Modern Forensic Expert Analysis of the Crime Scene

Below I will include in full my correspondence with a modern day forensic expert who I commissioned to review this case. She has worked forensics on several live homicide cases for the police.


Expert: I am a forensic PhD student and have experience working on live homicide cases with many UK police forces. I have extensive knowledge of forensics and forensic anthropology.

Me: Greetings, sounds good to me.

If I send you the information I have and photos, would you be able to see if you think you would be able to offer insight into the crime.

Expert: Hello,

Excellent. Absolutely, if you can send over the information I will let you know how/if I can help out.

Me: Okay great, so I’ll post a few of the reports.

First of all about the woman, her name is “Julia Wallace”, née Julia Dennis. She was believed to have been around 55 at the time the forensic report was written but later birth certificates have shown her age to have been 69. She was at the time suffering from some bronchitis-type condition when she was found dead in her parlour with serious head wounds.

The crime scene is a bit iffy because the photographer actually moved things. The original body position is described as such (according to one of the authors on this case):

“Julia was lying on her right-hand side, almost diagonally across the rug, her legs slightly parted, her feet lying flat on their sides close to the right-hand end of the fender, toes pointing toward the window. Her right arm was hidden beneath her body; her left arm lying against her body, was bent at the elbow, the forearm resting over her chest, the fingers almost touching the floor. Approximately 18 inches from the open door, Julia’s head lay on its right side, her eyes staring out toward the window. Surrounding her head was a 9-inch border of congealing blood, brain tissue and bone. Just above, and in front of her left ear was a huge, cruel opening in her skull, 2 inches wide by 3 inches long, through which what remained of her brain could be seen.

– Gannon, John. The Killing of Julia Wallace . Amberley Publishing. Kindle Edition.”

The forensic expert Dr. McFall rendered this opinion:

“Title: Report of the Post-Mortem on the body of Julia Wallace, found murdered at 29 Wolverton Street on 20.1.31 (By MacFall)

[1] On 21.1.31 at Princes Dock Mortuary, I made a P.M. examination of the body of Julia Wallace. Woman about 55 years, 5’ 3/4”, lightly built, prominent abdomen. No linea abicantes [stretch marks on the skin that often follow pregnancy]. The external genital orifice was quite clean with no evidence of blood.

[2] There was a small recent bruise mark on the inside of the left upper arm. There were no other marks of violence on the trunks or limbs. The hair was matted with blood and brain tissue. The hair was removed. Two inches above the zygoma was a large lacerated wound 2” by 3” from which brain and bone were protruding. On the back of the head on the left side were ten diagonal apparently incised wounds.

[3] On removal of the scalp the left frontal bone was driven into the front of the brain corresponding to the external wound. The whole of the left side of the back of the skull was driven in and broken into pieces. The injury extended into the middle and rear fossae, fracturing and breaking up the rear part of the cerebellum, bursting the tentorium cerebelli and breaking up the left part of the cerebellum. The left lateral sinus was broken across, also the meningeal arteries.

[4] The appearance was as if a terrific force with a large surface had driven in the scalp, bursting it in parallel lines, with the appearance of several incised wounds, but the edges of these wounds was not sharp.

[5] The lungs, heart, kidney and spleen were normal. The stomach contained about four ounces semifluid food consisting of currants, raisins, and unmasticated lumps of carbohydrate. The small bowel was normal, the caecum ascending and transverse colon were enormously and chronically distended – typical constipation bowel. Uterus virginal and clean. The vagina clean and no evidence of bleeding. The right ovary normal, the left 3½ by 2½ fibroid.

[6] I am of the opinion that death was due to fracture of the skull by someone striking the deceased three or four times with a hard large-headed instrument.”

Apparently Julia had eaten a light meal of scones at just after 6 PM which I should mention as the above report mentions stomach contents.

Another important statement:

“On 20.1.31 at 9:50pm, I was called to Wolverton Street, Anfield. In the parlour I saw the dead body of a woman… The hands were cold but the body warm; rigor mortis now present only in the upper parts of the left arm but by about 1 o’clock had extended to the right arm and right leg, but on no part was there any marked rigidity. From these two observations, it was most likely that death had taken place two hours before my arrival.” Therefore, the estimated time of death was approximately 7:50pm. By the time of the trial, MacFall had changed his mind – Julia Wallace had died before 6pm.

Brown, Antony M.. Move to Murder: A brutally murdered wife and a husband accused of the perfect crime (Cold Case Jury Collection Book 3) . Mirror Books. Kindle Edition.”

And crime scene photos (I have one in the parlour in colored version which I will attach as a file):

And morgue photos showing the wounds:

And the trial testimony of the main forensic expert on the case Professor McFall and other doctors and police pathologists:

Apologies if it’s a bit lengthy! Please just have a look and see if this is something you’re interested in and if you think you can help shed some light on the topic. If so let me know a time/price estimate etc.

I may be able to dig up more information if needed. But the initial forensics were done rather poorly and thus I think it is important to get an opinion from a professional such as yourself with modern day training.

Expert: Hi,

I’ve had a look through the documents and I’m sure with some thorough analysis of these I may be able to help out. Of course, this will be limited to the detail exhibited by those at the time. For example, the time of death estimate is based purely on rigor which would not be indicative of more than an 8 hour time frame in today’s casework, a liver temperature is the usual method now to make this determination. The congealing blood may offer some insight, but I would need to examine this further. I am happy to continue with the analysis and see what I can establish.

Me: Also I forgot to put in this testimony which may be of use also as the witness (Florence Johnston) seems to think Julia had gone cold within the time she went into the home (it would be about 8.50 PM) until a little before the police arrived:

She also described how the crime scene looked different. Her husband John also testified but I do not think he gave as much detail:

I just noticed in one of my previous messages I quoted an author saying this:

“There were also a small number of tiny blood splashes on the wall between the parlour door and the piano. In his initial report, MacFall concluded that Julia must have been sitting on the two-seater settee, her head lowered and inclined to the right as if in conversation with somebody.”

It may be correct though I have not seen this report myself. There probably are blood marks there, but on trial the chair MacFall would claim Julia was sitting in was the armchair with the violin across it (the single person armchair just to the left of the fireplace).

The author made a specific claim about the stomach contents which may be of interest too:

“According to Julia’s autopsy report, her stomach contained ‘about four ounces of semi-fluid food consisting of currants, raisins and unmasticated lumps of carbohydrate’. According to Wallace’s statement, this was the remains of the meal (tea and scones) he and Julia had had at 6 p.m. If this is so, this could indicate that Julia may have been murdered sometime between 7.30 and 8.30 p.m. (an hour and a half to two and a half hours after her meal), not between 6.30 and 6.45 p.m. If Julia had been murdered between the latter times, the food in her stomach would not have been as broken down by digestive fluids, as the process would have been halted by her death.

Gannon, John. The Killing of Julia Wallace . Amberley Publishing. Kindle Edition.”

The main point of contention in the case is whether Julia was more probably murdered before 7 PM (moreso 6.50 PM) or after, as the accused husband had to have left his back door by 6.50 PM at the latest to have caught the trams he used.

And also whether the mackintosh was worn by the husband so he could kill her and leave the house in an “impossible” seeming amount of time.

I have a lot of details on the case etc. so let me know anything else which may be of use.

And also let me know about the hours etc. I just stuck down 2 for now and can add more as we go along.

Expert: That’s great. I think the initial step is for me to thoroughly examinet these testimonies and the photos. We can then discuss next steps and what would be ideal for me to see and if you have it. Do you have PDF versions of the testimonies? It will make it easier to read and get some notes down but I can work with the website if not. I’ll get to testimony examination tomorrow if that’s ok? I think the first two hours will be ideal for this anyway.

Me: I don’t have any PDF versions unfortunately, I got the trial text from Kew Gardens and just photographed everything. Have not transcribed it to text. And yep that would be cool thanks 🙂

Expert: Okay, so I’ve had a thorough look through both forensic pathologist and the analysts testimonies. It’s very clear that the pathologist hold too much weight to the methods they use, as was common at the time. As no temperatures were taken, and there aren’t even notes on the rigor method they did use, I would suggest disregarding their estimations for time of death, and keep it broad as stated by the witnesses. There’s no indication of the heat of the room which would also change rigor mortis onset. Even between themselves they seem to disagree on this method 🙂

The blood pattern analysis is, as expected, rudimentary and regarded too highly. Obviously, the photographs don’t show these patterns in great detail due to the technology of the day. However, the overall location of the blows seems to be consistent with what McFall states. More information could be concluded if the full bloodstains could be seen. The postmortem information seems to suggest blunt force trauma to the head, the number of blows estimate is tenuous by McFall but I’d be happy to say that it was multiple blows. This type of injury would likely cause a lot of blowback blood spatter, meaning the perpetrator would be covered in blood, from the testimonies it doesn’t seem consistent that the MacKintosh was being worn during this (although if there is an image of this I might be able to be more conclusive). Also I would disregard the blood on the toilet pan as transfer, as it is inconsistent with the rest of the evidence.

I’m sure there’s more I can help with here, if there’s anything else you want based on the testimony you would like to clarify/know just ask the question.

From reading the testimonies I think the following items could be extremely helpful for further analysis:
-Exhibit 56 -> sketch of body position and blood clot location
-Images of the MacKintosh
-Postmortem sketch by McFall
-Colourised version of the postmortem photo
I understand these may not be available, but if there’s anything that can help me further your information that would be great.

Me: By location of blows do you mean where she was hit, or where she was positioned when hit?

I am curious of a couple of things, I am wondering where you think Julia and her attacker may have been positioned and facing when the first struck occurred, and also what your suggestion may be for how the mackintosh ended up where it was and how it came to be burned. Those supporting William’s guilt suggest the wearing of the mackintosh which I see you are not keen on, or holding it up like a shield.

I can get specific information about the jacket (although no photo exists of it that I know of), I would presume it was something like this:

I am also curious whether you had any thoughts on the stomach contents in regards to the possible time of death.

I think I can procure some of the things you have requested. Colorization is done on an “estimate” sort of basis, the colorizer has to guess what colors they think things are, but it can indeed be helpful.

I know I can get more information and I think I have the sketch you mean, which I sent as an attachment.

(Credit John Gannon).

Thanks very much, look forward to hearing back from you.

About the jacket I think I have what you are looking for. Thanks to the incompetence of the investigators and crime scene photographer, they actually took the jacket out from under her and laid it out as you see there. Which fortunately in this case means I can provide a picture of the jacket.

Expert: Thanks for the pictures. I’ve had another look at the new images and the ones you sent through previously. Unfortunately the sketch isn’t as informative as I had hoped, but that is to be expected with this evidence I suppose!

In my previous message by location of the blows I meant where the Julia was positioned when the first blow occurred. The concentration of the blood spatter to the left of the fireplace, and the height of this, suggests the position of Julia’s head would have been in this area when struck. Due to the angle of the photograph, I couldn’t say how she was positioned for this to happen though. It was definitely lower than standing height, whether this be sat down, bent down, or kneeling is unclear. There is a couple of blood spots on the ceiling, suggesting cast-off from whatever was used to hit the victim. [NOTE BY ME: These ceiling marks may be a photo glitch as I have not seen them mentioned in any reports] These indicate that at least one pull back of the weapon (after landing a blow) would have occurred in the left corner of the room, closer to the violin case.

In relation to the mackintosh, obviously a lot of the blood patterning is obscured by the pooling blood from being under the body. I wouldn’t rule out that the mac could have been worn, but I would envision a greater spatter on the fabric if so. The burn to Julia’s skirt and the mac would suggest these had both caught in the same way, so the more likely scenario would be the mac was on or close to her and fell under during the attack. This is more speculation though as there is little usable forensic evidence on here. Some of the blows were done in a position similar to that which the body was found in, which McFall is correct on due to the brain leaching. I would expect quite a bit of spatter on the suspect’s leg at around ankle height. As there is no mention of bloody footprints leaving the room, or indeed anywhere, it’s possible this was wiped off with something in the room; as there are no other items mentioned with lots of blood on it would stand to reason that the mac was used. Again, this is a hypothetical but worth mentioning.

Clearly, the competence of the photography of the jacket isn’t ideal. I can’t really say more about the spatter on here from this. Also it was disturbed, and looks to have been laid in the blood pooling, so further transfer likely occurred.

The stomach contents is a point I forgot to mention on the last message, my apologies. The postmortem states the food in the stomach still had an ‘unmasticated’ appearance. This suggests that the time of death was between 0 and 2 hours after consumption. This has some individual variability, but does give an indication.

Me: Thanks greatly for this! 🙂

What I would like to establish if at all possible based on the evidence is:

1) Where the attacker may have been in the room when the first blow struck, and if you agree that the first strike would have been to the front of the head (where the large fracture is) as McFall indicated.

I am trying to envision where the attacker might have stood or sat (etc) to land that blow on that part of the head and for the spray to then go where it did without his body blocking the spray from hitting the wall etc.

2) The meal I believe was eaten at around 6.10 PM, although it is not specific and may have been a little after this. The neighbour Mrs. Johnston said she heard two thuds coming from the Wallace’s home at 8.25 to 8.30 PM, which she thought might have been her father taking off his boots in their front parlour (the parlours of their two homes are divided by only a thin party wall).

Is this a bit of a stretch for the time, or would this perhaps be consistent with the possible time the attack took place? I think it would fall beyond very close to or beyond the 2 hour boundary, I see you said there is variability but seems to be cutting it very fine. Also whether the illness she was suffering from (seemingly a kind of bronchitis) and age might affect the speed of this process.

3) How Julia’s feet may have ended up on the right side of the fireplace if she was attacked on the opposite end. I know her body was moved but still I am not sure.

I think it may be of importance if all of the followup blows were to the back of the skull with the head in the position roughly where it was when discovered, as then I guess it means after the first strike she was moved into her final resting position before the next strikes were landed.

4) There has been a suggestion that the killer wore the jacket then knelt to deliver the followup blows (to explain the lack of staining around the ankles), or held it up as a shield etc.

I think that is not an idea you are so keen on.

The jacket would have been hanging in the hallway if it had been left where it was before Wallace went on his trip, so it seems it has been brought into the room, either by Julia or another party. I think the suggestion was made by the defence that she had slipped it round her shoulders to answer the door – and that she fell into the fire wearing it in this manner hence the two things being burned as they were.

Does this seem correct? Or would it still seem a little off base.

I can get the colorized post-mortem photos done. But yeah please do let me know about ratings and funding etc. like I said I’m not sure how to use this platform correctly, I think we have probably surpassed two hours of work and I’m thinking I should add more for you.

I also forgot a major question: A lot of authors who favour Wallace’s guilt believe he had worn the same clothes he wore to go out on his trip in as he beat his wife to death (as opposed to the prosecution suggesting he was naked underneath – or even that he changed outfits).

With another suspect Gordon Parry, they examined his clothing down to the seams for blood (according to a relative of his), and so I would imagine they were as thorough with Wallace’s clothing if not more but did not find any blood upon his clothing.

Does this seem likely in your view, that he could avoid any trace of blood getting upon whatever was under the jacket if it had been used in such a manner?

Expert: To address your points:

1) I think it’s very likely the first blow would have been the largest hit, the details of the subsequent blows are consistent with the blood and brain leaving the skull cavity on the rug. From the blood spatter, the most likely position of the attacker would be in front of the fireplace, I don’t see any spatter on the right hand wall which would corroborate this. It’s possible the weapon was quite long, which would explain the high force of the injury, and so they may have been further from the seat than one might initially consider.

2) Between 8:25-8:30pm I would suggest is definitely within the range of possibility. As a general guideline undigested food would be seen in the first two hours and more liquid food would be seen between 2-6 hours. The postmortem suggests that there were bits of unmasticated food which could be indicative of the start of digestion and somewhere between these two stages. Also, the individual variation isn’t fully known so it’s very possible that the time of death was within this window.

3) The movement of the body is less clear, as I’m sure you can see. It’s possible the first blow was not immediately fatal leading to some movement by the victim. As you said, the final blows are with the head in the position seen, the body could have been moved to a more suitable position, or to avoid the fireplace. Sorry I can’t help more on this point.

4) Due to the amount of blood pooling under the body, if the mackintosh was worn while kneeling I would expect to see more staining on the lower section. I think it is more likely the two items burned at the same time, this could also explain some of the body placement if the task was to stop the fire before being noticed. I would suggest the mackintosh being on her person to be a more likely explanation, but of course there’s a lot of variation that could have occurred on the day.

5) I can’t see an attack such as this not leaving spatter upon all the clothes, even if covered by the mackintosh. Especially on sleeves and collars that wouldn’t be covered in that scenario. While the techniques of the day may not have picked up the minute spatter I would imagine at least some blood on the clothing. However, if the outfit Wallace was wearing was also worn on finding the body, it would likely be described away as transfer from touching the body. This seems unlikely as the neighbours saw Wallace at the time of body discovery.

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