The central idea in the conviction of William Herbert Wallace is that he had in fact worn the mackintosh to belabor his wife to death and escape in the alotted time free from any specks of blood.
The idea that he did this nude or clothed, threw down the mackintosh, then left the home is commonly repeated – but not even supported by contemporary evidence let alone analysis by modern experts in the field.
The theory is formed from two marks on the mackintosh which McFall determined could be spurts, but admits could also be drips.
Q: The theory has been put forward here by the Recorder when he opened this case that this might have been done by a naked man wearing a mackintosh.
A: I heard that theory yes.
Q: Whether clothed or whether naked it would be necessary, would it not, that in all common sense that many splashes of blood would fall upon the assailant?
A: I should expect to find them.
Q: Would you agree…it is almost certain that the assailant would have blood on his face and his clothes?
A: On his left hand I think he would.
Q: The last blows being probably struck with the head on the ground there would be blood upon his feet and lower part of his legs for certain, would there not?
A: I should expect that.
Q: …the mackintosh would never come down past the knees of this man who would leave his leg from the knees downwards exposed to the blood?
Q: Whether he was wearing trousers or whether he was wearing nothing?
Q: So there would be some on his face?
A: There would be some on his legs.
Q: And his face?
Q: And his hair?
A: Yes, but more likely upon the face.
According to the interview of junior prosecution counsel Mr. Walsh conducted for Roger Wilkes and Radio City (etc), McFall and the prosecution (including Hemmerde) never believed Alan Close had seen Julia alive at the door. Instead they believed that Wallace had dressed in his wife’s clothing and faked a female voice to trick Alan – hence why he was able to get out clean in the alotted time.
Q: …What do you say as to the likelihood of an assailant being covered with blood from that operation [the assault]?
A: I should say he could hardly escape being spattered and covered with blood all over.
In a written report sent to Munro:
“It would appear from the evidence extremely unlikely that the assailant would commit this crime and deal the “eleven terrific blows” referred to without spattering his clothes and person with blood. Even if a coat or mackintosh were worn by the assailant it seems inconceivable that his boots and trousers would escape contamination, more particularly so since it is suggested that many of the blows were delivered whilst the deceased was lying on the floor.”
In his written report:
“It is difficult to imagine the murderer not getting blood on the trousers, or (if he was not wearing clothes) on the legs. Moreover, the weapon itself must have been covered with blood and brain tissue which would probably get on the murderer’s hands.”
Dr. Kirsty Alsop
Forensic PhD student with experience working on live homicide cases with many UK police forces. Extensive knowledge of forensics and forensic anthropology:
“This type of injury would likely cause a lot of blowback blood spatter, meaning the perpetrator would be covered in blood, from the testimonies it doesn’t seem consistent that the MacKintosh was being worn during this…”
“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.
Due to the amount of blood pooling under the body, if the mackintosh was worn while kneeling I would expect to see more staining on the lower section. I think it is more likely the two items burned at the same time, this could also explain some of the body placement if the task was to stop the fire before being noticed.
I would suggest the mackintosh being on her person to be a more likely explanation, but of course there’s a lot of variation that could have occurred on the day.”
Dr. Gregory A. Schmunk
Extensive history of work in the field of forensics investigating cases of suspicious deaths. Has been chief medical examiner to various county police forces, and testified in many court cases. Forensic advisor to the producers of the CSI TV series and various other TV shows. Multiple TV and news appearances:
“I will say from the information below that there would be a lot of expected cast off of blood from the multiple blows. I have not seen the exact information you discussed earlier, but if the story is that Wallace was convicted on the basis of him “holding up the raincoat as a shield” [one theory presented to get around the improbability of it being worn] while simultaneously striking the blows, I would say that is absurd.”
“But to your original question.. I see no way that anyone could have committed the murder without getting seriously blood stained. And then certainly have done it in the time frame allotted.”
“Yes, even if [the mackintosh was] worn [it would not work to prevent blood staining]. There would still be spatter on the attackers face and neck (and hands unless wearing gloves). And on the lower pant legs and shoes, since a mac does not drag on the floor. And I can’t accept it being used as a “shield”. You simply can’t hold up a coat like that and protect your entire body. We know from the spatter at the scene that it was not placed over the head for all blows (if any). And if it was over the head for “some” of the blows the lab should have been able to detect defects – most likely true tears – in the material. Absent that, unless we think the lab was incompetent too, I do not think the mac was ever over the head when it was being hit. As I think it was accepted that Julia was alive when the milk boy arrived, the concept of Wallace being naked is simply absurd to me. Not enough time for all that and still make it to the tram. And I actually have a lot of trouble believing that anyone involved in this murder was that calculating. It seems to be either a crime of passion or an offender who panicked. With “overkill”. In my opinion offenders like that are not nearly so neat nor do they plan so well.”
Responding to my suggestion Wallace’s final John Bull article (apparently ghostwritten) was a confession:
“I have finally found time to read the Bull articles. I note that apparently one is missing. The end of issue 4 says next week will be “the brand I bear”, but that is not what appears next (“I know the murderer”).
It is interesting that Wallace mentions a spanner, as that seems to come out of the blue. However, it appears by that time he was reading mystery novels so he may have gotten it there. More importantly he describes the assailant as using the Mac as a shield, which would not fit the evidence and probably picked up from the prosecution’s case. So if you are thinking that he is relating a story that he knows since he was the killer, it seems he has some facts wrong and therefore I do not think this supports guilt.”
It is the opinion of modern forensic professionals that whoever did this crime could not have escaped the house without having blood upon them, and certainly not in the time allowed for Wallace.
The opinion is that the mackintosh being used as a shield in any capacity does not fit the evidence, and nor does the idea it was put over Julia’s head.
Contemporary experts (this being 1931) could not suggest the idea that the assailant escaped free from any traces of blood, even if the jacket had been worn. McFall and the prosecutors countered it in private with the idea that Wallace had dressed as his wife to fool Alan Close, disguising his voice as that of his already-deceased wife.