William Herbert Wallace is almost certainly innocent of this crime.
Because minor mistakes in facts can lead to radically different takes on the case (a number of accidental factual errors in Gannon’s work for example, and purposeful lies and doctoring of official documents now public domain on my site by James Murphy – have muddied the waters of truth), I have tried my utmost best to maintain complete accuracy. As such, I may have to edit this piece over time if I discover new facts or errors in stated facts.
As can be imagined, with almost a century of rumour and many books released prior to the case files being made accessible to the public, it can sometimes be hard to sift through what is fact and what is fiction.
The short version of the solution is this:
Richard “Gordon” Parry placed the telephone call to the chess club. A friend of his murdered Julia the next day during a robbery gone wrong.
I will cover many of the points below.
Analyzing the Telephone CallCaller: Richard “Gordon” Parry.
While the time that Wallace left his home apparently dovetails with him being the caller (it actually doesn’t, unless he took a different tram than he said he did), it equally dovetails with a number of other possibilities:
- That someone was purposefully waiting for him to leave his house to ascertain he was probably going to the chess match, and then made the call.
- That William met up with someone and sent this other person right to the call box while he himself went left to the tram.
- That someone by happenstance was passing Wallace and decided to place the call. The idea of a prank call is actually quite an ingenious one in my opinion, and even if wrong I think the first person to suggest this (P. D. James) deserves huge credit.
- That someone knew roughly when Wallace usually attended his club, and just placed a call a little before then.
On top of this, everyone who actually spoke to the voice could not say that it was Wallace. Indeed, Samuel Beattie who had known Wallace for eight years said that it was most certainly nothing like his voice.
The prosecution came up with the idea that a disguised voice was used. That is possible of course, and I’m sure the quality of audio over phone lines in the 1930s was not quite what it was today… But Beattie is saying this even in hindsight, when specifically trying to imagine that it was Wallace disguising his voice.
When looking at the facts overall – unless you assume that Wallace killed his wife, every piece of evidence points away from him having placed the telephone call, and directly at another particular man having done so…
Asking for Wallace’s address:
Edit [23/04/2020]: Unfortunately the quote about “Qualtrough” asking for Wallace’s address appears to possibly be another mistake by James Murphy since I cannot verify it, which is a shame if so, as I felt the following analysis of this aspect of the call helped to point away from William having placed it. Will update if I can find verification.
A strange point has been made by some people that asking Samuel Beattie for Wallace’s address means Wallace called, since after all, who but Wallace could know Beattie would not know his address? This is faulty logic, but so prevalent in books on the case that I feel I should explain it… First of all it falsely assumes that the caller wanted Beattie to say he didn’t know the address.
This is when we have to consider what exactly someone could get out of pretending to not know Wallace’s address… If Wallace himself called and goes on to murder his wife/have another man do it for him, it will be immediately obvious to the police that whoever phoned the café did indeed know the address and went there the next day (barring the assumption the caller found out in the hours following the call). In other words, the question has absolutely no benefit to anyone should Beattie fail to give the address. All it does is make it seem to the police that whoever asked this question was likely not a stranger to the Wallaces, but wanted people to think he was.
On the flip side of the coin, if he does give the address to the caller, there is a distinct and obvious benefit: When the crime occurs the next day and the police investigate the matter, they are going to come to the conclusion that this was a person who did not even know where Wallace lived until Beattie told him.
The only benefit to even asking the question is if Beattie DOES know and provide the address. In such a case, I assume the caller would say he can’t make it all the way over there tonight due to _____ (perhaps his “girl’s birthday party”) and have the message relayed.
If there is more than one man involved and this is a burglary scheme (as opposed to a murder, since the type of burglary I think it is would not be noticed that day), the benefits multiply… Now even if the police think the call is most certainly related to the crime, whoever placed the call can ensure he has an alibi for the robbery and therefore nothing can be proven against him in a court of law… Even if he were caught as being the caller he can simply play it off as a practical joke; nothing could be legally proven against him unless his accomplice is also caught (unlikely if the man is a stranger to Julia) and gives him up.
What I suspected Parry was hoping would happen is something like this:
Parry: “Can you tell me Wallace’s address?”
Beattie: “Yes, it’s 29 Wolverton Street, Anfield.”
Parry: “Anfield? Oh, no, that’s a little far for me to be going tonight, I’m too busy with my girl’s 21st, could you leave a message for him instead?”
After the burglary, if this bizarre message was investigated as being connected to the crime, when Beattie tells the police the caller asked for Wallace’s address and he (Beattie) had given it to him, it would widen the suspect pool significantly.
Aside from carefully constructed scheming like that where it serves an actual purpose, it might simply be a throwaway without any real meaning behind it.
Why not simply put a note through William’s letterbox?
“Mr. Qualtrough” clearly knew where William lived, and had a surefire way of ensuring the message found its way to William: by posting a note through his letterbox.
The two issues here are that by doing so it shows the person who sent the note knew where he lived (if the caller had asked and been given the address by Beattie, the police could not say this for certain).
But more importantly, if a note is given, if a stranger turns up the next day claiming to be there for the business appointment, he would be unable to claim there had been a mix up in the delivery of the message. In other words, he could not convince Julia he’d actually requested Wallace meet him at 29 Wolverton Street (Wallace’s address), as the note would prove otherwise.
And what of the contents of the call…The name R. M. Qualtrough:
Again, who benefits? What is the purpose of using this strange moniker and how would the person using it benefit? Let’s break this down…
If Wallace is the man who placed this telephone call, why would he not use a random realistic sounding name like “Frank Jackson” or something? First of all, to a layperson it would seem more like something you could fall for. Secondly, a peculiar name like that is not remotely needed to form an alibi…
Think of this: He discusses the name with James Caird after the chess club saying what an odd name “Qualtrough” is. But what conceivable use is this to him? Could he truly believe that if he did not do this, that the entirety of the chess club who had spent a good deal of the night discussing the best routes Wallace could take to Menlove Gardens (Deyes even lived opposite the Gardens, so knew the area well) would not be able to provide evidence to the police that Wallace really had received a call?
Could he truly believe that Beattie would forget that he had received this message or be unable to back him up that there had been such a message?
Of course not… It would have to be unnecessary overacting on his part.
And then comes the tram conductors and the others he spoke to around Menlove Gardens. There are many ways to get noticed if you really want to be. Simply pestering the conductor to put him off at a certain stop, “accidentally” spilling coins all over the floor, anything that could create a scene or implant you into somebody’s mind would certainly be enough. A strange name is unnecessary as a means to achieve this end. Moreover to briefly address the “impossible timing alibi” idea, he would surely want to make sure he’s noticed through any means on the first tram… Instead he does not begin inquiring until the second tram.
Most importantly – unless it is an enormous coincidence, R. J. Qualtrough is a real Prudential client, specifically a client of a man Wallace had previously supervised: Joseph Caleb Marsden, a good friend of Gordon Parry who shared Gordon’s penchant for petty theft.
So let’s look at the most realistic reasons behind the use of the name Qualtrough:
- The caller hopes that Wallace will recognize the name as being a real Prudential client, and thus accept the call as genuine without digging too much into the details. Of course, it turned out Wallace did not, and in this case the caller accidentally flubbed the middle initial, but I believe that was the intention.
- It is something the person thought up as a random name on the spot.
- Wallace purposefully wants to frame Marsden or a friend of Marsden (such as Parry) for the murder.
If not any of the above reasons, a random yet very normal name would be better suited for the task.
The actual voice itself:
I only have the shakey word of one old-timey author on this (an author who passed many years ago but put this down in his book), but aside from the actual tone of the voice, the accent was wrong too.
While it is true that Wallace grew up in Cumbria and did not move to Liverpool until later in life, it’s also true that the “Scouse” accent was much, much different and softer back in the 1930s, so perhaps a little harder to distinguish… Still, if Wallace did indeed have an accent which was not local to Liverpool, I am very surprised that the defence did not pick up on this.
In the full unabridged trial text on this site, I have seen Hemmerde use the term “accent” when speaking of Wallace faking a voice, which makes it seem like Wallace did indeed have a regional accent unless the term was used figuratively.
This is important because the voice that the operators heard is very different from the “strong, gruff” voice that Samuel Beattie heard, which has led to people speculating that the caller used his REAL voice when speaking to operators (since it was only by mistake that this call was ever traced), and only faked it when he got through to the café.
If Wallace has a regional accent, then this means he used TWO different fake voices. One normal but with a fake accent, the other gruff and with a fake accent. One then wonders what this could achieve? If he’s faking his voice to the operators, the strong implication is that he’s attempting to pre-empt them being questioned about his voice by the police – and if that’s the case, why not use the “more heavily faked” voice he used when speaking to Beattie for maximum protection? Was he TRYING to give the impression the first voice was his real one so as to point away from himself being the caller?
Or is it more likely that the caller did indeed use just the one fake voice: The voice he used when he got through to the café? Parry was an attendee at this café, and therefore has an interest in disguising his identity.
One of the telephone operators who spoke to the voice (Lillian Martha Kelly) had this to say:
“Later of course I heard Wallace speak at the trial, but I could not have sworn it was the same man.”
It should be noted that her wording is a bit ambiguous here and could be interpreted as meaning she thought it could have been. Plus there is no mention of the accent…The alibi?
What I think is most noteworthy about the telephone call, is that we can prove beyond question that the alibi one man gave to the police about his movements at the time the call came through was completely false:
Richard “Gordon” Parry.
His alibi, and the statements of his girlfriend Lily Lloyd and her mother which prove this to be false, are provided below:
Gordon Parry’s Statement:
…On Monday evening (19 January 1931) I called for my young lady, Miss Lilian Lloyd of 7 Missouri Road, at some address where she had been teaching, the address I cannot remember, and went with her to 7 Missouri Road at about 5:30pm and remained there until about 11:30pm when I went home.
This statement was officially recorded on the evening of January 23rd, 1931, three days after the murder, but Parry stayed there through the night going through and giving his full statement before signing it in the early hours of the following day (the 24th of January). This delay might raise an eyebrow in and of itself.
Some have speculated he was “mistaken” about his days… I don’t think many reasonable people would believe this is likely, especially considering his recollection of movements the following day was very precise, and the fact he gave this statement very shortly after the murder.
Adding to that, where he actually was around the time of the call (Lily Lloyd’s house), suggests that he knew he would find her at home there. Lily Lloyd was a piano teacher but also worked as a pianist at a local cinema – and Parry’s false alibi above implies she sometimes teaches at the homes of other students.
To have known to call on her at her own house at that time means he must have expected (or took a chance) that at that time on a Monday she would be at her house – as opposed to where she may potentially be on a different day: At the cinema or another student’s home.
Lily Lloyd’s Statement:
…On Monday 19 I had an appointment at my home with a pupil named Rita Price. I cannot remember properly but either Rita was late or I was. It was not more than 10 minutes. I gave my pupil a full 45-minute lesson and about 20 minutes before I finished Parry called. That would be about 7:35pm. I did not see him and when I finished the lesson he had gone. I know he called because I heard his car and his knock at the door and I heard his voice at the door. I do not know who answered the door. He returned between 8:30pm and 9pm and remained until 11pm. He told me he had been to, I think, Park Lane.
For the record, Park Lane is just a little over one mile from the café where Wallace was attending his chess club. The chess club is on a main strip of the town at North John Street. South John Street is a continuation of this same strip, then below that there’s Park Lane. This is a public café, and with more than one person involved in a plot of this kind, it would be a trivial matter to simply have someone down at the café to see him arrive.
I believe there is a possibility he went to Park Lane to pick up somebody who had been waiting at the café to see William arrive.
Lily Lloyd’s Mother’s Statement:
On Monday 19 January 1931 Mr Parry called at my house at about 7:15pm as near as I can remember. I can fix the time as about 7:15pm because my daughter has a pupil named Rita Price of Clifton Road who is due for a music lesson at 7pm or a bit earlier every Monday. Last Monday (the night of the Qualtrough call) she was a few minutes late and she had started her lesson when Parry arrived in his car. He stayed about 15 minutes and then left because he said he was going to make a call to Lark Lane. He came back in his car at about 9pm to 9:15pm and stayed until about 11pm, when he left.
Of note, Lily’s mother states he arrived at a time when him being the caller would not be possible, as well as saying he went to “Lark” Lane rather than Park Lane, which is not so close to the café. However having been a pupil of music, playing piano for over a decade, I can attest to the fact that teachers are very aware of the time during lessons. They have to know how much time is left in a lesson so they can cover the things they want to cover, as well as make sure they are finished by the time their next student is due. Most tutors including my own keep a clock on top of the piano for this reason, glancing at it periodically.
So I would certainly suggest Lily Lloyd’s timing is more accurate than her mother’s.
So the question is this… WHY did Gordon Parry give a false alibi to the police? There are three possibilities I can see:
- He was engaging in some other criminal act at the time.
Though other petty crooks were so frightened when questioned by police, they actually admitted to crimes they were committing in a different part of Liverpool. This happened at least once – a petty crook the police questioned immediately admitted he could not possibly have placed the call because at the time he was breaking into a property far away from Anfield.
- He had no decent alibi.
It’s peculiar that none of the many other people questioned seemed to have had this issue of feeling a need to fake their whereabouts.
- He made the telephone call or was with the person who did.
What I think is the most obvious answer.
It was suggested by the prosecution that nobody but Wallace could possibly have known he would be attending the chess club on that Monday. This is completely false.
While it’s true nobody could be SURE he would go, there was a very publicly displayed noticeboard in the café (right by an etching of the cafés phone number) which displayed a schedule of chess club matches. On this schedule it can clearly be seen that W. H. Wallace is set to attend the club on the 19th of January.
Some authors claim that anyone could see from a quick glance at that chart that William had not been to the club in four scheduled matches. This is not true… To explain the chart it is as such:
Each player is assigned a row number. The numbers in the columns coincide with a row number, indicating scheduled match-ups. The crosses indicate days when the person did not have a match scheduled and would therefore not be due to show up. A ‘W’, ‘L’, or ‘D’ beside a number would indicate that the match was played, with the letter corresponding to the result (Win, Loss, or Draw).
However, Wallace was not the only member of the club who was liable to no-show. In fact, on the 19th of January when the “Qualtrough” call came through, Wallace’s opponent did NOT attend the club, and thus the chart result above appears as though Wallace did not show up – when it was actually his opponent who failed to attend… Vice versa if we look at his previous scheduled matches where he failed to show up, we see the man he was due to play also has no letter by the number in the column, which by the logic suggested by many authors would mean they ALSO did not show up.
So in reality details about attendance cannot be gleamed from the chart.
Further to this, I doubt anyone taking a quick glance at the scheduled chess dates would actually try to set about ascertaining when Wallace last turned up. If this is a robbery it is not completely vital the plan even succeeds, unlike a murder plot. So attention to detail is not so utterly crucial.
It is also known through the statements of both Wallace and Parry that although William had not attended on those Mondays, he had been there on at least one of the Thursdays in November when he was not down to play a match (if not two). According to Parry he saw Wallace there on either Thursday the 6th or 13th of November. Parry claims he had seen Wallace there two times prior to this as well, and that prior to these sightings he did not know Wallace was a member of the chess club there.
The café could expect around 100 visitors per day according to waitress Gladys Harley, so there are many people who could have seen this noticeboard… But to someone who did not know Wallace went to that café for chess, for all they know “W. H. Wallace” could be an entirely different man to William Herbert Wallace.
A curious fact about Gordon Parry is that his hobbies may seem unusual for a petty crook and “bad lad” – he enjoyed singing and acting and was a member of a local amateur dramatics society known as the Mersey Amateur Dramatics Society (M.A.D.S.). Importantly, the drama club he attended met at Cottle’s City Café: the same café at which Wallace’s chess club met. It was during these drama club meetings that Parry saw Wallace.
Gordon Parry said in a statement to police:
I am a member of the Mersey Amateur Dramatic Society and previous to the production of John Glaydes Honour on 17 November 1930, at Crane Hall, we were rehearsing at the City Café every Tuesday and Thursday. It was during these rehearsals that I saw Mr Wallace at the City Café on about three occasions. I did not know previously that he was a member of the chess club there.
The nights Wallace’s chess club met were Mondays and Thursdays. It seems likely that Parry saw Wallace on a Thursday evening, with Wallace being there to attend the chess club and Parry there for his drama club rehearsals.
It is my strong conviction that Gordon Parry was either the caller himself, or with the person who called at the time.
A snide jab at Wallace?: Suggested by a Reddit user going by the name jmpur, I found this suggestion a clever one so I had to add it…
In later years, Gordon Parry would relay to Johnathan Goodman that Wallace was “sexually odd” (which given the era is probably an implication of homosexuality). Could this perhaps have something to do with why Wallace was sent off on a wild goose chase around “Men Love” Gardens?
During brief research with an old directory of Liverpool, I have found that there were other such roads available at the time if the ruse were so important to the plan. For example North Albert Road – there is an East, South, and West Albert Road, but no North. These roads are just off of Sefton Park…Did the caller know the address didn’t exist?: There is of course the possibility, that the caller did not intentionally send Wallace (or Wallace send himself – if you are of the opinion he’s solely guilty) to a non-existent address. I actually think this is somewhat likely.
There’s an important quote in a chapter on the case by John Brophy:
“If he (the caller) consulted a large scale map (5 inches to the mile at the time) current at the period, he must have noticed a few oddities about the map. Wolverton Street is not marked at all. The ‘conventional sign’ indicating the points of the compass has no words or letters to show which direction is which, but immediately beside the arm pointing North is the isolated capital letter S (from the word ‘Mersey’) so anyone not fully alert might confuse north with south and therefore, east with west.
In the Menlove Avenue area, the three streets called Menlove Gardens are clearly enough named, but whereas Menlove Gardens South appears with ‘South’ abbreviated to ‘S’, and Menlove Gardens North appears with an ‘N’ after Gardens, Menlove Gardens West has no ‘W’ at the end.”
Could it be possible the map confused the caller into believing West was East? Even if he had not looked at a map, the name of the client appears to be a mistake (R. M. Qualtrough as opposed to R. J.), which is what makes me think East could simply be another mistake.
Could it just be that this “genius and diabolical” plan is not so ingenious after all? We see if R. J. Qualtrough is the intended client the caller wanted to pose as, they have flubbed the name. Could they have simply flubbed the address as well? Was this “plan” just chucked together with little thought at all?
What we can deduce from the caller giving the number 25 however – although 25 is a fairly obvious random number (much like how most people choose “7” when asked to pick a number between 1 and 10), is that he may know that the house numbers on Menlove Gardens West were odd (and therefore that the house numbers on East would be too if it existed, even if the fake address was intentional), while North and South were even, which is not something often included on such maps. This suggests the people involved may have had some familiarity with the Gardens.
This latter point led me to investigate the possibility of the housebreakers involved in a recent robbery at Menlove Gardens South having involvement in this crime, which you can read here.
As an aside, that robbery, like the tens upon tens of them happening all across Liverpool at the time, including a break-in at 19 Wolverton Street the month just gone, had no signs of forced entry. It is therefore surprising such a big deal was made of that fact when evidently getting into homes without having to force locks (etc.) was common.
If Wallace acted alone and killed his wife, then apparently the gods of luck were on his side to allow so many things to align so perfectly for him to get away with a crime hinging on a terrible plan.
Firstly that Alan Close actually makes an accurate note of the time he delivers the milk, that Alan Close even comes forward to give a statement (he did not do this immediately, and Wallace never mentioned him to police), that he manages to catch the trams with little to no wait times, that he lies about the tram he took to the chess club and nobody bothers to check and nobody comes forward to state otherwise, that the man he names as his prime suspect happens to give a false alibi, that he doesn’t get even a drop of blood upon him while battering his wife to death, that his neighbours just so happen to be leaving their home as he’s pretending he can’t get in, that the chess club noticeboard would perfectly implicate Gordon Parry who he names as his prime suspect (the same man who by sheer coincidence lies about his whereabouts when the call was made)…
It gets to a point where the probability of so many things coincidentally aligning so perfectly for him is astronomically low…
It seems more like the police case was tailored to portray guilt, rather than the case built around facts. Not Wallace’s voice? He was using a fake one! Alan seeing Julia? It was William dressed as his wife (a real suggestion by the prosecution)! Wallace having no blood upon him at all? He shielded himself with the mackintosh! No known motive? He was secretly building up hatred for her over the many years they lived together! Anything which would to a normal person suggest Wallace did not commit this crime was twisted with sometimes bizarre excuses.
But two modern day experts in forensic science dispute the claim the mackintosh theory would even work:
“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 protected 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.
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.”
Another forensic expert – a doctor who is active to this day giving expert forensic testimony in court cases and investigating suspicious murder scenes for the police – claimed the idea of Wallace holding up the jacket as a shield and his clothes being protected from any spray is “absurd”.
I have always agreed that it seems very odd that she was wearing his jacket which was the suggestion made by Roland Oliver (having thrown it round her shoulders to answer the front door). But it is something that is suggested repeatedly. Importantly it was the immediate impression of Florence Johnston, one of the only witnesses to have seen the original position of the body and jacket, and something she interpreted as being something a woman would do…
One thing I did notice when glancing around the palour however is the sheer lack of items one could use if they were looking for a rag to wipe blood off of a weapon/their hands and feet, or wipe down surfaces to clear away fingerprints. What seems to be a “covering” on the seat of Julia’s chair is apparently actually a cushion according to the City Analyst and I think items like that are a little awkward for the purpose. It is known that Wallace’s jacket was in very easy reach just outside the door in the hallway, and that is one possible use I can think of… An attempt may then have been made to burn the jacket to remove fingerprint evidence – since the killer has handled it, with it then being shoved under the body instead and letting the blood pool remove the evidence, because either the burning did not work/was too conspicuous, or Wallace knocked on the front door.
Apparently an iron bar or poker was taken away out of the home, although it should be noted that police were moving things around without any consideration, and this may be the iron bar here:
Before the photographer even took his photos, many things have been touched, handled, and moved. For example in the bathroom shots we see between the two photos that the plug and chain is moved, the soap removed, an object on the floor moved, and rags placed down there. In the parlour photos we notice the chairs are moved, and we know Julia’s body (!) and the mackintosh are moved from the original position. The amount of police interference and crime scene contamination was so severe that Florence Johnston said the photographs look like a “faked room” on trial.
If this piece of iron in the photograph above had been moved, the charwoman may have simply seen that it’s not in its usual place, and thought it was missing.
On the other hand, she did not describe it having a handle or knob on the end which the one in the photo appears to (though she also didn’t say it did NOT have such a knob on it). She did, however, describe a poker from the kitchen as having a knob on one end. If that is the poker from the kitchen the question would be why it is there at all – since the fire in the parlour is a gas fire and it has no reason to be there. But that is a matter for speculation.
In whatever case, the removal of a weapon from the home signifies a fear of fingerprint identification, and also away from a hitman – since a hitman would surely bring his own weapon.
If William planned and executed this crime alone in the way we are supposed to believe, then the plan must have been something like this:
- Look for an address where there is a missing compass direction (unless the East was a mistake), even though such an address is entirely unnecessary to establish you were not at home at a certain time;
- Pick two suspects to frame – Parry and Marsden – and pray they don’t have an alibi;
- Pick a fake name to use (R. M. Qualtrough) which is strikingly similar or even meant to be quite literally the name of a client Marsden had, to help frame him and Parry even further – and pray even harder they don’t have an alibi;
- Possibly place a telephone call using two different fake voices (one to operators – since it had a local accent, another to the café), though I am not 100% on the accent;
- Take a tram opposite the phone booth then lie about which tram stop was used and pray nobody checks or comes forward to call you out;
- Inquire at the club as to how to get to the address and hope nobody – including a member named Deyes who lives opposite Menlove Gardens – points out it’s a fake address;
- The next day after finishing the final insurance round for the day, wait for Alan Close to arrive to provide a time of when Julia was last seen alive and hope he actually notes the time of this encounter;
- Be sure you later don’t tell police that the milk boy was the last to see Julia alive, even though he’s the be-all and end-all of the “impossible timing” alibi;
- Ask your wife to come into the parlour and set it up for music, put on your own mackintosh, then batter her to death before shoving the same mackintosh under her dead body – then pray the police don’t find its presence damning.
- Steal from only the cash box and later say only a few people know where it was to limit the suspect pool as much as possible;
- Later be sure to tell police Julia had no enemies and never admitted strangers to limit the suspect pool even further;
- Make a dash for the tram and hope there isn’t a wait time for any of them, and that you’re not seen rushing through the streets with your peculiarly tall-for-the-time 6’2 frame;
- Do not ensure you are noticed on the first tram via some inconspicuous method, which would be the most important tram on which to establish a timestamp;
- Pray there is no wait time for the second tram and only then once on the second tram begin to establish an alibi;
- Hunt around Menlove Gardens for an hour needlessly even though Katie Mather of 25 Menlove Gardens West alone (and perhaps the newsagent) is enough to prove you were away from your house looking for an address, and though the tram journey time alone is enough to create the reasonable doubt required to show you were not at home when your wife was killed;
- Return home then knock very gently on the doors of the house as a pantomime act to nobody but yourself;
- Pray that a neighbour comes out of the house as you are doing this, yet continue to not make any kind of commotion which might rouse their attention, even if that commotion is simply louder knocking;
- Name Parry as your prime suspect and strike gold when Parry gives a false alibi, and it can be shown Parry could have seen when you’d be at the chess club by fixtures posted on a noticeboard at the café;
Does this seem like the plan of a criminal genius?
It seems more to me that housebreakings (without forced entry) and robberies were exceptionally common in 1930s depression-era Liverpool where so many people were out of work or desperate for money, and that something like that was attempted at the Wallace’s home.
Given the brutal nature of robberies housebreaking gangs were committing against the elderly on the streets, I wouldn’t even put it past people like that to plan in advance to knock out or murder an old lady like Julia to make off with some insurance takings.
COULD Wallace have been the caller?
To have made the call to the chess club, Wallace would have had to have lied to police about the tram stop he used (though at the time he made this statement he would not have known for sure that the call was traced). We know the call came in at roughly 19:15 (Antony M. Brown of Cold Case Jury, and author of ‘Move to Murder’ claims the time was most likely 19:18), and after some technical difficulties was finally put through to the café and answered by waitress Gladys Harley at 19:20. Annie Robertson the operator made a physical note of the 19:20 time due to the apparent error with the phone box.
There was a very brief talk with Gladys Harley, and she then took the phone to Samuel Beattie. The duration of the conversation that took place with Beattie is unknown. We know that he had to copy down the details onto an envelope, repeating it back to the caller and also requesting he spell out the name, which may have added some time. Author Antony M. Brown guesses it would have been around 3 minutes before the caller hung up the phone.
Antony has also made an effort to work out the probabilities of Wallace having made the call via mathematics which you can see here:
However, I’m able to furnish you with the real times, since the two routes WERE tested. Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro employed civil and consulting engineer P. John Maddock to rigorously test both routes.
From Wallace’s back yard door, taking the route he claims to have taken, the shortest possible time was 23 minutes and 30 seconds. Meaning if Wallace left his back door at 19:15 as claimed, he could have arrived at the tram stop near the club as early as 19:38, making his arrival time of around 19:45 very possible.
However, having taken the other route WITHOUT stopping to make a phone call, the shortest possible time was found to be 26 minutes. If we consider that the stop to make the phone call took about an additional 5 minutes (the call coming in at 19:18 assuming Wallace left his back door at 19:15, finally being patched through at 19:20, and then a 3 minute conversation with Gladys and Beattie before hanging up), the absolute minimum time the journey could have taken in total would have been around 31 minutes. Meaning he would have arrived at the chess club after 19:45 even if he had stepped directly onto the tram with no wait time at all.
The chess club had a rule that anyone who arrived after 19:45 was penalized. Unfortunately because the rule was not strictly enforced, we cannot say with absolute certainty whether Wallace arrived before or after this time.
Gordon and Qualtrough…
Although there are a few things which can support Wallace being the caller (Gladys Harley said the caller sounded like an elderly gentleman), there’s a far more extensive list of things which help to suggest Gordon was the caller:
- Gordon was close friends with another Prudential worker Marsden, who had a client named R. J. Qualtrough.
- Gordon often placed prank calls and as a drama student was talented at putting on voices. He would have been able to put on a fake voice of “Mr. Qualtrough” without difficulty.
- The time his girlfriend Lily Lloyd claimed he arrived at her house aligns with him having placed the telephone call then driven to her home which was nearby.
- Gordon Parry had a local accent, those who spoke to Qualtrough pegged him as being a Liverpool local. Wallace was from Cumbria and moved to Liverpool quite late in life.
- Gordon Parry was a well-spoken and foppish type of character. The operators specifically remembered that “Qualtrough” had pronounced café as “kaff-ay”, which was notably posher than the common pronunciation of “kaff”.
- The excuse for why he can’t call back later when Wallace is there is that he’s busy with his “girl’s 21st birthday”. Part of his alibi for the night of the murder was that he had called on some friends to help arrange a 21st birthday party.
- Gordon commonly looted telephone kiosks, while Qualtrough seems to have attempted to scam a free call.
Even though there was seemingly a real problem getting through, the caller reported pressing button ‘A’ before getting his correspondent – something anyone familiar with telephone boxes would know not to do. Also, the operator saw by the lights on her switchboard that the caller had NOT pressed button ‘A’, but had in fact pressed ‘B’ to return his coins, implying that he had been lying.
- If Qualtrough did attempt to scam a free call, it fits with Parry’s financial situation, as he was dirt broke.
- “Qualtrough” asked for Wallace’s address. The only benefit is if he is given the address, which suggests he is someone known to the Wallaces who wanted to make it seem that he was a stranger.
- Later in life Parry worked as a switchboard operator, it was said he had an “arrogant manner” on the telephone which got people’s backs up. According to Crewe, “Qualtrough” sounded confident and “sure of himself”. This was attested to by others who said he sounded confident.
- The caller faked his voice when getting through to the café, suggesting he was known there, which Parry was.
- Gordon Parry gave a completely and utterly false alibi to the police when accounting for where he had been when the call was made.
- Parry was also supervised by Mr. Crewe who lived at Green Lane (near Menlove Avenue and Menlove Gardens).
Having a car meant he would not have had to take a tram to get there unlike Wallace. Wallace taking a tram would have surely taken the route which goes along Allerton Road and got off the stop at Green Lane, as the distance from Menlove Avenue to Crewe’s house (which is much more towards the bottom end of Green Lane) is much further.
If Parry ever needed to visit his supervisor, from Woburn Hill he could take a more direct route by car, which would take him across Menlove Avenue, and past both Menlove Gardens North and West:
The KillerKiller: William Samuel Albert Denison (or someone else very close to Olivia Brine).
Forgetting my conviction that Parry is the caller for a moment, we will analyze the murder independently. As per the genius prank call idea of P. D. James, there is actually no real certainty that the call and murder even have any direct intentional connection to each other.
One of the more solid ideas (in my opinion), is that someone exploited this prank call to rob Wallace’s home. After all, his address was discussed at the chess club where practically everyone in attendance knew every detail about the “business trip”…
In fact, the only real thing to dispute this being the case is the word of John Parkes which was given in the 1980s (see part three of the Radio City show here). Naturally this, when 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, 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.
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.
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…”
For sake of brevity, I will summarize that I for a long time considered John Sharpe Johnston to be a prime suspect. I think they should be considered suspects in the case for many reasons, although their defence of William in court is perhaps too effective compared to what I might expect if they were involved.
The mention of the cat, though, 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…
I think ANY comprehensive and unbiased write-up on the case should make mention of this. So make of it what you will… It should also be noted that a man by the name of “Stan Young” was given to police by Wallace as a potential suspect. He had worked for the Pru. He was listed along with Parry, Marsden, and about three other Prudential employees including the supervisor Mr. Crewe.
The idea that the cat was used to ensure entry is sound and MUST be considered, and this testimony must be carefully considered. If a stranger were to knock on the front door, having the cat is one way he would almost surely be allowed into the home.
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 (which is often downplayed by authors) 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, 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… 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.
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, and Gannon has continuously made claims that have been perpetuated as fact based on “could it be?” type logic. Here is the sole thing he bases this assumption on:
If you see on the left margin, it is scrawled “In bed with flu 20th”, and it seems 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 on the night of 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.
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.
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 Johnathan 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.
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. 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?
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.
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 mind’s 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 Olivia Brine’s home at 43 Knoclaid Road where his accomplice is – her nephew William Denison. At a time we might assume to be around 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 42 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 50 minutes 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 the chance of his imminent return begins to become a concern.
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 he’s in/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.
- 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. 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. Given the obscurity and specificness of that statement, it should not be laughed off without some consideration.
- 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. While out there, the outhouse being right by the yard door, the perpetrator has unbolted it so Gordon can get in the back (he also could have jumped this wall). He has come back in and left the back door off bolt.
My grandpa said this was a common trick used by burglars back in the days when people had outhouses instead of indoor toilets, you would go out to use the toilet and let a friend in the back to commit the robbery.
Gordon 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.
Because Julia knows Gordon, if she finds him out there the police will catch them because Julia knows Gordon, so Gordon has told Denison to make sure Julia doesn’t leave the parlour.
- 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 coming 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 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.
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.
Depending on what weapon was used…
If it was the missing poker (only 9″ approximately), it has then been taken from the “living kitchen” where the cash box was and used to finish her off/make sure she really is dead (my grandpa suggested they did this to cover up what had really happened in there e.g. the shove into the fire)… The mitten seen by Parkes does not belong to the assailants – it was taken from the living kitchen. If you look around the crime scene photo of the living kitchen there’s no mitten or glove, and yet they have a fireplace with a door. You could not open and shut the fireplace without such a glove otherwise you’d burn your hands. But also it was a cold end of January night, and the man in the front could simply have been wearing mittens.
If it was the “piece of iron” from the parlour then the attacker has simply grabbed the nearest item. Julia at this point may have been lying flat on her back in the armchair corner of the room, or attempting to get up, when he hit her with the bar.
- 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 have wiped the gas jets as they turn them out, and also on handles they touch, to remove fingerprint evidence.
The poker has been taken away because one of the two men has touched it with a bare hand and they are afraid of fingerprint evidence.
- 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 and Dr. Dunlop’s house (see diagram below).
- The men dump the murder weapon down outside Dr. Dunlop’s house which is 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 on Priory Road was a surgery at 111 Priory Road, Dr. Dunlop’s house was at figure 3 just under Priory Road). 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.
- The men jump into Parry’s car, the glove is thrown into the glove commpartment, 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 – so he may have purchased these things from one of many kiosks which operated in that era selling such things.
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 later when talking to 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.
- Later that evening 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 the weapon 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).
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.
- The next day 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. They never come back to that garage again.
- 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.”
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. 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 bar of iron/poker 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 waited until she is essentially facing him before striking (the first blow is to the front side of the head)?
These facts combined make it seem like an unplanned attack. The subsequent mess also seems to suggest the attack was not preconceived… The body is moved substantially and there has been a blaze of some kind, her skirt twisted with the body seemingly rolled over, and flames apparently doused out. Not very professional unless there was a struggle which the lack of disturbed furniture points away from… If Julia did put up any fight we could also not expect it to be a very good one, this is a little old lady of near-70 suffering from bronchitis. Wallace on trial also said that she was prone to heart attacks.
One of my forensic experts 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… Although the statement of Anne Parsons 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, so the sound is unlikely to have been him “taking off his boots” as Florence had initially suspected.
Regarding the mackintosh…
Two expert forensics have testified to me that they see “no way” the mackintosh could have completely protected clothing underneath if worn, and especially not protect clothing if it had been held like a shield. Forensics have suggested to me, like Roland Oliver, that the jacket and skirt burning is one singular accident rather than two. In other words, the jacket is on Julia in some way.
The jacket was a main point in the conviction of Wallace, where they claimed he was able to get away without being covered in blood due to the raincoat.
For some the involvement of Wallace seems too obvious to overlook. In fact, so strong is the conviction, they will suggest his personal diary entries (including after his successful appeal until his dying day – discussing his love for his wife) and decision to be buried in the same grave as her, was all part of the longcon.
The reasons given by all authors on the case for why he wants his wife dead simply do not match with his actions after the event. What is this great life Wallace was now finally able to live now his wife is dead? What of these grand William Wallace adventures?
By everything we know, it would seem that he murdered his wife not for a life of adventure and freedom, but so he could die sick, lonely, and outcasted by all those who knew him; according to Goodman, after his release:
“He went back to his old job of collecting insurance money in Clubmoor. Only for a day or two, though. As he walked through the streets children were dragged into the houses, doors slammed, upstairs windows opened and women stuck their heads out to shout curses at him; the tough guys of the neighbourhood stood in his path, brandished their fists in his face, threatened him; many of his clients—some of them people who had known him for ten years and longer, who before the murder had often invited him in for a cup of tea—now refused to answer the door when he knocked.”
Goodman, Jonathan. The Killing of Julia Wallace (True Crime History). The Kent State University Press. Kindle Edition.
He also became a target for knock-down ginger type pranks, but not only from the local children. In the middle of the night on one occasion, a man had shouted through the letterbox:
“Julia … Julia … What’s happened to Julia? … She’s all chopped up … chop-chop-chop … Killy-Willy—Killy-Willy …”
Having been forced out of his home and career and ostracized by almost all those he once called friends, Wallace’s sole passion in life seems to have turned to maintaining his garden, which he would write about in his diary with frequent references to Julia and his love for her…
…Personal diary entries supposedly written just to fool us in the future should they ever be made public. I envision we are meant to see him there smoking a pipe, laughing in maniacal glee after another day of harrowing hatred from his former friends, penning these fraudulent notes of affection about his wife to trick us foolish 21st century folk, then shouting CHECKMATE as he slams the diary shut.
They read as follows:
25 June 1931 (Wallace on a bungalow in Bromborough which he would move to): My dear Julia would have absolutely revelled in this house and garden, and it hurts me to realize that this is her long wanted house, and now she is not here to enjoy its peace and beauty. A thousand times more than ever do I wish she could share it with me. What joy she would have had in that lovely garden! What wonderful happiness and content would have been hers! And now all is gone, and if I take this house as I feel I must, my happiness and peace in it will ever be tinged with sadness and regret.
25 August 1931: Quite a fine experience this morning. As I was going to catch my train I passed a man, and to my great surprise he said – ‘Good morning Mr Wallace,’ and introduced himself as a Mr ——. He had heard of my coming to live in Bromborough, and, believing me to be an innocent man, desired to be friends. It was a kind action for which I am immensely grateful. To know that I am not an object of scorn and suspicion to everyone is something. And to go about feeling that one is shunned by nearly everyone is a terrible ordeal, and though I try to fight it down and ignore it, the whole business depressed me beyond words. Perhaps, after a while I may get immersed in some new hobbies to take my mind off the terrible tragedy. What I fear is the long nights. But, perhaps the wireless will help me to overcome the desperate loneliness I feel.
8 September 1931: The last few days I have been depressed thinking of my dear Julia. I’m afraid this will be a very lonely winter for me. I seem to miss her more and more, and cannot drive the thought of her cruel end out of my mind.
20 March 1932: There are now several daffodils in bloom, and lots of tulips coming along. How delighted dear Julia would have been, and I can only too sadly picture how lovingly she would have tended the garden. Today I have been very much depressed, full of grief and tears. Julia, Julia, my dear, why were you taken from me? Why, why should this have been so? It is a question to which I can get no answer, and I must fight this dread feeling of utter loneliness as best I can. Black despair! When shall I be able to find peace!
31 March 1932: Got —— book on ——. I see I am included in the list of great criminals. The thing is too hideous to think about. I, who could not have hurt any living thing, I am supposed to have most brutally murdered Julia – Julia who was the whole world to me, my only companion with whom I could have trusted my life. If there is a God in Heaven, why, oh, why! Has she solved the great mystery of the beyond, or is it utter extinction? Does she know how I grieve for her, or is it the end? I am tortured by doubts.
12th April 1932: A reference to the garden.
(Actual text unknown).
If Wallace was an innocent man, then as seen by his diary he died a broken one. A caller on Roger Wilkes’ radio show (a Mr. Brown) told Wilkes that Wallace had asked for his advice: he had yet another kidney condition and without surgery he would die. When Mr. Brown told him he could not possibly tell him what to do about such a thing as that, Wallace replied that he thinks he will forego the surgery as he no longer has anything to live for.
Myth and urban legend has transformed the lonely, sickly old man William Herbert Wallace into a villain straight out of detective fiction. The enthusiastic yet exceedingly mediocre chess player (who was not even in the top class at his local club) became a Kasparov level chess kingpin who could match wits with Sherlock Holmes himself.
It seems people have fallen in love with the IDEA of the villain Wallace; it is certainly enchanting to let go of reality and plonk ourselves down in the middle of a real world Poirot episode, if only for a few hours, during endless back and forth debate.
Many times in fact, I have witnessed people online (people who have gone on to write their own books) posting how overjoyed they are that the latest book on the case didn’t definitively solve it.
COULD he have done it alone?
Possibly, but could and did are two different things. And it’s still not very likely in any case. It is not so much the matter of blood spray, or the time taken to stage a burglary which I will cover below.
Staging a robbery…
Almost all researchers on this case seem to believe he would have had to stage this robbery after Alan Close saw Julia. This is completely false. If he wanted to fake a robbery, he easily could have done this at any point after he got home at 6 PM. Nothing was seriously disturbed, it’s not like his wife is going to suspect he’s doing it so he can murder her in any case. I think the time taken to “stage a burglary” can essentially be completely eliminated.
Beyond that, nobody but William and Julia can vouch for what was actually in the house. If he really wanted to, he could have told police money from a certain spot known only to him and Julia had been taken, or certain jewelry etc.
He also entered the house alone while the Johnstons waited outside – more opportunity for staging.
So forget the time for robbery. Add a flat zero seconds for this, it should not be counted.
Could he have got away without being covered in blood? There is one way he could have done this easily – but we can almost prove for certain this was NOT done… The very, very, very simple way to accomplish this would be to throw something over his wife’s head and then immediately hit her with a blunt instrument. In that case, there would be NO spray, and NO blood upon a weapon, meaning NO need to dispose of anything whatsoever. This could be achieved in under a minute. There is no risk or reliance on luck.
However, we see spray up on the wall, and the forensic experts who testified are sure it’s from the wound on Julia’s head. There’s also blood in other parts of the room (which we can’t really see due to the poor photo quality of the era) including – apparently – on the top of the violin case on the armchair, above the piano near the parlour door, on sheet music, and on a cushion (it’s not known which cushion, but maybe the one on the armchair Julia is speculated to have sat in). My own forensics have told me the evidence shows the jacket was not over the head during the attack.
Could he have avoided all of the blood spray by wearing the jacket? I’m told no way (even McFall says as much when pressed by Roland Oliver). What about holding it like a shield? I’m told that’s even worse. What would be a more likely course of action would be to dispose of ALL the clothes he had worn, changing into a totally new outfit just before leaving the house. Should he have disposed of the jacket too? Definitely, but evidently if guilty this was not done or he just simply did not use it at all.
A statement from a modern day forensic scientist who has worked homicide:
“…The blood pattern analysis [of the experts at the time] 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…”
It would appear that forensic scientists with the most modern training and experience seem to believe the jacket was in fact NOT worn by any attacker. The evidence favours the idea that it had been on or around Julia in some way and that the burning accidents are in fact once singular accident.
If the jacket ever had been used as a shield, I don’t think anything would occur to a rational person as being quite as condemning as to leave it bloodstained and burnt beneath the body where it will definitely be found, and definitely incriminate the person it belongs to. At least if he did this – I don’t think this particular aspect was some kind of “grandmaster chess move”.
Something important about the parlour fireplace:
The door closes on the milk boy at 18:38, Wallace cannot have left his house later than 18:49 to catch that tram. Julia is in no hurry to beat any clock, it’s supposedly William who is… So she’s not rushing to get into position to be murdered.So William of course will now have her go into the parlour, any pretext will do, the last thing she could possibly expect is that he’s about to murder her. Not a clever move to use the parlour, but he wants to make it seem like a visitor has called I suppose. So he gets her in there… And now, the fireplace…
I have done some research and I know precisely what type of fireplace they owned. It’s a Wilson’s brand “Sunbeam” Gas-Fire. The operation of the fireplace required the use of a knob on the right side of the fireplace in order to put the gas on. Much like a modern gas stove.
So once Julia enters the room, she has to bend down at the fireplace to put on the gas. The perfect opportunity for Wallace to strike surely? But he hesitates it would seem – we move on, she gets her box of matches (presumably they would already be on her at this point of course), strikes a match, and sets a light at the bottom of the fireplace. I have found a video on YouTube showing the operation of gas fireplaces and I think this one would work in a similar fashion… This one has fake logs while the Sunbeam has fake coal:
I have heard from older people that these fireplaces were very finicky, and would rarely light right away, instead taking some time “swearing at it” until it finally worked. As quoted from a forum poster by the name “Al Bundy’s Eyes”:
So why exactly is he waiting around for her to fiddle around with the fireplace? She’s already on her knees to put the gas on – the perfect opportunity to strike. This is a man apparently determined to do everything inhumanly fast to provide himself with an alibi, why is he dawdling when he has apparently planned this so long in advance and knows exactly what he’s going to do and how. Did he not have everything prepared in advance for this time-based alibi? Did he nearly back out of going through with it?
“All the old gas fires we had had to be held “on” for about 30 seconds or there about or they shut off as a safety measure. They’re also tricky and never light first time, so you’d be on your hands and knees swearing at it.”
And if he strikes her now, how did the burning come to be, since burning as we saw would apparently require the fireplace to have heated up. I have not confirmed this but I have seen it suggested… In that scenario it was either already lit by the time Julia went into the room (this does not exclude Wallace as the killer) and was beaten, or was lit and left on while Julia entertained a guest and had heated up quite naturally…
So what DID happen? Because forensics both then and now seem to believe she was not standing but definitely sitting, on her knees, bending down, or something of that nature. In other words “a little too low to be standing” as McFall put it.
A forensic expert I consulted with said they believe Julia was somewhere around the region McFall said she was, and that the attacker was stood in front of the fireplace:
“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.”
From this we can gather that McFall was probably reasonably correct about the positioning of Julia, and that after the shot that opened her skull, every other shot was concentrated on the back of her head once her body was roughly in the “final resting position” as it was later discovered.
Florence Johnston heard two thuds from the direction of the Wallace parlour at approximately 20.25 to 20.30.
Florence Johnston: “I did not hear any unusual noise in Wallace’s house until about 8.25–8.30 p.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.”
Gannon, John. The Killing of Julia Wallace. Amberley Publishing. Kindle Edition.
According to modern forensics, these thuds that were heard could be the killer:
“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.”
If this is the case, then it is also possible the killer was indeed still in the home when Wallace tried to gain entry, which is what he said he first suspected.
We also have to remember there was probably a delay between the initial blow to the front side of Julia’s skull, since presumable a fire etc. was put out before the “insurance policy” blows to the back of the head were struck. Therefore, if these thuds were concentrated on Julia they may have happened after her time of death.
The cause of the thuds is not clear so it could even be related in some way to the movement of the body, or anything else which we don’t know the specifics of, or unrelated to the crime in any way if Florence made a mistake in where the noise came from.
Wallace With an Accomplice?
There is a theory by John Gannon that while Parry is the caller, and Marsden the killer, it was Wallace who orchestrated the entire thing. Waterhouse also proposes a theory which is very similar to this but without Marsden. Something along these lines I believe to be a good suggestion (although I am of the opinion Wallace is entirely innocent)…
According to Gannon, he unfortunately robs himself of credibiltiy by claiming on little to no evidence that Julia was paying Parry and Marsden to have sex with her, and Wallace used this to convince them to take part in a plot to murder her. Marsden was due to marry into money and such a revelation would surely have ended that possibility for him. Parry? Well there’s no real reason he would involve himself in such a thing (at least not knowing it was a murder plot), but this is the idea presented.
I have seen a more solid suggestion – that Wallace was bisexual, and it was he (not Julia) paying Parry and Marsden for their “services”. With Parry’s suggestion of Wallace being “sexually odd” (often used as a euphemism for homosexuality in those days), it seems to fit. It is mostly based on a comment on Gannon’s blog (now deleted) where a man claimed his own father had told him he had been a rent boy for Wallace before moving to America, and that he had serviced Wallace for money to pay for the ticket. Whether you find that comment credible or not is up to you.
Lily Hall’s apparent sighting would also fit with an “accomplice”… And in this case, what I would suggest happened is that as Wallace left his back door to go on his journey to Menlove Gardens, the killer (Marsden) entered in his place. When he felt he was going to be arrested for the crime, Wallace then threw his two accomplices under the bus by naming them as prime suspects.
But surely all of this unnecessary complication could have been avoided easily… As Wallace stated in the John Bull articles he had been a keen chemist all his life. If he really wanted to get rid of her, it would not have been at all difficult for him to poison her. Even if he then threw her down the stairs or something inventive like that to make it look like she’d suffered some sort of accident.
On the surface you might think that Wallace, who had a laboratory in his house, might have felt this was risky. But by the same token it was no secret that Julia was in poor health. She was a sickly woman suffering from what she said was bronchitis and had even visited the doctor the night prior with the ailment. With Wallace’s knowledge of chemistry, it would not have been difficult to have made her condition “worsen” and make it appear that she had died naturally.
Considering there was no apparent motive for Wallace to have murdered Julia, and because Julia was known to have been poorly (even visiting the doctor the day prior to her murder), her death would not arouse the remotest suspicion of foul play. In whatever case, it surely cannot be any riskier of a plan than literally battering your wife to death using your jacket as a blood shield and then stuffing it beneath her corpse.
There is also an issue with the call if a guilty Wallace had an accomplice:
- If Wallace has a willing accomplice who will place a call on his behalf, wouldn’t it be more obvious to have that person call WHILE you are at the chess club, and request the message be written down since you are engaged in your chess game?
Now – it could very well be that Wallace thought he would be cleared by the fact he took a different tram, or by Beattie saying it was NOT his voice, but it does seem the more obvious choice in a cunning plan – unless that was the plan and Parry simply called much earlier than he was meant to.
- Would it not occur to Marsden that it’s a bit risky to commit a murder where the red herring name of the caller is so similar to a client he had while working for the Pru? Unless of course, he did not know about this aspect of the crime.
- If Wallace has someone else willing to go in and murder his wife, wouldn’t it be better to set an appointment time to go straight from work? Why does he need to even return home at all when he apparently has an accomplice?
In other words if Wallace was involved, the crime could have been carried out in a way which pointed suspicion further away from both himself, and from the death even being a murder to begin with were he to get out his chemistry set.
There are other glaring issues in a conspiracy theory which I think need to be addressed…
1) First and foremost is the use of the name R. M. Qualtrough, and Wallace’s subsequent denial upon receipt of the message that he had ever heard of such a man. If Wallace is the one who schemed that this name should be used, then he is playing a very dangerous game.
He could at least have done himself a favour and been like “oh, Qualtrough, I know of the fellow, where does he want me to meet him?” which would make it seem more natural that he would go on the trip. But he acts confused which then means it has served no benefit to use this moniker. Whether he recognizes the name or not it is an alias which will lead police directly to Parry/Marsden, his apparent accomplice(s).
This in conjunction with the fact the crime scene appears to be a targeted attack on the Prudential collection box, which Wallace claims barely anybody knew the location of, and him suggesting that Julia would never admit a stranger, he is pushing the police firmly in the direction of his accomplices…
If the police catch his accomplices, facing certain death the very first thing they are absolutely going to do is turn on Wallace and explain exactly what happened to the police.
Unless Wallace hates these men so much that he is willing to risk his life just to see them go down for murder, then it makes no sense at all that he would want police to go sniffing in their direction.
Let’s look at a more plausible plan… A call comes through to the club to meet a Mr. Frank Smith at some random address. Wallace goes there, comes home and finds his wife dead in the parlour, with random valuables missing. The suspect pool is now far wider, making it much more likely that detectives will NOT catch his accomplices, and therefore more likely he will get away with it.
2) The presence of the jacket under the dead body. Considering forensics I have hired have claimed that this jacket was not used as a shield (neither worn nor held as a cape – it was simply not used to protect from blood spray), then it being there makes no sense.
Just as Wallace would not want his accomplices to be caught, his hitman would also not want Wallace to fall under suspicion, because it’s a two-way street. If WALLACE is facing certain death, he would no doubt turn upon his accomplices and name them to the police, which could mean it’s curtains for them too.
No rational person could possibly not realize how incriminating the presence of the jacket looks, and yet if Wallace has a hitman then this man does not have to speed out of the house in an impossibly quick time frame, he has time to stay in the house and ensure the scene is set just right. Why on Earth, in the time he would have had available to him, did he do absolutely nothing about this jacket which would 100% obviously cast suspicion upon the man who had hired him to do the deed? Was it a mistake to have been there, did the hitman believe it was Julia’s jacket?
3) The removal of the iron bar and/or poker. Think about this, if these items are indeed missing, then it makes little sense for a hitman. First of all why has the hitman turned up without his own implement with which to commit the murder? Why would he use some object in Wallace’s house – and why would Wallace WANT him to use an object from his own house?
The removal of the bar/poker if you believe the item(s) truly were missing (it seems the piece of iron referred to as an “iron bar” may be present in the parlour photos), to me, suggests a fear of fingerprints. In other words, the attacker was not wearing gloves. Why would a hitman who knows he is there to commit a murder not be wearing gloves? That is simply carelessness of the highest order.
Robert F. Hussey – who seems to suggest a somewhat similar solution of a Mr. X (Gordon) calling, and a Mr. Y (probably Marsden) being there to sneakily thieve from the box – also seems to suggest a fear of fingerprints. In his scenario he has his killer wiping down door handles and the likes before dashing out of the back with the bar up his sleeve.
I will attach Hussey’s fictionalized retelling of the events he believed may have unfolded below:
It can be seen that he shares my musings on fingerprints, gloves, etc.
He also touches upon the use of the Qualtrough moniker as a means of gaining entry into the home (which was raised as a possibility by Roland Oliver and Johnathan Goodman). This idea was resurrected in very recent years by Rod Stringer for his theory which appears in Antony M. Brown’s book, Move To Murder:
Of course a bad plan does not mean it is not a real one. It is possible for someone to not see ways of doing things which are obviously better, and we have the aid of 20/20 hindsight…
But to me, the simplest answer is that Wallace is innocent of involvement in this murder. It doesn’t look like Parry and/or Marsden are involved because he carefully constructed it to incriminate them, they simply are.
No known motive…
The prosecution immediately admitted there was no known motive for Wallace to have killed his wife. It appears they made this statement to pre-empt the defence, essentially explaining to the jury why motive is irrelevant.
Once James Murphy uncovered Julia’s apparently real age (69, 17 years older than her given age of 52 by William), many speculated that Wallace, discovering his wife was in fact older than he thought – although we cannot prove he did not already know or conversely ever found out – believed it was a perfectly reasonable response to murder her. But I think this entry from his diary has some importance:
“20 March 1929: Listened to ‘The Master Builder’ by Ibsen. This is a fine thing, and shows clearly how a man may build up a fine career, and as the world has it, be a great success, and yet in his own mind feels that he has been an utter failure, and how ghastly a mistake he has made to sacrifice love, and the deeper comforts of life in order to achieve success. Curious that Julia did not seem to appreciate this play! I feel sure she did not grasp the inner significance and real meaning of the play.”
Ibsen’s play, “The Master Builder”, is about a man obsessed with achieving success in his trade (building). He has an old wife and states his disdain at being “chained to a corpse”, so instead marries a younger woman. This younger woman was first attracted to him when – as a little girl – she saw him climb a tall tower he had built. She encourages him to build a tower for her and do the same again, and in a Hitchcockian “Vertigo” type ending, as he climbs this second tower he falls to his death.
Wallace showing disdain for the titular character may therefore hold some weight against such an assertion.
We do have some negative testimony against the relationship of Wallace and his wife – but most of these refer to a sense of “indifference” between the two. This was said by the family doctor, Dr. Curwen, and a nurse who had spent time at the home when Wallace had pneumonia. What must be remembered, is that this “indifference” is clearly a part of Wallace’s character. It was the same “indifference” that prejudiced the police, professor McFall, and the jury against him.
But Wallace was even indifferent about his own impending execution…
Other statements suggest that Wallace was a “street angel, house devil”… Julia, after having tea with friends would rush home to arrive before William got back. Locals at the church said they felt that Julia would have enjoyed making friends, and was happy to chat after church service, but would instead retire to her Wolverton Street prison.
It paints a picture of the man – Wallace – bookish and uptight, a man of old-fashioned values, imposing the same sort of principles upon his wife who dreamed of the days she spent walking the countryside of Harrogate.
We see from statements of friends that Wallace was afraid to leave Julia alone at the house to go to his chess meetings, and when Julia was late home only a short time before the murder, he went to the police station panicking reporting her missing. This is something Julia would relay to a Prudential colleague of William’s, Albert Wood.
Amy Wallace in her own words said that Wallace would often remind Julia not to admit strangers into the house…
I don’t think he is violent. I think with the type of woman Julia is: mousey, timid, and submissive, she willingly follows his rules. Julia was also born in the mid-1800s, and it’s no doubt that women of that era were a lot more serious about gender roles. Julia had been brought up to be a governess, and it would not come as a surprise if she believed that a woman should be an obedient housewife.
It seems to me that this is a man who is overprotective and controlling of Julia. And Julia is a woman who clearly submits to this regime. She is his Rapunzel locked away in his tower. Therefore I don’t think Wallace could have any possible reason to murder Julia, because she is entirely subservient to him.
In my mind, the catalyst would have to be something like an affair or a threat of divorce – something where he may feel a loss of control… And yet in such a situation you would expect the neighbours (who said they had never heard so much as a quarrel) to have heard arguing, considering they lived in terraced housing.
If William Was Guilty…
If William was in fact guilty, then a few things seem apparent to me:
- The motive was something recent.
We can see that a quite recent diary entry shows that he was worried about Julia’s welfare when she got home late, and this was corroborated as being a true event (he went to the police to report her missing).
- He did not act alone.
- I do not believe he cared much for creating a sense of “impossible timing”.
I believe that if he carried out this crime, then he has used Gordon Parry as an accomplice and scapegoat. When William gave his statement to the police about people he thinks could have committed this crime, he gave many paragraphs on Parry, paragraphs on Marsden, then a bunch of random names. The way he described it to police, reading between the lines it was basically “only Gordon or Marsden could have done this.”
Is it wise to tighten the suspect pool to two people if you are guilty? What if it turned out they had an alibi? Was he relying on pure luck that Gordon would lie about his movements on Monday when the call was made?
I think if William is guilty, the reason he named Gordon and “staged the scene” as such that only Gordon or someone Gordon knows could have done it (knowing the location of the cash box in combination with being able to see when Wallace would go to the chess club), is because he KNEW Gordon called, and therefore KNEW Gordon could not provide an alibi, and therefore would be able to throw him under the bus if he himself became a suspect.
Because William never mentioned Alan Close when discussing who had last seen Julia alive (Alan whose testimony is essentially the only reason he was acquitted – because without Alan there is no “impossible timeframe”), then I don’t believe he was even thinking about “beating the clock”. I believe his entire alibi was based on the fact he didn’t make the call, and that it would clearly look like he had been tricked out of the home – perhaps in combination with an obvious framing of Gordon Parry where he is sure to give a false alibi and incriminate himself in doing so.
How he SHOULD have done it:
If Wallace is the lone ranger assassin in this crime, and his intention is to get away with murder rather than risk his life to frame Gordon/Marsden, then he has made a series of obvious and fatal flaws.
Apart from other clear and obvious methods he could have used to rid himself of his wife: E.g. Simply chucking her down the stairs before chess then returning home and claiming she must have fallen, perhaps poisoning her water with something cooked up in his lab for good measure before doing so.
Then if we assume he decided upon this insanely risky, convoluted, and ridiculous scheme, then he SHOULD have done it like this:
1) Wallace places the call to the club using a random realistic name and a real address close to someone he knows like Amy for instance. In the call he (as the mystery caller) might mention that he knows someone from the café who knows Wallace and said he’s a good agent. This person needn’t ever be real or traced because obviously the “stranger” who called – being Wallace himself – is never going to come forward.
2) Wallace receives the message, perhaps voices that it seems odd to receive such a call, but makes a note in his diary. He does NOT pretend to not know the address or continuously discuss it all night. His trap is set…
3) On the day of the killing, after expected visitors call – such as Alan Close – he hits her over the back of the head in the parlour with a small instrument such as a hammer or spanner to minimize the torrent of blood flow and mess. This item has been wrapped to avoid blood, and the wrapping such as cloth is easily incinerated in the fireplace. He then puts the item back with no need to remove it at all.
4) Rather than wearing a mackintosh he wears rather more easily disposable items without metal buttons. He then changes quickly into another clean outfit.
5) He then either incinerates the bloodied clothing in the fire along with the cloth (which he could do in this case), or if really necessary shoves them in a bag and then that bag into his briefcase, and disposes of them (perhaps by burying or chucking this evidence in a lake or anything like that) on his journey; albeit the risk is higher in that case.
6) He takes random items rather than targeting the insurance box to make it look like anyone could have been there, he does NOT make it look like a targeted strike as doing so narrows down the suspect pool significantly. If he has done this, he would want the police to have as many leads as possible to keep himself out of the spotlight of suspicion.
7) He goes out on his journey to the address he knows the location of. He uses some trick to ensure he is noticed on the first tram, like complaining about something angrily, spilling coins, pretending to recognize the conductor – there are a myriad of methods by which he could be noticed.
8) He goes and knocks on the very real address and asks if the realitically-named person is there. The person says no. If the resident is out, he knocks on a neighbour’s door and says he has an appointment next door and do they know where Mr. ____ has gone or when he’s expected back. He can now prove without question he had gone to this fake business appointment.
9) If he wants to kill time, although the tram journey times alone should create enough reasonable doubt (being about 40 to 50 minutes for a round trip just to Menlove Gardens; he could even have sent himself somewhere real but a bit further away), he makes a flying visit to someone like Amy Wallace or whoever the address is close to.
If he’s inventive, he may ensure the appointment address is close to a person he can find a reason for visiting… Like maybe the address is close to a certain person who he’s borrowed some item from, and decides that since the address is so close to their house he may as well return it after the appointment (this is a random example, he would use something real of course).
He could perhaps have a cup of tea or something with this person while there to eat up even more time.
10) He returns home. Pretending he can’t get in, he knocks loudly on the doors (perhaps even calls out “Julia?” through the letterbox or something of that nature) in an attempt to be noticed by neighbours and rouse them into coming out.
11) If nobody comes out he knocks on a neighbour’s door and informs them that he can’t get in, and then the story follows as usual… He would go through the house ensuring he hasn’t left incriminating details, and then comes out feigning distress that his wife is hurt and unresponsive.
12) When questioned by police, he would agree with his sister-in-law Amy that he often had to remind Julia not to let in strangers, and that her kind nature meant she probably would have let someone in owing to the cold weather. Or simply NOT say she would not admit a stranger, since this narrows the suspect pool.
This is how a guilty Wallace should and could have pulled off this murder if he really did it.
It should be noted however, regardless of the guilty party, the case is to this day used in law schools to teach students about miscarriages of justice since it is such a prime example.
As far as I’m aware there are only two actual pieces of evidence suggesting William may have had any involvement in this crime at all:
- The presence of his bloodstained jacket under his wife’s body (which modern forensic analysts suggest was more likely on or near Julia in some way as opposed to being used or worn by the attacker, which if true removes the only physical evidence against him).
- The alleged sighting by witness Lily Hall who said she saw him talking to a man outside the entryway to the back of his house at about 20:35. This would be 5 or 10 minutes after the thuds heard by Mrs. Johnston. On that note I will have to point out that Lily Hall knows the Johnstons and so would likely have known about this, it is one of the first things she had to declare in court (that she knew them).
The rest of the case appears to be built upon odd behaviour, the prejudice that he is able to think 20 steps ahead of the police due to playing chess as a hobby (a hobby he was not even very good at), and “why did he do that when he could have done that?” type logic which would not strike anyone as unusual if he didn’t come home to a dead wife…
For example if he went on this journey, asked for directions from conductors to put him off at the address, realized he’d been tricked, then came home to an alive and well Julia – would these things still seem so damning?
Almost all publications implicating him in the murder use the fact he played chess as evidence for his guilt. But we know that chess players who reached far greater heights than Wallace ever did committed murders rarely more elaborate than the ordinary man:
Little known to many is a reported story not so long after his acquittal where he was searching for a specific pair of boots known as “K Boots”. Apparently he behaved in a very similar fashion to how he did during his quest to find Menlove Gardens East, asking a bunch of random strangers for help in finding a place he could buy these boots – he became utterly fixated on finding them. A man who was with William at the time remarked words to the effect of: “haven’t you had enough of asking strangers in the street for directions?” Whether this was genuine behaviour or acting on his part is for others to decide.
Also little known is a story of how a man who would go on to be a juror was spotted on a tram talking to a friend with a newspaper. The trial had not even begun yet, but the juror said to his friend: “That’s him, he did it alright”, pointing out a photo of Wallace.
It seems that Wallace’s fate was sealed by public opinion before he ever stepped foot into the courtroom…
Perhaps even before then, since Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro was outright refused access to important witness testimony, something which I believe is illegal in modern times. The defence did not have access to the statement of Gordon Parry showing that he lied about where he was on Monday, nor the reports of McFall where he originally put the time of death as 19:50, almost a full two hours after he would testify to in court, despite no additional findings or evidence to have made him change this opinion.
In either case, whether or not the man is guilty, it is clear that with the evidence presented to the jury, the verdict was the undoubtedly wrong one. There is almost no case in the history of crime with as much reasonable doubt, twists and turns as the Wallace case, which is perhaps why it has captivated true crime fans for the better part of a century.
I will say this: if Wallace truly did do this crime and did it all alone, placing the call then murdering his wife – framing Parry/Marsden so perfectly in the process, not only is he the most ingenious and cunning murderer in living history, but in history PERIOD. He would make a laughing stock of Moriarty and any murderer in a Miss Marple episode… So move over murder mystery villains, there’s a new sherrif in town.
Special thanks to my good friend Joshua Levin.