NOTE: Awaiting modern locksmith input to prove the case. There is an issue with the front door lock I need answers to. If there is no keyhole on the interior side of the door, then I think William Herbert Wallace is involved in the murder of his wife, albeit not by his own hand. A critical piece of testimony corroborating Lily Hall’s sighting and the timing Florence Johnston reported “thumps” from the Wallace parlour may be key:
This sighting of a man loitering the murder house asking for a false address, matches descriptions given by Lily Hall, and Wallace’s description of Joseph Caleb Marsden.
As a result, the following article is subject to a large rewrite in favour of guilt.
To my mind, having researched this case for quite some time, going through the files for the case (all of which I have made available for you to see for yourself on this website), reading every book on the case, commissioning modern day forensic experts to evaluate the evidence, consulting with professional locksmiths, and lengthy discussions with a close friend who is also very interested in this case…
William Herbert Wallace did not murder his wife.
This is quite a bold claim and counter to the seemingly obvious, but by the end of this page I intend to prove it to you. I believe I can show you, also quite “fantastically”, that the true killer of Mrs. Wallace was most likely the next door neighbours the Johnstons, with the infamous “Qualtrough” call being a mere prank by local wideboy and known phone-prankster Richard Gordon Parry.
I will cover the points below and reconstruct the series of events inside the house itself, using various physical clues and forensic data.
Note: This is quite a long page and I amend it sometimes, so apologies if anything is repeated etc., I try to avoid doing so.
I also obviously need a good editor for this page, as a lot of information is scattered around and in need of new sections and so on. It is surprising how hard it is to edit such long pieces of work (the combined work on the site around novel length) when information is found to be faulty, or new information comes to light!!
Please let me know if anything is off, I would be much obliged.
Analyzing the Telephone Call
Caller: Richard “Gordon” Parry.
In a case revolving around the placement of a telephone call, it is of course natural that we start where it all began, at telephone box “Anfield 1627″…
Phone Call Dialogue Transcript:
As gathered from various testimony and trial statements, the full call from exchange pickup to caller hangup should be something like this:
Use for your reference.
Timing & Proximity:
Much was made of the proximity of the telephone kiosk to Wallace’s home, and the way he could by timing have placed the call and, getting very lucky with the tram wait time, boarded a tram and arrived at the club for 7.45 PM (after which penalties were applied to games).
While the time that Wallace left his home apparently dovetails with him being the caller, it matches a number of other possibilities:
- That someone was waiting for him to leave his house to ascertain he was probably going to the chess club, then made the call.
- That William met up with an accomplice and sent him to the call box, while he himself went the opposite way to the tram stop at Belmont Road.
- That someone knew roughly when Wallace usually attended his club, and simply placed a call a little before then.
- That someone by happenstance was passing Wallace and decided to place the call, most likely as a prank as speculated by P.D. James.
- That Julia, who attended Dr. Curwen’s surgery that night on Priory Road, herself passed the box and had a conversation with somebody which then gave them the idea to make the call (again most likely a prank). The time she went out and returned was never determined.
However the main thing about the timing of this call, is that it is only even possible Wallace made the call if he lied about the tram he took on the night the call was made. He would have had to have boarded a tram at a stop near box with next to no wait time (the tram wait time could be up to 9 minutes), and definitely could not have used the one at the corner of Belmont Road as he claimed to have done.
For the function of trams in the time period the following documentary provides a lot of information as well as video footage of trams in operation:
If we envision the tram pulling up to the stop, a number of people would likely be exiting, possibly even boarding along with William (if the trams were empty this would make him stick out even more to anyone on the car). In 1931 ownership of cars was a rarity so trams and buses were a main mode of transport.
Given this stop is so close to Wolverton Street and it being only twenty past seven at night, it would be expected that some of these people boarding or getting off the tram are locals to William – perhaps just returning from work – who are likely to recognize him by sight. Wallace was a very tall and unusually slender character who dressed in a manner considered outdated for the time. Similarly if any of these individuals are coming from the Clubmoor district (which is just a very, very short distance to the east), again it would be quite possible that someone might recognize Mr. Wallace who spent hours almost every day wandering around the district for his collection rounds, speaking to a good many people in the area. Even one of the policemen working the case, Herbert Gold, knew Wallace because he had been his insurance agent.
All it would take to cause the plan to crash and burn is for ONE person to see Mr. Wallace board the tram at this falsified stop. If not a local then there are still conductors and fare collectors to contend with (the ride from the tram stop near the kiosk to the Belmont Road stop is two minutes by Maddock). One person coming forward and he has just convicted himself immediately, at the very beginning of his plan.
Communities in these times were tight knit, and people tended to know others in their area either personally or by sight. This is why it would be particularly reckless for Wallace to lie about the route he took or even use this telephone box at all. There were plenty of telephone kiosks available to him, including a number nearer to the club. Using a box nearer the club would mean it would be far less likely he would be noticed by anybody who could identify/recognize him.
It is in fact the case that at least one local had gotten off a tram at a nearby stop on the following evening when the murder took place: Lily Hall of Letchworth Street, who claimed to know of Wallace by sight. There was also a Miss Crane who claimed to have seen Wallace headed towards Belmont Road on the evening of the murder (according to the prosecution this would have been just after having battered his wife), but apparently denied this when confronted by police regarding the matter. A police constable Rothwell came forward, who said he knew Wallace and had seen him walking on Maiden Lane. It would only take one individual to have made a sighting like this on this alleged alternate route and his lie would have convicted him.
Not only is this proposed lie dangerous, since it would not be possible for him to be totally sure that nobody had seen him or would remember him/where he boarded (particularly anyone he paid for a fare), it is also unnecessary. With the use of this telephone box, if it were traced it would already look as though somebody had been stalking him when they made the call; hence the lie is redundant: If he told the truth about the route he took and the call was traced, it still looks like he had been stalked – but now there is no risk of being caught in a serious lie. If the box WASN’T traced it could have come from anywhere in Liverpool and taking a tram so near to this box would not be substantial.
We are also assuming he has done a number of dry runs or timed journeys from both stops to know that his arrival time at the Chess Club would align with the time he’d be expected to arrive had he taken the alleged fake route.
Lastly, for a man who apparently has no qualms about impressing himself and the time on people “too” much, if his idea is to exonerate himself by lying about the route he took, you would expect he would impress the time upon his fellow club members when he arrived and even to Samuel Beattie on the telephone. E.g. when asked to call back later, he might have said: “Oh no sorry I can’t, it is already twenty past seven and I need to get some things in order for my girl’s 21st” as opposed to simply “oh no sorry I can’t, I’m busy with my girl’s 21st.” When arriving at the club, since they have a rule of starting matches before 7.45 PM, he might have said something like “good thing I made it on time, the trams were diverted tonight [which they were], have you seen Mr. Chandler [the man he was scheduled to play]?”.
These are just examples off the top of my head of course, and given time to premeditate a plan I am sure I could come up with much more. But essentially if the suggestion is that the call and false route is meant to be the element which exonerates him in this alleged plan, then THAT is when he should be impressing himself and the time upon people. Instead he only actually impressed the time upon ONE person, for 7.45 PM on the night of the murder (possibly the LEAST useful timestamp if he had done all of this himself). He could not rely upon the milk boy, the conductors (or anyone else he spoke to) to precisely note the time – which speaks against the idea that in this master plan his apparent get-out-of-jail-free card IS the timing of it all.
There was a debate in court with the conductors as to whether the second tram Wallace boarded on the night of the murder had departed at 7.06 or 7.10 PM. Work had to be done to prove it was 7.06 which pushed back the time Wallace had in which to commit the murder. What if the milk boy had not come forward? What if the milk boy had not accurately noted the time at all and simply said “around 6.30”? Is he really relying completely on the timestamp of a young teenager who has no real reason to notice the time (and is often late, hence seemingly does not pay much attention to punctuality)? I think that is a strange suggestion. The “alibi” would surely be the red herring of a telephone call and that would be the most important element of the scheme.
If Wallace had made the call: He would surely have wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He is using a telephone kiosk in a public space out in the open, near where he lives and where many people might recognize him. Is he then therefore likely to continue ahead with the plan when there is an apparent flaw in the connection of the call, leaving him in the kiosk for longer in this area where he is well recognized and having to expose his voice to a great number of operators? In this position I think a person would more likely simply try again next week or something along those lines (the club met twice every week, it was not only match nights).
And of course, WHY would a man endeavour to arrive at the Chess Club exactly on the deadline when given a choice, knowing that arriving late could appear suspicious? The tram journey times as we see by the tests performed by P. Julian Maddock can vary, and there is not a timetable posted as far as I can discern from all sources. I rather think he would place the call five or ten minutes earlier and expect to turn up at the club around the same time as James Caird. There is no downside to this, but pretty much ensures he will not be late and hence not suspicious.
Regarding the trams there is some chance that Wallace could have gotten away with not being noticed by a conductor, although locals could pose a problem (he could not definitively know he had been noticed and the lie is redundant as explained earlier so as to make this risk unnecessary). From Robert Morris of the National Tramway Museum:
“Thank you for your message. It is difficult to answer this definitively as there are lots of factors that would affect the case such as the type of tram, how busy it was, how observant the conductor was and where they were when the passenger boarded the tram. Most trams were operated in a similar way to buses and the passenger would board the tram, find a seat and wait for the conductor to approach. They would then state their destination and purchase a ticket. As this took time it is conceivable that a passenger could get on and off without being observed by the conductor, particularly as the journey in this case was quite short [between the stop William claimed to get on at, and the one the prosecution alleges he boarded at]. In the 1930s Liverpool operated double deck trams so the conductor could have been upstairs and not seen the passenger and the driver would probably have been concentrating on the road ahead.
I realise this is quite a vague answer but I think it is safe to say that he could have boarded the tram at a different stop and no one would have noticed.”
Everyone who actually spoke to the voice could not say that it was Wallace. The chess captain Samuel Beattie had quite a lengthy conversation with the man, and had known Wallace for eight years. He said that the voice he spoke to was most certainly nothing like Wallace’s.
To counter this, the police formed the idea of a disguised voice… How else can a person prove they didn’t make a telephone call that they in fact did not make? If even testimony that it was not your voice and an impossible tram route is not enough?
It must be remembered that Beattie who had known Wallace for around a decade is saying this even in hindsight, when specifically trying to imagine that it was Wallace disguising his voice. The waitress Gladys Harley was the regular waitress for the Chess Club and also did not recognize the voice as Wallace’s.
If he did make that call I don’t think it’s very plausible that he would purposefully impress himself and, apparently his real voice, upon several witnesses (a person would surely know the police would advertise for telephone operators who had put through a call to the café that night) for the sake of scamming back two pennies. Even if it was a genuine fault in the phone line he would be better off just putting in another two pennies and making no complaint, or trying again next week.
It is in fact unusual for him to have ever used his real voice at all, it’s careless in an apparently elaborate chess-like murder scheme to nonchalantly chatter in his normal voice when he has the ability to disguise it… And to then turn up at the café and speak to people all night with Gladys Harley right there would be insanity, considering the voice used when speaking to her was apparently an “ordinary” one (supposedly his real one).
Knowledge of the Club:
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.
Nobody but Wallace could be 100% SURE he would go, but 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.
There’s also a couple of assumptions from the prosecution… First of all that the perpetrator does not take a little detour down to the public café where these matches took place/have a buddy already there to see that Wallace is there (Lily Lloyd’s claim Parry made a stop at Park Lane which is at the bottom of North/South John Street – the town strip where the chess club was some miles away – could hold some importance).
Second of all that it even matters if the perpetrator turns up the next day at around the time they expect Wallace to be at Menlove Gardens and find he’s home – in other words they turn up and find that their plan failed; maybe Wallace didn’t get the message or just didn’t go on the trip… They can just leave… No crime has been committed at all…
Thirdly, I think to any normal person, if you imagine seeing a chart with somebody’s name down to play a match, it is natural that you would assume they would attend on that day. I don’t think many people would intricately work out the odds of the person going, especially in a no-lose scenario.
Then we come to the chart itself and which details could be learned from it in any case.
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 even if a person wanted to figure this out. But I do not even think it is really natural to do something. Normal human thinking is that if you see a chart which shows somebody’s appointment date at a specific place at a specific time, you would simply assume they will be there. You would not stand there figuring out the odds the person does not skip this appointment.
As mentioned previously, is also known through the statements of both Wallace and Parry that although William had not attended on some 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. William claims that he would often set aside time roughly every other week to go to his chess club, irrespective of whether or not there was a match scheduled.
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.
The actual question to ask would be why the perpetrator did not go on the night of the chess club, or why they didn’t leave a note at Wallace’s home, which I will discuss later.
Elements of the Message:
First and foremost I would state that many parts of the conversation are completely unnecessary. If Wallace called this is the most dangerous part of the plan. It may go swimmingly now of course, but he knows he will kill his wife the next night. He has to rely on Beattie not privately thinking something like “hmm, how funny, that sounded a bit like Wallace!” and becoming suspicious after the murder. Being how dangerous this part of the scheme is, it is most likely the objective would be to keep the message as short as possible and avoid prolonging the amount of dialogue exchanged with this man who has known him for almost a decade.
Really, I think he ought to have used Gladys Harley to write down a message for the chess club, meaning he could completely avoid speaking to Beattie. But if he did speak to Beattie much of the conversation could have been eliminated such as asking for his own address.
A strange point has been made on that element, 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 very 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 possibly 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.
What I suspected the caller was hoping would happen is something like this:
Caller: “Can you tell me Wallace’s address?”
Beattie: “Yes, it’s 29 Wolverton Street, Anfield.”
Caller: “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?”
Then 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 and point away from anybody who had known his address already.
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 details of this fake appointment…
The “Alibi” Appointment
Alibi [Noun]: A claim or piece of evidence that one was elsewhere when an act, typically a criminal one, is alleged to have taken place.
Apparently the sole purpose of this call is for William to create an alibi for himself and a red herring for detectives to chase. There are three parts to this appointment. The name, the address, and the time.
Either this is a ludicrously awful plan, or it is simply not a plan at all (in other words it is a practical joke), and here’s why:
The Name – R. M. Qualtrough:
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?
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. Apparently, this particular client was known as a “problem client”.
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 and fake address as genuine without digging into the details.
- It is something the person thought up as a random name on the spot or from somewhere else entirely.
- Wallace purposefully wants to frame a Prudential worker, apparently Marsden or a friend of Marsden (such as Parry) for the murder.
- The name was picked because it is a known problem client, as part of a practical joke.
If not any of the above reasons, a random yet very normal name would be better suited for the task. And if a weird name is chosen despite being totally unnecessary, what are the odds it would so perfectly align with a real Prudential client if this was not where the name was taken from? There are plenty of strange or memorable names a person could choose, some more intuitive which would mean not having to spell it letter for letter to Beattie (a benefit since it cuts down on the amount of voice exposure), for example Dankworth.
By picking this name the suspect pool is being needlessly tightened to Prudential staff. There is no benefit for William in selecting this name since the tighter the suspect pool becomes, the less “other-than-him” people it could be. There is possible risk for a burglar in choosing a real client if William knows of the man, tells Julia about him, then someone goes to the home pretending to be him – perhaps a 20 year old when the client is 50+.
The Address – 25 Menlove Gardens East:
Menlove Gardens East is quite extraordinary in the fact that while there is a Menlove Gardens North, South, and West, there is no East.
But much like the strange name, a fake address is absolutely not needed to form an alibi. The entire point of an alibi is simply to show that you are away from your home at a certain time. A fake address necessitates he go and talk to a bunch of strangers who may not even come forward, nor could he rely upon these strangers to fix an accurate time if this was of utmost importance. The round trip in and of itself is a touch over an hour. He only really needs to go to 25 Menlove Gardens West, perhaps check a directory at the newsagent’s “in case a mistake had been made”, then return home.
He may even stop off at his superintendent Mr. Crewe’s house nearby, or decide to quickly pay a visit to his sister-in-law Amy who was only one district over in Sefton Park. There are many ways a person can establish they are not home if that is their goal.
These are all reliable witnesses who can easily be traced and show that he was certainly away from home at a certain time, unlike random strangers in the street (one of whom didn’t come forward by the way).
The fake address only arouses suspicion while again providing NO benefit to William. Even worse, it would be possible for a fellow club member such as the previously mentioned Deyes to state that there was NO SUCH PLACE. For a burglar this was foolishness too, it only lowers the odds he will go on the trip; his round trip to Menlove Gardens WEST and back would be enough time to commit the robbery and escape.
The address selection must either be bad planning, a mistake, or NOT A PLAN AT ALL (i.e. it is a practical joke, the humor of its nonexistence being the only benefit to it).
If this is a plan I think that were any smart person behind it, this must be the case of an error rather than intention!
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 17 Wolverton Street the month just gone (it happened on the 20th of December, 1930), 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.
The Time – 7.30 PM:
This is critical. We established earlier that if William made the phone call then he was planning to lie about the tram stop he boarded at, and was attempting to use the phone call as an alibi.
The milk boy sighting of Julia is not his alibi – the telephone message is. If the milk boy is merely an obstacle then he should have set the appointment time later for various logistical benefits. It was possible for the milk boy to call at any time between 6 to 7 PM. If he had called 10 minutes later than he did (making it then around 6.50 PM) Wallace would not have been on time for his appointment. A later time would also mean there are less people about giving him more opportunity to dispose of weapons unseen.
By setting the appointment for 7.30 PM he is making it possible that he will literally not be physically able to murder his wife and get to his appointment at all!
And you might be thinking right about now, maybe he did want to use the milk boy for a timestamp. But we can dispose of this quickly:
William did not get home on the murder night until 6.05 PM. He was VOLUNTARILY late home due to accepting a stop for a cup of tea and a chat with a client on his final insurance rounds. If the boy can call as early as 6 PM he would want to be home and ready to go by then!
The ABSENCE of an 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, or even wandered in himself to have a quick look (the café would be populated with around a hundred people and was quite public).
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.
Lily’s mother also bases her estimate of the time on the arrival of Lily’s pupil Rita, and does not imply to have any knowledge that Rita had in fact turned up 10 minutes late which would adjust her estimate to 7.25. She also states 7.15, a “round” number one is likely to use when giving a general idea than knowing with certainty (these sorts of times are seen in the Prudential client statements: X.15, X.30, X.45 and so on).
So I would suggest Lily Lloyd’s timing is more likely to be accurate than her mother’s based on those two facts.
Either way, no matter what, there is an obvious and unavoidable stonewall:
Parry certainly did not go to Lily Lloyd’s house “at about 5:30pm and remain there until about 11:30pm when he went home”. Meaning the alibi he gave to the police is proveably bogus.
[ It also adds an element of unbelievable luck if Wallace had planned to frame Gordon in chess-like fashion, that his scapegoat by pure coincidence had totally lied to the police about his whereabouts. This could not have been foreseen and planned for if Parry had absolutely no connection to this crime. ]
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.
A suggestion was made by some that he was with another woman at the time and lied for that reason. I do not think this is convincing… The reason being that he used his girlfriend as an alibi. If he wanted to lie to prevent her from finding out about an affair, it’s unlikely he would say he was with her. He would know the police are likely to question her to see if he really was with her, so she could find out he had been deceptive about his whereabouts and possibly quiz him on this.
It is my strong conviction that Gordon Parry was either the caller himself, or with the person who called at the time. This is why a false alibi was given. The odds that the only person in the entire investigation to give themselves a proveably false alibi just so happens to be the one man Wallace was apparently trying to frame, would appear to be low. It would be like striking gold for this to work out in your favour when you have no idea if this person could prove he was elsewhere at the time.
A Matter of Perspective…
If Wallace acted alone and killed his wife, then far from a master planner he is a bumbling fool who got away with the crime on sheer luck alone. It is an undeniably terrible plan, practically every single element has an enormous flaw which could have been exposed with even childlike investigation into specifics which nobody ever bothered with.
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 even though such an address is entirely unnecessary to establish you were not at home at a certain time. Or, alternatively, mess up the plan instantly by giving a false address by accident.
- Pick two suspects to frame – Parry and Marsden – and hope they don’t have an alibi, or don’t even consider that issue.
- 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 still overlook the fact they might have an alibi, or just pray that they don’t.
- Needlessly use a phone box close to your home where locals might notice you.
- Talk in your ordinary voice to a bunch of operators and Gladys Harley the waitress over the phone, then go to your club and spend the night talking to your friends with the same waitress right there.
- Talk at unnecessary length on the phone in a now-disguised voice to a man who has known you for eight years and hope that in the back of his mind he doesn’t muse that it sounds like you, and become suspicious after the killing takes place.
- Take a tram opposite the phone booth then lie about which tram stop was used and pray nobody checks your route or comes forward to call you out like fare collectors.
- 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 during your final rounds stop off for a nice cup of tea and chit-chat, so you arrive home after the earliest time the milk boy could call (or girl if his coworker Elsie Wright filled in for him as she did on Monday).
- Wait for Alan Close to arrive to provide a timestamp 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. And if he’s only an “obstacle”, ensure you set your own appointment alibi time to be late enough that it’s possible you will physically not be able to kill your wife (Alan may have delivered as much as 15 minutes later).
- With Alan being late and the window to act now so narrow (he must think he has about 5 minutes to kill his wife factoring tram waiting times), go ahead with it anyway. Simply hope and pray that you do not get a drop of blood upon you, because you certainly have no time to wash yourself or change clothes.
- Despite how important it is to avoid even the smallest amount of blood, go ahead and smash your wife’s skull to pieces with ~10 blows sending blood all over the room and ceiling. Ensure you use possibly the bloodiest possible murder method conceived, shy of pulling out a chainsaw.
- Batter your wife’s head into the ground ~10 times with a heavy blunt instrument while your terraced neighbours are directly on the other side of the wall (Arthur Mills is in the Johnston parlour directly adjacent, other family in their kitchen). Hope nobody hears anything of it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Get lucky that in this tiny ~5 minute window your next door neighbours magically appear.
- 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.
Essentially set up a scheme reliant almost entirely on sheer luck, and narrow down the suspect pool to where it seems like it can only be one of ~3 people responsible. Never in human history has any murderer cooked up a scheme so flawed and with so many fail-points as this.
William, a master chemist, could have quite simply poisoned his wife who was known to have been in poor health for many years, using some obscure plant or chemical. Even with a laboratory in his back bedroom, it cannot be said to be riskier than the aforementioned “master plan”. This would also suit William far better, since he was in poor health with a serious kidney condition it would be better for him to avoid any plan involving athleticism or physicality (e.g. battering your wife’s head in 10 times then jogging for the tram).
COULD Wallace have been the caller even IF he took the other tram?
According to members of the chess club, Wallace arrived at the club at around 19:45. In his initial statement to his solicitor Munro, Wallace claimed to arrive at 19:50. Samuel Beattie inquired around the club and determined he was not there before 19:45, but by all accounts but Wallace’s initial time given to Munro, it was around 19:45.
The reason the time Wallace arrived is important is because the chess club had a rule that anyone who arrived after 19:45 was penalized were they to play a match game. Wallace was scheduled to play Mr. Chandler for a scheduled match, and so had Chandler been present, William would have been penalized had he arrived after this time. We don’t have any evidence that Wallace could know that Chandler would not turn up and the Qualtrough “ruse” would be a one time play, so given the bother getting the phonecall connected he would have been better off aborting than risking trying it, turning up, and being late for the match with Chandler. Further to this, there was no mention that he had been penalized in the match he did play.
A point was also made by Richard Waterhouse which deserves consideration: When Beattie delivered the message Wallace was thinking out his opening move. Wallace was playing black, which means his opponent had already made his first move having taken white. This means that the time Beattie spoke to Wallace would be just a little after McCartney had already played his first move.
But let’s just assume he arrived at 19:45 before a hypothetical penalization, then we can see if he could possibly have made the call and still made it on time even if he was – as dissected earlier – insane enough to board a tram at the wrong stop and lie about it.
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, but nobody ever testified this – the time given by the operator who picked up was 19:15), and after some alleged 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.
Antony has made an effort to work out the probabilities of Wallace having made the call via mathematics which you can see here:
Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro employed civil and consulting engineer P. Julian Maddock to rigorously test both routes: One route being the one Wallace claims to have taken, and the other, an alternate route which went by the tram stop near the phone box as the prosecution claimed Wallace took. Maddock’s conclusion was as follows:
“With reference to Mr Wallace’s journey on 19 January… the time he states as 30 minutes is reasonable and consistent. It is also possible to go round by the telephone box and, provided one takes a tram direct from there, and there is one available immediately, it is possible to arrive at the City Café in about the same time, but this does not allow any time for making the telephone call.”
Maddock’s tests were, according to Antony Brown, as follows:
1. From Wallace’s back yard door to the chess club door, taking the route Wallace claims to have taken, the shortest possible time was found to be 23 minutes and 50 seconds (about 24 minutes). Meaning if Wallace left his back door at 19:15 as claimed he could have arrived at the club as early as 19:39 (19:38 if you’re splitting hairs with seconds), making his arrival time of “around 19:45” very reasonable. With the maximum wait time at the tram stop being 9 minutes, his arrival time on his claimed route is therefore between 19:38/19:39 to 19:47/19:48.
2. From Wallace’s back door to the telephone box, a distance of 400 yards, the average time was found to be 3 minutes and 50 seconds (about 4 minutes).
3. According to Maddock, from Wallace’s back door taking the alternate route WITHOUT stopping to make a telephone call, the time would be at least 24 to 33 minutes.
4. From the tram stop by the telephone kiosk (25 yards away from the kiosk; merely 15 seconds to walk to) to the door of the chess club, the minimum time was found to be 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
[ It should be noted that if the operator is right the call came in at 19:15, and Wallace really did leave his back door at 19:15 (precisely in each case), then it is of course not possible he made the call, so we will have to assume they aren’t human stopwatches and that there is a margin of error… ]
If we assume Wallace was the caller the initial walking time to the phone box is not important because the time the call was put through is logged, so we can simply work from the tram stop near the phone box to the club. The shortest time from boarding the tram near the telephone kiosk to arrival at the club was 20 minutes and 20 seconds. We’ll call it 20 minutes for sake of ease even though it’s shorter than the shortest possible time.
The operators noted the time the call was put through to Gladys Harley as 19:20. A note of this was made since the caller had reported that he had pressed button ‘A’ (to deposit his coins and patch the call through) and not received his correspondent.
The duration of this call is unknown but from what we do know, at 19:20 Gladys Harley exchanged a brief sentence or two with the voice, then went to fetch Mr. Samuel Beattie (captain of the chess club) exchanging a few sentences with him, who then left the chess game he was engaged in to come to the phone and speak to the caller. Beattie exchanged a number of words with this voice and had decided to write down the message in pen on an envelope. Beattie had asked the caller to spell his unusual name letter by letter to ensure he had it written down right, and had repeated back everything about the name and details of the meeting address and time to the caller to confirm he had not maken a mistake.
If we assume this phone call from Gladys Harley fetching Beattie never even happened, and Wallace as the caller had just ran out of the phone booth and boarded a tram (which is of course not possible but it’s most useful to put it this way), then he would arrive at 19:40 to 19:49 at the least.
For every minute of conversation – because he did in fact talk to Gladys and Beattie – add a minute to each end of that boundary. So for example if it’s three minutes on the phone, it’s 19:43 to 19:52. If it’s 5 minutes it’s 19:45 to 19:53. A total conversation time of over 5 minutes and he’s “late” (i.e. turning up after 19:45) no matter what.
If the wait time for the tram is exactly average at 4 minutes 30 seconds, even with a meagre 2 minute conversation, he’s turning up late.
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. This only semi-counts because Wallace had supervised Marsden in the past, they just weren’t pals and Marsden hadn’t collected for Qualtrough while under Wallace.
- 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 was a well-spoken and foppish type of character – according to a friend of his at the time James Tattersall, the two were, snooty, toffee-nosed, and dandified. 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 potentially attempted to scam a free call.
- If Qualtrough did attempt to scam a free call, it fits with Parry’s financial situation, as he was dirt broke – it is also unlikely someone planning to commit murder would care about two pennies enough to do this, especially if being quick with the call to dash off to the club and arrive “on time” is a significant factor.
- “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. If Wallace knew he could not get the address from Beattie, asking for it provides no benefit at all.
- 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. This is a total brick wall of a point that can’t be negated: it’s proven untrue.
Some authors choose to only give Lily Lloyd’s mother’s statement regarding when Parry got to their home that night, since she says 18:15 when the call was initiated. They often leave out Lily’s own testimony putting it at 18:35, because it goes against the agenda of trying to prove he couldn’t have called.
- 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 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:
A strange piece of information: When interviewed by Goodman, Parry’s father claimed that Gordon’s alibi was “mending his car on Breck Road”. Something which was not mentioned by Gordon and had nothing to do with his movemets on the murder night, having gone to collect a part for his car quite South from this location.
Which brings me to this map:
Circled in red is Breck Road. If Gordon was “mending his car on Breck Road” as per his father, something mentioned nowhere in any statement given, he would be in position to have seen either William or Julia.
Julia actually has to pass the telephone box. If she had spoken to Gordon on her journey to or from the doctor, if this time aligned with when the call came in (the time she visited the doctor was never stated or investigated by anyone, but Curwen claimed she had visited the night of the call to “pay a bill”), it could explain why that particular phone box was used: If it was an incidental encounter where someone like Parry became privvy to the knowledge Wallace was headed to the club and dipped into the box to place a hoax call.
Because Gordon was known to place prank calls in disguised voices (according to John Parkes), because the details are so bizarre and even unnecessary for a plan, because it seems a scam for two pennies was attempted, and because the person’s real voice was seemingly used when talking to potential witnesses in the operators, a purposeful prank call would make sense. Simply put it is very “blasé” in the way it was conducted if it was a knowing part of a murder scheme.
If this was the case and the call is a prank, the telephone call is part of no plan at all, hence why the “plan” is so seemingly terrible.
Timing of Julia’s visit to Curwen? Although the time has not been given and was not investigated, we can figure out a general range for Julia’s visit to Dr. Curwen. Because Curwen stated Julia had came to him the “night” before the murder, we can assume it was AFTER 6 PM… Wallace claims that he had advised his wife to see the doctor, and this must have taken place when he himself was home (before he left for the chess club). Because he left his club after 10 PM (10.15, at which time the café shuts) and arrived home at 10.45, it seems unlikely his wife would have gone out to the doctor this late.
Wallace also states that he had supper with his wife after he returned from chess, which means she must have spent at least some time before his arrival home preparing it, then time with William eating the meal, pushing the time later getting on for midnight, at which time William claims they went to bed.
So I think we can place the range of her visit to the doctor the night before her murder such that she arrived at or after 6 PM, and no later than around 10 PM, about a 4 hour window.
Because Julia is ill with a lung infection/disease of some sort, and given the cold weather, the later it gets into the night the colder it would be outside, and therefore the less likely she would be to want to head out in such weather. It would also be unlikely she would go at a time when there was rain. So it would make more sense that she would have gone closer to 6 PM than to 10 PM or beyond. A woman might also feel less safe wandering the streets alone late at night, and this could be another reason to assume a time closer to 6 PM when there would be more people around and street lamps still on.
If the time of her visit has her pass that box at or before roughly 7.15 PM, this would allow for her to have bumped into someone such as Gordon Parry and exchanged a few words, which could have then led to a prank call from the phone box which was right there.
Not included in many books, Gordon Parry refers to his own antics as pranks quite often. In addition to Parkes stating that Parry would often place prank calls from the garage, Parry during questioning by Jonathan Goodman stated that his midemeanours were simply “pranks”, and that his stealing of a motor car was a “prank” following a party with the army he was then a part of (implied to have been in the tank corps). The car he said, had belonged to one of the army officers.
Killer: John Sharpe or Florence Sarah Johnston
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). I will discuss Parkes in depth on a future post or I will add my analysis of his statements to this page at a later date. But I can state briefly now that he made a claim that the police had staked out the garage which is found in no police report at all (including Moore’s letters to the Chief of Police), nor is his apparent statement about the location of the iron bar that he says he made to them. That itself possibly conflicting with the known fact that storm drains in the “neighbourhood” (the grid the bar was apparently dropped down being about a four or five minute walk from the home, near “Qualtrough’s” telephone box) had been thoroughly searched and turned up nothing.
If the testimony of Parkes is false or he has added untrue elements to a semi-true story (e.g. perhaps Gordon simply went in for a car wash), then he might not have involvement in the murder. However he is still the best candidate for the man on the telephone, especially given the “Qualtrough” alias.
If he made the call and had no involvement in the murder, then it is indeed probably nothing more than a prank call. If a prank call was made, anyone who knew Wallace would be out could have exploited the opportunity to carry out the crime.
We know that a robbery had been committed on the same side of the street only one month earlier while the owner was away. There was no sign of forced entry. We also know that neighbour’s keys fitted the locks of the other doors on the street, meaning it would be possible for a neighbour to have entered the property unbeknownst to Julia if the door was left off bolt, as it apparently usually was (Mr. Cadwallader a drunk neighbour – dead at the time of the murder – had wandered into the sleeping Wallaces’ bedroom and startled them, having mistook their home for his own).
The Mystery of Puss the Cat…
A very obscure and little-known fact about this case is that Julia’s black cat, “Puss”, had been missing for at least 24 hours prior to her death, and Julia had been very upset about it. It then turned up again after her death, walking in with the detectives who had arrived at the scene.
The cat was not actually Julia’s, but given to her by a neighbour after she had catsat for them while they were away on holiday. Given the average lifespan of a cat is 14 years and the Wallaces had been at Wolverton Street for 15 years, it is very likely that this neighbour was someone on the street. Because the Wallaces did not speak to many people and seemed friendly with only one set of neighbours (the Johnstons); and because we know from postcards that the Johnstons had catsat/housesat for the Wallaces while they (the Wallaces) were away on holiday, I believe the cat might have originally been theirs.
It would make sense given the size of the Johnston household and the fact that not many members of the household were employed, they might have lacked the space and funds to keep a cat so allowed Julia to keep it next door.
There may be some conflict with the above proof that the Johnstons had catsat for Julia and the following from the trial:
1448. You say you knew the Wallaces as neighbours? Yes.
1449. Had you ever been in their house? Yes.
1450. How often? About three times.
1451. In how many years? Ten years.
1452. In ten years, you have been in three times? Yes, in the front room only, where the body lay, the sitting room.
Usually when petsitting, the petsitter (in this case the Johnstons) will go into the person’s house to feed the pet etc. Commonly, the person tasked with doing so will also do things such as open and close the curtains/blinds to make the home look occupied to ward off burglars.
The missing cat 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 Johnston had died in January 1960 of senile dementia at an old folks home on Westminster Road. I have checked this information and found it to be true.
Stan said that days before Johnston died, 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. Julia’s cat had been missing for days. But John Johnston had surmised that Julia had gone to Menlove Gardens with her husband when he saw them go out the backyard together, because Julia had on a mackintosh.
Julia had in fact been walking down the alleyway looking for Puss, and Johnston didn’t see her return.
The Johnstons waited for a while, then slipped into the Wallace’s house via the back kitchen door, which John unlocked with his key. He went in search of the insurance man’s monthly takings and a nest egg he believed to believed to be upstairs. That nest egg, if it ever existed, was nowhere to be seen, and there were no monthly takings because Wallace had been off work with a bad cold and unable to collect the usual amount of money for that month. Disappointed with the meagre cash they found, John and Florence decided to try the front parlour. As they entered they got the shock of their lives when the flu-stricken Julia Wallace rose from her couch with the mackintosh over her. She wasn’t supposed to be there.
‘Mr Johnston!’ Julia probably shouted, alarmed and then puzzled as to why her neighbours were in her house. John decided to hit her with the jemmy he’d used to smash open the cabinet in the kitchen. He had to kill her, because she now knew the identity of the man who was burgling the neighbourhood. The only fingerprints that would be found at the murder scene belonged to Mr Wallace, the sloppy detectives and police – and the Johnstons. On the following day, the Johnstons suddenly moved out of Wolverton Street and went to live with their daughter at 358 Townsend Avenue.”
There are a few issues with the above statement. First of all how they would know when recounting the tale that Julia had gone looking for Puss the cat when she went walking down the alley, second of all why Julia is using the sofa alone in the coldest room of the house when one is available in the kitchen, and that the facts align strongly with Parry, not Johnston, being the caller (apart from Gladys interpreting the voice as an older gentleman).
Despite that, it is the only account that places Julia on the same side of the room as the forensic professionals I have hired. All other accounts place Julia on the left side of the room, in the corner where the armchair and violin case is (left of the fireplace as you enter the room). It is also possible that John Sharpe Johnston altered some facts to protect the good name of, say, another family member who did this with him; or that Stan is misremembering details from a confession he had heard over 30 years prior. There are also other elements of the testimony which align such as John’s arrival time home from Maiden Lane on the night of the murder (6.45 p.m.), using the back entries, a perfect opportunity to have ran into Julia.
Slemen also notably claims that the police first suspected the person who killed Julia was the same man who burgled 17 (he erronously claims #19 was robbed) Wolverton Street a month earlier, as the facts of the crime scene were eerily similar: Cash had been stolen from a container and the container replaced, and there was random disarray in an upstairs bedroom which appeared staged. I have not been able to verify this.
Another oddity with the cat is that it returned after the murder, coming in with the police:
“Wallace had just completed this statement [verbally to Constable Fred Williams] when two more policemen arrived with an ambulance. While P.C. Williams stood on the doorstep talking to them, Julia’s black cat returned home. As Mrs Johnston saw it slithering between the policeman’s legs and into the hall she shouted, “Don’t let it go into the front room.” But the cat ran straight through to the kitchen. After telling the other two policemen that an ambulance “was the wrong sort of vehicle for this job”, P.C. Williams closed the front door and asked Wallace to accompany him while he searched the house. They went upstairs.
Goodman, Jonathan. The Killing of Julia Wallace (True Crime History). The Kent State University Press. Kindle Edition.
It is perhaps significant that the cat runs in a beeline straight for the kitchen, where it would expect its milk to be. Possibly a sign that it was hungry and therefore its failure to return home was not of its own volition. Had it been kept in the Johnston’s house and exited when Norah’s boyfriend Francis George McElroy entered the home to see the Johnston’s daughter Norah (McElroy being a man John allegedly bumped into coincidentally while going for the police)? Or otherwise simply let out when Mr. Johnston went for the police?
The UNusual Suspects
The next door neighbours are the most overlooked suspects in this case. It is simply too difficult for people to accept anything other than a direct link between the telephone message and the murder; in other words, they can only accept that it was an elaborate two day plan. The details of the telephone message without the murder, in isolation, appears to be a practical joke. The murder, in isolation, appears to have been carried out by a visitor if we go through the crime scene elements and elements of the timing.
By process of elimination we can however get to a point where little else makes sense… For example, if William made the telephone call it has to accepted he was effective enough in the disguising of his voice so as to fool two people who know him personally (including one who had known him for many years), and that he lied about which trams he took. He gave his statement before he knew the telephone call had been traced to that specific box, and boarding a tram he would have to get on at a particular spot, take a seat, and then pay for a ticket directly when approached by the conductor which means direct interaction. On top of this by probabilities and tram wait times, to have arrived at the club “on time” for a tournament match with a Mr. Chandler who he believed would be present is unlikely…
There is also then a possible penny scam to contend with, which is extremely strange behaviour for a person planning a murder to concern himself with. If anything the person would want to draw as little attention to himself as possible rather than talking to several operators at length in a “regular voice”.
If he did not make the telephone call, because of the name Qualtrough (which is connected with the Prudential) combined with the false alibi provided by Gordon Parry for his whereabouts around the time of the call, and other elements which we covered, Gordon is the most probable caller.
If Parry is the caller, as I see it William can only be guilty if he himself killed his wife. Reason being, that if he has a hitman willing to go into the property and kill his wife there is no need for this call plan whatsoever. All he has to do is, for example, go to visit his sister-in-law for the day. He could also even with this bizarro-world plot have set the appointment date earlier so he did not have to return from work at all, which would keep him out of the frame entirely.
So… Then we have to look at the odds of William having killed his wife himself, which does not compute with the crime scene elements. The parlour and the elements found within it are heavily indicative of a real visitor, and pretty much rule out any hint of Julia having gone in there to play music (there is no chair or stool in front of the piano, evidently it has been moved elsewhere in the room, probably to be used as a seat for a visitor). That combined with the timing of the milk boy: Both the time he saw Julia alive with the latest time William could leave his house, as well as the time he was expected to deliver compared to the time William got home from work (he left himself about 5 minutes before the milk would be expected), makes this seem very improbable. In simpler terms if William intended to use the milk boy as a timestamp to create an “impossible timeframe” he would have returned home from work before 6 PM which he could have done if he had not stopped for a cup of tea and chat with a client upon their offering; and vice versa if the milk delivery is merely an obstacle the appointment time ought to have been set later so that there is no situation where the time of the delivery makes it literally impossible for him to have killed his wife.
As we will go over in the reconstruction, it is most obvious that Julia has been sitting with a visitor and just got up when struck down. To have William do this requires a lot of distortion and workarounds of the crime scene and physical evidence.
If that is the case; Parry is the likely caller and William did not kill his wife, and it is not a hit job. But Parry did not commit the murder because he has an alibi with Olivia Brine covering him from ~5 PM until 8.30 PM; William getting home from his trip at around 8.35 to 8.40 PM… If this was part of a robbery plan, the plan is a pretty stupid one since it would be easier to just have a person break into the home at night, or at the least to give a real address since the round trip is more than enough time to carry out the act without the risk of the husband prematurely finding out he has been duped and either failing to go on the trip or returning early after inquiring of some conductor. If it is such a robbery plan using a man posing as “Qualtrough” to Julia, however, there are some issues…
According to William the outhouse was never used: “In the yard there is simply a lavatory (which was never used) and a recess for coal”. The doors inside the home would be closed to retain heat. So which excuse could this total stranger use to get into the kitchen where they have valuables including her handbag, insurance money etc? She would hear the kitchen door open. Additionally the back kitchen door often stuck, so even if the man was offered to use the outhouse, Julia would likely follow him out and wait in the kitchen door to ensure the visitor does not get locked out. The charwoman had found herself stuck outside due to this door fault on a few occasions and had to knock to get Julia to let her back in.
IF it is a plan, even if the accomplice entered the house alone (as opposed to a distraction robbery) then it is probable Gordon would want to brief his accomplice just before that person then goes to rob the house. Therefore the probable accomplice is still someone who had been at the Brine’s house and therefore someone they would be willing to cover for, which is why I picked William Denison (Gordon’s friend) as accomplice.
If it is not a plan and is a practical joke, there is no reason that the murderer has to be linked to the call. This blows the suspect pool wide open and even to total coincidence (e.g. if one of Julia’s church friends randomly showed up asking to borrow money)… However there are a few things which make the neighbours the best suspects in this case: The lack of sounds reported by the neighbours who shared only a thin party wall adjoining the parlour where the murder took place and kitchen where there was apparently some disturbance of cabinet doors wrenched off directly against where their wall is, the fact they have a key which can open the Wallace’s back door, the fact they are the first suspects to discover the body (if we rule out William as the guilty party), and the fingerprints which would be over the scene (plausibly explained by them entering the home of course).
Furthermore, if William is completely innocent we have no reason to doubt any of his statements: Hence he may well be right someone was still in the home when he returned and that was the reason he could not open the back door. William went to the front door and could not open it > then to the back door and found it locked against him > then back to the front door unable to enter > then round to the back door for the SECOND time and THIS time his neighbours (who have a spare key to the door) are coincidentally there and his door coincidentally opens easily. They claim to be going out to visit their relative (unannounced at nearly 9 PM). Nobody followed them down the yard to bolt the door behind them as Julia would do for William, and it was not possible to bolt the back kitchen door or lock/bolt the yard door from outside.
Upon seeing Julia’s badly battered body, rather than immediately rush off for the police (or even quickly send one of their many relatives from their home to fetch the police), they instead request the confused Mr. Wallace who appeared to be “in shock” check the details of a burglary. They go so far as to send him upstairs to have a look around, despite having watched him check the upstairs of the house from the entry. We do not know what they were doing downstairs while he was upstairs, and Mrs. Johnston put on the kitchen fire, it would be possible for them to interfere with or destroy possible evidence while in the house prior to the police’s arrival.
There was a write-in following the murder regarding the Johnstons:
This letter is also of some relevance:
As stated, because of the difficulty people have in breaking the direct causal chain or idea of a plan, the word of the Johnstons has gone largely unquestioned.
There is also some chance that they are simply claiming to not have heard a sound to cover for another individual they know. For example Lily Hall’s parents who were Julia’s friends from church (to reiterate, with a completely unrelated phone call, a sheer coincidence is possible). This could explain Lily Hall’s statement if what she said about seeing Wallace speaking to a man just before the discovery of the body was purposefully bogus… But the Johnstons as suspects enjoy the advantage of having a key which I believe the Halls lacked, and a possibly higher motive to need money due to a house move shortly due. Also the fact that we know Julia had owed them money in the past (for catsitting Puss while she and William were away in Anglesey) which she apologized for being overdue on…
Frankly in a prank scenario a neighbour is the best pick since it would be the easiest for them to do the deed and escape unseen. Out of these options there are the Johnstons, the Holmes (who should also have a key), and then one street over James Caird and his family, and Lily Hall and her family. Caird’s family appear to have been well off and owned a store of some kind so would be unlikely to need money. The Johnstons on the other hand had a brimming household with many members of that household out of work, including an infirm elderly relative who resided in the front parlour. I also am not aware of any friendship between the Cairds and the Johnstons which might cause the Johnstons to play dumb.
Diminishing the Coincidence…
There are some aspects of known facts which help to run down the coincidence of the event. The most significant being John Sharpe Johnston’s statement that on the murder night he returned home at 6.45 PM. Like the Wallaces they used the back way, as we see later on they are allegedly off to visit their relative (the same route John had gone and returned from) using the back entries.
We know that Wallace left his house around 6.45 PM.
Therefore this puts John Johnston in a position to have seen Wallace crossing Richmond Park, and in a position to possibly align with “Stan’s” tip off regarding the alleged confession of John Sharpe Johnston:
The milk delivery would likely remind Julia of the cat, and would also be a time the cat would expect its meals (meaning you might expect it to return around this time). Given Julia’s great concern over the cat and attachment to it, it is quite plausible that after seeing off William she decided to search round the entries and streets for the missing cat. This concern especially warranted in the severe January weather. The cat had been missing since at least the previous day. This would then also put John Johnston in a position to have actually encountered Julia out in the entries, searching for the cat, exactly as stated in the alleged confession. From this encounter he could have ascertained from Julia that William was out, and that she was going to look for the cat, leaving the home unoccupied with the back yard and back kitchen doors unbolted (John has a key which opens the back kitchen door).
With Johnston’s reported confession by “Stan” there are a few factors which strengthen its legitimacy:
1) He knew very obscure details about the cat including its name. This was barely reported and books on the case mentioned it in passing at best.
2) He named the care home at which John Johnston died. Tom Slemen checked this information and found it to be true.
3) If he is just a madman picking up on miniscule details from books and for whatever reason searching for John’s place of death just to accuse him, then we would expect him to have claimed Julia had been sitting on the armchair (upon which rests the violin case) which is what all publications and old-timey forensics stated. “Stan” is the ONLY individual before several modern forensic opinions in the past year or so to correctly place Julia on the exact opposite side of the room (specifically claiming she had been rising from the sofa) when struck.
By contrast John Parkes was using common local rumours in his own statement, such as the “iron bar” (which by Goodman and my own look at the crime scene, I do believe was probably not missing) and its disposal down a grid.
There are a few caveats with the alleged Johnston statement which cannot be accurate. In fairness to Stan himself, he was a very ill and elderly man when he gave this testimony, and is also recounting something he had been told around thirty years earlier. Furthermore, it is possible that John altered the story slightly to keep the names of other individuals out of his confession.
I will reconstruct the series of events in the room later on.
If it was indeed a prank call, then what happened might be as follows…
- Parry’s father claimed Parry’s alibi was “mending his car on Breck Road”. This is untrue, but it might be his whereabouts during the falsified part of his statement for the call night. If he was on Breck Road, he could have seen Wallace as he was on his way to the chess club OR Julia as she went to/returned from Dr. Curwen’s on Priory Road that night (the time of which was never specified), and placed an opportunistic prank call, which he was known to do… This would explain why the call details are so bizarre, and why the caller is so blasé (to the point of caring about two pennies at the expense of hanging around for longer in the call box/area and impressing his voice on witnesses).
Note: To get to the doctor’s surgery and back, Julia would pass right by the telephone box, which was on the road Parry’s father said Parry had been “mending his car on”, which is found in no statement made by Gordon.
- Wallace goes on his journey at around 18:45. This is the exact time Mr. Johnston claims to have returned home from Maiden Lane. Like the other residents on the street, they used the back entries for tram convenience, and he would have come back that way. He may have seen Wallace as he came down Richmond Park – or – remembering Stan’s information apparently gleamed from John Johnston himself, he may have encountered Julia in the alleyway as she searched for Puss the cat.
- John briefly speaks to Julia who explains she is looking for the cat, and that William is out. John then goes into his own home and tells Florence to keep a lookout while he sneakily thieves from the Wallaces home. (Allegedly in the previous crime on the street (same side of the road) a month to the day prior, items from which cash was taken were replaced).
- Julia searches round the block and down the entries, this would mean the back door and yard door are not on bolt. The Johnstons have a key for the back door of the Wallace home and the back yard gate does not have a lock (albeit the walls are easily scalable in any case, as seen by the window cleaners who hopped the walls to work on each house).
- John has entered the back with his key. It may even be unlocked still.
- Florence sees Julia walking towards her front door and goes outside to intercept her, offering to help her look some more. Julia says she is not feeling well enough to stay out and invites Florence in (this would mean there was no knocking on the front door as the two enter together). She has been taken into the parlour and kept Julia distracted with chatter by the fireplace.
Alternatively, since the Holmes (#27 Wolverton Street) missed two occasions of knocks which took place on the front door of 29 Wolverton Street, it is possible Florence actually knocked and was admitted.
- At some point John is in the back kitchen unbeknownst to Julia, he is standing on the cabinets to reach the cash box which is too high for him to reach normally. While ransacking the box, he drops some coins or accidentally breaks off the cabinet door (likely while holding the door for support as he steps down, which snapped, causing him to fall and the coins to fall out of his pockets), which makes noise.
- Startled, Julia gets up from the couch she was sitting on to investigate the sound. Florence attacks Julia by shoving her into the fireplace.
- Julia is finished off with something like a jemmy bar, wrench, or some other implement to hand that would cause the tram-track type injury patterning on the back of her skull.
- They easily escape with just a few footsteps between the back yards of each of their homes.
- They intercept William as he returns to the back door the second time in order to gain access to the crime scene. This way they can check for leftover evidence and plant their fingerprints around it in front of a witness (William and the police).
- John indeed confesses to the killing, but changes the story to only incriminate himself, and avoid tarnishing his wife’s name.
Alternatively: According to some sources the Johnstons already had their suitcases packed for the move in with Phyllis. I believe there is good evidence that the cat originally belonged to the Johnstons as previously explained. If they were planning to move, they may have wished to take back the cat, especially since now moving to a smaller household they will have more space and money and be in better position to take care of it. This could have led to an argument with Mrs. Wallace, resulting in a violent end, with the Johnston household being the home in the best position to have heard any such argument… And this is the basis by which I find an argument or confrontation of any type with anyone other than the Johnstons implausible.
In this case it may even be that the prosecution case about the murder scene was largely right, they just “got the wrong man, squire!” In other words the robbery was staged, and the jacket was grabbed (which hung directly outside the door) to shield from blood – although latest forensic opinion from a world-renowned Blood Pattern Analyst, is that the perpetrator would have very little if any blood upon them and as such, blood deposited outside of the room is not necessarily expected. And further on the topic of the mackintosh, all evidence does in fact suggest the burning to Julia’s skirt was the same incident which set light to the jacket, implying it had been around her shoulders or on her in some way (as Florence Johnston suggested).
The details regarding the rod-like implement in the photo of the parlour is unclear, it has never once been mentioned. If this was in fact missing it could be possible it was grabbed and used to finish Julia off after an initial push sent her into the fire, but I might suggest the poker since the repeating tram-track patterning I am told by forensic pathologists implies a patterned implement. A poker (claimed missing from the living kitchen) may have patterning along the bar in some instances, often in a spiral pattern.
Of note, while Hemmerde was examining Wallace, he chided him for a comment that was actually made by Florence Johnston:
3602. Do you remember, when Mrs Johnston was there, suddenly saying to her what you heard her say yesterday, that you glanced round the room and said “Whatever have they used?” Do you remember saying that? No, I do not remember that. [because he did not say this, Mrs. Johnston did – but we will see he is promptly fooled into thinking it was his own words].
3603. Why should you have assumed that something in the house had been used to murder your wife? I do not know that I did assume that.
3604. You realised – I realised that my wife had been struck by some weapon; that is all I can say.
3605. And your suggestion is that obviously she had been struck by a man who had arranged for your absence? Quite.
3606. And yet you glance around the room and you say “Whatever have they used”? Quite naturally.
3607. You think that is quite a natural remark to make? I do.
Which may imply that, in fact, something from within the room/house had been used to carry out the attack.
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…
Presumably these too were part of his deception, perhaps to deceive family who would read them after his death such as his nephew Edwin Wallace.
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).
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.
Wallace and the Wild Goose Chase…
In hindsight I think it is easy to believe that we would immediately figure out that the telephone call is some sort of setup and not go on the trip.
But I think to imagine being in those shoes, it is understandable that a person would go on the trip even if they thought the message was iffy.
I think my assumption would be that someone who knows of me through the café or chess club had mentioned my name to “Qualtrough” as an agent, and this person was contacting me having heard of me via word of mouth (Wallace first asked if Qualtrough was a member of the club). When told of the address, which is before the advent of Google Maps etc, then from statements we know that members of the club ascertained that the Menlove Gardens roads were off of Menlove Avenue. Deyes lived opposite to the Gardens. McCartney had asked Wallace for his address, and various members of the club including James Caird advised him on how he could get there.
Nobody said it did not exist. The assumption of all members present was that it would connect to the other Menlove Gardens streets and Menlove Avenue, and they advised as such. Nobody else pointed out that it was overtly strange for Wallace to have been contacted by a man he did not know at the café. Beattie when taking the message assumed it was genuine and did not catch on that something was up when William said he did not know of a “Qualtrough”.
Wallace knew of Menlove Avenue and never claimed otherwise. He described to Caird the route he believed he would take to get there, intending to inquire of the specifics when in the general district.
In other words: While everyone at the chess club was privvy to the same information that Wallace received, nobody else clocked on that there was anything suspicious about the address (or even the circumstances of the call in the case of Beattie, McCartney, and Caird – who would have been by Wallace when he claimed he did not know the caller).
I think the very last thing someone would ever think, is that this is some kind of setup to murder their wife. And had someone figured out the address was false, I think the assumption would be that there was a problem during the taking down of the message and that it was probably 25 Menlove Gardens West.
Wallace expected a very sizeable commission from this trip.
To many minds, the only possible negative outcome of going on the trip would be wasting time. But the negative of not going if the message was in fact genuine, would be missing out on a large amount of money. On top of this, in the case that it was a genuine message, it might look bad for himself and the Prudential. He had no way to contact “Qualtrough” and had the man been very real and living at, say, 25 Menlove Gardens West, you might believe that this person would fully expect your visit.
On the latter point however, Beattie did tell the caller that he wasn’t sure if Wallace would be at the club that night – albeit Beattie did not seem to pass this aspect on to Wallace.
On Wallace’s Demeanour…
Though Wallace was apparently completely callous about his wife’s death, Florence says quite the total opposite. Both she and Johnston also claim that Wallace WAS in fact hurrying back round to the yard door rather than “walking in the ordinary way”. Perhaps noteable because those who knew Wallace said that he walked slowly. Doug Metcalfe claims on a recorded interview that Wallace was such a slow man you could walk faster than he could cycle.
In Florence’s handwritten statement she makes the following claims about Wallace’s demeanour and reaction to his wife’s death. The following is all Florence’s own words:
- He then came rushing into the yard and cried in a very distressed and agitated tone: “come and look; she’s killed.”
- Mr. Wallace was terribly pale and seemed frightfully upset and stooped over the body saying “they’ve finished her; they’ve finished her.”
- My husband and I and Mr. Wallace all went into the kitchen and I said [not a typo, Florence claims she said this though it’s meant to be her husband who did] “what have they taken?” Mr. Wallace lifted the cash box from the shelf, and pulled out the tray, and said “Oh I can’t tell really until I’ve examined my books, but I think about £4.” Naturally he did not seem to be worried about the money.
- He seemed very distressed and hid his face in his hands, but I do not think he cried, as he did not take his glasses off.
- Then we were all in the kitchen and Mr. Wallace sat in the chair, and was very very distressed and half collapsed.
- His shoulders heaved, and he was sobbing.
- Mr. Wallace could hardly speak for emotion.
- Whenever the police came into the kitchen Mr. Wallace pulled himself together, but when he was alone with me and my husband he broke down several times and sobbed.
- When Amy Wallace arrived he said “Tell them, please; I can’t.”
- He sat crouched over the fire, sobbing occasionally. He broke down momentarily on two occasions that I remember.
Reconstruction of the Murder Scene:
It is important here to take careful note of physical clues around the crime scene so that we can put it all together.
Before moving onto the murder scene itself, there are a few elements in the kitchen (the room which contains the cash box) to note. Much of this is on the table.
There is a SERIOUS problem and utterly disgraceful display of incompetency from the police here… That problem is that this photograph of the kitchen was taken on January the 23rd. William had been allowed to stay in his house ALONE on the night of the 21st of January. Therefore the integrity of this crime scene is potentially greatly different compared to the murder night, and potentially compromised. Just to let this sink in, they have let their prime suspect stay at the scene of the crime alone before it was even photographed. Many rooms in the home are not photographed at all including where the stained notes were found, and “disturbance” (not really a disturbance) in the front bedroom… The photography – and lack of it – is perhaps the most embarassing element of this entire case, where the infantile abilities of the police force come into plain view.
This is something I have had to taken into account, but fortunately there are still some elements we can pick out…
We know from Wallace and also from the autopsy that he and his wife had shared a meal of scones after he returned home at about 6.05 PM on the night of the murder. The meal was finished at ~6.30 it is claimed, at which point Wallace got ready for his trip.
Wallace’s side of the table appears to be to the left, and behind him where we see folders/papers, a wooden ruler, and other knick-knacks along those lines. I am thinking these would be work-related items. William probably sat here at the kitchen table when doing his books and I think it would be quite obvious to a visitor that this is the case. Therefore quite obvious to expect the company’s money would be kept close to where all of the “work things” are.
We can surmise that side of the table is Julia’s, since we see sewing equipment including a pair of scissors.
It is difficult to make some of the elements out here, but the scissors are quite evident.
Opposite Wallace’s chair we see what is presumably Julia’s chair: It seems unlikely she would choose to use the uncomfortable looking wooden chair, and likely that when sitting down for a meal with someone a person would sit directly opposite).
Draped across the table and onto Julia’s chair there appears to be some sort of patterned fabric. Perhaps this is a skirt Julia was making or mending? We know Julia enjoyed sewing and frequently made her own clothes. This was something the locals took note of: It was commonly believed that Wallace dressed well (albeit old fashioned and not in “top” quality clothing), whereas his wife was a little more ratty in homemade outfits way past their time.
There are two newspapers on the table, most probably we can guess these are the Financial Times and The Liverpool Echo, but because of the date the photograph was taken there are some issues. For example, I cannot find if any further papers were delivered to the house after the murder (in which case the ones on the table may not even be from the day of the killing). According to Jonathan Goodman on the day of the killing, the Echo on the table was found open at its center pages implying it has been read or at least casually opened and glanced at.
I was not able to find this in statements but found vindication of this claim in the appeal trial:
MR ROLAND OLIVER: I need not read his evidence, because your Lordships know what he said, but my point about Jones, if I may venture to repeat it, is, not the certainty when he left the paper, but certainty that that woman was alive when the paper was put into the door, because the paper had been taken in and was lying on the kitchen table, apparently having been read, after the murder.
THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE: Or at any rate opened.
MR ROLAND OLIVER: Or at any rate opened, yes, my Lord, and lying on the kitchen table.
Since this photo is taken days after the murder as explained, the photograph is not representative of how the scene was at the time. But possibly the papers were the same ones and in the same position; simply disturbed. The best I can do is to compare the newspaper from that date with what’s on the table, keeping in mind there is some chance what’s on the table is not even what was there on the day of the murder:
Here is the front page of the Liverpool Echo, 20th January 1931:
And on the kitchen table:
It does not appear to be a match for the layout and font on the front page (there is some sort of large header at the side of the page on the table), and therefore it does appear to me to be an interior page it is open to, but it could also be the back page. The Newspaper Archives only have 12 pages so I am not able to find a match for which page it is likely to be unfortunately. If a copy of this paper could be found, we could determine the contents of the page it was found open to and therefore determine whether the content of that page is something Julia would be likely to have been interested in.
On top of the newspaper there is some sort of fabric… a sheet perhaps? This vital clue is also now lost to the factor of possible interference etc: It is not possible to say if the fabric/sheet we see on top of the newspaper was on top of it when first discovered, or indeed if that was even the newspaper found on the murder night. If we could know this, we could ascertain whether it is likely someone had read the paper before beginning sewing work.
However we can ascertain that in probability someone brought in the Liverpool Echo at around 6.30 PM. Since Alan Close’s milk delivery was after this, it is likely Julia would bring in anything at the door at this point (even if after shutting the door on Alan), and Alan never mentioned having seen a newspaper on the floor which would be expected if it had not been retrieved.
The needlework we can presume Julia had started on after the meal since we see the fabric (a dress?) in the place where we would expect her to have put her plate. It is unlikely she would eat on top of a garment she is working on otherwise it would be likely to get crumbs upon it etc. it is simply unnecessary when it would be so easy to place the garment aside, especially on the sofa behind her which we will see shortly. Regarding the needlework, an officer who was on the scene on the night of the murder confirmed that it had been there. According to him, upon the table was a sewing basket and wool, and he formed the opinion that Julia had been darning or knitting when she left the room, never to return again.
Atop the kitchen fireplace is a mug (which I think I pointed out earlier):
The handle is towards Julia’s side. The direction of handles on cups, or the direction that cans are popped open, is often used by detectives to determine the likely location from which it had been placed. For example, if the handle was facing left (towards the window/Wallace’s side of the table) it would appear someone coming from the left of the room had placed the mug there, such as Wallace. The handle facing right suggests this was Julia’s cup of tea. Because of where William sits at the table I think this is a cup left over from the murder night.
Possibly Julia had placed it on top of the fire, which was on, to keep it warm as she went to the door. Because it has been left there, it appears she did not return to the kitchen after placing it here.
It was around 6.37 PM that Alan Close came to the door. At this time Wallace claimed he was upstairs brushing his hair and getting dressed in the middle bedroom which he shared with Julia.
If he was actually getting dressed at this time that is unexpected in a scenario where Wallace is the killer, since Alan Close is already very late. Alan is expected to arrive earlier, as early as 6.00 PM (sometimes when Alan was late his coworker Elsie Wright delivered for him), and should Wallace be attempting to leave as soon after the milk boy as possible, we would expect he would already be dressed etc. by now.
A point also raised by author Antony M. Brown, if the milk boy is expected to call as early as 6.00 PM, William as the proposed killer arrived home too late (6.05), at a time after the milk may well already have been delivered.
Another version of the photograph with different contrasting brings out different details:
Here you see more clearly the objects on the table, but importantly I’d like to draw your attention to what appears to be a sofa or chaise of some kind up against the wall? The armrest/headrest being visible to the left of Julia’s chair. There appears to be a sheet on the armrest/headrest which we see the end of just to the right of Julia’s chair; and the sofa appears to continue along the wall to the end of the photograph if we follow the dark line. There seems to be something like sheets/cushions/paperwork on the seat of the chair, visible to the right of Julia’s armchair.
A couple of years prior a nurse had tended to the Wallaces. She stated that while William was unwell, Julia had slept on the sofa in the kitchen.
The importance of this is that if there is indeed a sofa type chair in the kitchen suitable for napping, it is then far less likely she would go into the cold and damp parlour alone for a nap on the chaise – the sofa in the warm kitchen is a far better choice. Conversely, if there was no other chair like that in the home, then if she wanted to nap while it was still too early to go to bed it would be a stronger suggestion that she would need to set up the parlour and lie down there. That would then tie into John Sharpe Johnston’s alleged confession that he had walked into the parlour to find a poorly Julia resting on the chaise.
But as it stands it seems the parlour would only be used for music or visitors. It does not appear Julia had gone to play the piano or that a musical evening of any kind was planned at all (the music factor will be covered in short order), and therefore the only remaining option is that she had gone in there for a visitor.
To the right of the photo appears to be a radio. This would have been the staple for digital entertainment in the Wallace home. By Wallace’s diary it sounds as though the couple had on occasion listened to radio productions of various plays. The Johnstons did not report hearing the radio that day, although their kitchens border each other and the radio is against their shared wall. It was never asked or mentioned how commonly the Wallaces had their radio on, whether Julia often used it while her husband was out, or various other points which could have helped to establish a likely time of death (or even exonerated William if – for example – the radio was heard to be on when he left, and then was not on by the time he got home). It is not known if either of the neighbours at #27 or #31 had their own radios on that evening which could mask sounds from next door.
It was declared by Wallace that when the couple were alone they would light only one gas jet, which would be the one on the right of the room. When they had company, they would generally light both gas lamps. These lamps were above the fireplace.
Julia would have her box of matches when entering the room, it was dark at this time. When she enters she would possibly (as William did) strike a match in the doorway and then make her way over to the lamps. The matches in those days were longer and she likely would have been able to use this same match to light either one or both of the gas lamps.
She may have had to strike another for the fireplace.
A few different delivery boys were asked or made statements regarding the visibility of light in the front room. This would cover a period from around 6.30 (when the paper was delivered) up to around 6.40.
None had seen a light in this room from outside. That includes Alan Close who had been at the doorstep with the door wide open. He said he could see a light on in the living kitchen where the Wallaces had just eaten, but nothing in the parlour (meaning he had seen no sign of light from outside OR even when physically looking into the home). The doors we might expect to be closed to retain heat, but still it is often the case when a room is lit that we see a glow of light through the tiny gaps between the door and its frame.
There is some evidence that light ought to be visible from outside in the front room. From the trial as Hemmerde examined William:
Q: (3649.) It was a difficult thing to come across the feet like that to the gas, but does it not occur to you as strange that a total stranger coming there murdering your wife should have troubled to turn off the gas?
A: No, not very improbable. I expect he would turn off the incandescent light and he would see then that he had left the stove on and it would be natural that he would turn that off too.
Q: (3650.) Why, because to someone passing it would show a reflection, showing the house was inhabited; why turn it off?
A: I cannot explain his actions at all.
As well as from William in his first statement to solicitor Hector Munro:
“I then went down Belmont Road, Castlewood Road, Sedley Street, through several entries till I arrived at my own front door. There had been no light in the front room when I left, and there was no light on my return.“
The implication being that if there were a light in the front room, he would expect to see it when he got back to his front door.
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. Alan Close also claims that seeing into the house, there was no light in the parlour at this time.I have done some research and I know precisely what type of fireplace they owned. It’s a Wilson’s brand “Sunbeam” Gas-Fire (as stated by Jonathan Goodman). 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 would light the gas lights above the fireplace as described above. She then has to bend down at the fireplace to put on the gas leaving her back exposed to a killer who could easily come up behind her. But the burning and scorch marks on the skirt and further elements in this scene indicate that she was not attacked at this time.
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”:
Why is a killer waiting around for her to fiddle with the fireplace? She’s already on her knees to light it and regulate the gas – the perfect opportunity to strike. For William himself, this is meant to be 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? It seems more likely he would attack as quickly as possible.
“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. The model of that fireplace has no open flame, instead it conducted heats through radiants which would take at least some time to heat up. In these times it was common in most homes for there to be coin meters (robbers would in fact often break into these), it would be unexpected for a person to waste money heating an empty room. Although Julia is unwell with bronchitis it was stated by an officer at the scene that she had on very heavy clothing, including two skirts, all of which he presumed was for protection against cold weather. Hence in the most obvious scenario it would seem as though the fireplace would not be lit in advance.
It applies to any pre-meditated murder scenario that a killer would be unlikely to dawdle for so long before commencing the attack.
If the lighting of this fireplace requires the removal of the grate at the bottom of the fireplace, this has evidently been replaced and is further evidence that the fireplace was not being lit when the attack took place.
The Box of Matches:
There is a box of matches on the table in the bay window beside the chaise lounge. This box was pointed out by Florence Johnston, and William said they were Julia’s.
If Julia was attacked while in the process of lighting the fireplace, she would probably be holding the box. It also seems likely that after being attacked they would be found near the body or even have blood upon them.
But the importance of this box is crucial since it is on the table out of reach of Julia (or where anybody lighting the gas jets or fireplace would be). This is a strong indication that the parlour had just been set up, and then the match box was put down on this table afterwards.
A number of additional details regarding this:
1. We can discern from Florence’s question to William that people at the time were expected to carry their own personal box of matches. None were found on Julia or near her body, so we can assume that William was likely right in his response that the box was Julia’s.
2. If it was a box that was always left in the room, its likely position would be by the sideboard near the parlour door. It is unlikely that in the dark, a person would enter the room and stumble across the room past tables and such to get the box. Rather it would be kept near the door within easy reach.
3. If Julia had been turning out the lights and fireplace when attacked (another interpretation to explain her position in the room), the room would be put into darkness, and as such she would probably grab her matches before doing this so that a) she could strike a match to see her way out of the room and b) because she would take her personal box with her when leaving the room.
4. Even if we presume the parlour was set up some time in advance of the murder taking place, even with the room set up Julia when leaving would probably have taken this box with her. As her personal box we can expect her to carry it with her.
Therefore even with an already-set parlour, if appears she has entered the room and placed her match box down on the table. She would not do this if she was about to turn out the fire and lights, and this would also provide another fine opportunity for the killer to strike Julia from behind, particularly if he is thinking he needs to do this extremely quickly…
To expand upon that: No killer would assume it is likely the tram would just be there waiting for them, they would expect a probable wait time of some sort, adding to the urgency and hence the oddity of passing up so many opportunities to commence the attack.
The simple explanation is that Julia was lounging on the sofa (covered in the next point) and the box was on the table by the sofa so as to keep it close to her.
The Chaise Lounge:
By the bay window is a chaise lounge. According to Gordon Parry in an Empire News article after William’s death, this appears to be the seat which Julia would choose when entertaining company:
“I stood up as he entered the room; the wife was reclining on the couch. There was a look of sneering discovery in the eyes of the man and my reply was a glance at the untidy figure on the couch. I spoke of the business I had called to discuss and after a while he covered up his temper and we talked of the matter in hand.
Later I left the house – relieved to do so. The woman had not moved from the couch, and there was not the slightest indication of a meal.”
If we look at the cushions on this chair, we notice that one appears to be in the position of a headrest, while the other is kind of jammed down into the side of the chair, as though someone has been reclining in it as per Gordon’s statement. The last time the Wallace’s had company in that room was on Sunday, two days prior to the murder. Amy Wallace was received in the kitchen on the Tuesday (the day of the killing) and did not go into the parlour.
To explain what a chaise lounge is (in fact “chaise longue“, pronounced “shayz long” meaning “long chair”):
“A chaise, or chaise lounge, is an upholstered sofa in the shape of a chair that is long enough to prop one’s legs up on.”
Unlike a couch, these types of chairs tend not to have two ends, rather they look something like a strange bed or psychiatrist sofa:
The one in the Wallace parlour appears as though it is designed much like the one above, wherein there is one “end” where the person would lay their head, and then a long segment which the person’s legs would be put up on.
Because it seems the other end of the chaise does not have a support, we can surmise that a person sitting on this sofa would always sit on the side with the rest, so they would be right beside the fireplace. It also seems by the design of the chair, that it might even feel awkward or uncomfortable to sit on it as though it were a normal couch, given that the Wallace’s chaise is not fully backed (more like an armrest type beam runing along), and that the headrest area is sloped.
Julia would not be lounging in the room for a business client of Wallace’s if Wallace was still in the home, since it would be Wallace who would deal with the client.
All in all this seems to be where Julia had been and from where she had risen which ties in now with the next point.
Experts place Julia on the right of the fireplace when first hit which changes things very dramatically from the suggestion of McFall.
“I recognize that McFall and others think she was left of the fireplace. What bothers me about that is the position of the feet. If the attacker hit her while on the left of the fireplace and then dragged her by the hair to her final position, he would then need to lift the feet/legs up and move/toss them to the right of the fireplace. That seems unnecessary during a frenzied attack.”
If we look at where her feet are, we can see that it appears she has been moving from the couch (having just recently stood up) towards the door leading out of the room.
It should also be taken note of that she is wearing some sort of shoe. In England it is considered a social norm to not wear shoes inside the home, particularly if the home is carpeted as is the case at the Wallace house. Generally a person would wear slippers or just socks. When entering a person’s home, it is typical to ask if you should take your shoes off. I am not able to tell what sort of footwear Julia has on (whether they are indoor or outdoor type shoes) so cannot do much with this. But somebody else reading this might (if so, please leave a comment).
When leading her husband down the yard, if she had slippers on it is such a short walk and on cement, that I think she would probably not bother changing her shoes. But if she had gone out (for example, to look around the block for the cat etc.) she would probably change shoes into outdoor-wear. If she has outdoor shoes on here and did not have them on when William left the house, we can determine she had gone out for some reason, and when she re-entered the home she did not then bother to change out of them. Alternatively that she was expecting she was about to go out.
The Blinds and Curtains:
According to Albert Wood, Julia would do the following when setting up the parlour:
“In Winter the gas fire used to be lit & if I called when Mr Wallace was out Mrs Wallace used to get the matches, light the front room fire, and pull down the blinds.”
Looking carefully we can see that the Wallaces appear to have a set of blinds behind the curtains. The white rungs and bar correspond to the curtain, whereas the darker bar appears to be for the blinds. It would appear then, that Julia has pulled down these blinds as Albert Wood said she would.
From his statement there are a few important details we can discern:
That it was Julia’s practice to draw the blinds after lighting the fire; that the blinds were left up by default; and that the fire was probably put on before they were drawn.
Further, at the time it is proposed that Julia would have set the parlour up, there were a number of people in the streets. Window cleaners, delivery boys, and others milling around or returning from work. Since we can infer from Albert Wood that the blinds are left up by default, passerbys would have seen a light go up briefly in the front windows of the house as Julia drew the blinds. Delivery boys were quizzed on this matter and none had seen a light in the parlour, including Alan Close who had stood at the doorstep looking straight down into the house (the parlour door being the first door to his right from here).
It was dark outside on the street with few street lamps, and this is before WWII and therefore before the “blackout” blinds people may have had fitted. It might be expected that if a light was on in this room a person outside may have seen it – which is probably why this question was asked of multiple delivery boys.
The Scorching of the Skirt:
Evidence suggests that Julia has actually fallen into the fireplace, her skirt going directly onto the fireclays (the fake coals on the “Sunbeam” gas fire they had) causing scorching.
“2628. You saw [Julia’s] skirt was burnt? I noticed as I turned over the body the skirt was burnt in the front.
2629. Whereabouts was it burnt as she was wearing it? Directly opposite her private parts.
2630. Right in the front? Yes, as worn, where you fasten it up.
2631. MR JUSTICE WRIGHT: What is the proper name of it? The flap was here in the front and I should say that the flap should be at the side from what I know of female wear.”
– Detective Harry Bailey
“At the bottom of [Julia’s skirt’s] Placquet there were 3 recent horizontal burns, which could have been caused by contact with the hot fireclay of a Gas Fire such as was in the Parlour at 29 Wolverton Street.”
– Police Analyst William Henry Roberts
Therefore when attacked, Julia must have been in a position where the impact sent her into the heated radiants of the Sunbeam fireplace briefly, scorching her skirt.
This means she got up from the chaise lounge for some reason when she was then attacked, sending her into the fireplace. She would not fall into the fireplace if she was attacked while still on the chair. The heat of the radiants, the blinds, and the location of the matches suggests she had not just lit the fire when attacked – in which case the blinds would not yet be drawn and the match box would be found upon her. The radiants would also not yet be hot enough to cause burning upon contact.
The position of the matches suggests she had not just turned off the fire/lights when attacked – in which case the room would be placed into darkness and she should have her box of matches on her (for the reasons described earlier in the section dealing with the match box).
The Piano and Music:
From the other view of the room we see items relating to the Wallace’s musical habits:
On the left we see the piano, a violin stand (the metal object in front of the piano), a chair, and sheet music. Across the arms of the armchair we see Wallace’s violin case.
Of importance there is no chair or piano stool in view in front of the piano. This is simply not right. It would be expected for there to be a stool or chair in the middle of the piano facing towards the keyboard, so where exactly is it?
According to suspects the Johnstons, Florence did not notice a chair behind Julia’s head when entering the room, but instead noticed the violin stand there. This would make more sense: The piano chair (seemingly they did not have a traditional stool) would be in the middle of the piano and the violin stand to the side of it, which would allow Julia to sit at the piano while Wallace stood beside her with his violin and played along to her accompaniment.
She did not notice anyone move it, and it would not be Wallace because he was either with her or the detectives throughout who made no such comment. Is the piano chair the one with the sheet music on top of it which is just to the side of the piano in the view looking towards the parlour door?
The prosecution made the suggestion that Wallace lured his wife into the parlour with the promise of a musical evening. If this had been done, in order to play the piano Julia would have had to move the sheet music off of the chair and place it somewhere else (perhaps the empty chair which we see near the door which was originally in front of the sideboard?). This would give an attacker another chance to come up behind her.
It also suggests that if this chair was moved by a detective/photographer etc, then whoever moved it must have been very careful in their movements to not send sheets onto the floor; else they actually lifted up the sheets to move the chair and placed them back on top. Alternatively, they may have even placed the sheets on top of the chair (which had in fact been empty) from some other location. This would be extreme contamination of the crime scene and is significant in that there seems to be blood spots on the sheets. If the sheets had been on that chair and the chair facing the piano as expected, the BACK of the chair ought to have received the blood spray I would imagine, since that is what would have been towards the body.
Now… What if the piano chair is not the chair with sheets on top, but in fact the chair that was found in front of the sideboard? That appears more convenient. Generally a piano chair/stool will not have piles of music on top of it because a person is expecting to sit upon it. It is usually kept bare. If it is the chair by the sideboard I think this would prove that there had been a visitor. Simply, there is no reason at all that a person would move their piano chair over by the sideboard unless it was put there to give someone a place to sit. There is no reason for a piano chair to be away from the piano and facing into the room.
This I think seems more likely to me. I think the one chair with sheets on top was kept beside the piano as a sort of “storage chair”. This sounds odd, but we can see the same has been done with the chair barely visible in the foreground of the photo looking in towards the fireplace – the one which has a cushion on top of the sheets. I think Julia would pick sheets from this chair which was kept beside the piano and place them on the piano’s music shelf. The chair she sat on would be kept bare.
There absolutely should be a chair or stool of some kind in the middle of the piano and facing the piano. We must ask WHY there is not.
As for violin music, because there are two instruments here, it is likely the sheet music for both would be kept separate so they would not get mixed up. The piano sheets would likely be kept near the piano, while the violin sheets would be elsewhere. Possibly these were kept in the sideboard next to where the violin case is but this was not discussed unfortunately. There is no sheet music on the stand and the violin case is not open so evidently if this was the case it did not get as far as that before the attack began.
Wallace would not read music off of the piano, as tall as he was especially and requiring glasses, he would definitely want his music up on the violin stand where he can read it. He would not want to lean over to read music sat atop the piano’s own music ledge. The prosecution made an unfounded claim that the music on the piano stand was piano AND violin music. They easily could have verified this, but it is completely improbable, and seems like nothing more than a cheap shot to help their case knowing that it could not be challenged.
With musical pieces intended to be played in pairs, generally the instrument the person is playing will have its own bars/lines/whatever you wish to call them along the top, then the “accompaniment” underneath. The intention is not for the person playing the accompaniment to read from your sheet, but for your own reference as you play along.
I personally have years of experience playing both the piano and violin, both of which I began a decade or two ago. So there are some things I would add on here:
1) Violin stands can be folded away so a person might say “aha! he set up the violin stand!” but this would not be done. Violin stands are always kept open unless I suppose in the setting of an orchestra? But even then when I played in an orchestra I never had to set up my stand, I would enter the hall we played in to a sea of waiting stands. I was in the second violin section, and there would be several rows. I do not recall ever putting them away either. I suppose our conductor did this.
In my own house my stand was (as would be expected) always upright and unfolded. Like a car seat the player adjusts it to their desired height and such. Once you find the correct position for yourself, you do not want to lose this position and it’s left exactly as it is.
2) Piano lids are rarely down for frequent players. My own upright piano has a lid as I think all uprights do, and also a strip of cloth which runs across to protect the keys from dust. This lid is never down and the cloth almost never across the keys. In my piano tutor’s house, she had two uprights, one in the dining room and another in the front room where she taught lessons. In all the years that I went for tuition which must have been close to ten years, I never once saw the lid down, even if I had arranged to go on “off days” (for example, a Sunday during the lead-up to an important exam).
3) Regarding sheet music, the last piece I played is always left up on the piano’s music shelf (this can also be folded up by the way). It is quite unfortunate nobody bothered to determine exactly what that piece of music was, since the neighbours as well as certain visitors would hear the music being played, and had the piece been identified it might be possible for them to ascertain the last time Julia had played the piano.
By the looks of it Julia did not own any bound books of music (unless there are some in the sideboard), but rather a large amount of loose sheets. These are a nuisance to keep in order, and with the huge stack on two of the chairs in the scene (one just by the door, another on the chair by the violin stand), if ever these piles were knocked spilling sheets across the floor I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be to re-arrange the loose sheets in the correct order!
Given the door opens inwards towards the piano, it seems the chair with sheets just beside the piano (underneath a cushion, only visible in the photo looking in towards the fireplace) is at great risk of spillage if a person flung the door open. I am not actually sure exactly how wide that door could open, but if it could open wide enough to hit the chair, this might speak against the idea of a person bursting into the room in a panic to head off Julia after having made a sound in the kitchen.
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 presumably a fire etc. was put out before the 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. This was something greatly missed by the defence counsel, since if they had grilled Florence to bring this up during the trial, the sounds eliminate William as the murderer by their timing.
Another element of sound is the knocking on the doors and such from the house on the opposite side. Apparently they heard the door shut on the milk boy at the Wallace home five minutes before they received their newspaper (this is by the way, impossible, since Wildman is their paperboy). But because they did not hear Wallace’s knocks on his front door (despite corroboration he knocked on the back, making it unlikely he was lying), the idea they should hear a knock of a visitor can be overlooked. Overall they seem like very poor witnesses to sound, having made an impossible statement about the time the door shut on Alan Close as well as missing several knocks at the front door of #29.
If we quickly take the crime scene again:
If we imagine the walls in front are transparent, the Johnston’s relative Arthur Mills would likely be found in that room there. They share only a party wall (which means it is essentially like being a room apart in the same house). Also if we imagine to the left of that room which is identical in dimension to the Wallace parlour, there will be a number of Johnston family members in the living kitchen.
We know from the crime scene that Julia has been repeatedly hit by a blunt implement a number of times, hitting her head against the ground while she was already downed. It also appears that a killer stomped out a fire.
It is very unusual that the Johnstons did not hear any of these sounds (apart from arguably Florence and her vanishing thuds), regardless of who committed the murder – even if it was William himself it is hard to comprehend.
The Holme family are three walls away and so there is more plausibility of missing sound than with the Johnstons. The Holmes are in fact rather useless by all accounts, since their statement about hearing the door close on Allan at #29 five minutes before they received their paper is completely impossible, since Wildman is the boy who delivers their paper!
In my view this factor alone casts suspicion against the Johnston family or an individual close to them. Whether William himself or any other individual had committed this act, it is very bizarre that they heard absolutely nothing of it (particularly Arthur Mills in the room adjoining the Wallace parlour): None of the fall into the fireplace, none of the pulling the body away and evidently around the room, none of the stomping out of fire, and none of the repeated bashes of the head against the ground with a heavy blunt object.
If the room had been set up in advance…
If it had already been set up (which is already unusual due to the commonality of coin-operated meters and the desire to not waste money for empty rooms), then I believe she would be attacked when entering the room. In this case it is much more difficult to explain her going all the way over to the right side of the room where the window is, sitting down, then getting up before then being attacked. This is particularly relevant with a tight time factor involved, where the assailant is proposed to have been rushing as fast as possible.
If she was turning out the fireplace and lights which would place the room in darkness, her personal box of matches ought to be found upon her.
According to Amy Wallace who visited and left at 4.30 while William was out on his afternoon rounds, Julia expected William was going out on business that night. William returned at 6.05 PM. They ate lunch which is confirmed by the autopsy showing remnants of the meal. He would have had to change plans on her at this point. When she goes to set up the parlour we have evidence she would draw the blinds. After 6.05 PM until quite a bit later was a dangerous time for this to be done, due to the amount of delivery boys in the street who could have seen a light or even Julia in the bay window as she pulled down the blinds.
The delivery boys in the streets at the time were asked by the police about this matter, and none had noticed any light go up, including, again, Alan Close who could see right into the house where the parlour door would be first to his right.
What has happened therefore seems to be this:
- Julia and William sat down for a meal of scones at around 6.05 PM, finishing around 6.30 PM roughly, confirmed by autopsy.
- Julia at some point after the meal has started or resumed needlework (this will be after ~6.30 PM).
- The Liverpool Echo was delivered at ~6.30 PM, someone brought this newspaper in and placed it on the table. By Roland Oliver it was found open, which is very suggestive (but not definitive) that it had been read.
- Alan Close arrives with the milk at 6:37 PM. Julia took the milk in. Alan Close did not report noticing a newspaper on the floor even though he spoke to her at the front door, implying it had already been taken in.
- There is at some point after a knock at the front door which Julia did not expect. She puts her cup of tea on top of the fire to keep it warm as she goes to the door.
- Julia answers the door to a visitor (or visitors) who she admits into the home and into the parlour.
- Julia who has her box of matches, struck a match in the threshold of the parlour door and lit at least one of the gas jets, and then lit the fireplace.
- After lighting the fire and regulating the gas, she sets her box of matches down on the table by the window.
- She has pulled down the dark blinds between the curtains and window, as Albert Wood claims she would do (so presumably they were not left down by default).
- She has taken the chair that should be in front of the piano facing the keys, and moved it in front of the sideboard to give her visitor a place to sit. There is no other conceivable reason why we should not see a chair in front of the piano and facing the piano unless the chair was moved to be used as a seat for a visitor.
Else it must be a remnant from the Sunday visit with Amy and Edwin who I rather wager would be entertained in the warm living kitchen as Amy was on the Tuesday afternoon (I think it likely they would only go into the parlour if the Wallaces played music to them).
- She has set up the cushions on the chaise lounge, then lounged upon it as she did when guests were over. Her head would be where the cushion on the headrest was, with her legs up across the chair.
- She has for some reason then got up from the couch. This has happened after enough time has elapsed since the lighting of the fireplace for the radiants to be hot enough to scorch her skirt upon contact. This model of fireplace as we see has no open flame, and hence for anything to catch light the fire has to have already been on.
- She has then been attacked: Hit or shoved, sending her into the fireplace skirt-first.
- She has been continuously hit a number of times after this, leaving her dead.
The combination of the apparently read newspaper (according to Roland Oliver) and sewing equipment is highly suggestive of a later time of death than would be possible for William. Simply, it would necessitate that between ~6.30 and ~6.45 Julia had found time to both read some of the Liverpool Echo and put her sewing equipment on the table to do some needlework before her husband, allegedly, ushered her into the parlour to give her a good wacking. The sewing equipment, fabrics and such were the items found in front of her armchair suggesting the needlework was her last action before she left the kitchen.
There was no mention by anybody that the newspaper was on top of the sewing fabrics, and so I believe (even without photographic proof due to the date of the photo) it was put aside and found on the table in front of the wooden chair next to Julia’s armchair, suggesting the newspaper was read prior to the needlework. I also base this on the following statement; if the paper was on top of the sewing things or open in front of her armchair, he would surely conclude that reading the paper was her last action instead:
“There was a table with a dark cloth on & some chairs. On the table was a sewing basket with wool & socks for darning which appeared to me as if she had been sitting on the chair darning or knitting. Perhaps got up from the chair, leaving whatever she was doing on the table & never returned again”
It would not be a plausible suggestion that William himself would sit down and entertain himself with the newspaper knowing that within minutes he has to be ready to kill his wife as fast as possible with absolutely no blood spray upon him (no time now to wash himself), leave the house, and dash for the tram.
The simplest answer is as such: The meal ends around 6.30 give or take and William goes upstairs to get ready just as he claimed. The newspaper and milk is delivered while he is upstairs getting dressed and brushing his hair (etc) so he does not hear this. After William has left the house, Julia has busied herself by flicking through the newspaper which she put aside to begin sewing, when suddenly there is a knock at the door. She places her cup of tea on the fireplace and goes to answer it, and admits the visitor.
It does not look like she has been attacked when entering the room, when in the process of lighting the gas jets, when in the process of lighting the fire, or when pulling the blinds; all of which would leave the back of her head exposed and in perfect position to be struck down. Especially if William is posited as the murderer, since he is in the process of trying to “beat the clock” and would not waste time waiting for his wife to set up the parlour etc.
I do not believe any assassin, especially one attempting to do things as quickly as possible, would allow for all of this to happen before attacking Julia.
Alan Close stated that when he delivered the milk (which would be around 18:38) there was not a light on in the parlour. According to the prosecution, all of the events above have happened between 18:38 and 18:49. And the attacker has actually allowed these things to happen instead of acting during one of the many earlier opportunities that would have been available to him (namely, when Julia is stooping down to the fire or, in the case of a musical evening, shifting the sheet music off of the chair etc.).
The visitor would likely be seated on the chair in front of the sideboard opposite Julia, who was reclining on the couch as Gordon Parry said she did when guests were over. In the view of the room showing the piano this chair is moved but its position in that photograph is quite impossible, since the door (which has been taken off for the photography) would not be able to open if the chair had been there.
All modern forensics believe the mackintosh was upon Julia in some way, whether around her shoulders or held. This jacket was last worn by William earlier in the day BEFORE his last afternoon rounds. For his final afternoon rounds and his trip to Menlove Gardens he wore his lighter fawn jacket.
During the day or when only one of the two (William or Julia) were going out, the BACK door would be used.
If the jacket were put up to dry somewhere in the home with expectation it would be worn again later that day (having gotten wet during the morning rounds), there was an active fire not only in the already-warm middle kitchen but also one available in the back kitchen. The back kitchen was used for general tasks during the day and therefore would be expected to be warmer than the parlour which was usually left untouched. Not only this, it would be more convenient to grab a jacket from the back kitchen on the way out if the expectation was that it would be worn again (since the back doors are used, NOT the front, due to tram convenience).
I have the Johnstons as top level suspects (the idea of the call as a plan being the only thing which prevents them from being the obvious suspects to most people). It is therefore of high importance that Florence Johnston on trial stated that to her, it looked like Julia had grabbed the jacket to put round her shoulders to answer a knock at the door. Earlier in the day Julia had put a “bit of material” round her neck when answering the door to Neil Norbury the baker’s boy.
More On the Mackintosh…
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”.
A highly prevalent blood pattern analyst (who teaches forensic students and testifies in court cases) had the following insights on the matter, which due to their wish for anonymity and copyright of the typed report I had to summarize:
Analysis of mackintosh is hindered due to the lack of photographs of the patterning upon it. However, the visible portion is clean, which suggests it was not in that position during the attack and has been moved. (Based on witness statements, the mackintosh was initially more underneath Julia, and has evidently been moved aside by the time the photographs were taken).
The analyst suggests the mackintosh and skirt burning happened at the same time.
The analyst suggests that the assailant standing to the right of Julia would have little to no blood upon them anyway.
I have always agreed that it seems very odd that she was wearing his jacket which was the suggestion made by Roland Oliver and suspect Florence Johnston (that Julia had thrown it round her shoulders to answer the front door). But it is something that is suggested repeatedly that is was upon her in some way. Importantly Florence Johnston is one of the only witnesses to have seen the original position of the body and jacket.
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, wipe down surfaces to clear away fingerprints, douse an active fire, or even try to stem the bleeding from Julia’s head.
It is known that Wallace’s jacket was in very easy reach directly opposite 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 evidence since the killer has handled it with bare hands, 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.
It could also be the case that the assertion of how it was used is correct (as a “shield”), but the prosecution simply got “the wrong (wo)man”.
The blood pattern analyst who wishes to remain anonymous, does as mentioned believe that the perpetrator could have escaped with little to no blood upon his/her person. However, she also made note of the lack of blood on Julia’s back. This led her to believe that Julia was prone when the back of her head was opened up, otherwise had she been upright, gravity would have caused blood from the open wound to drip down her back… An alternative reasoning for the lack of blood run-down is that the mackintosh had been round Julia’s shoulders… As with the other experts, it seems she believes the burning happened at the same time as the singeing of the skirt.
Regarding the mackintosh – It is also problematic to suggest that William had caught light while wearing it. Not only would this be quite clumsy (though perhaps expected during a brutal attack), but if he had his clothing on underneath the clothing should have been burned. The mackintosh was not only singed, but actually set ablaze and considerably burned. Therefore you are left with a deliberate act of arson after-the-fact, or the idea that it was held up as a shield rather than worn… In the latter case, it is hard to fathom why a person would choose to use something belonging to themselves which would clearly be quite incriminating, then dump it with the body, when it would have been possible to simply grab his wife’s jacket.
Apparently an iron bar or poker was taken away out of the home. This might not be the case.
As per Goodman, the iron bar (roughly 12″ by 1″) was heavily rusted and found behind the fireplace a few years later when the new homeworners were renovating by upgrading the gas fire to electric. During the investigation of the crime, the gas fire was removed, but according to Goodman the workman had found the bar down a crevice at the back near the wall, where it might have gone unnoticed at the time.
There was no mention of a handle on this piece of iron, but there was mention of a handle on the pokers in the kitchen as per the Wallace’s charwoman (essentially a maid) Sarah Jane Draper:
“There used to be two small steel pokers in the kitchen (living area where the cash box was kept) fireplace, one was about 1 foot long, that is here now, the other was about 9 inches, this one is missing, it had a small knob on it. There was a straight piece of iron kept in the parlour fireplace, it was about 1 foot long and about as thick as an ordinary candle, that is missing; last seen on January 7th.”
Now we come to the fireplace as it was photographed in the parlour and we see a straight rod-like item with what appears to be a knob on the end, like the poker which had been described by Mrs. Draper:
Why would a poker be in the parlour with a gas fire? The murder took place on the 20th of January, the charwoman had last visited on the 7th. She had taken a week off work and missed the 14th of January due to the death of her husband, next turning up on the 21st. That would mean that between the 7th to the 21st of January, cleaning duties would have fallen upon Julia.
If the usual piece of iron used for cleaning under the gas fire had rolled back into the crevice and was the bar found some years after by the next family who moved in during renovations, then it’s possible it was Julia herself who had brought the poker in as a substitute for the missing iron bar.
If that’s the case, then neither the iron bar nor the poker are missing, and that creates an issue as there is now no known murder weapon missing or otherwise. As stated by one of the forensic doctors I hired:
“No matter how I look at it, there is a repeating pattern in several of the injuries which would likely NOT fit a metal bar or crowbar unless there was a patterned surface.”
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 whatever is in the photograph above had been moved, or even if it was the kitchen poker, the charwoman may have simply seen that the iron bar and poker were not in their usual places when she looked in these rooms, and presumed them missing. You would think she would recognized an object was on the parlour fender but if it was still there – whatever it was – it doesn’t appear that she or anybody else made any mention of it.
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. But it appears possible nothing was missing from the home.
The mentioned third forensic expert specializing in blood pattern analysis wrote a in-depth formal report of the scene which can be found here: Analysis here.
If this is correct, William could have avoided blood. Of course, it also means another killer could too, and therefore we might not expect to see any other crazed blood soaked killer running through the streets of Liverpool in such a scenario. And accounts for the lack of blood on gas jets, door handles, or outside of the parlour in general.
Why did Julia get up from the chair?
Something has evidently caused Julia to get up from the chaise lounge after the above events, and she was swiftly attacked.
In the middle kitchen Wallace found one of the cabinet doors had been snapped off, and police found coins scattered around the foot of the bookcase (upon which the cash box was kept). The cash box being 7 foot or more from the ground, a shorter man would probably need to clamber up onto the cabinets or use a chair in order to reach it and rifle through it. He would empty the money from the box, put it back, then step back down.
If he accidentally dropped coins or snapped off the cabinet door (for example if he held onto it to support himself while stepping down) this could have made a noise which would alert Julia causing her to get up from the sofa, into the position where she was then attacked.
Because Julia is still quite close to the sofa (as though she had only just stood up) when attacked, I think there might be two people in the home. One in the parlour distracting her, while another person is in the back of the house. When they make noise, Julia is alerted and goes to stand up, and the person distracting her has shoved her or attacked her to prevent her from finding out what was happening.
If there was some sort of altercation, possibly over money (many variations of this: e.g. that someone had gone in to beg for money and had been declined), I think it would have been heard by the neighbours.
As touched upon earlier, the Johnston family actually have a relative in their front parlour which is directly adjacent to the room where Julia was murdered, sharing only a thin party wall. If there had been some sort of argument I think the Johnstons would have heard it, and therefore I think in such an instance THEY would likely be the guilty party. The Holmes family on the opposite side are 3 walls away from the parlour by comparison, and also missed Wallace’s knocks on the front door when he arrived home (his back door knocks were confirmed by Florence Johnston, so it’s unlikely he lied about doing this), so I think it is more plausible they would miss sound than with the Johnstons. Add to this, the bookshelf upon which the cash box was placed (and where there were coins scattered, etc) is also against the Johnston’s home, and again 3 walls away from the Holmes. The Johnstons ought to have heard any loud sound in the kitchen.
In conclusion, because of the physical evidence within the crime scene suggesting a visitor has stayed with Julia for some time before attacking, and despite numerous opportunities to have attacked her much sooner had someone had such an intention, I do not believe this is the result of a pre-meditated murder… And especially not the result of any killer in a hurry.
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 believe 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.
Is Lily Halls’ Sighting True?
Although many people had claimed to have seen Wallace that night (or even people who came forward claiming to have been the murderer only to then be ruled out as impossible perpetrators), Lily Hall’s holds some weight as she lived nearby, knew Julia, knew the Johnstons, and knew Wallace by sight. She also apparently described his outfit correctly although that is something difficult to do on a brief glance.
There is a problem with her sighting… If Wallace had hired a killer, it would be most expected that his murderer would have entered the home and carried out the act when William was as far away from home as possible. Say 19:30. A killer would have brought his own weapon (which was possibly the case in this crime with the iron bar and poker possibly still being present). He would have struck quickly, and got out and AWAY as fast as possible.
In a remote countryside property it may be slightly different, but in terraced housing, battering a woman’s head into the ground then hanging around until 20:30 to leave or catch his getaway ride seems very unlikely. He would want to get in, out, and away, in the quickest time possible, and be seen nowhere near Wallace or associating with him ever again.
Based on the crime scene evidence it looks on the surface like someone had been reclining on the sofa near the window at some point (on the sofa you see one cushion wedged down into the side, and one up on the “armrest” like a cushion for someone’s head to rest on – though we must remember the immense police interference), and with a visitor Julia would have lit both gas lamps as well as the fireplace with her back to the room which the hitman has apparently let her do without making his move.
With forensics telling me the killer would have blood upon him (even the prosecution’s forensic expert McFall could only minimize the amount on the perpetrator, not claim he wouldn’t have any upon him, even IF he wore the jacket), to then hang about in alleyways talking to the man who hired him seems like something neither man would be comfortable with. If the hitman has done his job, Wallace will find out when he gets back home. A clandestine (not really, because it’s out on the street) meeting seems unnecessary. Hanging about in the home seems incredibly risky in case neighbours had heard and reported anything suspicious.
Lily Hall’s statement changes over time, but initially she did not claim to see the men part company. She describes the man talking to Wallace as 5’8″, stocky, and wearing a cap. Though the height would have been average male height for the time period, a cap is rather juvenile attire. It could have been worn to help cover the assailant’s face from view of course.
It seems possible to me based on the timing and original statement that Lily Hall saw Wallace as he was returning from his journey and another unrelated person was walking past at the time. She glanced at the men briefly but did not think much of it.
It is possible that she had witnessed a secretive meeting between William and the man he had hired to murder his wife, but if a hit job has been carried out in this manner then it was a terribly poor plan that put both Wallace and his killer at great risk to stop for a quick chat right by the scene of the murder where neighbours and locals could see this.
Author Mark Russell outright dismisses Lily as a liar and fantasist, but I do not think this is fair or really supported. First of all, a man matching this description was spotted very shortly within this time by a Mr. Greenlees, a middle aged man returning from choir practice who lived on Richmond Park. Apparently a stockily built man approached him on Richmond Park from the direction of Letchworth Street to ask where “54 Richmond Park” was. Curiously, this address also did not exist, and Mr. Greenlees told him as much. The man then left.
Lily Hall also accurately described the outfit Wallace had been wearing on the night. Of course, from pictures we can see he tended to dress the same with little variation.
Of Note: Lily Hall was close friends with the Johnstons. If you are of the opinion that they are involved, it is possible she could be lying.
It should also be noted that she was to be at the cinema at 20:50. Based on the time she got off the tram, and the fact the cinema is nearer the tram stop she alighted from than her house, one would expect her to have headed straight there… Instead she apparently heads home, and then leaves to double back on herself to the cinema.
Mr. Greenlees did not see Lily Hall or Wallace at the time he arrived back on Richmond Park, though he entered his home at 20:45 and alighted from the same tram stop very shortly after Lily.
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.
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?
- If Wallace has someone else willing to go in and murder his wife, the telephone call is NOT NECESSARY AT ALL. He can simply place himself away from the house all day; for example by spending the day at his sister-in-law’s home.
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 Jonathan 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:
4) THE TIME OF THE APPOINTMENT. If William has a hitman, why not simply set the time of his journey to Menlove Gardens earlier and not return home at all? Why even place himself at the scene? Why is the call even necessary – he can just go to his sister Amy’s house from work and stay there ’til late. Why would he return home to eat dinner with the wife he’s having murdered shortly after?
5) THE TIME OF THE CALL. If William has someone else make the phone call for him, why doesn’t he have the call come in later when he’s playing his chess match and simply request a message be taken for him because he’s too engaged in his match? If someone else is making the call, why did they not place it a bit later and shortly before William would arrive at the club, perhaps with William establishing himself on the tram when the call came in via some inconspicuous means…
Seemingly… The plan only makes sense if William acted alone. But the evidence does not really support this and it is still flawed. It is the simplest and most obvious answer but it is too difficult to get Gordon Parry out of that telephone kiosk given his falsified alibi, combined with several other factors mentioned much earlier, and the reconstructed series of events leading up to the murder which would not support a rushing William.
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, rather 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… According to locals, both Julia and Wallace were taciturn albeit Wallace was a complete gentleman and Julia a true lady, quiet and polite.
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.
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. According to Florence Johnston Julia also mentioned this event to her daughter who she was friends with. According to Florence, she was friends with both William and Julia – though moreso Julia – and that her daughter was also friends with Julia.
“I was very friendly with Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, but more so with Mrs. Wallace who was very kind to me… I remember that Mr. Wallace was very agitated in the evening from Southport just before Christmas [diary entry records this event on the 31st of Decmeber 1930]. Mrs. Wallace told my daughter how worried he had been and said when she got in about 1 a.m. they sat for quite a long time talking and having tea together.
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 dated 31st December 1930 shows that he was worried about Julia’s welfare when she got home late, and this was corroborated as being a true event by multiple people. He went to the police to report her missing, and when Julia returned home at about 1 a.m. they sat together for a long time chatting and having tea. Corroborated by Albert Wood and Florence Sarah Johnston in a handwritten statement made in February shortly after the murder.
Florence says it happened just before Christmas so the diary entry may have been written later. Wallace often wrote retrospective entries.
- He did not act alone.
- I do not believe he cared much for creating a sense of “impossible timing”.
- The phone call was not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the murderer – or expressly done to allow for the scapegoating of the caller. In most hitman scenarios the person simply knows they are not the killer and ensure they are out of the house during the crucial time period. E.g. he could have spent the day with Amy Wallace.
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. He uses his “fake voice” from the moment he gets on the line, which means even to the operators, until getting through to the city café. He does not attempt to scam a free call because he’s well off and he’d want to expose his voice as little as possible INCLUDING to operators who anyone could assume may be interviewed by police when the central aspect of the alibi is a telephone box.
2) Once he gets through to WHOEVER picks up he would tell that person that he’s busy and request they write down a message, then ask that they leave it at the chess club to be given to Mr. Wallace. He would not speak to Beattie at ANY cost… Even if Beattie doesn’t at the time say “Wallace is that you?” you could never rely on the person not in the back of their head thinking it sounds oddly familiar or later concluding it sounded like you when questioned by police.
He would use 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.
If smart he would have used 26 Menlove Gardens North, so he can knock at South if the residents of North are out.
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. This isn’t actually necessary because the round trip is long enough.
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 is friends with Amy and Robert Johnston (as well as the Johnston family at #31 Wolverton Street in general) so may have known about this.
Also as I discussed I happen to think there’s a good chance the call is a practical joke after Parry – who was mending his car on Breck Road – saw Wallace walking down Breck Road to the tram or Julia on the way to/from Dr. Curwen’s on Priory Road which necessitates her passing the telephone box. This was an alibi claimed by he and his father to Goodman but never mentioned on any statement, so perhaps that is his TRUE whereabouts on the call night. I think there’s a good chance the Johnstons did this, and the call is unrelated. I could expand upon this greatly… So there may be some motive for Lily who is close to the Johnstons to have tried to incriminate Wallace if she somehow knew about it. Her own story changed significantly.
It should also be known that Lily Hall was not the only person who was certain they had seen Wallace that night. A man persistently wrote to the Home Office for many years insisting he had seen Wallace with his sister-in-law Amy at Scotland Road at 20:10, asking for directions to the ferry landing stage. The resident of 10 Wolverton Street had claimed to have bumped into Wallace at Belmont Road/Castlewood Road but denied it when questioned by police.
In any case, as per forensic experts I am in contact with, the perpetrator would be bloodstained. What is the suggestion? That this is a hitman? I do not imagine a hitman, bloodstained, hanging around in the streets to talk to the man who hired him to kill his wife. In fact I imagine he’d get in, do the deed, get out FAST and never be seen around or talking to Wallace ever again. I think if anything, Lily has simply seen someone passing the entry Wallace is coming out of and the two men never even spoke or knew each other.
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.
Small Note Regarding Sightings on the Murder Night: Something which should be known is that there was another very strange event which took place in Liverpool the same night as the murder of Julia, and could be responsible for odd claims and sightings phoned in by locals… An unemployed depressed man by the name of Daniel O’Mara at some time in the evening (after Julia’s murder) had gone “mad” in the upstairs room of a building with his baby. The man wielded an iron bar to threaten anyone who tried to stop him or talk him down. Eventually he covered his baby in paraffin and set it alight before throwing it out of the window which was some stories off the ground, then threw himself headfirst out of the same window to his own death.
Special thanks to my good friend Joshua Levin.
This page is dedicated to the memory, and for the justice of Julia Wallace who lost her life on the 20th January 1930, and William Herbert Wallace who lost his faithful wife and died a broken man soon after.
“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.” – William Herbert Wallace, personal diary, 31/03/1932