being that the waitress felt it to the voice of an older gentleman (Wallace was in his 50s), and also that by timing if Wallace had left his home at 19.15 that night as he claimed, he could have made the call.
To have then caught the tram opposite the kiosk would have – according to those who tested the timings at the time on behalf of Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro – meant that Wallace would have arrived at the club at least a little bit after the penalty time of 19.45. However this may have been the case since the rule that anyone who arrives later receives a penalty was not enforced very strictly.
So he rings himself… He goes to the club, receives his own message, and then prepares to kill his wife the following night. Keep in mind, the point of the call is not to set up an alibi, but rather to set up a Red Herring suspect. If he has some means to kill his wife and escape the home very fast without any blood upon him, he already has an alibi by being at the chess club. The only difference by going the following night is that now it appears a stranger giving a fake name has tricked him out of the home and police would be diverted to chase that lead.
The night following the murder is ready to go ahead. In advance, Wallace empties the cash box and takes off the cabinet door that he will later find broken. This will shave off time and Julia will not from that believe he’s doing it so as to kill her.
After arriving home and having a meal, Wallace requests his wife set up the parlour because there’s been a change of plans and Qualtrough is coming to the house now. She lights the fire when there’s a knock at the door, it’s the milk boy. Julia goes to get the milk and fills her own jugs then returns them to Alan Close.
Wallace is in the parlour and requests his wife bring him his jacket as he fixes himself up in the mirror, so he can go out and meet this client. As Julia comes in he attacks her unexpectedly. She’s sent into the fire still holding the mackintosh. Wallace pulls these things out, and continues to bludgeon her.
He removes his clothes and changes into his business attire. He bundles up the bloodstained clothing and puts them in his briefcase or even into the kitchen fire (buttons may remain in such a case, but these can be easily disposed of when he gets home). Along the way he finds a place to dispose of the stained clothing.
The weapon may have been taken too, but also potentially wiped down using something like the mackintosh and put back, although it would be difficult to remove all blood and brain matter.
He already has Gordon Parry in mind as a fall guy. Parry unfortunately for himself gives a false alibi for the call night but luckily is never chased up on this. Maybe he had mistaken his days some would say.
The parlour curtains we must also assume were drawn and thick enough to prevent any light escaping, and that would be why no delivery boys saw a light on in there.
Wallace goes on his trip, establishes his alibi then comes home. He sees by the state of his neighbour’s home that they are preparing to leave by the lights and possibly hearing Johnston call for his wife inside the home, as the street would be very silent at this time. So he pretends he can’t get in until they come out so they can bare witness.
Of course there are many problems with the idea and the odds are heavily against it.
O.J. Simpson is widely considered to have been guilty of the murder of his wife. He would have been around Wallace’s age and suffered from arthritis, though of course was athletically gifted. In the O.J. Simpson case, Kato Kaelin from the guest house just outside the home heard thumps (presumably from O.J. scaling the wall) at 22.40 PM. O.J. Simpson had showered and was seen outside the home next at 23.00 PM. It had taken him 20 minutes including the sprint to the home and through a much larger house.
In the case of Wallace, the milk boy arrived after 20.30 as agreed upon by every single witness including both neighbours on either side, and Alan Close himself when originally giving his timing. If Wallace got very lucky with the tram timing he could have left his house at 18.49. Which would have given him less than 20 minutes to actually commit the murder and then be entirely blood free and out of the house.
Because the most seemingly accurate placement of Alan Close is at the doorstep of 29 Wolverton Street at 18.37, then Wallace has just over 10 minutes.
We should keep in mind that the milk boy is lying about what he saw, and simply made it up to impress his friends and got in too deep to get out. But he was seen at the doorstep of 29 Wolverton Street with the door open waiting for the return of his milk jugs, so it would appear he did not simply see nothing but would have had to have seen someone and then lied about it.
Alternative #2: Richard Gordon Parry did it alone
Gordon Parry knows Wallace goes to the chess club and there’s a publicly displayed schedule. He knows when Prudential pay-in days are and he knows Julia will admit him into the house.
It is even in the realm of possibility Julia knew about this setup, though of course expecting something different from being robbed or murdered. This can be argued because according to William Herbert Wallace it was Julia herself who told him he ought to go to chess and she who convinced him to go on the business trip.
However, just sticking to the obvious Parry rings up the chess club and sets up a date for the next night. Either this is to maximize takings or it’s just because he has other arrangements that night which he cannot break (we will never know what he truly did that night because his statement to police is proven to be bogus).
He goes to the Wallace home, and is admitted by Julia who quickly grabs Wallace’s raincoat (the first thing she sees/grabs presumably) to answer the door as it’s cold out. She keeps it on in the parlour as it’s cold in there too. Parry also leaves his coat etc. on due to the cold, and as we see Julia has shoes on in the parlour it appears they did not often ask guests to remove theirs although someone in the habit arguably still could have.
As she’s setting up the parlour Parry excuses himself to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, and as he’s doing so attempts to rob the cash box. He seemingly does so successfully, though perhaps drops a couple of coins and breaks off the lid of one of the small cabinets which was already in bad shape. This makes noise, he becomes fearful that Julia has heard so rushes back into the parlour.
Julia did indeed hear and is rising from the sofa, Parry attacks her to prevent her from going out into the kitchen and being caught for robbery.
Alternatively, Parry begs Julia for money and is refused, so he simply kills her and makes off with the money. He rushes through the streets to his car and drives off. He later gets his car washed down by John Parkes.
The roadblock here is the true alibi he has. The one he never mentioned in his entire lifetime, where he spent some hours with Olivia Brine. He is covered until 20.30. Wallace would be back around this time and it’s hard to imagine he got admitted and did all this within that small window of time had he gone from Brine’s straight to the Wallace’s home (ironically about the same time window as Wallace would have had).
He or his parents would need to have something very serious on the Brines to cause them to falsify an alibi for a murderer, something which could actually land them in VERY serious legal trouble including very long prison sentences, or even an argument made that they were willing accomplices to murder. It is very difficult to see them lying for Gordon in this way.
It seems like a total dead end…
Again to use the O.J. case, Kato Kaelin was apparently asked to say O.J. had been in the home. The two were friends Kato even lived rent-free on the property, but would not falsify an alibi.
Alternative #3: Gordon Parry made a prank call and someone exploited it…
In this instance the events follow the same as the above example of Gordon alone with the exception that Gordon really was at Olivia Brine’s and John Parkes evidence is not entirely accurate.
Gordon saw Wallace while driving to Lily’s and decided to play a funny prank on William (Parry was known for placing prank calls regularly from the Atkinsons garage).
He sends him off on a fruitless quest and laughs to himself.
However, someone catches wind of this business trip. This includes members of the chess club. McCartney had asked Wallace for his home address so as to give him directions. Anyone at the chess club or within earshot that night could potentially have known: Where Wallace lived, what time he would be out of the house, the fact he worked as an insurance agent and likely had a lot of money at home, the name of Wallace’s client, and the address he was going to.
This person could easily have exploited this knowledge to go to the Wallace home the next day and enter – possibly pretending they’re the business client – killed Julia and robbed the home.
The next door neighbours the Johnstons may be a good call for the culprits in this instance. Amy and Julia had discussed the business trip earlier that day and according to the Johnstons, they could hear Amy’s visits through the thin walls of the house (the two homes shared a party wall).
If Stan’s statement is accurate regarding the cat, they may have seized the opportunity, snatched the cat seeing it the following day at some point, and attempted to use it in the manner described by “Stan” the man who claims Johnston confessed to this murder. In this case John Sharpe Johnston or someone else within the family is probably both the murderer and the Anfield Housebreaker who had burgled 19 Wolverton Street the previous month.