Russell Johnston (Grandson of the Johnstons)

Interview with Russell Johnston from Radio City. He is the grandchild of Florence and John Johnston who discovered the body with William Herbert Wallace (various statements by John and Florence here). His mother is Amy Johnston (née Towers) and his father is the son of Florence and John, Robert Johnston.

Host: On line 6 we have a most interesting caller, a Mr. Russell Johnston who’s the grandson of the Johnstons, and whose grandmother found the body with William Herbert Wallace, Mr. Johnston good evening.

Russell Johnston: Good evening.

Host: You’ve heard our program what are your thoughts.

Russell Johnston: Well my thoughts are that I don’t really think that the evidence presented against Gordon Parry is anymore substantive than the evidence that was presented against Herbert Wallace. Now, the evidence against uh Parry, one of the key factors was that he was having some sort of relationship with Julia Wallace. Now whether this was a romantic relationship wasn’t made clear.

Now my mother who is still alive and in those days had just recently married was living with her in-laws, who are my grandparents (on my father’s side), at uh #31 Wolverton Street, would be at home all day because in those days uh women didn’t go out to work to the same extent when they were married, and she says as far as she can recall she did not hear any piano playing or singing in the afternoons of the period leading up to the murder. Which was a point raised by I think Mr. Goodman in his uh book.

Host: Mr. Johnston will you stay on line because let-let’s put that to Jonathan Goodman. Your uh evidence was that uh Parry told you that he was in the habit of visiting Mrs. Wallace for musical evenings. Now we have Mr. Johnston saying that his grandmother who lived next door and th-they were literally terraced houses, there was a dividing common wall between the two houses never heard musical afternoons going on.

Goodman: Maybe Parry was talking about making sweet music in a different sort of way. Uhm but certainly this is what he told us and without any prompting.

Host: Mr. Johnston are you still there?

Russell Johnston: Yes.

Host: What-What I’d like to suggest to you if I may that, she may, your grandmother may say sh-she never heard musical afternoons but of course she never either heard the murder.

Russell Johnston: Oh no she didn’t, no, well uh my nan-this is my mother says she didn’t hear the uh, the uh singing. And my grandmother is of course is dead and has been dead since 1950.

Host: Yes I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

Russell Johnston: Not to worry.

Host: Yes. Uhmmm, uh-uhm perhaps just Dr. St-St. Hill you could just clear up a-a quick point. Would the murder have been particularly noisy, the way was reconstructed, uh there was little noise to hear.

Dr St. Hill: No, I don’t think there’d be much noise. Uh, she would probably not have a chance of crying out because become more or less unconscious after the first blow, and after that all you would hear would be rather dull thumps.

Host: Right, let’s uhm for the __ you want to make a point.

?: Yes, could this caller say whether he knows whether his grandparents thought Mr. Wallace was guilty.

Host: Mr. Johnston?

Russell Johnston: Yes, I heard that.

Host: Yes.

Russell Johnston: No, I can’t comment on my grandparents opinion, because I never really discussed this uh murder with my grandparents, but I did discuss it with my mother. Now she was so intimate with the Wallaces from the point of view of being friends, that on the morning of the murder in question, she was cleaning the window in the-above upper bay of #31 Wolverton Street, and she can remember seeing Julia Wallace and waving to her through into the next bay, on that morning. And she is, has always been convinced that it was Herbert Wallace who did it.

One of the reasons is that after my grandfather had gone to fetch the police, my father come home from work (he worked in the city) and he asked where his parents were, and my mother told him they were next door. And my father went next door and found that my grandmother was in the middle kitchen, the main kitchen, and uhm, Wallace himself was standing in the back kitchen, cutting up meat for the cat in a very casual manner rather a cold manner. And this of course could be a reaction that some people have to great stress and they go very col-very cool and self controlled- over self controlled.

But she always considered that Wallace possibly did the murder, and the only motive she could think of, that he was rather conceited man, and rather felt that he was very clever, and possibly he knew he had a terminal illness, and he wanted to commit the perfect crime. But this is only sort of a theory of hers of course there is no evidence for it.

Host: Mr. Johnston thank you very much indeed.

Notes of Significance:

1) Claims his mother Amy Johnston was “so intimate with the Wallaces from the point of view of being friends”.

In a statement by Florence Johnston is the following excerpt: “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.”

Which corroborates that not only Florence, but also her daughter Amy may have been very friendly with Julia.

2) The Johnstons claimed to not be familiar with the interior of the Wallace home at all, and to have only been into the front parlour on three occasions in the decades of being neighbours while William was not present (although they had been tasked with catsitting during the Wallace’s trips to Anglesey). The statement that Amy Johnston was “so intimate” with the Wallaces suggests that she at least may have been into the home on more occasions and may be familiar with the rest of the home including the living kitchen.

As stated by Florence, Amy and Julia had apparently had a discussion about William and the debacle over her late return home only a few weeks prior (which William was apparently very upset about – a tale Julia also volunteered to Albert Wood). Where did this conversation take place? Was it in the home? Sarah Jane Draper the charwoman stated that on several occasions while cleaning the house, Julia had admitted guests into the home and into the front parlour, in the absence of William.

Further, there were two separate postcards from Julia to Florence Johnston found down the sideboards of #31 Wolverton Street where the Johnstons had lived. These were sent from Julia during her trips to Anglesey describing how pleasant it was, and another sent apologizing for being late on paying for the catsitting of Puss (the black cat which went missing the day before the murder).

Of very slight note, Florence Johnston was able to point out which armchair in the kitchen belonged to Julia, which MAY indicate she was familiar with where Julia sat in the kitchen due to visiting her in this room before. But I would not make much of this.

3) His mother Amy Johnston claims to have seen Julia in the upstairs bay window of #29 Wolverton Street from their own upstairs bay window at #31 Wolverton Street. The street as it was at the time can be seen below:

It is of some note that the “front bedroom” which would be the one Amy apparently waved to Julia in, was the one found in “disorder”. Although it was hardly disordered, just the bedsheets partly off and a couple of pillows to the side of the bed.

It is therefore possible the so-called disorder was caused by Julia who had started to do something like change the bedding or something else of that nature.

4) When his father Robert Johnston returned from work, his mother Amy Johnston told him (Robert Johnston) that John and Florence were next door.

It therefore becomes important when Robert Johnston returned from work; what was his line of work? If this return from work was at any time before 8.45 PM (already a very late time to be returning from work in most career paths), and at this time Amy told Robert her parents were next door, this would place her parents in the Wallace home before 8.45 PM and before Wallace arrived home.

It was also not mentioned in any statements that the Johnton household had been alerted to what was going on prior to when Florence sent her daughter (unspecified as to whether this was Amy or Norah) to fetch Amy Wallace from Ullet Road, arriving there by Amy Wallace’s statement at 10.10 PM.

5) His mother told him that Robert Johnston had entered the home, this was never mentioned in any statement. This may be a mistake.

6) Claims that his father Robert Johnston is the one who saw William cutting up meat for the cat; by statements it was in fact John Sharpe Johnston who saw this upon his return. Again this may be a mistake.

7) His mother Amy Johnston claims she did not hear any piano playing in the afternoons leading up to the murder. This corroborates William’s statement (which contradicted his nephew Edwin) that he does not believe he and Julia had played music on the Sunday evening when Amy and Edwin had visited.

This corroborates William’s belief that Julia would probably have declined an invitation to play the piano due to her illness (they would generally play together on most evenings, evidently this was not done in the period leading up to the killing when William/Julia had both fallen ill).

8) If Robert Johnston really did not return from work until 8.45 or later he was probably NOT HOME during the period in which the murder take place, removing one potential witness to sound etc. leaving only Florence, John, Arthur, Amy, and Norah in the home.

It would also explain why Florence and John left the back yard door without having anyone bolt it behind them, if their son was expected to return home by this way after their departure.

9) I have not found this in any statements, but John Sharpe Johnston apparently ran into Norah’s fiancé and exclaimed “Frank, I have to get Florence out of there as soon as the possible!”.

The source for this is author John Gannon:

“Rushing down to Lower Breck Road, Mr Johnston bumped into his youngest daughter’s boyfriend (and future husband), Francis George McElroy, on his way to see Norah. Quickly telling him the tale of the night’s awful events, Mr Johnston exasperatedly told him, ‘Frank, I have to get Florence out of there as quickly as possible!’”

This encounter happened as he was on his way to the doctor. If he had in fact alerted his household of the murder prior to leaving for the police, he could have requested they go for the police while he stayed behind with his wife (or with Wallace alone himself). He could also have simply sent Norah’s fiancé to the home or for the police.

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