If Parkes’ Statement is True…
This statement by Parkes given in later years, combined with Lily Lloyd admitting she partially falsified Parry’s whereabouts on the night of the murder by saying he arrived earlier than he did, led many to believe that Gordon must have been the killer.
But Gordon’s alibi did not rely on Lily Lloyd… It relied on Mrs. Olivia Brine, her nephew Harold Denison, and Phyllis Plant, who he claims to have been with from 17:30 to 20:30 PM.
This alibi is often accepted by authors as being concrete. We will come back to this particular alibi (but for different reasons than coercion) later.
Through Lily’s statement to Wilkes we have evidence that alibi coercion is possible – and also through statements made by a caller on Roger Wilkes’ radio broadcast who claims to have overheard Parry’s parents begging their own parents to help smuggle Gordon out of the country. Apparently after Parry’s parents left there was a blazing row about what they should do, with one of the caller’s parents shouting they “would be helping a murderer”…
Given the details of the earlier portion of the conversation between these two sets of parents is unknown, it’s unclear as to whether they had simply jumped to the conclusion that Gordon is a murderer, or if Parry’s own parents had suggested as much.
But alas – without proof this alibi was coerced it would seem Parry could not possibly be the killer, and then there are a few things to consider…
Getting into the house:
According to Wallace, his wife would only admit people into the home if she knew them well. If we take Wallace at his word, then whoever knocked on the door of Wolverton Street was either:
- Someone known to Julia.
- A man posing as the business client Wallace had gone out to meet.
But is he right? Maybe, maybe not. Several ex-Prudential workers supported his claim, as did an anonymous tip-off received by Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro:
“I do not know them [the Wallaces], but from friends of theirs I understand that Mrs W was always nervous about having money in the house and seldom opened the door for anyone without first going into the sitting-room and looking through the window.”
However, Wallace’s sister-in-law Amy Wallace said quite the opposite. According to Amy, it was Julia’s kind nature that meant she would probably admit strangers into the home, and that Wallace had many times reminded her not to do so.
Furthermore, if this really was a rule Julia stuck to, we cannot expect that whoever had planned to commit this crime would certainly have known this fact.
Nor can we expect that she would not be tricked by someone saying they’re from the council (or something of that nature), which still catches out the elderly to this very day, or any other sort of ruse.
But on the surface of things, a distinct issue with the man being a stranger remains, if he had entered the house alone that is… Mainly that if Julia did not know who he was, then there is much less reason to have murdered her had he been caught. On the flip side, someone known to Julia could easily be reported to the police giving them much more reason to silence her.
I will say I might be giving this potential criminal too much credit. I have read a lot on recent housebreakings, and in some cases they appear to just randomly beat up the homeowner for no reason at all. In other cases they use particularly brazen methods of simply saying they need to get water, robbing the place, then leaving.
Of Note: Two men had called on the Holme’s earlier that day and had been invited into the house. They said they were with “Electrolux” and there to see to a faulty appliance. The Holme’s noticed that in the car they arrived in, a woman was in the back seat. There had also been two apparent salesmen knocking on the doors on Wolverton Street on that day.
The Mystery of Puss the Cat…
A very obscure and little-known fact about this case is that Julia’s black cat, “Puss”, had been missing for at least 24 hours prior to her death, and Julia had been very upset about it. It then turned up again after her death, walking in with the detectives who had arrived at the scene.
The cat was not actually Julia’s, but given to her by a neighbour after she had catsat for them while they were away on holiday. Given the average lifespan of a cat is 14 years and the Wallaces had been at Wolverton Street for 15 years, it is very likely that this neighbour was someone on the street. Because the Wallaces did not speak to many people and seemed friendly with only one set of neighbours (the Johnstons); and because we know from postcards that the Johnstons had catsat/housesat for the Wallaces while they (the Wallaces) were away on holiday, I believe the cat might have originally been theirs.
It would make sense given the size of the Johnston household and the fact that not many members of the household were employed, they might have lacked the space and funds to keep a cat so allowed Julia to keep it next door.
This might seem mundane; but this was not tomcatting season, this was a cold rainy January. More importantly it featured in a purported confession by neighbour John Sharpe Johnston – relayed to author Tom Slemen by a man giving the name “Stan”:
“…Stan said that days before Johnston died [suffering from dementia], 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…”
The mention of the cat is just so very specific and rarely known that in my view it could only have been said by someone extremely well acquainted with the case or the Wallaces.
So it makes me consider:
- Perhaps this “Stan” fellow contacted Slemen – who had specifically asked to hear from people who had known Johnston – and knew or heard rumours that the cat had been taken as a means to gain admittance to the home, and simply said it was Johnston’s words so nobody would chase him (“Stan”) up for details or questioning.
- Perhaps John Sharpe Johnston knew exactly what happened, and knew the cat was taken and used in some way, and in the throws of dementia believed he himself had done it and killed Julia.
- Maybe John remembered the cat coming back and conflated it into the tale.
- John really did kill Julia, which I will go into later.
The testimony given cannot be entirely accurate to what happened, but it is possible elements of it are, which we will delve into later.
Why Not Rob the Home on Monday?
It is often suggested that it seems like a risk to wait the extra day if the criminals can verify he’s out at chess for hours, all for one measly extra day of collection money.
However keep in mind that this box would be expected to contain a very large amount of money, from at least £1,372.65 in modern currency, up to around a massive possible £6,863.25 – in cash!
Second of all remember that Wallace did not collect every day of the week and that pay-ins were on Wednesday. He would skip Sunday as was the traditional day off, and generally skip Fridays, instead staying home to work on his accounts. That means after an expected pay-in on Wednesday, he would collect on Thursday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, before paying in again on the Wednesday. In other words, an extra day means an extra QUARTER of the bounty (equivalent today to over £500 more).
This difference in potential loot by waiting an extra day would be a sizeable chunk for anyone – least of all to someone like Gordon who was seemingly suffering from immense money problems and so deep in debt he couldn’t even afford a tram fare… Indeed, it was only a year later that due to being unable to afford a measly tram ticket, he instead had to “borrow” (hijack) cars and leave them in the streets just to get around the city.
One other thing to consider is that it’s a no-lose scenario. If the plan doesn’t work the box isn’t going anywhere, and Wallace will go out to the chess club on another Monday as seen by the chart so they could do it then on that Monday (in fact Wallace could go to the club on either Mondays or Thursdays, and potentially every week, since he did not only turn up for scheduled games), or try some other scheme etc… This play at the jackpot does not risk anything but wasted time, yet the potential gain considering the amount of money Wallace collected each day during his rounds would be substantial…
But the reason I think this was done if NOT a prank call… is because it set the stage for a stranger to gain admittance into the home the following day by pretending he was there for the business appointment, telling Julia there must have been a mixup with the telephone message. According to Wallace in response to his counsel Roland Oliver, if such a man had called at his home, Julia would have admitted him and taken him into the parlour. It was not necessary for Julia to have been told of the name, nor could they expect she would know it. But she would very probably know that her husband had gone out on business when this person arrived.
There is also another more mundane plausible explanation for why the home was not robbed on the Monday: It could literally just be a case that an individual(s) involved in the scheme had other plans on that day.
The Connection to the CallAssuming the call is indeed connected to the murder, and R. M. Qualtrough indeed meant to be the real Prudential client “R. J. Qualtrough”, then it strikes as being quite obvious that Joseph Caleb Marsden has some connection to this crime.
When we remember that Marsden is also a petty crook, it seems plausible on the surface that it was Marsden himself who suggested the use of that name to Parry, who patched the call through.
I will say that the evidence against Marsden is weak (which may simply be because so much of the police files have been pruned over the years), but his involvement has some merit due to the fake name of the client, and because his motive in the crime would be two-fold like Parry… Not only are they in need of money, but both have a potential grudge against the Pru – the actual target of their theft – having been fired. Parry “leaving to better his position” (cough cough) shortly after being caught cooking the books, and Marsden apparently outright fired for financial irregularities.
Author Gannon claims that Marsden’s alibi for the night of the murder is that he was “in bed with flu”. This is actually not a certainty. Here is the thing he bases this assumption on:
If you see on the left margin, it is scrawled “In bed with flu 20th”, and it DOES seem to be in line with the information Wallace was giving on Marsden. It’s easy to see why this assumption was made, and it seems true in fact.
However, if you look below this there is another note made, much like the one for Marsden, but this note covers multiple names without being specific as to who it refers to. Therefore there is some plausibility that we cannot tell by the notes in the margin precisely who the police refer to when making them.
Who Is Marsden?
Because there is such a distinct lack of information on Marsden it is not easy to write too much about him. But what we do know is this:
- While working for the Pru prior to his firing, Marsden had a client named R. J. Qualtrough.
- Marsden was a good friend of Gordon Parry, it was through Parry’s recommendation that Wallace had allowed Marsden to help do insurance work for him.
- Marsden – like Gordon – indulged in theft, and appears to have been fired from the Pru for stealing collection money (the same thing Gordon had done).
- Both Gordon and Marsden arguably have a grudge against the Pru. Although Parry officially “left of his own accord”, to me it seems like the higher ups kindly “suggested” that he decide to leave, lest they fire him.
- Both Parry and Marsden had been into Wallace’s home on several occasions while he acted as their supervisor.
- Both Parry and Marsden knew the location of the Pru insurance collection box that Wallace kept.
- Having worked for the Prudential – and specifically having called at Wallace’s home while conducting business, both Parry and Marsden would know how much money Wallace should have in that box – that amount being very large.
- Parry and Marsden knew the Prudential pay-in days were Wednesday as a rule (agents would pay in usually on Wednesdays, but sometimes on Thursdays), and therefore choose Tuesday evening as the best day to attempt the robbery – the same time Julia was killed.
- Both Parry and Marsden were known to Julia and would have been admitted by her without hesitation.
- Parry and Marsden were named by Wallace as his prime suspects.
- His aunt’s husband was a very well-respected Liverpool police officer: Robert Duckworth.
When added up together, it does seem to be a decent probability that Parry and Marsden could have conspired together to rob the Prudential money from Wallace’s home.
Is Marsden Necessary? Well… Not really… Parry and Marsden were both good friends and had both worked for the Prudential, and we can assume that from time to time they would discuss work as friends in such a position probably would. The name Qualtrough having cropped up and sticking in Parry’s mind is quite possible, and, moreso because I have heard a rumour that Qualtrough was known in the Pru as being a “problem client”.
We also do not know much about Parry’s collection district or work while with the Pru, if he filled in for Wallace, he could have filled in for Marsden. It’s an assumption but we simply don’t have that information.
Then What Exactly DID Happen?
In the 1980s, garagehand John Parkes claimed that Parry had visited him shortly after the murder in an anxious state, and that he had found a blood-soaked mitten in the glove compartment of Parry’s car (and that Parry told him he had disposed of a bar of iron outside a doctor’s house on Priory Road).
According to Parkes, Parry all but admitted he was involved in a murder, saying “if the police got a hold of that – it would hang me” in reference to the bloodied mitten.
In Parkes’ mind this meant that Parry himself was the man who had murdered Julia Wallace… But seemingly nobody including Parkes or Gordon’s girlfriend Lily Lloyd ever knew that he had an alibi corroborated with Olivia Brine for 17.30 to 20.30 on the night of the killing. An alibi that would never be known until the police case files became publicly viewable.
Parry probably saw Parkes as a friend. According to Parkes, Parry would often stay late at the garage chatting, but on this particular night left early. Although Parkes apparently did not trust Parry, the two had gone to school together and it seems Parry liked Parkes to some degree for him to be staying around for a chatter on his regular visits.
I think another man who was in on this crime with Gordon murdered Julia.
The Solution (if Parkes is Truthful):
Although a lot of the links to the housebreaking gang I mentioned in a prior theory seem suggestive, the more people involved in a scheme the trickier it becomes to coordinate and get away with. Still assuming that the statement by Parkes is accurate and not embellished (etc) then it seems Gordon has to be definitively involved in the murder.
Following is a suggestion by my grandfather which is better than my own (he was unaware of my own theory when giving his, so it is completely his creation) – and having himself lived around that era has a better understanding than myself of how hard-up people would carry out robberies. I think this is THE answer to the case…
He told me that insurance men and anyone like that were very common targets for burglars, because they knew they have money.
He believes it’s not so convoluted: It is simply Parry and an accomplice, and Julia was killed in a robbery gone wrong.
Regarding Parry’s alibi, it is admittedly curious that when confronted by Jonathan Goodman about the murder (some time in the 60s), he made no mention of this apparent golden ticket to freedom, instead claiming his alibi was “arranging a birthday party with friends” – which was NOT his alibi as that was after 20.30 and he had stopped off for a mere ten minutes. Parry’s father said Parry’s alibi was that he was mending his car in Breck Road – which again is NOT his alibi and is also false.
Parry had visited Lily Lloyd that night, and upon being questioned about the case in the 80s she simply said she does not believe he did this murder even though he turned up at her home later than she told police. Wouldn’t Parry have told her about this alibi? Why did she make no mention of it and clear the name of this man she had kept in touch with and been on friendly terms with ’til his dying day?
If the murder had caused him so much misery and he had reporters knocking on his door accusing him of murder, why did he not just tell them about his visit to Olivia Brine which entirely absolved him of responsibility? Was he afraid of someone digging a little too deeply into this alibi?
Gannon in his book notes this little oddity, but presumes that Parry never mentioned this tidbit because he was sleeping with Phyllis Plant who was also at the Brine’s that evening. No statement from her can be found in the files. However the visit was not just with Phyllis (who was married by the way), and furthermore, at the time Goodman interviewed Parry and Parry replied that his alibi was “arranging a birthday party with friends”, he and Lily Lloyd were long broken up making such subterfuge unnecessary…
Gordon used to visit the house to call on William Samuel Albert Denison, who he was friends with. That was how he was known to Olivia Brine.
Parry and the Brine Alibi…
The first question is “why”. Beyond why he neglected to ever mention it, the question is why was he there in the first place? Well, unless the alibi was fully coerced (maybe by his parents, like how they begged Ada Cook’s mother to sneak Gordon out of the country), it seems that his accomplice was there at that house.
If Parry has an accomplice and his accomplice is just about to go commit this robbery (even alone), wouldn’t Parry at least want to go over everything with him again before he heads out on this trip? Make doubly-sure he knows exactly what to say and do, where the money is kept, and so on… So what I think is that the killer was someone who had been at Olivia Brine’s house and was known to Olivia, OR that they were never actually there and Olivia Brine and her relatives have covered for Gordon to protect the accomplice who is someone very close to them.
We know Harold Denison was apparently there at the house the whole time (and being so young, it’s hard to imagine him posing as the business client), but it was William Samuel Albert Denison who was Parry’s friend, and the two had known each other for over a year. He was three years younger than Parry, born in 1912, making him 18 or 19 at the time of the murder. Though you might wonder how this man could pose as someone who apparently had a daughter who was turning 21, the caller had actually said it was “his girl’s” 21st and Beattie/Wallace just assumed it meant daughter. Gordon Parry is known to have used the term “my girl” when referring to his girlfriend as seen by later newspaper reports of crimes he had committed where he refers to her as such.
William Denison would later gain a criminal record for money-related offenses. Where he was at the time of the murder is unknown and he was never questioned.
Olivia Brine’s house is very close to Wolverton Street, in fact it is just 1.5 miles from the Brine’s front door to Wallace’s. Someone on foot or bicycle could have taken a more “as the crow flies” route (the distance as the crow flies being 0.78 miles), owing to the huge mass of fields and unused land in between the two homes.
It is also very close to William Denison’s house (29, Marlborough Road), so why Parry decided to visit Olivia Brine for hours instead of his friend William is peculiar. And if Harold Denison (William’s brother) is at Olivia’s house, then where was William?
I do see the possibility that Gordon, innocent of involvement on the murder day, had knocked at William Denison’s house, got no answer, then went to Brine’s thinking he might find William there. It wasn’t mentioned in his statement but it’s possible someone would neglect to mention going to a house and getting no answer… He could also simply be close to the family and gone to Brine’s – but still, neglecting to call on his friend who lives so close to hang out with his aunt feels off.
Interestingly, I have seen it mentioned by authors that the statements given by those at the Brine’s house that night are the shortest and most lacking in detail out of all statements given by anyone in the police files. There is no statement in the files by Phyllis Plant or Savonna Brine.
We can show with extremely high likelihood that Gordon Parry made the call. So much so that any theories I initially thought were strong but do NOT have him as the caller I have to rank lower than any which do.
We can also show he was financially troubled, knew Wallace went to the chess club there, would be able to see the dates Wallace was due at the club, knew of the Prudential’s workings (including their pay-in schedule – hence knowing when the most money could be expected to be in the home), was close friends with Marsden who had previously had a client named “R. J. Qualtrough”, knew precisely where Wallace kept his cash box, and likely had a decent idea as to how much money he could expect to find in there.
Being financially broke, it would be very tempting for Gordon to make a play at that very vast sum of money which was within such easy grasp.
Based on everything we know, we might suppose that the crime goes a little like this:
- Parry sees Wallace leaving for chess and slips into the phone box and places the fateful telephone call. He wants to use the name of a real Pru client in hopes Wallace recognizes it and assumes it’s a real business call as a result – but he doesn’t want to use any of his OWN clients as it’s a risk to himself in any subsequent investigation, so he uses the name of a client he remembers his good friend Marsden discussing while the two worked for the Pru.
- Wallace falls for the ploy, the appointment is set for Tuesday evening. This extra day of collection takings would mean a very sizeably larger amount of takings in the insurance box.
The call is also important to set up a way for a stranger to get into the home. Even asking for the address on the telephone to Beattie makes it seem the caller was trying to give the impression he is practically a stranger to Wallace, and whoever turned up to the Wallace’s home, Julia (had she survived) would not know who this person was.
Goodman suggested the odd name was used as a “password”, but I doubt this. The stranger would not need Julia to know the name, simply stating he is there for business would be enough. Relying on Wallace to tell his wife the name of the client is even less likely than him taking the bait of the fake trip… Especially in the minds of the criminals as I’m sure “R. M. Qualtrough” is a mistake (meant to be R. J. like the real Prudential client), and see a decent chance Menlove Gardens “East” was unintentionally fake too.
Regarding the use of “East”, a point should be made that to know there is definitely NOT a Menlove Gardens East would require a lot of familiarity with the area and the Gardens in particular. At the time there was no Google Maps, streets were being built fairly regularly, and maps which did exist were not updated automatically via the power of the internet…
When we look at the individuals who were asked if they knew where the address was, Deyes from the chess club lived opposite Menlove Gardens and was not able to point out “there’s no such place”. A woman Wallace asked during his trip who actually lived ON one of the Menlove Gardens streets was ALSO unable to tell him there was “no such place”. Only Sydney Green and the police officer walking the beat there were able to tell him this. We can therefore see the level of knowledge/familiarity with the Gardens someone would need to actively know for sure that no such place existed…
Even if Wallace had passed Menlove Gardens North and West during a trip to Calderstone’s and knew of their existence, he would not see any South or East – though we know Menlove Gardens South existed. How could he be expected to actively know East didn’t exist unless he’d walked those specific streets a number of times before?
- The following evening, Parry goes over to either Brine (43 Knoclaid Road) or Denison’s home (29 Marlborough Road) where his accomplice is – Olivia Brine’s nephew and Parry’s friend: William Samuel Albert Denison. At a time we might assume to be a bit before 19.30, Parry and Denison leave, and Parry drives him down to a road near Wolverton Street. He would not park on Wolverton Street or too close because cars were extremely uncommon and it would be conspicuous, so he has parked at a road nearby.
Regarding the time of arrival, this robbery is stupid-simple and should only take a mere matter of minutes to complete, and Wallace’s tram round trip alone means he is certainly out of the home for at the very least 62 minutes – that’s if he moves like Jack Flash, has no wait time for the trams, and doesn’t even go to the house but just steps off and straight back on the tram once he gets to the area… If the appointment address is fake on purpose they might expect him to be out for over an hour. If it’s meant to be Menlove Gardens West however, then they might expect him to be gone for a good hour after he leaves his back door.
They’ve set the business appointment for 19:30, so if Wallace turns up at the Gardens at that time (which they might assume), then they can expect to have up to 20:00 comfortably before he returns.
There is no need to “stake him out” on the day of the robbery. If they knock at the door at around 19:20 (for example) and ask if Wallace is home/when he’ll be back etc., they’ll get their answer right there and then. If he is in, they can make up something bogus and leave. No crime has been committed at all.
- The men turn up at 29 Wolverton Street. William Denison knocks on the front door, Julia lets him in when he tells her he’s the business client (Roland Oliver mentioned this possibility on trial, and Wallace said Julia would have admitted such a person).
On the fireplace in the kitchen you notice a cup of tea on top. Julia has been sitting there with a cup of tea doing sewing work on the sheet you see on the kitchen table (likely one from the “front bedroom” – the “spare room” where Julia kept her hats and coats) when the man knocked. She did not expect a visitor and did not know who it was so she’s put the cup on top of the fireplace so it keeps warm – though due to extreme police incompetence and contamination of the crime scene, the cup may have belonged to an officer or the photographer, as the kitchen was photographed some days after the night of the murder.
She’s then grabbed Wallace’s jacket and thrown it round her shoulders to answer the door because she was poorly (of note, one caller at the home earlier had said Julia had had a bit of material round her neck when she answered the door to him). I have two different forensic experts who have told me this jacket would not work as a blood shield.
Alternatively to claiming to be there on business, “Stan’s” bizarrely obscure statement about the missing cat could hold some truth, and the cat was used by someone as a means of affecting entry which also would have worked.
- Denison tells Julia he needs to use the toilet. She leads him out to the back door to unlock the door for him, then returns to the parlour to set it up for the visitor. While Denison is out in the yard, the outhouse being right by the yard door, he has unbolted it so Gordon can get in the back (Gordon also could have jumped this wall).
Considering it was almost 19:00, it would seem likely Julia would have thrown both bolts after William left, as she would probably not anticipate using it again that night. The practice of the Wallaces was to use the back door for exit and entry into the home during the day, and the front door late at night
- After using the bathroom and unbolting the back yard gate, Denison has come back in and left the back kitchen door off bolt so Gordon can get in – himself returning to the parlour where Julia is.
- Gordon then comes in through the unbolted door into the back kitchen and goes into the next room (the living kitchen). He knows where the cash box is (and what it looks like, even if it has been moved). With an accomplice, he hypothetically has time to search the room while Julia is distracted if needed, possibly even search for more money.
Because Julia knows Gordon, if she finds him out there the police will catch them because Julia knows him well, so Gordon has told Denison to make sure Julia doesn’t leave the parlour at all costs.
- While Gordon is stealing the money in the living kitchen, he makes a sound – either by dropping the cash box or coins (three were found on the floor), or the shoddily-mended lid on Wallace’s photography equipment cabinet comes loose as he goes to search it for more money.
- Julia notices this sound, and the accomplice notices that she notices. She goes to get up and investigate but he attacks her to stop her from going out there and finding Gordon by attacking her, maybe pushing her into the fireplace. During this shove Julia has hit her head and been knocked unconscious or died – not necessarily with severe wounding or bleeding, this is also where the burning of the skirt and jacket occurs. What exactly she was attacked with is unknown.
Denison pulls Julia by her hair and jumper out of the fireplace. Julia’s hair was ripped away from the back of her head and a bit of her jumper (a cardigan type thing) was torn.
- At some point Denison goes out to the kitchen and tells Gordon what has happened.
The men bolt the front door so Wallace can’t walk in on them in there, they turn out the lights so people do not believe the house to be occupied (and Wallace does not think his wife is in the front room entertaining guests when he returns). They would want to delay the discovery of the crime for as long as possible to give them time to escape… One of the men is covered in blood and they have a weapon to get rid of.
The lights in the living kitchen might also have been turned out so the men are able to peer out of the window and have a quick glance to ensure the coast is clear, or simply so they are not highlighted by lights from the kitchen when escaping out the back.
They might have wiped the gas jets as they turned them out, and also any handles they touch to remove fingerprint evidence… However, with the extreme tampering by investigators at the crime scene, it’s likely fingerprints would have been removed in any case. As an example, the cash box (one of the most impotant sources of potential fingerprint evidence), was riddled in the fingerprints of the police officers at the scene. Many other fingerprints at the scene had been smudged beyond useability.
- Parry and Denison are seen running away towards Lower Breck Road by Anne Parsons, and witnessed by Jane Smith at her house near Cabbage Hall cinema (see the diagram below).
- The men dump the murder weapon down a grid outside Dr. Bogle’s house which is close to where Jane Smith saw one of the men and where Anne Parsons saw the men running towards. Corroborated by John Parkes who said Parry told him he dropped an iron bar down a grid outside a doctor’s house on Priory Road (Dr. Curwen’s house was at 111 Priory Road, Dr. Dunlop’s house was at figure 3 just under Priory Road, and there was a Dr. Bogle at 9 Priory Road, closer to the cinema and Breck Road than Curwen).
Also corroborated by Ada Cook – whose parents were apparently begged by Gordon’s parents to sneak him out of the country – when she phoned into Wilkes’ Radio City show on the case. Both locations are possible but Dr. Bogle’s house seems the most plausible.
- The men jump into Parry’s car, the stained mitten is thrown into the glove compartment by Denison – possibly forgotten about or unnoticed by Gordon, and they drive off.
- According to Parry, it’s after 20.30 that he goes to Maiden Lane Post Office to buy a pack of cigarettes. But it would be very rare for such a place to be open at this time of night unless it was a mixed kind of shop (hence Wallace checking his watch at quarter to 8 to see if the Post Office at Allerton Road would be open) – so it is likely this “Post Office” doubled up as some sort of Off-License or, as was common at the time, there was a kiosk selling such goods at that location which he had used.
He says he then went down to Hignett’s Bicycle Shop to get an accumulator battery for his car (Lily Lloyd’s mother says he claimed he had picked up a battery for his wireless radio) – again, shops in those days were very rarely open late at night but Hignett’s “shop” is actually his house. Walter Hignett advertised merchandise in local newspaper ads and people would come to his house to purchase them.
He visits Lily Lloyd at around 21.00, although in the ’80s when talking to Roger Wilkes, despite saying she does not believe Gordon killed Julia, she admits she lied to police and that he in fact turned up later than she had told them.
Importantly, his statement ends after his visit to Lily: “I went to 7 Missouri Road, and remained there till about 11pm to 11:30pm, when I went home”. This is the last of it. There is no mention of any outings to a garage, so regardless of whether he said anything incriminating to Parkes that night or not, if he even turned up at that garage he never said so in his statement.
- Later that evening or early in the A.M. he goes to see Parkes and has his car hosed down extensively in an agitated state, according to Parkes there was a mitten in the glove box Parry claimed would “hang him” if found by the police, and he had blurted out something about dropping an iron bar down the grid outside the doctor’s house on Priory Road. He pays Parkes 5 shillings and leaves (5 shillings being over a third of the rent Wallace paid for his home each week, for perspective).
[ My forensic experts do not believe a regular bar was used to commit this crime, due to the noticeable patterning of wounds in parallel lines on Julia’s skull. Paired with the fact seemingly neither the parlour’s iron bar nor the kitchen poker was even missing from the home, it calls this statement’s full accuracy into question. Dolly Atkinson confirmed Parkes told her in the morning about the car, but never mentioned being told about a mitten or iron bar. ]
He takes his car into the garage at this time because it’s the night shift and nobody is about, he would not want his car hosed down when there are still people about.
- Some unknown number of days later while Parkes is not there, Parry shows up to the garage with Denison, they are checking to see if anything has been said. Parkes is not there because he works the night shifts. It seems neither man ever returns to that garage again, including Gordon who was a regular there.
- William Denison is never questioned, and with Wallace acquitted the police don’t want to go digging around the case again, so the rest is history…
“On Tuesday the 20th January 1931. I was walking up Hanwell Street about 8 o’clock in the evening; I think it was nearer 8.15. I was going to a meeting. I noticed a man running down Hanwell Street towards Lower Breck Road. He was followed by another man close behind him who was also running. They were running very fast. I cannot say what they were like. I did not take much notice of them. They only aroused my attention from the fact that they were running so fast.”
Mrs. (Jane) Smith:
Police Note: ‘Seen: Mrs Smith, next door to Dr Dunlop saw one of the men.’
“I heard, I don’t know where from, that the murder implement was dropped down a grid near the Clubmoor [cinema] where Lily worked.”
Even if the man supposed to pose as “Qualtrough” who was unknown to Julia went into the house alone, I still would expect that it was someone who had been at Olivia Brine’s house or with Gordon in some way just before the crime took place. For a burglarly without murderous intent, it is very likely Gordon would want to speak to his accomplice just before they go to carry out the crime.
There is a problem with the back door in this scenario… Because of the fault with the back door where it tended to simply fail to open, it’s possible a second man would be unable to effect entry through the back. As per Sarah Jane Draper the charwoman:
“As far as I know, there was nothing the matter with the lock on the front door of 29 Wolverton Street. The catch on the back kitchen door was defective. When the knob was turned either from the inside or the outside, it would not bring the bolt back from the lock socket. This happened pretty regularly and on many occasions, I have had to ask Mrs Wallace to open the door for me and she used to do it by gripping the spindle close to the door. There did not seem to be any spring in the lock.”
Therefore there is another possibility that the plan failed as a result of this. Either the second person was unable to gain entry, or a single man entered expecting Julia to stay in the parlour while he “went to the bathroom”, but instead found her following him out to the back door and awaiting his return due to the faulty door (lest the guest be accidentally shut out). On his return he would go back to the parlour with her, and the only way to get the money at this point would be to attack her and take it.
Or in a single-person sneak-theft scenario as per Antony M. Brown’s “Move to Murder”, I think it is very unlikely Julia walked in on the intruder stealing, since her next move is then very unlikely to be to silently maneuver back into the parlour and cozy up by the fireplace. More likely I would think, is that the intruder made noise (e.g. dropping the box, or coins, or the door breaking off) and went back into the parlour and pre-empted Julia before she could actually go see what had happened.
At the base of it… We know that there are only a few named people who would probably have known where that cash box was (if a burglar had ascertained its location from coins being at the bottom of the shelving unit, it seems odd they would not pick these up – their presence seems more likely if the box was dropped and the coins spilled out, or the perpetrator dropped them). These known people are:
Julia Wallace, William Herbert Wallace, Richard Gordon Parry, Joseph Caleb Marsden, Amy Wallace, James Caird, and Sarah Jane Draper. If Tom Slemen is right that the Johnstons had housesat for Wallace while he and his wife holidayed in Anglesey (being tasked with opening and closing the curtains in the home), they too could have learned of its location.
It looks as though whoever robbed the home knew where this box was kept. Either Julia had told them, or they already knew where to look without being told. Considering the likelihood of Gordon Parry as the caller, then if he has nothing to do with the murder the coincidence is quite large… But P. D. James’s idea of a prank call is a good one.
To my mind, the weapon’s removal (if an implement from the home) signifies that whoever carried out the attack may have feared there would be fingerprints upon it – hence he had touched it with bare hands at some point. To remove the weapon would be a substantial risk, both to the criminal and perhaps even moreso to a guilty Wallace who is attempting to establish an alibi while a murder weapon is upon him the entire time… If Wallace’s fingerprints are on something in his own home it is quite easy to explain, so there is slim-to-no reason why he would take such a monumental risk in supposedly going out on his trip to Menlove Gardens with the implement of murder he just battered his wife to death with hidden up his sleeve (as suggested in later years by prosecution counsel Mr. Hemmerde).
If this is a man Wallace hired to kill his wife, they would be expecting to be going there to commit a murder and would undoubtedly bring their own weapon rather than relying on grabbing something in the home. Not only that, but we would not expect to find her beaten to death while sitting in the armchair or facing her attacker… Why would any assassin, Wallace or a hired-gun, stand there and let the target light the gas lamps, bend down to turn on the gas valve, then strike another match and light the fireplace – all with her back to him, without striking the blow?
Why has a man with a murder motive hesitated so long, had he lost his nerve?
These facts combined make it seem like an unplanned attack.
One of the forensic experts I consulted stated the following, the bolded part being especially important in regards to the idea of a premeditated and complex murder setup:
“Even if the Mackintosh was worn, there would still be spatter on the attackers face and neck (and hands unless wearing gloves). And on the lower pant legs and shoes, since a mac does not drag on the floor. And I can’t accept it being used as a “shield”. You simply can’t hold up a coat like that and protect your entire body. We know from the spatter at the scene that it was not placed over the head for all blows (if any). And if it was over the head for “some” of the blows the lab should have been able to detect defects – most likely true tears – in the material. Absent that, unless we think the lab was incompetent too, I do not think the mac was ever over the head when it was being hit. As I think it was accepted that Julia was alive when the milk boy arrived, the concept of Wallace being naked is simply absurd to me. Not enough time for all that and still make it to the tram. And I actually have a lot of trouble believing that anyone involved in this murder was that calculating. It seems to be either a crime of passion or an offender who panicked. With “overkill”. In my opinion offenders like that are not nearly so neat nor do they plan so well.”
Now – based on the testimony of the Johnstons (Florence heard two thuds at 20:25 to 20:30, 15 minutes before Wallace’s arrival home), and Wallace’s own difficulty in gaining entry into the home, it is possible the criminal was still in the house when Wallace knocked. Wallace’s key would not turn at all when he first attempted to open the front door. If the attacker was in the process of doing something such as any purposeful incineration for example, it would have to be immediately aborted. Because the accomplice has let Gordon in through the back, the yard door is naturally unbolted… The statement of Anne Parsons, if at all related to the crime, has the men sighted at around 20.15.
These two thuds were from the direction of the Wallace parlour, and we can assume that if it was the sound of the strikes with the weapon, they were strikes to the back of Julia’s skull, as we know that the first strike was not likely followed up in quick succession, but rather there is a gap between the first strike and the follow-up shots which occur when the body is at or near the position it was found in. These particular strikes would have involved a heavy instrument hitting a semi-hard object (a skull) with floorboards beneath in terraced housing, making them especially noticeable.
This was 20.25 at night and the parlour of the Johnston’s home had been converted into a bedroom for Arthur Mills. He would not be in bed at this time and it was not said he had just got in from a trip out, so the sound is unlikely to have been him “taking off his boots” as Florence had initially suspected.
Is John Parkes’ Statement True?
Did Gordon Parry REALLY turn up on the night of the murder and blurt our facts about the murder weapon and a blood soaked glove still in his car?
On Roger Wilkes’ radio show, one person living at the time (Dolly Atkinson) and another (Gordon Atkinson) who had heard stories relayed through his father and uncles spoke towards the end of the “Conspiracy of Silence” segment of the show.
Both are surprisingly vague about their statement although Dolly Atkinson gives Parkes a good character report. Neither claim any specifics about what they were told, just that Gordon had his car washed down. The fact Gordon had his car washed seems true and corroborated but the rest (the bar and blood-soaked glove) is sketchy and not mentioned by the others…
The mention of an “iron bar” is sketchy in itself because the iron bar was found down the back of the fireplace by the next set of owners who’d moved into the home, in a crevice which the police may therefore have missed; and the steel poker in the crime scene photographs appears to be present in the parlour, ostensibly used by Julia as a substitute for the iron bar which had gone “missing” having rolled down the back there.
Further to this, there are some elements of John Parkes’ story as relayed by Roger Wilkes, that I cannot find any evidence for. One of these, which I believe did not feature on the radio broadcast, is a claim that police had “staked out” the garage after Parkes told them his story. There is no mention of John Parkes or of the garage, or of any stake-outs, in the case files including those written by Superintendent Moore to the chief of police with updates on the case. The police had also interviewed both Gordon Parry and the Brines very shortly after the murder, making them aware of his alibi for the night in question. In contrast, Wallace was shadowed from early on and elements relating to him are mentioned in detail in reports.
“I remember that Mr. Parkes told me that and my husband that he had to wash the car, and that he said well you should go to the police, so he said oh no he said you’ve got to wash that car, I insist you wash that car you see. I hadn’t seen the car but I know that he told me that. It was the morning yes, the morning after… yes, before he went home from work. I saw Pukka [John Parkes] every morning, like, he was just like a friend to us all. And then he told Wilf as well that it had happened. He wouldn’t make up such a story as that, we had known him for years… He [Gordon Parry] must have done it because he wouldn’t have come and asked a car to be washed to a friend, and make him wash it, and wash everything that got the blood on. No. And I say that it was him [Gordon] that did it.”
“This particular account of the Wallace case was told me by not only my father, but my uncles, and anyone who was associated with him in that time, and it was discussed quite openly. as far as I’m concerned everybody knew about it… Unfortunately my father died 18 months ago, and as far as I’m concerned he definitely wouldn’t have made that sort of a story up, it would be fact, as far as I’m concerned.”
Gordon Artkinson takes the radio presenter to the garage (Atkinsons Garage) and shows him the hose where he was told the car was supposedly washed out in.
If the story given by John Parkes is false, Parry is no longer certainly directly involved in the murder, raising the odds it had been a practical joke.