Confirming or dispelling facts commonly attributed to the Julia Wallace murder case.
Myth #1: The caller and killer are definitely the same person
One of the “accepted facts” of the case, for both the defence and the prosecution, was that whoever placed the telephone call to the chess club was obviously the same person who murdered Julia.
In reality, there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate such a claim. It is entirely possible the caller is a different person than whoever killed Julia Wallace; and even that the call is entirely unrelated (a prank call was speculated by novelist P. D. James).
Of course, it may very well be that the caller is indeed the killer, but a fundamental flaw in the investigation of this case stemmed from that faulty logic.
Myth #2: The “missing” iron bar was found years later
Jane Sarah Draper (charwoman to the Wallace’s) stated that an iron bar was missing from the parlour. It was claimed in a book by Johnathan Goodman that years later, residents who moved into the home found a rusty iron bar beneath the fireplace.
However, I have heard it said that at the time, the police took the fireplace unit out of the wall, so whether or not this was the same bar that was claimed missing is uncertain.
Myth #3: Only someone admitted by Wallace or Julia could have entered the home
Around the time this crime was committed, the security of locks was not what it was today. There were several “housebreaking” gangs operating around Liverpool using duplicate or skeleton keys. One such gang of youths were found with a large set of such keys they had crafted using a file.
At an earlier time, a man named Mr. Cadwallader (deceased at the time of the murder) had, while drunk, entered the Wallace’s home at night using the key for his own house. He wandered up to the Wallace’s bedroom startling them, before realizing his error and leaving.
Myth #4: Julia never admitted strangers into the home
While William Herbert Wallace told everyone that it was his wife’s “rigid rule” to not admit into the home anyone she did not know, this claim has been disputed by his sister-in-law Amy Wallace. In a statement she unwittingly gave to the press (who were posing as police detectives), was published, stating as such:
“Mrs. Wallace was one of the most peaceful and loveable of women. In fact her kindness was perhaps her only fault. Her husband, my brother-in-law, was perhaps nervous of her being all alone at home at night, as they had no family, and had told her more than once not to open the door to strangers.” – Amy Wallace.
Amy stated that she believed if anybody had knocked at the door, given how cold it was, Julia would have invited them in.
Myth #5: William Herbert Wallace was a master at chess
Much is made of Wallace’s skills at chess, and how this may have factored into the murder if he is guilty. However, many who knew him and played against him have gone on record as saying that he was in fact a very poor chess player.
In the John Bull articles Wallace states that he has matched his mind against the greatest chess players on the planet. While this is true, what is not mentioned is that these were “simultaneous exhibition matches” (where a chess grandmaster plays many opponents at once), and Wallace was soundly beaten.
He was also only in the 2nd class chess league, which was the middle league in terms of skill. His friend James Caird was in the higher 1st class league.
Myth #6: Richard “Gordon” Parry had no alibi for the murder
It is often stated that Gordon Parry faked his alibi for the time of the murder. While he did in fact give a false alibi for the day of the telephone call, he was provided an alibi for the time of the murder by Olivia Brine. This was supported by her nephew and friend of Parry, Harold Denison.
This alibi covered him from 5.30 PM until 8.30 PM on the night of the murder. The milk boy claims to have seen Julia alive at 6.30 PM, while Wallace was seen outside his home (apparently unable to get in) at 8.45 PM.
If the alibi is true, then Parry, after leaving Olivia Brine’s house at 43 Knoclaid Road, would have to drive to 29 Wolverton Street, gain access, and murder Julia, within a space of 15 minutes. Considering the driving time alone would be about 5 minutes with him parking directly outside the home, this would give him just 10 minutes.
Myth #7: Gordon Parry’s girlfriend – years later – claimed she had pushed back the time Gordon arrived at her house
This one is true.
According to Johnathan Goodman, Lily Josephine Moss Lloyd (Parry’s longtime girlfriend), after her relationship with Gordon ended, told Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro that she had falsified the time of the murder night alibi for Gordon, and that she would sign an affidavit attesting the fact.
When Munro was interviewed by Roger Wilkes in the 1980s however, he said he did not remember such an encounter. Wilkes then set about tracking down Lily Lloyd. When quizzed, she herself said that she did indeed tell police he had arrived at her home earlier than he really did.
However Gordon Parry’s alibi for having committed the murder did not hinge on Lily Lloyd, but on Olivia Brine. Gordon claimed that he had been with Lily Lloyd much later in the evening, some time around 11 PM.
It appears she had kept in contact with Gordon up until his dying day and said to Wilkes that although she did falsify the time, she is sure he is not the killer and that he had never said anything to her that would have suggested he was.
Myth #8: The parlour in which the body was found was free of blood spatter
Due to the very poor quality photographs online, it often appears that the walls are completely clean of any splashes of blood. This can cause confusion when reading accounts discussing the extensive blood spray up the walls reaching as high as the ceiling. In higher quality photographs, the blood spatter can be seen.
See the dark spots to the left of the following photo for example – which do not show in 99% of photos floating around on the web:
Myth #9: Wallace wrote a cryptic anagram about his wife’s murder in his diary
Author John Gannon states that Wallace’s reference to a book he had been reading – “J Lays 1889” – does not exist, and that it is an anagram for “Slay J” (Slay Julia), with 1889 being the time (18.89 -> 19.29).
However in reality, the author is very much real; Wallace simply made an error in his spelling.
The author Wallace refers to is “J Leys” (John Kirkwood Leys), and based on his interests it seems possible the book he is referring to is “A new natural history of birds, beast and fishes”. Although that book was released in 1886, 1889 may have been a reprint – but I will need confirmation on that point.
Crucial Errors in Gannon’s Masterpiece:
Gannon’s document on the case (which is certainly more of a research document than a book) contains a number of very crucial errors which could swing someone’s view of the verdict and therefore must be addressed. The manuscript is so long I will have to update it as I go and edit more in:
- Wallace said Julia never wore a mackintosh.
FALSE: What Wallace actually said is that Julia never wore THE mackintosh, referring to his own that was found beneath her. Vital because Wallace asks what Julia was doing with “her” mackintosh when Gannon’s version of the quote would imply she didn’t own one.
- Lily Hall definitely said the man she identified as Wallace went down the entry to Wolverton Street.
FALSE: Gannon does not even include the entirety of the text of her statement (he quotes one of the preliminary trials), but it seems that what she says in the main trial is that he goes down the entry towards Sedley Street… In other words, the opposite direction which I covered here. Gannon definitely had access to the full main trial text so it is peculiar he left it out, and also annoying he left out the rest of the testimony from the line of questioning he is quoting.
- The chess club met in the basement of the café.
PROBABLY FALSE: During the main trial, the full text of which is on this site for you to see, Gladys Harley was questioned about the public café (Cottle’s City Café), stating it had 4 rooms all on the ground floor. Other authors have said the same thing. I believe Gannon has misinterpreted “ground floor” as meaning “basement”… There is one statement from a member of the club saying words to the effect that “the club met in what he thinks is the basement but might be the ground floor”.
- Wallace pretended Marsden had visited his home more than he really had during his period of sickness.
POSSIBLE: In Wallace’s statement, during his illness at the end of 1928 (more the very beginning of 1929) Parry collected on his behalf two or three days a week for three weeks. He said that Marsden also did part of the work for him at this time.
Both Wallace’s diary and Parry’s statement suggests Parry had worked for Wallace for two weeks (a “fortnight” in British slang).
Gannon unfortunately uses an assumption about the period of time Wallace needed to recover from his illness – stating that because bronchitis usually takes two weeks to recover from, then that must have been the duration of time Wallace was off. Actually the length of this illness is unknown, no entry is there to say when he himself started work again…
However, if the three weeks mentioned by Wallace is the time he was off, then Parry may have fulfilled some of the collections on two of the weeks, and Marsden on another. They also may have helped each other to split the work and both collected during the duration of illness.
Furthermore, Wallace suggests Parry collected two to three days per week. This would leave other days of collection unfilfilled. To say that the men would only ever want to come to Wallace’s home to hand over the money seems to be an assumption – albeit plausible – and it seems Parry did do this.
I have been looking at the evidence in this case for the last 18 m0nths and although I would largely agree with your conclusions, I still have a suspicion that although not the murderer, William Wallace may have been involved. However whether that is, or is not the case, I would like to raise two issues which do not seem to have been considered.
First, in the Coroner’s rather perfunctory report, he refers to Julia’s sexual organs as being “almost virgin like” in appearance. This a somewhat strange comment to make about a married woman in late middle age, but it might indicate that the marriage had not been consummated. If that is so, then it would certainly have been a cause of anxiety and frustration within the marriage and may have been the tipping point.
Second, the shadow of the Freemasons definitely hangs over this case as it did in the Whitechapel murders and may have had a considerable influence on the desire of the police to dismiss the possibility of Parry being involved, freemasonry being rife in local government, the police and the judiciary to this day.
I would be most grateful for your comments.
Neil J Owen
January 7 2021
I did miss the thing you mentioned. I thought it might mean that she hadn’t been sexual at any time recent, but I haven’t checked it lately. I will look at that again. Julia is supposedly 69 years old rather than the age claimed (which put her somewhere in her early to mid fifties).
In reply to Neil Owen:
Julia’s sexual organs were NOT virginal, only her uterus,
i.e. she had not borne a child.
Lack of stretch marks was the other indicator (linea albicantes).
Her vagina indicated no recent sexual activity.
Re Parry’s alibi for the murder evening (20/1/31)
Mrs Brine states Parry was at her home from 5.30 until 8.30. This is supported by H Dennison’s statement. Parry says the same. A Miss Phyllis Plant was also present for at least part of the time (Why? Friend of Parry’s?).
But in the statements of Lilly Lloyd and her mother they state Parry when asked why he was late replied that he had called on Mrs Williamson, received an invitation to a 21st birthday party, then to Hignett’s to pick up his accumulator battery. Neither of these ladies mentions Parry saying he had spent time at the Brine house! The brevity of Mrs Brine’s statement, without any background to this gathering in her home, while not invalidating it, does give rise to many questions which may have innocent answers or may not….
Hi Michael. Parry doesn’t mention Phyllis Plant or Olivia’s 13 year old Daughter Savona and neither give statements. Perhaps Parry was there and left at 8.30 to collect his accomplice/s and share out the money only to find out about the murder. Three hours is a long time to have sat and talked, what about? Both Olivia’s and Harry’s statements are very short and only mention the basics, both aligning very perfectly. Where was William Denison as it was he that Parry had commenced calling there with around Christmas 1930 (so the previous month) Or was it simply that Parry couldn’t mention this to Lily because he was seeing either Olivia or Phyllis?
Like you I find the lack of background to Parry’s alibi with Ms Brine infuriating. The statements of Olivia and Harold are almost rubber stamps of each other. By the time the statements were made the police had already decided that Wallace was their man, especially after tracing the Qualtrough phone call. On Thursday 22 January Wallace had mentioned Parry as a likely suspect and it was this that caused Parry’s alibi to be checked out. The brief Brine/Dennison statements confirming Parry’s presence were enough for the police who had Wallace, not Parry, in their sights.
I would have thought, if only to preserve her reputation, Ms Brine would have given more information e.g “Mr P is an old friend of my husband” or “ I’m into Amateur Dramatics too and we discussed…” . As you say Ged, what on Earth did they talk about? Maybe its all above board and if not, the police turned a blind eye to hanky panky.
Instead of Miss Phyllis Plant being a possible “femme fatale” she may be a young friend of 13 year old Savrona. We just don’t know.
It also seems these visits with or without W Dennison were a regular thing.
Parry not mentioning the 3 hour period with Brine & Co to the Lloyds is suspicious. Conspiracy theorists would say this was because the Brine alibi was bogus and had not at that point on the murder evening been fixed.
Overall , and in spite of these troubling aspects, I accept Parry’s Brine alibi because I can’t believe Ms Brine would pervert the course of justice in a case of brutal murder. Also I believe the police would have checked it out more thoroughly than these short statements might suggest.
Then of course if we are to believe Goodman. Parry in 1966 says it was the Williamson ‘s house he was at even though he says he was there for only 10 minutes which makes it seem like it was another place to be seen which could be extended later on to look like he was there a far greater time, like he does to Goodman. No mention of the Olivia Brine visit at all to Goodman who at this point isn’t privy to Parry’s statement which means he probably doesn’t want him going digging and unearthing something.
I’m with you 100% there Jed. At the time of Goodman’s 1966 interview with Parry, its quite possible Olivia Brine was still alive and Harold Dennison almost certainly. Parry didn’t want Jonathan Goodman to track them down to talk about the gathering.
It is troubling however. By 1966 Parry was well into middle age. He and Lily Lloyd had gone their separate ways. If Goodman had found Brine and Dennison, Gordon Parry’s alibi would, if genuine, be confirmed. So why didn’t Parry take this opportunity to clear his name once and for all, even if it meant revealing an illicit affair 35 years ago with e.g Phyllis Plant? I don’t think that would stand in the way of a guy like Parry if it meant clearing him of suspicion of murder. But he didn’t do it! As you say, Parry didn’t want Goodman to go digging and unearthing something, but what?