John Sharpe Johnston & Florence Sarah Johnston Full Statements

Courtesy of author John Gannon, the following are the statements of the Johnstons. He does not have statements from any other family members.

Bolded words are penned amendments.

21.01.1931

John Sharpe Johnston:

31 WOLVERTON STREET.
Anfield.
21.1.31.

JOHN SHARPE JOHNSTON, 31 Wolverton Street, says:

I have lived next door to the Wallaces and known them for ten years. I have never known them to quarrel. I came home at 5p.m. on Tuesday the 20.1.31, and had my tea. I then went out to Maiden Lane and returned about 6.45p.m.

I had not seen Mr. or Mrs. Wallace all that day. I remained in the house till about 8.40p.m. I did not hear any unusual noise in Wallace’s house during the evening. At about 8.45p.m. I went out the back way with my wife. As I opened the back yard door I saw Mr. Wallace in the entry by my back door. He was going towards his back door. My wife said “Good evening Mr. Wallace”. He said “Have you heard anything unusual?” My wife said “Why what has happened?” He said he had tried the front door and couldn’t get in and had been to the back and couldn’t get in then.

He said he would I said “try again and ^ if you can’t manage it I’ll get my key” he went to the back door and I saw him go into the house. He turned as he was going into the door and I said ^ I’ll “Wait a minute. ^ He said I’ll see if everything is all right. “I know she won’t be out she has such a bad cold.”

I said I would wait till he had had a look round. There was no light in Wallace’s kitchen as far as I could see but I could see a light in their back ^ (middle) bedroom and bathroom. About three minutes later I saw the light in the back ^ (middle) bedroom go up. A minute or two later Mr. Wallace came out of the house into the yard and said “Come and see she is killed.” He was upset.

My wife and I followed Mr. Wallace into the house into the front parlour where I saw Mrs. Wallace lying on the floor. There was a lot of blood about and her head was bashed in.

The gas was alight [presumably he means the gas lamp above the fireplace on the window side] and the gas fire was out. I told Mr. Wallace I would get the Police and a doctor. I left my wife with him and I went to Dr. Dunlop’s, Lower Breck Road, and told him I thought the woman had been murdered and he advised me to go to the Police and I went and reported it at Anfield Bridewell.

When my wife and I were waiting at Wallace’s entry door on Tuesday night the 20th instant while Mr. Wallace went into the house, I heard Mr. Wallace call out twice. I should think he would be near the top of the stairs when he called out because just after he called the light went up in the back ^ (middle) bedroom. I am slightly deaf in my left right ear.

After coming out of the parlour with Wallace and my wife we went to the kitchen and Mr. Wallace pointed to a broken cabinet in the corner and said, “Look. That’s been wrenched off”. I said, “Is anything missing?” and he reached down a cash box from the top of the bookcase, opened it and said, “Oh. About £4, but I cannot say till I’ve checked my books”. I asked him if everything was alright upstairs and he went upstairs and came back and said there was £5 in a dish and that it was safe. I went for the Doctor and Police then.

I was not in when the milk came on Tuesday night the 20th instant. When Mr. Wallace passed us in the entry at about 8-45pm that night he was walking quickly.

Signed J.S.Johnston.

Florence Sarah Johnston:

31 Wolverton Street.

Florence Sarah JOHNSTON says:-

I live with my husband at 31 Wolverton Street. I have known Mr. and Mrs. Wallace about 10 years. I have never known them to quarrel. I did not see Mr. and Mrs. Wallace on Tuesday the 20th January 1931. At about 4-30pm on that day I heard Mrs. Wallace speaking to the window cleaner at the back. We have the same window cleaner.

I was in my house up to 8-45p.m. and I did not hear any unusual noise in Wallace’s house until about 8-25 to 8-30p.m. I was then in my kitchen and I heard two thumps which I thought was my father in my front parlour taking off his boots. my father lives in our front parlour. I took no notice of the noises and at about 8-45pm me and my husband went out of the back door.

As my husband opened our yard door, Mr. Wallace was passing, walking hurriedly, towards his back door and I said, “Good evening Mr. Wallace”, and he said “Have you heard anything unusual?”. I said, “Why? What has happened?” He said he could not get in either back or front. He went to his back door and opened it and said to us “It opens now”. He then My husband said “We will Wait a minute. I’ll see if everything is all right”. ^ He said “I know she won’t be out. She has a bad cold”.

(When Mr. Wallace got to his yard door it was closed but not latched.)

I saw there was a light in the back (middle) bedroom and a minute or two afterwards it went up. I then saw the light of a match in the other back bedroom.

A minute or two later he came to his back door and said, “Oh come in and see. She’s been killed”.

He was hurried and his voice was raised but not to a shout. His tone was distressed.

I went in with him and my husband and I saw Mrs. Wallace lying on the floor in the parlour. Her head was covered with blood and there was blood on the floor and wall. I touched her hand and I felt sure she was dead.

The gas fire in the parlour was not alight. Whilst I was waiting at the entry door when Mr. Wallace first went in the house I did not see any light in the kitchen but they have a dark green blind over the window so that I would not be able to tell if the gas was lit. When I went into the house with Mr. Wallace the gas in the kitchen was lit, and the parlour light was lit too.

My husband went away for the Doctor and the Police and I stayed with Mr. Wallace.

I then again went with Mr. Wallace into the parlour where the body was.

He knelt down by the side of the body, on the window side, and we both felt her hand. She seemed to have gone colder in about 10 minutes. Mr. Wallace said, “Oh. They have finished her. Whatever was she doing with her macintosh and my macintosh round her”. Before he said this about the macintoshes he had moved round the body on the sideboard side and he stooped down and felt the macintosh and looked at it.

I said, “I wonder what they have used” and he felt under the hearthrug but only just under the edge, and he patted it as if he was feeling underneath for anything. We then went into the kitchen.

The kitchen fire was nearly out and Mr. Wallace and I put some wood on and he helped me to get it going by stirring the few live embers at the bottom. Mr. Wallace put the coal on after the chips had caught. From the appearance of the fireplace when I went in it looked as if there had been a good fire and that it had burned out.

I was in the lobby by the front door with Mr. Wallace when the Constable came and knocked. I tried to open the door but it is a different type of lock to ours. To open ours the knob has to be turned and Wallace’s had to be slid along. I couldn’t open Wallace’s and I turned to Mr. Wallace and said, “Oh. You had better do it”. He opened the door. I cannot say whether it was bolted or not.

About five minutes before I saw Mr. Wallace in the entry I had heard someone knock on his back door. I had heard Mr. Wallace knock in a similar way many times before and recognised the knock as his. As far as I can recollect I did not hear any noise in Wallace’s yard or back between the time I heard the knock and when I saw him.

My milk that day was delivered from Mr. Close of Sedley Street about 6-30pm. I had my jug in the lobby and my front door open. The boy put my milk in the jug and shut the door after him. I heard the door shut and I fetched in my milk at once.

Signed F.S.Johnston.

February 1931

John Sharpe Johnston:

John Sharp Johnston of 358 Townsend Avenue
West Derby Liverpool

I lived at 31 Wolverton Street Anfield for about 10 years and had known Mr. and Mrs. Wallace for a long time. They were a devoted couple. At 8-45 on Tuesday 20th January I and my wife were just stepping out of our back door to go out. As I opened the door, my wife stepped out and at the same time Mr. Wallace passed our door.

My wife said “Good evening, Mr. Wallace”. I thought by the sound of his voice that he was anxious. he said “Have you heard anything unusual tonight?” My wife said “No, what has happened?” He said “I’ve been out and find I can’t open the front door. It’s been bolted against me”. I asked him “Have you tried the back kitchen door?” He said “Yes, I couldn’t open it”. I said “That’s funny, try it again and I’ll wait”.

He then went up the yard, and opened the door without any effort, and shouted to me “It opens now”. I said “I’ll stop here while you have a look round.” I cannot say if the light was on in the kitchen when he went in. The next thing I heard was Mr. Wallace calling a name twice. I do not know what the name was, and as soon as he had called the name the back [Edit: Presumably middle] bedroom light was turned up. After that a match was struck in the doorway of the back bedroom.

Shortly afterwards he came to the back kitchen door into the yard and said “Come and see; she’s been killed”. I said “Has she fallen downstairs?”

We (my wife, Mr. Wallace and myself) went through the kitchen to the front sitting room, and there saw Mrs. Wallace lying on the floor. The gas had already been lit, and I saw a matchstick on the floor. I stooped down and saw her head all battered and her brains on the floor. My wife took hold of her hand and said “Oh, you poor darling”, and I asked “Is she cold?” and my wife replied “No”.

I said “Don’t disturb anything I’m going for a Doctor and the Police”. Mr. Wallace stooped down and felt her hand. He mentioned something about her rings being missing, and I presume when he took hold of her hand he felt to see if they were missing and Mr. Wallace said “Perhaps she hadn’t them on”. He was very distressed and appeared to have had a very severe shock.

We then went into the kitchen and I asked him if he wanted any particular doctor and he said “The nearest one”. Mr Wallace pointed out that a wooden lid was on the floor by the recess in the kitchen and said “see they have broken that off.” He then Reached up to a top shelf and took down a cash box and opening it I asked him “Is anything missing” and he said “about £4 but I can’t say I’m certain till I check my books” He then replaced the cash box and I asked “Is everything allright upstairs before I go for the police”

He went upstairs and came down almost at once and said “Everything is allright up there there’s £5 there in a dish” I at once left leaving my wife and Mr Wallace in the home.

I called at Dr Dunlop and told him of the happening he lives at Lower Breck Road which is the nearest doctor to this address. he said it was a case for the police surgeon and I at once went to Anfield Police Station and arrived there at about 9-3

I informed the Sergeant and he at once sent a Constable with orders to stay there until other officers arrived.

I waited in the police station till 9-30. And during that time the police ambulance arrived and reported that the woman was dead and cold. I then returned to the house and informed the police there.

Mr Wallace kept breaking down crying and saying “If Julia saw this she would go mad.” I asked the police later on if I might go and I went home. The police came and took my statement at 2 am. The front room did not appear to be disturbed

John Sharp Johnston

SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT of JOHN SHARP JOHNSTON

Miss Donohue, of the shop opposite to the Library in Breck Road told me that Miss Crane, of 10, Wolverton Street, had told her (miss Donohue) that she had bumped into Mr. Wallace going towards Belmont Road at the top of Castlewood Road. I informed the Police of this, and they investigated and told me that the girl had denied it.

Florence Sarah Johnston

14th Feb 1931 (Statement)

FLORENCE SARAH JOHNSTON of 358, Townsend Avenue, West Derby, liverpool, wife of John Sharp Johnston will say:-

I and my husband lived at 31, Wolverton Street, Anfield, for about ten years until we moved to my daughter’s house early this February. I was very friendly with Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, but more so with Mrs. Wallace, who was very kind to me. They were both delicate and the winter months tried them very much.

They were a very devoted couple and I remember that Mr. Wallace was agitated when his wife did not return in the evening from Southport just before Christmas. Mrs. Wallace told my daughter how worried he had been, and said that when she got in about 1 a.m. they sat up quite a long time talking and having tea together. I never saw any quarrels between them, and do not believe that Mr. Wallace would have ever thought of doing any harm to his wife.

On the evening of Tuesday, 30th January 1931, I and my husband were getting ready to go out at about twenty minutes to nine. We were in our living room at the back of our house and I heard Mr. Wallace’s usual knock on the back door leading into his house. I think he knocked about three times. My husband and I then went out by our back door, not expecting to meet Mr. Wallace, but he passed us in the passage as we were on our threshold; he was going in the direction of his back passage door. I said “Good evening, Mr. Wallace”, He said “Have you heard anything unusual to-night?” I said “Why, what has happened?”

He then told us that he had been out that evening, and when he got back he had found his front door bolted against him. He stood in the passage on his door step, his back gate being open. He said he had already tried the door into the scullery, and that was locked. He did not say at that time that he had been to the front door again, but we assumed that he had done, because we had seen him passing us on the way back again, after we had heard him knock.

My husband said “Try again, Mr. Wallace, and I’ll get my key if you can’t manage anything”. My husband and I stayed on the back passage step, and I noticed there was a light turned low in the back [Edit: probably middle] bedroom, and also in the bathroom. Mr. Wallace went up the yard, and called out “It opens now”. He went in, and we waited. We saw him turn up the back bedroom light, and then I just saw a small light in the workshop window, as if he had struck a match. I did not see any light in the kitchen, but there is a heavy green blind and plush curtains, which would prevent me seeing the light. When I went in there I found two dead matches lying on the floor, and I drew the attention of the Police to these.

We were not in the habit of going into the house, and when Mr. Wallace went up the yard my husband said “We’ll wait, Mr. Wallace, and see if you find things all right”. Mr. Wallace did not say anything about us waiting. When we met him, he had a worried looking manner, but nothing more than that.

I cannot remember exactly how long he was away, but it would be two or three minutes. He then came rushing into the yard, and cried in a very distressed and agitated tone “Come and look; she’s killed”. We all rushed into the house, and my husband said “what is it? Has she fallen downstairs?” We ran into the sitting room, where the gas nearest the window was lit; Mr. Wallace led the way. We saw her body, lying with feet almost against the curb, and head towards the piano, face turned towards the window. All the furniture seemed undisturbed.

Mr. Wallace was terribly pale, and seemed frightfully upset, and stooped over the body saying “They’ve finished her’ they’ve finished her”. He felt her hand, and I felt it also; it was barely warm. I said “Oh, the poor darling”. Mr. Wallace did not cry at once; my husband said “I’ll go for the Police at once”. Mr. Wallace said “Yes, and for a Doctor, but I don’t think it’s much use; they’ve finished her”.

My husband and I and Mr. Wallace all went into the kitchen and I said “What have they taken?” Mr. Wallace lifted the cash box from the shelf, and pulled out the tray, and said “Oh, I can’t tell really until I’ve examined my books, but I think about £4”. Naturally he did not seem to be worried about the money. My husband or I said “What about upstairs?”

He went upstairs and came down again and said “Oh, they haven’t got that. There’s £5 in a dish”. My husband went off for the Police, and we waited. We both sat down and I asked him if there was anything I could get him. I suggested a cup of tea, and he said he did not want anything. He seemed very distressed, and hid his face in his hands, but I don’t think he cried as he did not take his glasses off.

When I first went into the front room, I saw a box of matches lying on the table, and asked Mr. Wallace if those were her matches, and he said they were. There were also two dead matches lying by the body.

The gas fire in the front room was not lit, but the fire in the kitchen had burned very low, and there were just one or two embers. It would take about two hours to burn so low. I got some wood out of the oven and lit the fire while waiting for the Police. Mr. Wallace sat in Mrs. Wallace’s armchair, and when he saw I was having difficulty he helped to stir the embers together. He seemed to me to be wanting to do something to keep his mind off the tragedy.

Before my husband had left Mr. Wallace said “See, she hasn’t had time to wash up the tea-things”. There were a few coins lying on the kitchen floor, and Mr. Wallace said “See, they’ve broken that off”. We looked, and saw the door of a cabinet lying on the floor.

We had lit the fire by the time the Policeman came. He looked at the body, and almost immediately another knock came, and it was two more Police with the Ambulance. My husband had gone out by the back way, and when the first Policeman came Mr. Wallace and I went running to the front door, and Mr. Wallace opened it. I was very very upset, and cannot say how he opened the door, and whether or not he had to unbolt it. I could not contradict him if he said he had to unbolt it.

The police talked together in the Hall, and Mr. Wallace and I were in the Hall by the stairs. We were all very agitated and could not sit down for long. Then we all sat in the kitchen, and Mr. Wallace sat in the chair, and was very very distressed, half collapsed. He has a sallow complexion, and I would not notice any pallow. His shoulders heaved, and he was sobbing. I had sent my daughter for Mrs. Wallace [Edit: Amy Wallace, William’s sister-in-law] in Ullet Road. Mr. Wallace could hardly speak for emotion.

When the Ambulance Police were there, the cat came in, and I said “Don’t let it go into the front room”. He took no notice, but about 11 o’clock he got up and walked through into the back kitchen to get a drink of water. While there, I think he just gave the cat something to eat. I did not see him do this, but my husband did. He was cutting something up, and putting it on a plate on the floor.

Whenever the Police came into the kitchen, Mr. Wallace pulled himself together, but when they were out, and he was alone with me and my husband, he broke down several times and sobbed. He leaned his face on one side of his hand. Once, when one of the Policeman came in, he asked to see Professor McFall, who was examining the body.

When Mrs. Amy Wallace arrived, he just said “Tell them, please; I can’t”. He sat crouched over the fire, sobbing occasionally. He broke down momentarily on two occasions that I remember.

Before the Police arrived, Mr. Wallace and I went back into the front room, and I said to him “Whatever have they used?” He said “What was she doing with her mackintosh? And my mackintosh?” I looked, and saw the mackintosh tucked round her body, behind her, and touching the body. She looked as if she was lying on it. It looked as though a knock had come to the front door, and she had pulled the mackintosh round her shoulders, as she had a cold, before answering the knock.

I said “Why, is it your mackintosh?”, and he just stopped down and pulled out the folds, and said “Yes, it’s mine”. There was only one mackintosh there, so far as I know. We then went back into the back room. The first Policeman arrived about ten past nine.

While Mr. Wallace was sitting with me and my husband in the kitchen, an officer came in, and said to him “There’s a mackintosh here, Mr. Wallace; what about it?” He said “Yes, that’s mine”. He was not shown the mackintosh at that time. He said “I had that on my arm all morning, and then I put my coat on”.

The milk boy, Alan Close, called at my house that evening, but I cannot remember the exact time. He might come at any time between ten past six and seven, but recently he had been very late.

I am making this statement on 14th February 1931.

Florence Sarah Johnston

23.02.1931 (Committal)

John Sharpe Johnston

JOHN SHARP JOHNSTON:-

I am an Inspection Engineer and now live at 358 Townsend Avenue, Liverpool.
I moved to that address in January last from 31 Wolverton Street.
The accused lived at 29 Wolverton Street.
I have not seen Mrs. Wallace this year.

At 8.45 p.m. on the 20th. January last I was leaving my house 31 Wolverton Street by the back entry door with my wife when I saw the accused. As I opened the door to let my wife into the entry I saw him pass the threshold of my door going towards his own entry door. My wife said “Good evening Mr. Wallace”. The accused said “Have you heard anything unusual tonight?” My wife said “No, why, what has happened?” He said “I have tried the back and the front and they are locked against me”. I suggested that he should try again and if he could not manage I would get my key and try it.

This conversation took place outside the accused’s door and the door was close to. He opened the door and went into the yard and up to his kitchen door and said “it opens now”. He went in and I said “Look around and I’ll wait”. I saw a light in the middle bedroom and in the bathroom. I saw no other lights. I saw the light in the middle bedroom go up just after I had heard the accused call out twice. He called out a name but I did not catch which name. A light flickered in the little back room on the first floor, as if a match had been struck. About a minute and a half later the accused came out to us and said “Come and see. She has been killed”.

My wife and I went in the house into the front sitting room. The gas on the right fireplace was lit. I saw the body of Mrs. Wallace lying diagonally across the floor as shown in the photograph W.H.W.6. except that her feet were further apart.

W.H.W.6.

She was lying with her right arm underneath and the left arm was across her breast. There was a gas fire but it was not lit. There was not a very bright light in the room. I told him to touch nothing and said I would telephone to the Police and fetch a Doctor. My wife felt one of the deceased’s hands. In my opinion it was her left hand she felt.

The 3 of us then left the room and went into the kitchen. The accused pointed to the door of the cabinet produced W.H.H.19. The door was lying on the floor and the accused said “It has been wrenched off”. He then reached up to a top shelf and took down a cash box W.H.W.90. The shelf was the top one shown to the left of the fireplace in the photograph W.H.W.8.

W.H.W.8. Circled: The Prudential cash box. This was in the “living kitchen” of the house.

He opened the cash box. I asked him if there was anything missing and he said “About £4 but I cannot say exactly until I see my books”. I said “is everything all right upstairs before I go for the Police?” He went upstairs again and came down again and said “Everything is all right. £5 in a dish they have not taken”.

I then left the house for the Police.

BY Mr. SCHOLEFIELD ALLEN, Counsel for accused :-
I have been a neighbour for about 10 years. So far as I know the accused and his wife were a happy couple in every way. They were devoted to one another.

When I met the accused coming out of my house on the 20th January last the accused did not speak first. My wife spoke first. It is not correct to say that the accused said to me and my wife “Wait”. When I went into the room in which the body was I did not see any mackintosh. I did not see the accused take hold of his wife’s hand.

RE-EXAMINED :-
It was my suggestion that I would wait.
I made a statement to the Police and signed it on the early morning after the murder.
I now identify my signature.

Florence Sarah Johnston

FLORENCE SARAH JOHNSTON :-
I am the wife of the witness John Sharp Johnston. I lived with him at 31 Wolverton Street, Liverpool. The accused and his wife lived next door at 29.

On the 20th January last at 8-45 p.m. I saw the accused outside out back entry door. I was with my husband. When I saw the accused I said “Good evening Mr. Wallace”. He then said “Have you heard anything unusual tonight?” I replied “No, why, what has happened?” He said “I’ve been out since quarter to seven. On my return I find the front door bolted against me. I have already been to the front [Edit: probably means back?] and that too is locked”. My husband then said “Try again Mr. Wallace, if it does not open I’ll get my key”.

When this conversation took place we were all on the outside of the accused’s door. The door was ajar. As the accused walked up the yard after opening the door he looked over his shoulder and said “She will not be out. She has such a bad cold”. When he got right up to the door leading into the scullery the accused said “It opens now”. My husband then said “We will wait until you see if things are all right”.

The accused then went into the house. I noticed that the middle bedroom and the bathroom lights were lit. About two minutes later I saw the middle bedroom light raised. I heard nothing inside. Then a light or a match or something appeared in the little room at the top of the stairs. The accused came out saying “Come and see. She is killed”. We followed him into the sitting room and I saw Mrs. Wallace’s body on the black rug. The accused stooped down on the side of the body nearest the window and he felt her hand. I also felt her hand.

I said “Oh you poor darling”. The accused said “They’ve finished her”. The gas near the window was lit. I cannot remember whether it was full on or not. The light was not low. The body was in the position shown in the photograph W.H.W.6., except that she was lying almost on her right arm, the left hand was across her body lying across her middle, with her hand – her ring hand – lying limp, almost touching the floor.

W.H.W.6.

The right side of her face was touching the floor, almost hidden. Her heels were not uppermost. The position was the same as in the photograph W.H.W.7.

W.H.W.7.

There was no disturbance in the room apparently. The room in the photograph W.H.W.6. is not like Mrs. Wallace’s room. It looks a faked up room. I noticed that the violin stand was immediately behind the deceased’s head. It was standing up in position but had no music on it. I did not see anyone move it. I did not see a chair behind her head. Things look different in picture such as the one produced.

The photograph W.H.W.7. looks more like the room except the position of the body is not the same. The position of the body in the photograph W.H.W.6. is more like the position I saw. I saw a mackintosh but it was not in the position shown in the photograph W.H.W.7. When I saw it it was almost hidden under her body on the side nearest the sideboard.

After we first went into the room, the 3 of us went into the kitchen. Just before we went in the kitchen my husband said “Don’t touch anything, I’ll fetch the Police and a Doctor”. The accused said “Yes, fetch a Doctor, I’m afraid they’ve finished her”. In the kitchen the accused pointed to the broken door of the cabinet now produced W.H.W.19. He said “See, they’ve wrenched that off”. My husband said “What have they taken?” The accused then reached the cash box W.H.W.20 down from the top shelf on the left of the fireplace. He looked inside and said “I cannot tell the amount taken until I have checked my books”. My husband then said “What about upstairs?” The accused went up and on returning he said “They haven’t got that. There’s £5 in a dish”.

There were a few embers in the fireplace in the kitchen. I started to light the fire and the accused helped me. I used one bundle of firewood. The gas fire in the front room was not lit.

Just before I started to light the fire my husband left the house. The accused and I went back to the sitting room and stood by the body. The accused felt her hand again. I did also and found she had gone much colder than when I had first felt her hand. The accused was on the window side of the body and he came to the other side and said “Why, whatever was she doing with her mackintosh and my mackintosh”. I then said “is it your mackintosh?” He stooped down, fingered it and said “Yes, it is mine”.

Both of us then went into the kitchen again. I remained in the kitchen with the accused until the Police arrived at 9-10 p.m. I then heard a knock and we both went towards the door. I tried to open the door but could not manage it, so I asked the accused to do it. He opened it and witness Constable Williams came in. While the Police were examining the house the accused said to me “Julia would have gone mad if she had seen all this.”

Main Trial

John Sharpe Johnston: https://www.williamherbertwallace.com/case-files/unabridged-text-of-the-trial-of-william-herbert-wallace/#jsjohnston

Florence Sarah Johnston: https://www.williamherbertwallace.com/case-files/unabridged-text-of-the-trial-of-william-herbert-wallace/#fsjohnston

Contradictions

Pretty much all statements will have at least some conflict and misremembered details, it does not necessarily indicate guilt. For example Lily Pinches absolutely blundered her testimony to pieces, said Wallace had mentioned Qualtrough, then that he didn’t, then that he did, then that he didn’t, then that she swears he didn’t.

Still with contradictory testimony it should be pointed out so people are aware the information is not necessarily accurate as presented.

But here are some important areas of divergence or ommission:

1) Both Florence and John’s initial statements are amended in pen. Initially they had both said that Wallace asked them to wait while he looks around. They had this changed to say that John suggested they would wait. This amendment which was then maintained by the Johnstons through all further statements contradicts Wallace’s own statement:

Wallace 20/01/1931: “I said then, I couldn’t get in, and asked them if they would wait while I tried again.”

Johnston 23/02/1931: “It is not correct to say that the accused said to me and my wife “Wait”.”

Similarly regarding the detail of Johnston’s offer to try his own key, that too is penned in. The mention of the key is absent entirely from the second statement. I do not know protocol for statements like this, but assume penned amendments are made at the time when the statement is read back to the witness.

2) They say on the main trial that Wallace was walking in the ordinary way back round to his yard. In all prior statements they say he was hurrying.

3) John says he remained in his house until 20:40 on the murder night. Not sure why? He says the very next sentence he went out in 20:45 which is the time he then maintained.

4) The series of events regarding the cash box changes dramatically. In order:

a. John: Wallace pointed out a broken cabinet lid → John asked if anything is missing → Wallace reached up and took down the cash box and said about £4.

b. Florence: No mention.

c. John: Wallace pointed out a broken cabinet lid → Wallace took down the cash box and opened it → John asked if anything was missing → Wallace said about £4.

d. Florence: [Uncertain placement of the time Wallace pointed out the broken cabinet lid] When they all went into the kitchen Florence asked “What have they taken?” → Wallace then reached up for the cash box and took it down and said about £4 but did not seem to care about the money → Does not know whether she or her husband then asked Wallace to check upstairs.

e. John: Wallace pointed out a broken cabinet lid → Wallace took down the cash box and opened it → John asked if anything was missing → Wallace said about £4.

f. Florence: Wallace pointed out a broken cabinet lid → John asked “What have they taken?” → Wallace reached up and took down the cash box and said about £4 → Now remembers her husband had been the one who asked that he check upstairs.

g. John: Wallace pointed out a broken cabinet lid → Wallace took down the cash box and opened it → John asked if anything was missing → Wallace said about £4.

h. Florence: Simply confirms in answer to a question that Wallace had pointed out the broken cabinet lid and taken down the cash box. No series of events given.

Wallace 20/01/1931: “After my neighbours had been in, Mr Johnston went for the police and a doctor, I asked him to go. I afterwards found that about £4 had been taken from a cashbox in the kitchen, but I’m not sure of the amount.”

5) On trial Florence says Wallace showed emotion twice, but her February statement describes his demeanour in greater detail, stating that he was very distressed and in a state of half collapse at times. The version on the trial paints a colder picture.

6) Florence claims to have heard Wallace knock on his back door with three knocks five minutes before they left their house (so 20:40). Slight amendment on the trial to 2 to 3 minutes.

7) Disagreement regarding the terminology used when discovering the robbery. Florence twice claims that the phrase “What have they taken?” was used (one time attributing the line to herself), while her husband John claims to have asked “Is anything missing?”

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