Although the main solution on my site makes sense of the most aspects of the case, I think I might believe something else. I could justify it with a very long article but probably not convince anyone of why this is the answer… It also destroys the “detective novel” mystery element of the case.
At first everyone said the caller and the killer are definitely one person, no doubt about that. Then people began to think differently.
Everyone says the call is definitely related to the murder and I might doubt that…As per the main article, the evidence against Parry having made that call COMBINED with his false alibi and true arrival time at Lily Lloyd’s suggesting he could have done so, I simply cannot take him out of the phone box. I think he is the caller, period, unless there is some hidden statement somewhere where the police went back to him and said “you lied about where you were, tell us the truth” and he gave some other true verified alibi.
But everything else aligns with Gordon. The fact he knew Wallace went to chess at the cafe, knowing the cafe’s telephone number, the “funny voice”, the posh mannerism of the “regular voice” (to operators and such) and wording (kaffay), the mention of “his girl’s 21st birthday” as an excuse, the attempt to scam a free call.
Here’s what authors to my knowledge ALL omit when discussing the call, and it is absolutely and completely vital:
LOUISA ALFREDS ON TRIAL (Operator #1)
Q: Did you put the call straight through to Bank 3581?
Q: Did anyone from Bank 3581 come on the line.
This is CRUCIAL because this suggests that there was no error with the connecting of this call on the first attempt. Louisa Alfreds is the first operator to speak to Qualtrough and patched his call through and got a pick up at the café (evidently not from Gladys Harley) SUCCESSFULLY. The call went through first time.
The call was cut off BECAUSE THE CALLER PRESSED BUTTON ‘B’.
There’s no technical glitch. The caller had put his coins in, waited to hear a pickup, then jammed button B to return his coins.
He then re-inserted those two refunded pennies to get an operator and this time spoke to Louisa Alfreds’ colleague pretending he had pressed button ‘A’ (deposited his coins irretrievably and thus already paid for the call, but not got his correspondent).
LILLIAN MARTHA KELLY ON TRIAL (Operator #2)
Q: What did he say?
A: He said “Operator, I have pressed button ‘A,’ but not had my correspondent yet!”
Q: Can you tell when money has been put in?
Q: Can you tell when one of the buttons [B] has been pressed and the money has come out?
Q: Did you observe a light or an indication which showed that the money had been returned?
All operator dialogue can be found here:
Wilkes interviewed Lillian Martha Kelly in the 1980s when working on his book/radio documentary. She said that the lights on her switchboard showed her that the caller had pressed button ‘B’ not button ‘A’, which had cut off his call and returned his coins.
This aligns with Louisa Alfreds’ statement that a voice had picked up at the café. Once the voice had picked up the caller had jammed button ‘B’, cut off the call, and returned his coins. He is lying about having already paid in an attempt to get a free call.
Two pennies does not seem like something someone planning a murder would care about, especially because it means they have to expose their voice for longer to operators who anyone would smartly pre-empt would be questioned by police.
The details of the call are not beneficial for a murder or for a robbery. There is no reason to use a fake address, or a fake name. R. M. Qualtrough was, it is rumoured, a “problem client” a the Pru. The use of his moniker along with the fake address makes this seem like a prank call.
Gordon Parry was often making prank calls from the telephone at the Atkinsons’ garage, which they kindly suggested he stop doing as he will give people a bad name. He enjoyed using his drama training to put on funny voices to prank people with calls.
I suspect that Gordon Parry who knew Wallace went to chess on Mondays (and sometimes Thursdays though he was not due) was bored, killing time, and placed the call as a practical joke.
—I think here you are looking at the true murderer of Julia Wallace. The next door neighbours John and Florence Johnston. Their fingerprints were all over the scene, but because they entered the property it leaves you in a position where you can’t do much with that.
The neighbours had a key to the property and Florence was friends with Julia and Wallace (but moreso Julia). Her daughter was also friends with Julia. In fact two postcards from Julia to Florence were found down the sideboard of the house at #31 some years later where Julia fondly tells Florence about what a good time she was having in Anglesey.
The story of how upset Wallace was when his wife had returned home late “just before Christmas” (according to Florence) was confirmed to her daughter by Julia. Julia had said that when she returned at about 1 a.m. Wallace was so upset the two sat together for some time talking and having tea. This same story was corroborated by Julia to Albert Wood.
Many of the statements from Florence and John Sharpe Johnston do not match, and have changed a lot. One important key detail is that Florence in a statement wrote that the yard door was ajar, not closed, when they encountered Wallace.
John claims that Wallace pointed out the broken cabinet door, reached up to the cash box, took the lid off and then he (John) asked Wallace if anything was missing. Florence claims they went into the kitchen and she asked if anything is missing and Wallace then reached up for the box.
John neglected to mention his key that would open the Wallace home’s doors. In his own statements he omitted this detail untilt he trials. His wife had spoke of the key in a statement she gave in February. John’s statement typewritten by police on the 21.01.1931 was amended by pen to say that he had offered to try his key for Wallace. John’s statement given in February also neglects to mention the key he owned that fit the door which he’d offered to try for Wallace.
In both original typewritten statements by the Johnstons, they said that Wallace asked them to wait outside while he went in to see if everything’s okay. Both of these statements were amended in pen to say that it was in fact Mr. Johnston who had said he would wait outside while Wallace looks around.
This is the alleged deathbed confession of John Sharpe Johnston according to “Stan”:
“Stan said Johnston had died in January 1960 of senile dementia at an old folks home on Westminster Road. I have checked this information and found it to be true.
Stan said that days before Johnston died, he confessed to killing Julia Wallace. He admitted it was he who had made the Breck Road telephone call to the chess club to get Wallace out the house. Florence had Julia’s cat ‘Puss’ and was supposed to lure Julia next door to get it. Julia’s cat had been missing for days. But John Johnston had surmised that Julia had gone to Menlove Gardens with her husband when he saw them go out the backyard together, because Julia had on a mackintosh.
Julia had in fact been walking down the alleyway looking for Puss, and Johnston didn’t see her return.
The Johnstons waited for a while, then slipped into the Wallace’s house via the back kitchen door, which John unlocked with his key. He went in search of the insurance man’s monthly takings and a nest egg he believed to believed to be upstairs. That nest egg, if it ever existed, was nowhere to be seen, and there were no monthly takings because Wallace had been off work with a bad cold and unable to collect the usual amount of money for that month. Disappointed with the meagre cash they found, John and Florence decided to try the front parlour. As they entered they got the shock of their lives when the flu-stricken Julia Wallace rose from her couch with the mackintosh over her. She wasn’t supposed to be there.
‘Mr Johnston!’ Julia probably shouted, alarmed and then puzzled as to why her neighbours were in her house. John decided to hit her with the jemmy he’d used to smash open the cabinet in the kitchen. He had to kill her, because she now knew the identity of the man who was burgling the neighbourhood. The only fingerprints that would be found at the murder scene belonged to Mr Wallace, the sloppy detectives and police – and the Johnstons. On the following day, the Johnstons suddenly moved out of Wolverton Street and went to live with their daughter at 358 Townsend Avenue.”
I cannot get Gordon out of the phone box so I do not think John made the call, although if he did life would be much easier here.
Here’s what I think has taken place, and it fits forensically unlike any published theory which I will provide evidence for:
- Gordon, a known prank caller, places a prank call to Wallace.
Because we have no idea about the actual whereabouts of Gordon on the night of the call because he lied to police, it’s difficult to know, but there has been a mention by both Gordon and his father of an alibi of “mending his car on Breck Road”. Not once has this ever been mentioned in relation to the murder alibi, and Hignett’s “shop” (house) is nowhere near Breck Road.
At the end of Breck Road is the telephone box, and it’s the same road Wallace walked down to catch his tram. Gordon perhaps had seen Wallace by chance and placed the call.
It may also just be that he had some other engagement he had just finished with around the time, we can’t know because – again – his alibi was a total fabrication. If we knew where he actually was we may be able to come up with ideas more accurately with less guesswork, or even exnoerate him from being the caller despite the mountain of evidence if he provided a real alibi.
- Wallace goes to the club and falls for the prank. At this same time roughly Julia’s black cat ‘Puss’ has gone missing.
- The following day the Johnstons who had previously looked after ‘Puss’ during the Wallaces’ vacations snatched it up and planned to use it to lure Julia out of the house the next time Wallace went out.
- If you mirror the house blueprint and put them together you will see that the Johnstons and Wallace’s share a wall on the kitchen and parlour. They also claimed to have always been able to hear Amy through the walls… Amy discussed the trip with Julia. Possibly the Johnstons heard about this through the walls or saw and snatched the cat after hearing about this… Or simply they heard the Wallace’s back yard door open and close (which they probably would from their position in the living kitchen).
- Wallace has gone out on the prank call trip. The Johnstons then see Julia go out wearing Wallace’s mackintosh. The milk has just recently been delivered and Julia was oddly attached to the cat corroborated by many sources. This milk delivery would remind her of the cat and reasonably spur her into going out searching for it. Around the time of a milk delivery if that is when the cat is used to being given its milk would also be a time you might expect it to come home.
- According to Johnston they had watched Julia go down the alley in the mackintosh, waited a bit, and not seen her return. It is not explained, but I think the reason they did not see her return is because she’s locked the back kitchen door, gone out the yard as they saw, and searched round the block for the cat before coming in the FRONT door.
- Julia enters the parlour possibly a bit spent after going out searching with her mild flu and decides to recline or nap by the fireplace. She lights the fire and by the cushions on the lounger we see they appear to be set up for this purpose.
- Johnston enters the yard door which is undone because Julia has been through it and it can’t be locked or bolted from outside. He goes to the back kitchen door and unlocks it with his key. He enters the property. He is carrying an antique style jemmy tool of some sort allegedly.
The jemmy is important because forensic experts I have hired have ruled out any straight bar like the “missing iron bar” because of the distinct parallel marked patterning. They are looking for a pronged weapon of some sort like a spanner (Wallace’s suggestion in the final John Bull article – forensics dismissed this as being inaccurate), jemmy, threaded pipe. It has to be able to create those parallel marks.
One injury mark I am told looks like it was inflicted by a hammer impact. A jemmy tool like one of the above with a hammer end would therefore be a good fit. The prongs would fit the creation of the parallel markings.
- Johnston’s alleged confession states: “As they entered they got the shock of their lives when the flu-stricken Julia Wallace rose from her couch with the mackintosh over her. She wasn’t supposed to be there.”
This is important because it is the only theory to place Julia on the window-side of the room (by the lounger) which is supported by forensic analysis:
“I recognize that McFall and others think she was left of the fireplace. What bothers me about that is the position of the feet. If the attacker hit her while on the left of the fireplace and then dragged her by the hair to her final position, he would then need to lift the feet/legs up and move/toss them to the right of the fireplace. That seems unnecessary during a frenzied attack.”
Also regarding the mackintosh, which she wore to go out looking for Puss and possibly kept on for warmth in the parlour:
“If Julia was on the couch with the Mac over her it would likely be over her front with the right sleeve on the left of her (and vice versa). Then if she stood still holding it over her front as she passed the fireplace the left side of the Mac would be near the flame.”
That is what I personally think happened to Julia. I have heard every point in every direction for years and read every book on this case, and I think this might really be the case of what happened.
According to Goodman the Johnstons were planning to move in with Phyllis their daughter in February. Florence’s handwritten statement in February says they had moved in February, but Johns says they moved in January. Slemen claims they had in fact moved the very next day after the murder.
Their claim when going out of their yard and finding Wallace that night was that they were going to visit their daughter Phyllis. It was 20:45 at this point. Here is what Phyllis said when interviewed:
“Phyllis, the daughter of the Johnstons however, admitted she was not expecting her parents to call that night, and when they did call, it was usually between 6pm and 7pm. John Sharpe Johnston and his wife were not in the habit of calling upon their daughter or anyone else at such a late hour as almost 9pm, because Mr Johnston had to be up early to travel on an arduous route by tram and ferry boat to Cammell Laird shipyard on Wirral, and was often in bed by eleven at the latest and up at 4am.”
If you knew for a fact your fingerprints were in a murder scene it would be vital that you find a way to get into that scene, and I think their perfectly-timed leaving of their yard is because of that reason.
And of course as expected their fingerprints were everywhere… In terms of physical evidence, forensics rule out Wallace having done this himself, and the only other identifiable fingerprints at the scene allegedly belonged to the Johnstons…
A robbery had been committed just one month earlier on Wolverton Street using the same back entry system on the same side of the road without forced entry:
“All the books and theories concerning the Julia Wallace murder do not reference the following curious fact. The police thought the circumstances surrounding the killing of Julia Wallace had an eerie parallel with a burglary that had taken place weeks before and just four doors away from the Wallace’s home in December 1930. Samuel Shotton, a retired postman, had returned from holiday with his wife Clara to find their house at 19 Wolverton Street burgled, yet there had been no forced entry, even though the perpetrator of the crime had needlessly tossed pillows and blankets from the bed up in the Shottons spare room – creating the impression that the burglar was a disorganised soul who had been rummaging about for money and valuables.
The person who had burgled Samuel and Clara Shotton’s home in Wolverton Street had known exactly where the couple kept their savings, and he had known that the couple were away on holiday, almost as if he had inside knowledge, and what’s more, he had even gone to the trouble of replacing the lid on the box that had contained the savings.
Now, up in the Wallaces spare room on the night of the murder, the pillows and blankets were found in disarray, even though Julia Wallace’s expensive mink coat and jewellery were found untouched in a drawer in that spare room. It seemed as if a duplicate key had been used to gain access to Wallace’s home on this occasion as well. It’s worth noting that there had been a similar series of burglaries at the beginning of 1930 in Wolverton Street and some of the surrounding streets, and a ‘skeleton key’ was used in each robbery. Who had such a duplicate key? John Sharpe Johnston, the next-door neighbour of William Wallace did.”
Slemen has the details slightly wrong here, it was 17 Wolverton Street that was robbed, the date was 20/12/1930.
It was also suggested to me by forensics (though detective type work outside of forensics is not their area of expertise) someone was still in the home when Wallace returned, and that his back kitchen truly was bolted on his return. This would fit well with one of the Johnston family members having been in there, possibly cleaning up the scene. To escape from the home into the safety of his own would be trivial. This may have happened.
We know John and Florence had showered and changed their clothes as per their admission, with the excuse it was because they were to visit their daughter Phyllis.
Julia’s murder may simply be the perfect storm of circumstances leaving an opportunity for the man who had burgled Wolverton Street a chance at a bigger prize at the insurance man’s home.
For the record it would not be possible to rob the house while the Wallace’s were sleeping because they took the cash box with them to bed, and also took all money in the house out whenever they left together on some sort of trip. This appears to have been knowledge at least some people had, as an anonymous tipster wrote to Hector Munro a lengthy dissertation on Parry and why he should be investigated as a suspect, and made mention of the fact that the Wallaces were very nervous of keeping money in the house.
As for the cat, by newspaper reports it had been missing for 24 hours since the murder. It returned home when the door was opened to the police officers.
Lily Hall who gave a damaging testimony against Wallace with a sighting where she kept changing her story is friends with Robert and Amy Johnston who lived at #31 Wolverton Street.
Amy Johnston claimed she had been cleaning the front bedroom windows at #31 and had seen and waved to Julia in the front (spare unused) bedroom windows Wolverton Street which is probably not possible in daylight. Just look at the netting:
In short with no explanation.
- Gordon – known for regularly placing prank calls in funny voices for fun – prank calls Wallace.
- The neighbours see and snatch up the cat to use as a lure to get Julia out next time Wallace leaves home.
- Wallace goes out on his trip.
- Julia who is strangely attached to the cat is reminded of it due to the milk delivery and puts on the mackintosh and goes out searching the back alleys. She locks her back kitchen door and goes round the block, returning by her front door. The Johnstons see her go out down the alley and wait a while, not seeing her return (because she’s come back in the front).
- Tired, she sets up the fire in the parlour and decides to nap or recline on the lounger.
- John Sharpe Johnston enters the unbolted yard door, unlocks the locked back kitchen door with his key and enters the property which he believes to be unoccupied.
- At some stage he enters the parlour and is surprised by Julia who rises from the sofa she was reclining on. He has to kill her becuse she now knows the identity of the man who’d been robbing the neighbourhood, and hits her with the jemmy.
- The Johnstons wait for Wallace to come back and when they do, intercept him in the back entry so they can enter and plant their fingerprints everywhere, as they know their prints are all over the scene.
This dismisses Parkes, but actually I do think Gordon had his car hosed down. Two problems with the full story: The bar and mitten are NOT mentioned by those corroborating him (Dolly and Gordon Atkinson), and more importantly a straight iron bar was NOT the murder weapon. it was something patterned. It seems Parkes is using the “missing iron bar” from the parlour (which wasn’t actually missing from the house) to bolster his story.