At this time, Wallace works for the Prudential Assurance Company, the originator of the “Man from the Pru” commercials which would go on to make the Pru a household name in later years.
The “man from the Pru” was not just your insurance agent; he was your confidante, a friend, someone you could rely upon for advice. From time to time he could even end up as the designated best man at a client’s wedding… The Prudential agent was sharp and always on the lookout for new business. If a new neighbour had moved in on one of the streets on which he collected, he was expected to take initiative and knock on the door to introduce himself.
Indeed, over the years the Pru gained a reputation for reliability and honesty. Wallace himself had gained a reputation as being a total gentleman, and all who spoke about him gave him a glowing character report (all except an ex-coworker named Alfred Mather*, who appeared to despise both William and Julia Wallace). To most everyone the Wallaces were a very loving, devoted couple. The family doctor and a nurse who had been into the home would attest a sense of callousness between the two, but terraced neighbours the Johnstons said they had never heard so much as a quarrel in a decade of living next door.
[*Cannot find any relation to Katie Mather, resident of 25 Menlove Gardens West]
But in this instance the respectable “man from the Prudential” with the seemingly perfect marriage, William Herbert Wallace, was to be charged with the most heinous crime imaginable: Murder.
But the question still remains: Did William Herbert Wallace really smash his wife’s skull into pieces with a blunt instrument in a cleverly premeditated plan? A jury thought so, and sentenced him to death. But fortunately for Wallace, the judges at the appeal trial saw it differently and quashed his conviction completely, releasing him back into the world a free man. A move which was rather unprecedented at the time. According to Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro in a rare radio interview (also a member of the Chess Club at which William sometimes played), in that era to overturn a jury murder conviction must have meant that there was not even a “shred” of evidence against the accused.
The intrigue about the Wallace case is that the events seemingly came together so perfectly that it was considered impossible to finger any man as the killer, and so it has remained a Liverpool legend for almost a century – enduring to this day, waiting for someone to finally crack the riddle. Almost every piece of evidence can be seen as consistent with either guilt or innocence, depending on how you choose to look at it.
And the catalyst of this most brutal crime would be a mysterious telephone call to the local chess club on the 19th of January…
THE NIGHT OF THE CALL (19th January, 1931):On the night of Monday the 19th of January, William claims to have left his home at about 19:15 – 19:20 to attend his chess club. The club known as the Liverpool Central Chess Club was headed by Captain Samuel Beattie who had known Wallace for eight years. The club would meet in one of the four rooms on the ground floor of Cottle’s City Café, 24B North John Street, to the West of Liverpool near the river Mersey.
Although certain “match games” were penned in, these obligations weren’t always kept, and the club would meet every Monday and Thursday evening through the Autumn and Winter months in any case. Wallace was not a “regular attender” according to Beattie, but might turn up once or twice a week. Wallace liked to set aside free time from his insurance work and duties every other Monday, and it was usually on these evenings that he would make a trip down to play a game of chess.
Wallace was a rather studious man with varied intellectual interests which was surely what drew him to the game of chess. Well educated, he had spent time giving lectures in the subject of chemistry at the Liverpool Technical Institute some years prior. Below is an experiment by a student of Wallace’s which he signed. The handwriting is difficult to read to my eye, but it seems to be signed the first of december 1925.
Such was his interest in chemistry, particularly that of a botanical nature, he had a spare back bedroom on the upper floor of 29 Wolverton Street converted into a mini laboratory where he kept various scientific tools and bottles of, presumably, chemicals and specimens.
Other interests of his included philosophy, in his personal diaries he often pored over matters of philosophy with musings about life and death – perhaps in part due to his own constant proximity to death owing to a kidney disease he was repeatedly told would allow him only a few years to live. Although these predictions rarely came to fruition it must have played on his mind, and he had been in hospital on various occasions. It was due to this ailment that he was forced to return from abroad where he had worked in places such as Calcutta.
His brother Joseph Wallace also worked abroad though his wife Amy Wallace had decided to return to Liverpool with their son Edwin where they resided at Ullet Road, Sefton Park. A fortunate turn for William surely, since the introverted type of man that he was, he did not have many friends outside of his wife and neighbour James Caird who lived one street over (Letchworth Street). The visits from his sister-in-law and nephew Edwin would have provided the couple with a social outlet, and they would show this gratitude by serenading them with musical duets in the parlour: Julia, the expert on the upright piano, and Wallace, a relative beginner on the violin.
Much of the household’s money went into these intellectual pursuits, including the purchase of an expensive microscope. Wallace would recall in later life that one of his greatest goals in life was to make some sort of important scientific discovery. Although he unfortunately did not make history through his love of science, he definitely made history in law. His case is still used in Law Schools as a demonstration of a “miscarriage of justice” to this very day.
But aside from chemistry, botany, astronomy, philosophy, and performing music; chess (which he was ironically very poor at given the way this hobby impacted public opinion) was certainly a staple of his. According to Munro, while in the condemned cell Wallace would mostly pass his time reading books on astronomy and playing chess.
As a second class player Wallace was scheduled to play tournament matches on Mondays (roughly every other week, though the intervals varied), with the match dates displayed on a public chart near the door just outside the Cafés phone booth. Generally up to 100 people could be expected to be in the café, and witness Gladys Harley often waited on the members of the chess club on the nights they met.
Tonight, the 19th of January 1931, as per the schedule displayed on the noticeboard of the café, he was down to play a Mr. F. C. Chandler.
According to Wallace, he was unsure about even attending his club on this night because his wife was poorly with bronchitis and he himself had just gotten over a flu which was sweeping across Liverpool, but she gave him the go ahead – a move which would ultimately lead to her brutal demise.
Things take a turn for the unusual when chess club captain Samuel Beattie receives a telephone call requesting a message be delivered to Mr. Wallace. Although the exact figures are disputed, the call is first attempted from a telephone box in the Anfield district at roughly 19:15 at night.
In those days, telephone calls made from Anfield had to be connected manually by switchboard operators, so the first person this mysterious caller speaks to is telephone operator Louisa Alfreds. According to her court testimony, she successfully put this call through to the café (telephone number “Bank 3581”) and heard a voice pick up on the line. Her friend Lillian Martha Kelly says that Louisa then told the man: “Go ahead please,” which was the cue for the caller to press Button ‘A’ to deposit the coins and connect the call.
But something strange happened… Moments later the man was back on the phone to the operators, this time speaking to Lillian Martha Kelly. She recounts this fateful telephone call many years later in the 1980s:
“…A moment later he (the caller) was back on to the exchange and this time I took the call. He had obviously pressed the wrong button [button B instead of button A] and had cut himself off. The reason I remember it is because he’d pressed the wrong button and had paid his money, but not received his correspondent. I said to Louisa Alfreds who was sitting next to me that this man had just been on before…”
The voice protested to Miss Kelly: “Operator, I have pressed button ‘A’ but have not had my correspodent yet.”
(To add to the mystery, in spite of the first operator claiming someone at the City Café picked up the line, waitress Gladys Hardley strongly disputes this).
The exact order of events here is often written differently depending on where you look, but from the unabridged trial in the Home Office records, Miss Kelly states she was able to see that Button ‘B’ had been pressed and the coins had been returned to the caller by the light on her switchboard – whether this was before or after she had asked him to do so was not made clear enough to be definitive on the matter. Either way she then attempted to connect the call again, but found the line engaged.
Upon failing to connect the call, Miss Kelly flagged down her supervisor Annie Robertson. Telephone protocol meant that any potential technical faults such as this would be noted down, which Annie Robertson did dutifully, writing down the identity of the phone box “Anfield 1627”, 19:20 as the time the call was finally patched through, and an N.R. (No Reply) in the margin to indicate the type of error.
Waitress Gladys Harley answered the phone to the sound of the operator: “Bank 3581?”. Gladys replied in the affirmative. “Anfield calling you. Hold the line.” As Miss Harley waited for the caller to begin speaking (according to her, about 2 minutes after she answered the phone, which would make this around 19:22 at this point), she heard mumbling and something about two pennies – and then suddenly a man’s voice began speaking to her.
When recounting this voice, all of the operators described it as an “ordinary man’s voice, not nervous or agitated”, but perhaps somewhat cultured. One thing that stood out to them was how the man pronounced the word café with the accented “e” (caff-ay), as opposed to the more common “caff”. Gladys Harley noticed nothing unusual about the voice except that it was deep and spoke quickly, and that it seemed to her to be an elderly man. Although she knew Wallace by sight from her time waiting on the chess club, she did not know his voice well and did not know his name, and did not recognize whichever voice was on the telephone.After the voice asked if he was speaking to the Central Chess Club, receiving a positive response, he asked if Mr. Wallace was there. As a result of this inquiry Gladys went to the captain of the chess club Samuel Beattie to ask if Mr. Wallace was there as there was a man on the telephone wishing to speak to him. Beattie saw that he was not, and at Gladys’s request went to the phone himself.
There have been many different variations of this conversation reported by Beattie, but from what can be gathered, the general gist is something along the lines of:
Caller: Is Mr. Wallace there?
Caller: Can you give me his address?
Beattie: I’m afraid I can’t.
Caller: But he will be there?
Beattie: I can’t say. He may or may not. If he is coming, he will be here shortly. I suggest you ring up later.
Caller: Oh no, I can’t, I’m too busy; I’ve got my girl’s twenty-first birthday party on and I want to see Mr. Wallace on a matter of a business. It’s something in the nature of his business.
The caller then asks Beattie to pass on a message to Mr. Wallace for him, requesting that Wallace visit him the following night at 19.30, giving his name and address as:
R. M. Qualtrough
25 Menlove Gardens East,
My. Beattie then repeated the name and address back to the caller, requesting the name be spelled out and the address repeated back to ensure its accuracy.
At around 19:45 to 19:50 William arrived at the chess club. There is a rule at the club that those who arrive after 19:45 can be penalised, with matches sometimes starting earlier than this time. It was not stated if this rule also applied to unscheduled matches.
Wallace’s opponent F. C. Chandler did not show up that night, so James Caird who had seen Wallace arrive offered him a friendly game. Wallace refused this match (James Caird was in a higher chess league than Wallace), instead settling into a tournament game against a Mr. McCartney who he had previously missed a match with and needed to play off. James Caird then walked over to Mr. Beattie’s table. When Beattie noticed Caird he asked him for William’s address, only to be told that Wallace had in fact arrived at the club and was just about to start a match against McCartney.
Upon hearing this news, Beattie approached Wallace (who seemed very focused on the game) and relayed the strange message to him after rousing his attention. Wallace seems puzzled:
William: Qualtrough? Qualtrough? Who is Qualtrough?
Beattie: Well, if you don’t know who he is, then I do not.
William: Is he a member of the club?
William: I don’t know the chap. Where is Menlove Gardens East? Is it Menlove Avenue?
Beattie: No, Menlove Gardens East.
William: Where is Menlove Gardens East?
Beattie: Wait a moment, I’ll see whether Deyes (another member of the chess club who lived in that district) knows (he did not).Wallace copied the details into his diary from an envelope Mr. Beattie had etched the name and address onto, writing the word EAST in block capitals.
Beattie knew of Menlove Avenue West (sic) but not Menlove Gardens East. Deyes had heard of Menlove Gardens North, South, and West, but had not heard of East. But it was agreed upon that it would surely be somewhere off Menlove Avenue which Wallace was advised of. McCartney asked for Wallace’s address so as to suggest a suitable route he could take, and others chimed in with their own suggestions.
Wallace, however, confidently stated that he “belonged to Liverpool” and could inquire once he got into the general area. He knew that there was a Menlove Avenue quite well, and the Gardens apparently being off of the Avenue according to fellow club members, he surely felt confident it would be quite trivial to find.
Menlove Avenue is a rather well known road in the Mossley Hill area, running alongside Calderstone’s Park which William occasionally visited with Julia “to see the roses”. Menlove Gardens is a triangle of three residential streets, those being Menlove Gardens North, South and West respectively. Considering that many new streets were being built around that time and people of the 1930’s lacked the luxury of Google Maps, one might be fooled into thinking Menlove Gardens East was a new street which would be somewhere in the general vicinity of Menlove Avenue/Menlove Gardens.
Here’s the kicker: There isn’t (and still isn’t) any such place as Menlove Gardens East, and there was no R. M. Qualtrough. Whoever had placed the call was apparently sending Wallace on an impossible journey to meet a man who doesn’t exist at an address that doesn’t exist.
At about 22:15 William leaves the club and is noticeably delighted at having won his game against Mr. McCartney, enthusiastically talking his friend James Caird through the finishing moves. Before they part company, he brings up the name “Qualtrough” and what a peculiar name it is. Caird responds that he has only ever heard of one man by that name. Afterwards the pair briefly discuss the best route to get to Menlove Gardens. Wallace tells Caird that he may not even go but rejects his route suggestion, instead opting to “take the more direct route” into town and then out from there to Menlove Avenue. They go their separate ways, with Wallace arriving home at around 22:55 where his wife had supper prepared for him. They retired to bed around midnight which was their custom.
Unfortunately Julia is not her usual self tonight. Her beloved black cat “Puss” is missing and she’s beginning to worry. Although Puss was not originally Julia’s cat, while catsitting for vacationing neighbours, the two struck up such a bond that when the neighbours returned they decided Julia should keep it.
As concerned as Julia probably was that her dear cat had vanished in the bitter cold of the January winter, it surely never occurred to her that it was herself who now had less than twenty four hours to live.
THE DAY OF THE MURDER (20th January, 1931):
The next day at 10:30 AM William leaves his home to begin his collection rounds wearing a dark slate grey raincoat (a mackintosh) to shield himself from the poor weather, collecting insurance money which he will later place into a cash box that will play a central role in this mystery. He returns home at 14:10 to have lunch, hanging up his rain-soaked mackintosh in the hall near the front door to dry. The rack was directly opposite the door to the parlour, and had once also held a “dog whip” which Wallace said he had not seen for some 12 months. He would similar claim for there to have been a small wood chopper in the kitchen which had not been seen by him for the same length of time, which was discovered by a Policeman (Herbert Gold) in a basket under the stairs, beneath a pile of clothes.
At 15:15 William dons his lighter fawn raincoat, apparently owing to the weather having turned out for the better, and goes on his afternoon collection rounds. Just 15 minutes later at 15:30, a police constable named James Edward Rothwell who knew Wallace as an insurance agent was cycling down Maiden Lane. In a statement he would make after the murder, he said that he passed by close to William (who was looking down at the ground and did not notice him), and saw that his face appeared “haggard, drawn, and unusually distressed”. He went on to say that Wallace dabbed his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket and it gave him the impression he had suffered some sort of bereavement…
Very shortly after this sighting William called on a client who in court testified that he was his usual self and was joking with her. During the trial, the defence called a number of client’s William had seen shortly after this time as witnesses. All reported that he seemed his usual self and nothing was out of the ordinary in his manner whatsoever. One had even offered him a cup of tea which he gratefully accepted before returning home. All reported that they found Wallace to be a very pleasant man indeed.In court the defence attempted to convince the constable that he was mistaken by using the existence of these witnesses, and by explaining that William may have been dabbing his eyes due to the cold weather. But the constable remained firm. Although he admitted eyes may water in such cold weather, in spite of that, and in spite of any witnesses the defence could call to testify they found Wallace to be completely normal – even jolly – just minutes after this sighting, he was unprepared to change his opinion.
At the same time as this sighting (15:30), Amy Wallace arrived at 29 Wolverton Street to visit Julia (her last visit being with her son Edwin the Sunday just gone). Amy Wallace was William’s sister-in-law, married to William’s younger brother Joseph Edwin Wallace who worked abroad in British Malaya. According to Amy Wallace, during the visit she found out from Julia that William was heading off to a business appointment somewhere in the Calderstone’s district that night, and that she and Julia had discussed a spate of recent burglaries in the living kitchen of the Wallace home.
At some point during this visit the baker’s boy Neil Norbury arrived to deliver Julia’s bread. Expressing concern for her health since she did not look at all well to him (he would later describe how she had a scarf or “bit of material” around her neck), Julia reassured him that it was just a touch of bronchitis – nothing serious. By this point she had been stricken with illness for around two weeks.
Amy said she left Wolverton Street at around 16:30 having invited Julia to a pantomime she had tickets to, and it was around this time that window cleaner Charles Bliss scaled the yard wall from the back alleyway and began working on the back windows of 29 Wolverton Street. Julia went out into the yard and paid him a shilling of which she received three pence change.
By 17:45 William was just finishing up his last insurance round for the day, returning home by what he estimates to be 18:05, and eating an evening meal consisting of scones with Julia. This meal he says was finished at around 18:30, and the fact it took place is corroborated by the later autopsy. It is just before his arrival home at 18:00 when it could be expected the milk would arrive, either from Allan Close or, if he was running late, possibly be Elsie Wright his coworker who had delivered to and seen Mrs. Wallace the previous night the 19th. Mrs. Johnston said the boy had often been late recently and the milk could come any time between 18:00 to 19:00.
Between 18:25 and 18:35 a local paperboy David Jones pushes the day’s issue of the Liverpool Echo through the letterbox of 29 Wolverton Street. This newspaper would later be found on the table in the living kitchen. [According to Goodman it was open at its center pages although corroboration of this is something I have been unable to find]. He did not see anybody else about the street, nor did he hear any sounds/commotion or see any lights in the Wallace home – including coming from the front parlour where the murder took place.
Just a touch after 18:35 at what is likely to be around 18:39, Julia would reportedly be seen alive by a witness other than Wallace for the final time. Many authors give the time as earlier than this, and I would gladly do so to seem “fair”, but the fact of the matter is that all testimony seems to support a later time. More on this can be seen here: Allan Close statements as well as here… The important factor to me it the paper delivered by Wildman who claims he is sure he got into Wolverton Street (through an entry emerging beside #21) at 18:37 to 18:38. He delivers several papers in this street including to Walter Holme, Wallace’s neighbours at #27.
According to Holme, he heard Julia shut the door of Wolverton Street at what he guesses is 18:35, since it is 5 minutes before he received the paper. This is quite impossible, since his paper delivery boy is Wildman, and Wildman had delivered the paper and left #27 with Allan Close still standing at the doorstep of #29 in his Shaw Street School cap as he (Wildman) departed – presumably to begin deliveries on the opposite side of the road where he delivered to four even numbered homes before going down an entry into Redford Street. He did not hear or see the milk boy speaking to anyone, implying that Julia had not yet returned to the door or closed it when Wildman left the doorstep of #27 to begin his deliveries on the opposite side of the road [the presumed route he would take, given he emerged on the “Odds” side of the street and all other deliveries were “Evens”].
This critical milk boy witness is 14 year old Allan (often spelled by others as Alan) Croxtorn Close, and he would testify that he had knocked on the front door of 29 Wolverton Street “between 18:30 and 18:45”, leaving the milk jugs on the doorstep, before going next door to deliver milk there at the Johnston’s home where the front door was already open. He left the jugs in the lobby and closed the door of #31, the door of 29 Wolverton Street opened and the milk jugs were taken in. Alan Close then returned to the doorstep of 29 Wolverton Street to collect the empty milk jugs which were given back to him some minutes after by an alive Julia Wallace upon her return to the door… They discussed their respective illnesses briefly, with Julia urging Alan to hurry off home out of the cold. The front door of the Wallace household then shut for the final known time.
I do believe the most plausible time for the door closing is 18:40 given the statement of Wildman previously mentioned. Elsie Wright seems to have also been in the street at this time with Allan, likely so that he would accompany her through the dark unlit entries which he did the following day. She did not mention this in her own statements, but Wildman seems to have seen her standing in the street waiting for Allan.
Allan, Wildman, and also David Jones who delivered the Echo to the Wallace house reported seeing no lights in the front room of 29 Wolverton Street, although Allan who could see right through the house owing to the wide open front door did see a light on in the middle kitchen where the Wallaces had just finished eating shortly prior.
It’s roughly during this period, during the arrival of the paperboy and milk boy that Wallace is busy preparing himself for his business trip. He changes in the upstairs bedroom, combs his hair in the upstairs bathroom, and gathers documents together which he may need for what he assumes is likely some type of “coming of age” endowment policy for “Qualtrough’s” girl’s 21st birthday. He can expect a very handsome commission off of such a policy if he can secure the deal, and having gone unrecognized and unpromoted after 16 years of loyal work for the Prudential he must have felt very proud to finally be noticed for his impeccable work. In all the years he worked for the Pru his books had always been in perfect order.
According to Wallace, it was Julia who had convinced him to go on the trip since he himself was unsure. After all – while reasonably financially comfortable as far as anyone can tell, who are they to turn their nose up at the potential of a handsome commission?
William then sets out on his journey to Menlove Gardens East at around 18:45, wearing the lighter fawn jacket he had worn earlier on his final rounds of the day when seen by P.C. Rothwell and various Prudential clients. The next time anyone sees Wallace’s darker mackintosh it will be considerably burnt and lying in a pool of blood beneath his wife’s dead body. Wallace claims that Julia followed him down the yard bolting the gate behind him (though he did not hear the bolt being drawn), which was their usual practice when one of them was going out owing to the convenience of this route for reaching the tram stops quicker. With the trams he states to have taken, the latest he could have left the house to make this journey would have been in the region of 18:49.
Police tests seem to suggest about a 16 to 20 minute time to the second tram stop (it was the second tram William boarded where he was first noticed), with the trams coming at roughly 6 minute intervals… Wallace stated that upon his arrival to the tram stop, he had to wait 3 to 4 minutes for a tram, which would make his claim of 18:45 essentially spot on accurate within a minute or two. Wallace was quite a time-conscious man in the habit of checking the clock and his wristwatch at regular intervals according to one client, so regarding the accuracy of times he would be quite a strong witness unless one was of the opinion he is guilty and lying.
In regards to the tram tests conducted by the police, it is known that in some reconstructions officers had jumped onto moving trams at the wrong stop (a request stop at the top of Castlewood Road) or sprinted the final leg to catch it (which on the surface seemed quite unlikely for the sickly Wallace – especially to do so without being remembered at all and being possibly out of breath from battering his wife to death). The existence of the request stop is significant: If Wallace wished to make his appointment on time and wanted to be noticed, it seems it would have been a good choice to use the request stop which would require flagging down a tram, increasing the likelihood of being noticed in an inconspicuous manner. One of the points against the man is that he arrived to Menlove Gardens West with only 10 minutes to spare. The time allowed to himself upon arrival could have potentially been greater had he used the request stop.
According to locals who gave character reports on both William and Julia, William was in the habit of walking long distances to save money on tram fares. In conjunction with petty arguments recorded in his diary around three years earlier about Julia having purchased too many newspapers, and Julia keeping money hidden in her corsets, one can assume Wallace was quite a miserly man – only “splashing the cash” when it came to his hobbies. His wife suffered the consequences of which it would seem, wearing mostly homemade clothes, although she seemed to greatly enjoy needlework and had an artistic bent: Many of the paintings in the Wallace parlour are her own work, and Wallace had described her as “no mean artist in water-colour”. Much of her work can be seen in the parlour:
But in any case Wallace stated he left his home at 18.45, and on the surface of things, it seems to be a very accurate estimation on his part.
The Tram JourneyAfter leaving his back door at around 18:45, William takes three trams to complete his journey. First getting on a tram by St. Margaret’s Church, Belmont Road (having apparently waited around 3 or 4 minutes), changing over at Smithdown Lane, then making one last change at Penny Lane before he is finally dropped off at Menlove Gardens West.
The first time Wallace is seen (or at least remembered) by anyone after leaving his home is on the second tram (Smithdown Lane) at 18:06. Wallace inquires of the conductor Thomas Charles Phillips if this tram car goes to Menlove Gardens East. Phillips informs him that while this particular car doesn’t, he can instead take a No.5, 5A, 5W, or No.7 car… But Phillips quickly changes his mind, telling Wallace that he can get on this tram car and that he will give him a penny ticket for a transfer.
Wallace boards the tram telling the conductor that he has an important business call to make and wants Menlove Gardens East, saying he is a “stranger in the district”. He repeated his need for this address when the conductor punched his penny ticket: “You won’t forget mister, I want Menlove Gardens East.”
Shortly after, when the conductor returned downstairs having seen to the upstairs passengers, Wallace spoke to him again asking “how far is it now, and where do I have to change?” The conductor informed him that he would need to change at Penny Lane, and for Wallace’s benefit when the car arrived he exclaimed “Menlove Gardens, change here!” At this announcement Wallace alighted from the tram while Mr. Phillips told him to hurry for the No.7 tram in the loop. Phillips then spotted a No.5 tram and stated, “either that one (the No.5) or the other one in the loop.”
From the next sighting we can gather that Wallace boarded a 5A tram, asking the conductor of this tram (Arthur Thompson) to put him off at Menlove Gardens East. Upon arriving at Menlove Gardens West the conductor informed him: “This is Menlove Gardens West. Menlove Gardens is a triangular affair, three roads. There are two roundabouts off on the right. You will probably find it is one of them.” William thanked the conductor, adding that he “is a complete stranger round here” before alighting.
The Hunt for Menlove Gardens EastHaving arrived at Menlove Gardens West at around 19:20 (10 minutes until his scheduled appointment with Mr. Qualtrough), Wallace begins his quest to find the mythical Menlove Gardens East. He began by walking down Menlove Gardens West into Menlove Gardens North, where he encountered a woman leaving one of the homes which was, he said, about the seventh or eighth house down (18 or 20 Menlove Gardens North). He asked her if she could direct him to Menlove Gardens East, but unfortunately she said she “does not know where it is but that it might be further up in continuation of Menlove Gardens West.”
He then walked back down Menlove Gardens West as per her suggestion until he reached a road to his right – Dudlow Gardens. Retracing his steps, he arrived back at the junction of Dudlow Lane and the top of the lower part of Menlove Gardens West. Here, Wallace approached a young, very tall fair-hared man named Sidney Hubert Green. Such a towering man must Sidney Green have been, that he mistook the 6’2 Wallace as a mere 5’10.
He asked Green (who remembered Wallace as 5’10 and thin, wearing a darkish overcoat and trilby hat) if he knew where Menlove Gardens East was. In one of the more prolonged of the conversations he had with strangers that night, Green told him that Menlove Gardens East does not exist, but that there is a Menlove Gardens West. William informed Green that he knew that and then went to knock on the door of 25 Menlove Gardens West, apparently suspicious Beattie may have copied down the address wrong. Green seems to have largely forgotten the details of the conversation by the time he was questioned, believing it was 24 or 26 Menlove Gardens East Wallace had requested.
Katie Mather of 25 Menlove Gardens West answered Wallace’s knock and was asked by Wallace if this was Menlove Gardens East, and if Mr Qualtrough was there. Katie Mather responded in the negative. She remembers listening “The Geisha” on the wireless programme which began at 7 PM, but wasn’t sure if Wallace had called at her house before or after she had started listening to this.
Having hit another dead end Wallace decided to try Menlove Gardens South and North, but immediately discovered they only had even numbers (and therefore could not have a number 25), before walking to the end of Menlove Gardens North which led out onto Menlove Avenue. After asking another stranger waiting at a bus stop where the address is with no luck – the man also being a stranger in the area – and finding himself at the top of Green Lane, William decided to call at his supervisor Mr. Joseph Crewe’s home which was further down this particular road, a place he had visited on a number of occasions.
(Curiously, Dr. MacFall who would later give forensic testimony at the trial also lived on this street, and one wonders if he and Crewe knew each other and neighbours, and if so, what conversations may have taken place between the men!)
Wallace knocked on Crewe’s door, but unknown to him at the time Crewe had gone out to the cinema, and so he was met with no answer.
Finding that Crewe was not home and with hope dwindling, William trudged down Green Lane and came across James Edward Serjeant at around 19:43, an officer on the beat in the area who had just left Allerton Police Station. He asked the officer if he could direct him to where Menlove Gardens East was, to which the officer informed him that no such place exists – that there is a North, South, and West, but no East. William said he had tried 25 Menlove Gardens West already and the man he wants does not live there… Wallace, claiming that the man was of the “friendly type”, explained to him his dilemna and all about the telephone message he had received. The officer suggested trying 25 Menlove Avenue in an attempt to be helpful.
As Wallace went to turn away, he turned back and asked the officer if he knew where he could find a street directory (which at the time was much like a modern day phone book). The officer suggested he might find one at the local police station or Post Office, at which point William checked his watch, saying to the officer: “It is not 8 o’clock yet.” the officer did the same and confirmed that it was indeed a quarter to 8. Based on an average walking pace, Wallace would have arrived at the Post Office two minutes later at 19:47. Wallace said that his reason for checking his watch was not to impart the time upon the officer (a time which would, in fact, be quite useless to establish compared to other more critical times), but because he believed the Post Office may close at 8 PM.
Unfortunately there was no directory at the Post Office, but Wallace asked the clerk there if they knew of a Menlove Gardens East or Qualtrough. They said they did not but advised he try the newspaper shop. William noted the time on the clock of the Post Office (noting that it was now 19:54), then went a little further up the road to the newspaper shop where he found a directory.
When the newspaper shop manageress Lily Pinches approached him to see if she could be of any assistance, Wallace apparently requested help finding the address. Her testimony is very poor so it is difficult to know what exactly was said… For example she claims that Wallace had said the name Qualtrough to her, then that he didn’t, then that he did, then that he didn’t and she swears he didn’t. She also states that he came into the newsagents at 20.10, when Wallace states he had caught the tram home at 20.00 (albeit based on the time he spent in the Post Office and the time he left it, as well as the time he got home, it would seem more likely he caught the tram after 20.00)… But what we do know is that this inquiry was a fruitless one, and it was apparently at this point Wallace gave up his search. Given a recent spate of burglaries which the Press stated had left several neighbours in the street nervous, Wallace claims he felt “uneasy” about the whole thing.
Recognizing where he was and being familiar with this route from Allerton, having taken this particular route to and from Mr. Crewe’s house was situated closer to Allerton Road than to Menlove Avenue, Wallace hopped on a tram and mostly followed the same route home, except going to his front door first instead which was his practice late at night. No tram drivers on his journey home came forward to testify that they had seen him, nor did any passengers on the trams.
The Discovery of the Body
Though Wallace stated that he never spoke to anybody on the way home, a local typist named Lily Hall who knew Julia from church and had known Mr. Wallace by sight for years gave a statement not too long after the murder which contradicted this. Apparently she saw Wallace standing opposite the back entry of Wolverton Street (at a little entry on the opposite side of the road beside the local parish church) in a darkish overcoat and trilby hat talking to another figure, who she described as 5’8 and of stocky build, wearing a dark overcoat and cap. However William denied this – stating that he did not speak to a single soul on his journey home apart from the tram drivers from whom he must have purchased a ticket.
Her statement is a little confusing and muddled, and she gave several testimonies which can be seen here with a detailed analysis.
In any case, it’s at around 20:40 at night when William tries his key in the front door but finds it will not open (after finally entering the home and later admitting a police officer, he said he found the door was bolted from the inside). How strange! He knocked gently but received no answer. Of note, the Holmes family at #27 whose front door was directly beside Wallace’s did not hear these knocks – but it is likely they happened since the knocks at the back door of his home were corroborated by Florence Sarah Johnston of #31 Wolverton Street.
He went round to the back finding the yard gate closed but not bolted, and went up to the back door. He attempted to open it but felt as though it was fastened against him. Knocking gently on the back door he again received no answer (his neighbour Florence Johnston heard this knocking as mentioned – his “usual knock” she said). He then went round to the front door to give it one more try… Once again he could not get in and there was no response from inside the house. At this point he began to feel some level of concern and hurried round to the back for the second time where he had a chance encounter with neighbours John Sharpe Johnston and Florence Sarah Johnston, who said they were just headed out to visit a local relative of theirs named Phyllis.
A slightly anxious William asks them if they’d heard anything unusual tonight. “Why, what’s happened?” Florence asked. Wallace tells them he’s unable to get into his home after trying both doors, so John tells him to try to open it one more time, and if he can’t, he’ll go and get his own key and try. “She won’t be out, she has such a terrible cold…” William muttered, seemingly having briefly considered the innocent explanation she had gone out to post a letter which she sometimes did.When Wallace tries the door again in the neighbour’s presence it opens easily, which William signals by calling out “it opens now”. William claims that it was HE who asked his neighbours to wait outside while he checked around the house, although according to the Johnstons in an amended statement it was John who suggested they wait outside as he goes and looks around to ensure everything is well. Wallace stuck to his own story even though he was aware the Johnstons had changed theirs (which Moore was furious about and brought up in a formal police report).
They carefully watch his passage through the home by the lights and matches and John (who is partly deaf in his right ear) hears him call out “Julia?” twice inquisitively as he heads upstairs into the middle bedroom where the couple slept, apparently believing his wife may have gone to bed ill. Eventually he strikes a match in the dooway of the the dark parlour downstairs (which had the door ajar but not shut) and finds his wife on the floor. He claims to have believed she may have been in a fit and crossed to light the gas jet to the right of the firplace, which was the usual gas jet they used. To his horror he sees her skull smashed open with blood and brain matter oozing out, and blood sprayed up the walls. He hurries outside and in an anxious tone tells the Johnstons: “Come and see! She’s been killed!”
“What’s wrong? Has she fallen down the stairs?” Mr. Johnston asks. Following William inside they come across the gruesome sight of Julia’s lifeless body in the parlour. Though no furniture has been displaced, blood has been sprayed as high as 7 feet off the floor, spattering the walls, furniture, and various phorographs and Julia’s framed paintings, with visible brain matter which has oozed out of a large open wound in her skull. The wall above the piano had also received some of the blood spatter. A large pool of blood has collected under Julia’s body with two other blood pools in a circle round to the front of the easy chair to the left of the fireplace upon which rested Wallace’s violin case. According to Wallace he had last played violin in the kitchen on the 19th, unaccompanied by his wife who was presumably too unwell to wish to play piano, but it was the general practice of the couple of play music together “every evening”. Wallace’s nephew Edwin claimed that on Sunday (the night before the Chess Club and phone call) the couple had played music for them, but Wallace disagreed. The Johnston’s had not reported hearing music in the days leading up to the murder, according to Russel Johnston – grandson of John and Florence Johnston and son of Sarah and Robert Johnston – which corroborates William’s version of events.
“Oh you poor darling.” says Florence Johnston. “Is she cold?” asks Mr. Johnston, to which Florence shakes her head in the negative. William continues to repeat “they’ve finished her… They’ve finished her”, and adding at some point “look at the brains.” Wallace requested that John Johnston go for a doctor although he added he “didn’t think it would be much use”. “Any particular doctor” remarked Mr. Johnston, to which Wallace replied “the nearest one!”. After this the three of them lurched back into the living kitchen away from the grisly sight of the poor battered woman.
According to William the parlour was only used for entertaining guests or musical evenings he shared with Julia, where she would play the piano while he accompanied her on the violin. Friends and relatives aside from just Edwin and Amy Wallace were often treated to these musical events (many probably hiding a grimace behind a fake smile as Wallace screeched out notes on the violin to the tune of his wife’s masterful piano accompaniment). There was a chaise lounge in the bay window which Julia, according to Gordon Parry many years later, would recline upon when entertaining guests.While in the living kitchen (back in those days the “living kitchen” was the equivalent of the living room), William pointed the Johnstons in the direction of a cabinet lid (described by Moore as a “flap door” which had evidently been previously broken and shoddily mended) was on the floor broken in two: “Here’s a cabinet door they’ve wrenched off”. On the floor were a small number of coins: a half crown and two separate shillings. “Is anything missing?” asked Mr. Johnston. William then reached up and took down his insurance collection box from the top shelf of a bookcase (7’2″ off the ground), and noted that it had been looted. All that was left was a single dollar bill and four stamps. Wallace replied that about £4 was missing (which was apparently made up of a mixture of notes and coinage), but that he couldn’t be sure until he’d checked his books.
Mr. Johnston urged William to go upstairs once more and check everything is in order before he goes for the police. William went upstairs returning not long after, saying that everything was in order and that there were five pounds in a dish that they hadn’t taken (it was £4 in pound notes, along with a postal order for 2/4, and a half crown. Wallace would later say he probably miscounted them). With this, Mr. Johnston went for a doctor and then to the police.
As Mr. Johnston went for the police he coincidentally bumped into his daughter Norah’s fiancé Francis George McElroy close to the house, who had been on his way to see their daughter Norah who was still in #31. According to Russel Johnston at some point later his father (Robert Johnston) having returned from work and being informed by his wife Sarah Johnston (also both living at #31) that his parents were next door at the Wallaces. He had entered the Wallace home during this time and found Florence in the middle kitchen, with Wallace in the back kitchen cutting up meat for Julia’s cat “Puss”, which had returned shortly after the arrival of the police. This was seen as rather callous. According to Florence it was actually John who had witnessed this.
Regarding the cat, MacFall also believed that William’s stroking of the cat seemed to him rather callous, although a later letter sent to Goodman after publication of his book “The Killing of Julia Wallace”, described how when Wallace had visited them after his successful appeal, he had almost instinctively bent down to stroke their cat as it walked past. Obviously a “compulsive cat-stroker” the writer had mused.
William and Florence then returned to the parlour again, still alone in the house at this point, where Florence again felt Julia and noticed that she had cooled down since she last checked. “Whatever have they used (to kill her with)?” Florence asked, while glancing around the room. In court this line was falsely attributed as being said by William, and was used against him by the prosecution. Wallace himself seemed to have been quickly tricked into thinking he actually said it, defending it as a “natural thing to say”. Florence stated that in response to this remark, William had patted around under the edge of the hearthrug as though feeling for a possible implement of murder.
As Florence and William examined the body closely William, crossing from the window side of the room, stooped down fingering a piece of material stating: “Why, whatever was she doing with her mackintosh – and my mackintosh?” “Why, is it your mackintosh?” asked Mrs. Johnston. William confirmed that it was. Florence herself claims she had stayed on the sideboard side of the room and had not crossed the room at all. Wallace would immediately confirm it again to officer Williams (the first officer to arrive at the scene a little later) who noticed and inquired about it, and Sergeant Breslin – although later when asked yet again he would hesitate considerably, before finally saying “if there are two patches on the inside it is mine.” This hesitation in identifying the jacket would also be used as evidence against him. The detectives who noted his hesitation did not know he had already identified it on three occasions.
Florence and William return to the kitchen. Not knowing what to do in the situation, Florence exclaims they will have a fire, and begins to stoke the kitchen fireplace which Wallace eventually begins to help with. According to Florence, Wallace put his head in his hands and cried twice in her presence, but when the police arrived he made a great effort to pull himself together. John Sharpe Johnston would describe Wallace as a man who appeared to be in shock.
The Original Body Positioning: Julia was lying on her right-hand side, almost diagonally across the rug, her legs slightly parted, her feet lying flat on their sides close to the right-hand end of the fender, toes pointing toward the window. Her right arm was hidden beneath her body; her left arm lying against her body, was bent at the elbow, the forearm resting over her chest, the fingers almost touching the floor. Approximately 18 inches from the open door, Julia’s head lay on its right side, her eyes staring out toward the window. Surrounding her head was a 9-inch border of congealing blood, brain tissue and bone. Just above, and in front of her left ear was a huge, cruel opening in her skull, 2 inches wide by 3 inches long, through which what remained of her brain could be seen.
According to Florence, the VIOLIN STAND was directly behind Julia’s head, NOT the chair upon which there is music. This is significant and makes more sense, as Julia would likely keep a chair in front of the piano, while the violin stand would be kept beside the piano where William could play alongside his wife.
Frankly in this case, the efforts of the photographer were seemingly pathetic to a level which defies comprehension, him having only bothered to photograph the kitchen after almost all evidence including the handbag, broken cabinet, coins, and cash box (although many publications claim it is that circled box up top?!) were seized on the 21st of January. Also of significance, William had stayed ALONE in the house on the night of the 21st, before the photograph was taken.
The Police ArriveThe first policeman to arrive at the scene is a PC Williams. Constable Williams follows Wallace around the home. Finding the laboratory in order they go into the bathroom where there is a light on. “We usually have a light on in here” Wallace says. They then go into the middle bedroom where the Wallaces slept, and the gas light in this room is also burning. Constable Williams questions this, to which Wallace explains that he changed himself in this room and that he himself had probably left the light on. He then goes to an emptied out jam pot on the mantlepiece and partially extracts the pound notes (later one was found to have blood smeared across it): “Here is some money which has not been touched” Wallace says. Constable Williams immediately tells him to put it back where he found it, and Wallace complies.
In the front bedroom the Wallaces used as a spare room there was no light, but the bedsheets were partially off and the pillows on the floor, though nothing had been taken according to Wallace (who found items such as his wife’s jewelry still in the drawers), and all drawers were shut. Wallace said he had not been into the room in about two weeks and therefore could not say whether or not it was like that when he left.
After inspecting the kitchen – with Wallace reporting the money looted from the cash box, and apparently something about the money in Julia’s handbag which the constable could not make out (nothing had been taken from it), they went back to the parlour.
The constable asked Wallace if any lights were on in the house when he returned. He explained that apart from the two upstairs (in the bathroom and middle bedroom), the home had been in darkness.
Many other police officers, doctors, and forensics would soon arrive at the scene. “Julia would have gone mad if she had seen all this” Wallace remarked, referring to what he felt would be his wife’s reaction to so many strangers milling around the home… Unfortunately the attending officers did a very poor job in preserving the crime scene. In fact, one detective who turned up drunk actually went upstairs and flushed the toilet. This was the same toilet on which a blood clot was found, meaning he may well have flushed away vital evidence! Another mistake was made: The police had foolishly emptied the milk to feed the cat who was left in the house as they continued their investigations. Milk which could have provided vital clues: E.g. to prove the milk HAD in fact been taken in, and also to note whether or not it had been emptied into the cat’s dish.
The Police TheoryBecause the interaction “Qualtrough” had with the telephone operators led to a “No Reply” error and timestamp being logged, along with the identity of the booth that had been used, the police were able to track down the phone box to one situated just a couple of minutes from Wallace’s house at the bottom of Priory road (where you see a triangular plot of land).
The police who were already working on the assumption that the husband is almost always the killer could not quite believe their luck. Surely it was Wallace himself who made the call in an attempt to provide himself with a bulletproof alibi! In fact according to Moore, the police were sure Wallace was guilty on the VERY NIGHT OF THE MURDER, but having found no blood upon him did not have enough evidence to detain him.
As the police frantically worked on this theory, a spanner was thrown in the works when Alan Close came forward to attest to the fact that he had seen Julia Wallace alive when he delivered the milk to the house at 18.45 on the day of the murder. Others in the neighbourhood had seen Alan Close. One significant witness who was making a delivery to 27 Wolverton Street (to Walter Holme, proving Holme’s statement false) remembers seeing Alan Close right next to him (wearing a collegiate cap) on the doorstep of 29 where the Wallaces lived at what he said would have been shortly after 18:37 or 18:38, the time he would have arrived in Wolverton Street before walking 5 doors up to #27. When he left #27, Allan Close was still standing at the doorstep with the door wide open. He did not notice any light in the Wallace’s front room at this time, and noticed what sounds like Elsie Wright standing nearby holding some cans.
The police now had a serious problem… How could Wallace have murdered his wife, cleaned himself of blood, and left the house within a matter of minutes?! Through tests in which Alan Close was made to cover the distance of his route (500 yards) while stopping off to make deliveries, drop off empty milk jugs at his dairy and pick up a new full crate to carry around, the police managed to convince Alan he was wrong about the time… By their tests they convinced Alan Close that it had actually been 18:30 when he had last seen Julia… Even though this contradicted literally every single witness testimony. The closest was Florence Johnston who claimed to retrieve her milk at “about 18:30”, but we know the door closed on her before Allan returned to the open doorstep of #29, and before Julia had a short conversation with Allan and closed the door on him.
Allan’s own watch which he checked in Redford Street also appears to contradict the apparent “18:30” timing. In a rather ludicrous case of suppressing evidence, the prosecution objected to the appearance of several witnesses who could have proved Allan had delivered the milk later than the claimed 18:30.
Even still with the false 18:30 time, the timing was tight to have done what they suggested: Killed his wife, staged a robbery, then went upstairs to clean himself in the bathroom, before then leaving his back door and catching the tram. The officers set about testing the tram route, with the officers jumping onto a moving tram in one of these reconstructions, or sprinting to head off a tram which was just about to depart, sometimes using a closer “request” stop which William did not even claim to have used. Through these tests (but also, fairly, the tests of P. Julian Maddock hired by the defence), it seems William could absolutely not have left his back door later than 18:49 to have made the tram – even hurrying at a fast pace. William claimed a wait time at the first tram of 3 to 4 minutes, corroborating his claim of 18:45. Since the door most likely closed on Allan at 18:39 or 18:40 if we analyze the witness testimony, Wallace had at most 9 or 10 minutes to lure his wife into the parlour, batter her to death with multiple blows, stamp out a fire, and leave the back door. But given the more likely leaving time of 18:45 (the average tram wait was 6 minutes, to make the 18:49 leaving time accurate he would have had to have gotten lucky and jumped on a waiting tram), we are really talking 5 or 6 minutes.
Even if we assume he did not need to wash himself, and had staged the robbery in advanced or on his return to the house, this is still stretching plausibility.
Adding to this Wallace was a sickly man just recovering from a bout of flu at that (“the winter months tried Mr. and Mrs. Wallace” Florence Johnston would state)… Those who knew him said that he moved quite slowly, probably owing to his single kidney and the kidney disease which had plagued his entire life. Besides that Wallace was a tall and extremely distinctive figure, dressed in what would be considered eccentric (outdated) clothing even for the 1930s. Certainly nobody recalled seeing a very tall skinny figure jogging through the alleyways of Liverpool in Victorian-style getup, nor did conductors seem to recall such a man leaping onto or heading off their tram… And another blow came when the captain of the chess club who had known wallace for 8 years, Samuel Beattie, attested that, even KNOWING the assertion that Wallace made the call to himself in a disguised voice, and asked to consider if it was his voice, he replied that “it would take a great stretch of the imagination” to say that the voice (which made the Qualtrough call) was anything like Wallace’s.
Wallace found himself stuck in a position of trying to prove he did not make a telephone call which, apparently, he did not make.
While recounting the voice to Roger Wilkes years later, Lillian Martha Kelly would say:
“Later of course I heard Wallace speak at the trial, but I could not have sworn it was the same man.”
To make matters worse, when drains, basins, and toilets (etc.) from the home were inspected, no blood could be found – and the towels were all entirely dry with no sign of having been recently used… The highly sensitive benzidine test was applied to the clothing William was wearing that night in an attempt to uncover hidden bloodstains, but none were found.
The initial forensic report by McFall which you will find below would also have damaged the case, as the time of death is placed at 19:50 (with 3 or 4 reported blows) when Wallace is known to have been miles away from home. This is vastly different to the 18:00 time and 11 to 12 blows McFall would claim at court. Although the time of death can only be supplied as a window by forensics, even in modern times with the most modern techniques available, we will see below:…But the police realized the answer to their prayers had been staring them in the face the whole time… Of course! The burnt blood-soaked mackintosh belonging to William which had been found beneath Julia’s lifeless body!
And so an idea was quickly formed that the reason Wallace was able to leave on his journey for Menlove Gardens without a trace of blood upon him, and so soon after his wife was last seen alive, was because he had worn the mackintosh as a shield to protect himself from blood splatter.
Indeed… The final police theory was this: On the 19th of January, Wallace placed a telephone call to himself from a payphone just a couple of minutes from his house using a disguised voice to talk to the familiar Samuel Beattie. He then went to the chess club to receive this message, faking cluelessness as the details of his very own message were given back to him.
Then the following night, Wallace patiently waited for the milk boy Allan Close to arrive and provide a timestamp of when Julia could be verified as last being alive, then lured her into the parlour with a pretense that he wanted her to set up the room for a musical evening (evidently telling her he’d given up on the idea of the trip), before donning the mackintosh nude and bashing her to death with either an iron bar or poker, two items which the charwoman had reported were missing from the house.
The fact he is proposed to have been nude, by the way, would have necessitated dressing himself afterwards adding to the time it would take to leave the house. We can ascertain that if it caught light while he was wearing the jacket the clothing underneath would have been charred. And if he was “holding it up” as a shield, it seems like an act of insanity to have grabbed his very own jacket to use as a shield.
(The idea that Alan had actually seen Julia was not really believed by forensic expert McFall or the prosecution, who rather believed Wallace had dressed as his wife and put on a false accent to trick Alan).
Very quickly, they claim, Wallace attempted to burn the jacket but aborted the idea (possibly due to the smoke and scent?), chucked it on the ground, and pulled his wife’s body on top of it where he then beat her on the back of the head a further 11 or 12 times. After this, he put on his other jacket, cleverly hid the iron bar up the sleeve (prosecutor Mr. Hemmerde would provide this theory to someone who had asked him about the case some time after the trial and appeal), and made a dash for the tram.
It was asserted that he had found a clever place to hide the bar at some stage on his trip, although the Cleaning Department was tasked with searching all street grids in the neighbourhood and found nothing. He apparently then set about implanting into people’s minds the idea that he was out at specific times (despite only actually mentioning one inconsequential time to a witness: 7.45 PM), to build the alibi he had expertly crafted for himself. Indeed, he spoke to many people on his trip, from conductors, to shop workers, to pedestrians, to police officers, and it was the theory of the police that he did this in order to show he was not at the house when the crime was committed… Though being strangers, it was really only luck that they were traced or came forward (the witness at the bus shelter did not).
Murderer Scot-Free?While many people subscribe to the idea that Wallace was guilty and got away with murder (according to the trial’s prosecutor Mr. Walsh, Wallace’s own lawyers were sure of his guilt) many others were certain he was an entirely innocent man whose life had been cast into a living nightmare by the most unfortunate of circumstances. Among those were Wallace’s solicitor Hector Munro, and many coworkers who had worked with him at the Pru. Munro maintained his belief in Wallace’s innocence throughout his life, and discussed this on a radio interview with Goodman.
Wallace himself claimed that he knew exactly who the killer was, and fingered Richard “Gordon” Parry as the man who had murdered his wife in the last of the articles for John Bull magazine (though Parry’s name is not given). In Wallace’s second statement to police in which he gave the names of men his wife would admit without question, Gordon’s name was first, followed by a large amount of detail.
Following the name of Gordon who Wallace described as a family friend of him and his wife, was another somewhat lengthy detailing of a man named Joseph Caleb Marsden, and then a “shopping list” of names including chess club members and other Prudential employees.
Both Gordon and Marsden had worked at the Pru where Wallace had acted as their supervisor. Both of them had been caught “cooking the books” (stealing) and thus were either fired or “left of their own accord”, and both knew each other quite well. They had also both been into the Wallace’s home while working under Wallace, with Wallace remarking that they knew where he kept the cash box (which he had always kept in the exact same spot for years). They would know – said Wallace – that the Prudential pay-in day was Wednesday, and as such they could expect the cash box to contain the most money on a Tuesday night, the very night on which Julia was murdered…
What’s more, Parry admitted to police that he knew Wallace was a regular at Cottle’s City Café – the exact same café where Wallace’s chess club met, where the noticeboard of scheduled chess matches was displayed, and where Parry’s own drama club met on Thursday evenings.
[ Note: The cash box would usually contain substantially more money than the £4 which was apparently missing, but Wallace had skipped collections that week due to illness ].
Of particular note, when the police were investigating a number of “Qualtroughs” in Liverpool they encountered an R. J. Qualtrough, who as it turned out had been a client of Joseph Caleb Marsden’s. Marsden’s alibi for the night of the murder? It is suggested by the note in a column of Wallace’s statement to police that his alibi may possibly have been that he was “in bed with flu”… Which in fairness gains some credibility because there was clearly some sort of virus going around at the time, evidenced by the fact Wallace, Julia, and Alan Close had all fallen ill around the time.
Gordon Parry’s alibi? He had spent the afternoon with a Mrs. Olivia Brine, her daugher Savonna and nephew Harold Denison (a friend of Parry’s), and another woman Phyllis Plant. Both Olivia Brine and Harold Denison attested to the fact that Parry had stayed there from about 17:30 until 8:30 PM at night. Statements from Savonna and Phyllis Plant are not in the police files and therefore they may not have given one.
But despite this seemingly bulletproof alibi, Gordon gave a completely nonsensical alibi for the night of the telephone call. He claimed that he had picked up his girlfriend Lily Lloyd from an address which he could not remember, then returned to her home spending the day and much of the night with her. This was patently untrue, and statements from both Lily Lloyd and her mother showed that Parry had arrived at their house (7 Missouri Road) in his car at about 19:35, midway through a piano lesson Lily Lloyd was giving, before briefly going off to Park or Lark Lane and returning later. Parry was in the habit of visiting his girlfriend each day it would seem, and he often finished work at 17:30. When he visited her on the night of the murder she complained that he was “late”. Although this seems inconsequential given his alibi did not rely upon her.
A forgotten testimony?: Half a decade after the murder of Julia Wallace, but before it was known that Gordon Parry’s alibi hinged on Olivia Brine rather than his girlfriend Lily Lloyd (who said she had partly falsified an alibi for Gordon), a man named John “Pukka” Parkes who had worked at the local garage recounted an incredible tale, which you can hear in his own words in the following clip…
Those who stand behind the theory that Wallace (and Wallace alone) planned and committed every step of this murder have dismissed John Parkes as either a fame-hunter, fantasist, or liar; perhaps having carried a lifelong grudge against Gordon due to envy over Gordon’s ladies’ man “Jack the Lad” persona, or bitterness at Gordon’s petty thieving from the pockets of the Atkinsons whose garage Parkes worked at (and was by all accounts very close to).
To some, the idea of Gordon volunteering information about where he had hidden a murder weapon is hard to believe.
But the question remains… If Wallace is an innocent man whose suspicions about Parry/Marsden/Young were correct, how could these men have expected Wallace to have received and fallen for that bogus message? How could they have committed the act without a single neighbour hearing their arrival or any chatter in the home (apparently) despite the thin walls? Was it really worth attempting to lure Wallace out with a shakey ruse for one extra day of collection money when they had the perfect opportunity to strike while he was at the chess club?
Furthermore – if as per one suggestion – a stranger to Julia went to the house pretending to be “Qualtrough”, why did he kill her instead of simply running away? Why did he return to the parlour at all? If Julia discovered him in the act why did she make no sound? Would it not just be easier to break into the home at night? Would it not be a more reliable plan to simply send Wallace on his trip using a more “normal” name and real address? Even a real address at Menlove Gardens West would allow them plenty of time to carry out such a simple robbery. Did they fear he would look up details in a directory? One can only speculate.
Antony M. Brown, in my view rather ludicrously claims she was chased down (too frightened to make noise), and put on the mackintosh before Qualtrough physically grabbed her, pulled her into the parlour and for no known reason shoved her down onto the armchair (this is the wrong chair, by the way). Apparently she simply sat there not even putting up her arms to defend herself as he grabbed the bar and smashed her across the head. Considering Julia screamed when drunken neighbour Mr. Cadwallader entered their property, the idea she would simply silently allow herself to be thrown around (without disturbing any furniture of course, or misplacing the violin case upon the armchair she was thrown onto) without so much as a peep is a difficult sell.
I do not believe this is plausible. I do think it makes more sense two people were in the home, but even so, if a noise in the kitchen by the bookcase was loud enough for Julia to hear it, it begs the question, why didn’t the Johnstons who were actually closer to where the source of this sound would have been?
On the other hand, if this was the work of William, would he be so stupid as to lie about the tram he took without knowing the telephone box was traced? Would he really use a box and board a tram in an area where he was quite well known by sight? Would he not fear the tickt inspectors and conductors on the tram would come forward to tell the police he had got on at the wrong stop?
If he planned to kill his wife would he really have stopped off for a cup of tea for a client knowing full well the milk boy/girl could call at 18:00, arriving home after this time (18:05) just to enjoy a cuppa? If he did not care about the milk timestamp would he not set a later time to ensure he actually had time to kill his wife, knowing full well by now (the milk was delivered every single evening for two years) the times between which the milk could arrive?
These are questions which have haunted the minds of many true crime enthusiasts, including famous detective novelists Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and even true-crime celebrity Agatha Christie who referenced this most baffling case in one of her novels. Seemingly Christie was in favour of Wallace, as she had her character state that the demeanour of a suspect should not be used to imply innocence of guilt.
Raymond Chandler called the Wallace case “unbeatable”, stating that it will “always be unbeatable.” I think he’s wrong.
Do you have information on whether Julia Wallace’s life was insured, and for how much?
I do, she was insured for a very small amount. I could get the figure if needed but they had more in their bank accounts (William more than Julia) than what the policy was worth as I recall.
She was insured for around 20 pounds.
Yep that’s correct from my recollection. She also had £90 in her saving’s bank (which I believe went to her brother), and Wallace had £152 in his account.
In the early 70s I worked for Chess magazine based in Birmingham.I was an assistant editor.While researching an article on the Wallace case I contacted Hector Munro who was kind enough to reply to me and he stated he believed that Wallace was innocent and incapable of murder.Not surprising as he was part of his defensive team but I thought it was worth mentioning. For my own part I have kept in touch with the case over the years and have always thought that James Murphys book on the case was the most convincing. Gannons conclusions ludicrousYours Bob Evans
The solution presented that William did it all himself is probably the least confusing and convoluted. But does require ignoring the false alibi given by Gordon around the time of the phone call (he should have been re-questioned), and also the person walking around near the murder scene who apparently spoke to William just before he arrived home. There were two thuds from the parlour reported by Florence Johnston at around 8.30, then the sighting of this man seemingly talking to William at the entry by the church around 5 to 10 minutes after that. A man described as stockily built, like Lily Hall’s description, also approached Mr. Greenlees requesting directions to a fake address (54 Richmond Park) around the same time.
William also could be seen to have made two errors, writing West automatically (instead of East) when given the address, and saying “her mackintosh, and my mackintosh” as though correcting himself. It seems to imply advanced knowledge of what the things ought to have been, but someone messed up. Beattie repeated the address back to the caller for verification so I don’t think the error was with him.
It is not easy to square away because of these elements. The alias used makes it difficult for me to think of anyone outside of the insurance business although it’s possible.
Ultimately every angle is a dead end. With very little effort the case could have been proven, re-interviewing Gordon after finding out his alibi was false was a blatantly obvious step to take. The chess night tram conductors also ought to have been interviewed and the operators questioned better, since operator one claims to have gotten an answer from the club on her first attempt which is contradictory with Gladys’s testimony. It is also not clear what the second operator is talking about regarding the light showing the caller had pressed ‘B’, and if this was before she asked him to press it herself (in other words if it showed what he had done prior to talking to her). All neighbours should have been questioned about possible information.
Florence Johnston should have been pressed about the thuds she heard. It is especially surprising the defence did not go into that matter since it would exonerate their client from having been the killer.
In the 2nd paragraph of ‘The Tram Journey’, I presume 18.06 should actually read 19.06?
I think the cat stroking affair being used to prove William’s callousness is nonsense. We feline lovers are a strange breed – when I returned home after receiving news of my mother’s sudden death, I sat down in a state of shock and my cat jumped up on my knee which led to my stroking her absent-mindedly for several minutes while I collected my thoughts.
Is it known whether or not Wm. Wallace could drive (an automobile) at the time of the murder?
I have read just about everything I could on the Wallace case but I’ve never seen any reference to Wallace driving a car. We can be sure he didn’t own one as he used public transport regularly but he may have had a driving licence.
Unrelated, but your question reminded me of “Intriguing things overheard on the bus.” : “But what he didn’t know was……her mother had a bike!”
Regards the telephone call and the description of the voice being ‘ordinary’
Could this simply mean it was a Liverpudlian accent?
If the caller had spoken in another dialect wouldn’t the exchange operatives have commented?
The Liverpool accent at that time was very different from the “scouser” accent we all know and love today. William did not have a regional accent according to Munro (I think I posted a list of questions and answers between Munro and… Goodman?… where this was asked).
I`m new here, but down the years I`ve read most books on this terrible murder, The last one I read was John Gannon`s Apart from introducing a few new names into the mix, – his book was inconclusive, Whichever way I look at the events of that night, I always come back to the same conclusion,– Maybe W H Wallace was not the murderer that night, but he knew a lot more about that night than has ever been revealed, In short, that he was an accomplice in some way to whoever the murderer was,
Nice to hear your version Francis. Some things that have led me against that idea is the motive, the payment and whom the accomplice could be? No irregularities in his bank account and wouldn’t he have made sure his monthly takings were the prize for the murderer/thief – then that takes care of his payment. Then we have the problem of Wallace finding someone to collaborate with whom he could trust and would be of that nature to kill, did he know such a person and could he trust them not to go straight to the police?
Do you think nobody has ever asked people to help kill their wife for them before? This is literally every hired gun situation ever, there have probably been thousands over the years, including quite a few never caught.
Many many many examples. And some of those cases very interesting, good documentaries.
Having actual CASH (physical) stashed somewhere in the house, to hand, was common then because there were no credit cards. Wallace only allegedly having £4 in the house is actually slightly odd.
Yes according to some of the logic displayed here and by RS on the laughably pseudo intellectual casebook site, no one ever in history could have ever hired a killing lmao…
A new one on me…
If you haven’t already read it I would recommend “Checkmate” by Mark Russell, the most recent book on theWallace case. It is well-written and extremely detailed.
He does reach a conclusion as to whodunnit but the account of the murder is balanced and objective throughout.
Josh/CJ. Of course I am aware of hired hands pre 1931 and since, however, these are people who not only usually have a motive (Usually lust or greed) as can sometimes be seen afterwards by the actions of the hirer but are of that ilk with a killers mind. Can you point me in that direction regarding Wallace, just what was his end gain? Where do you think he’d find a hired hand given his world was a million miles from that scene. If in collaboration why not just go straight from work to Menlove and not put himself in the position of it possibly even being himself.
Just wondering, how comes you address us as Josh/CJ? I ask because I know Rod believes I am Josh, even though I have pictures with him when he visited England (does make one doubt Rod’s detective skills). So just to clarify we are different people in case you thought otherwise, and thus some of our thoughts do differ on certain matters.
Wallace would not necessarily know criminals. Gordon certainly does. Wallace knows Gordon. I think Gordon is a middle man, which has also happened in real life. Actually a similar case in England more recently (21st century I think). I have a very fuzzy recollection as I only saw it on a documentary once but I seem to remember the victim was a policewoman and the husband went out to a bar or nightclub while the murder happened. I might be remembering this wrong.
The person the guy knew did not carry out the killing but was a middleman to the killer and drove the murderer away after the crime. They threw the weapon out of the car shortly up the road.
Based on the bedroom disarray and Julia being up there that morning, seen by neighbors, I slightly wonder if perhaps they were no longer sharing a bed. I think if this was a paid killing, William had his eyes elsewhere. His wife is basically 70… Perhaps Amy since Joseph is away overseas all the time, but also I do think he could have been a gay man. Lack of kids and marrying such an older woman does make you wonder.
If I wanted to kill my wife, Gordon Parry would be the very last person I would approach to arrange the hit. Parry was a small time, part time crook with phone boxes, other peoples’ cars, and his employer’s cash his main concerns with an alleged indecent assault thrown in. He was a fish and chips criminal who would crack and spill the beans at the first sign of trouble.
Hiring a reliable hit man isn’t easy. Jeremy Thorpe found this out the hard way.
As for Wallace having his eyes elsewhere, he comes across as having the libido of a dry twig.
And hit men don’t usually beat the brains out of their victim. Strangulation with ligature or shooting (+ silencer) are preferred.
Yes, Wallace may have been gay, but I would expect any problems arising from it would have been dealt with early in their 17 years of married life.
There are lots of things a person would or wouldn’t have done in hindsight. Not too difficult for a burglar thinking about robbing the home to simply break in and take the money, as had happened at another house in Wolverton Street only a month prior (and many other houses in Liverpool recent). Also, better to provide a real address slightly further away to increase the odds of the person taking the bait. Also better for a criminal who is caught out and unknown to Julia, to simply run out the back door with the money. No yelling reported, did she not see it coming?
Lots of should and should nots, yet something happened.
A lot is there in small details regarding chronology. In the crime scene photos, and then from 20.25 onwards.
My apologies RMQ for addressing you as CJ then if you are not him.
Parry to me would be a great risk to hire as a hit man or even a middle man. You can imagine this little sneak blackmailing Wallace forevermore if he were involved by Wallace in this and I rather suspect Wallace would be clever enough to know this.
Also where is this other woman, Amy or otherwise or even this gay man when it’s all over? Nearly giving up your life to then not get with that person. Wallace said he’d not been in that front bedroom for about a fortnight and Julia had sewing stuff out on the downstairs table so perhaps was mending or changing the sheets?
We also know that night’s Echo newspaper was open at the centre pages on Julia’s side of the table. It was pushed through the letterbox before Close’s arrival (6.25-6.30) by Jones. I don’t think she had time to yell, I think the first strike was with her back to the killer, the mac and skirt burn and she’s pulled away by her hair (her hairpiece separated from her head) and twisted around onto her front and finished off by a probably angry and frustrated person annoyed he’s also had to stamp out an unforeseen burning garment in the process.
I meant I am CJ not Josh. I wasn’t sure if you were saying “CJ/Josh” because you thought myself and Josh were the same person. Just wanted to clarify because some people mistakenly think we are the same person. Perhaos because I often spell American outside this site? Not sure.
Anyway, a question here is why Julia would be changing or fixing a sheet on a bed which was never used? That was an idea Gannon came up with, it isn’t supported by anything in the evidence. The material on the kitchen table in pictures actually looks more like a skirt if you check, and working on clothing fits with what Julia was known to often do.
Regarding Julia not seeing it coming and the silence, if she had just found out she was being robbed how do you suppose it played out? She heard a sound from the kitchen and went to get up and was battered down from there? By the cushions on the chaise, and also Parry confirming in the newspaper that Julia would sit in that chair, it seems she had been sat there prior to being killed.
Oh no sorry, I know you are different people, when I put that I am replying to you both together. The actual seconds leading up to the murder is something I still can’t get my head around. I do not think she stumbled upon any robbery out in the middle kitchen and was somehow bundled back out into the hallway, along the hallway and then into the parlour to be killed and right facing the fire. Nor do I think like Rod says she made her excuses to leave and made her way along the hall only to be bundled into the parlour. It happened right there in the parlour. These 3 clay marks on the skirt. I can’t see any clays on that fire at all? The Sunbeam is not like the Robinson Willey gas fires with 3 vertical clays so i’m wondering how they got there. I can see that just lighting the fire and the initial flame until controlled by the know would set fire to a loosely hanging garment over it such as the mackintosh but then the clay marks would happen at that moment.
Sorry made a hash of that last post. It’s meant to say I can see that having just lit the fire the initial flame until controlled by the knob could set fire to the mac but I can’t see how the clay marks are on her skirt as that signifies the clays are hot and so the fire has been lit long enough for them to heat considerably.
I can’t see a killer sitting there with her any length of time if his intention was to kill from the start.
A couple of things about Wallace. I can’t see how he wouldn’t know an iron bar existed in the parlour if Sarah Draper knew but then I cannot see how lying about it (if he did know about it) benefits him either.
That’s right yes. One thing Michael Banks mentioned before which is also worth discussion, is the fact that the scorch marks were on the skirt and not on the underskirt, which is difficult to fathom, how something can burn through the top layer and the bottom layer remain entirely untouched. He suggests the marks were already there.
However, I am not sure on that particular point. I also have assumed that the markings were there from an already-lit fireplace.
There are various factors in the statements and crime scene which essentially mean, point blank, William did not commit this crime. Including in that, statements from the kids doing rounds who were specifically asked about light in the front parlour and did not see any at all. They have blinds sure, I still would think on a dark evening you would see SOME sign the front parlour was lit, especially when the front door was open to Alan Close.
There is also a sign that Julia has sat down on the chaise by the cushions and also the placement of her box of matches on the side table right by that couch. Parry stated by newspaper interview that this location was ordinary for her to be seated in.
I understand what you are saying, these factors are some I used in recreating the crime scene writing about a distraction robbery previously.
It is possible Julia in fact had been told someone was going to visit (if it’s a stranger, then she was skittish of admitting them, so I am sure William would have instructed her to let such a person in), and set up the front parlour for their arrival, or the staging of the scene was also committed, as Wallace found it, prior to the slaying, although it is difficult to know the exact movements through that house. Being able to actually get hold of the same fireplace would be VERY useful as you could test how long it takes for the clays to get hot enough to cause burning, and then work out a rough timeline from there.
Regarding the iron bar, I think it might be there in the crime scene photo. My grandad pointed it out, there is a rod of some sort across the fender. If not that iron bar, what exactly is that?
Hi GED and RMQ,
I agree that Julia Wallace’s skirt was scorched by the hot clays of the gas fire rather than by the flames of a freshly-lit fire. This model of gas fire, unlike modern versions, has a bed of clays which are almost horizontal. In modern fires they are vertical. The gas jets play onto the underside of the clays to heat them up; the flames do not extend above the clays. If her skirt had been burned immediately after lighting the fire with the flames hot and the clays still cold, the marks on the skirt would be quite different from those left by her falling onto the hot clays.
The marks do suggest that she fell onto the hot clays so it is likely that she was turning the fire off when she was struck from behind. This implies that she was not welcoming an unexpected visitor to her parlour. This is supported by the matches on the side table; they weren’t needed to turn the fire off.
I think the body would be in an entirely different position if she had been seated on the chaise longue when struck, with much more blood left on this piece of furniture.
One hypothesis is that Wallace proposed a musical evening and the fire was lit in advance. Then Wallace “changed his mind” and decided to go to Menlove Gardens after all. Julia went into the parlour to turn the fire off and she was attacked as she rose from the fire falling onto the hot clays and was dragged away into the position where she was found.
Her hand/arm, usually the coldest parts of the body, were still slightly warm to the touch some 2/3 hours after the murder so I consider it likely that the gas fire was left on a low heat to delay cooling of the body and give the impression of a later time of death. It was anticipated that a competent pathologist would arrive with a thermometer. Instead we had that bumbling clown McFall…..
I don’t agree that the youngsters not seeing a light in the parlour is strong evidence of Wallace’s innocence. This is one example of people being asked to recollect mundane everyday details with total recall and quite often they oblige, whether its the time or recalling exactly what was said. Was there light in the parlour at No 27? No 43? How about 23 Breck Road? Its impossible to answer this question in retrospect with any hope of accuracy.
I do think Alan standing at the doorway, waiting for her to return the milk jugs with the door open, would have noticed light from the parlour which is the very first door as you enter the house.
Regarding the rest that is all correct. Struck on the chaise no, I meant she had at one point been sat on it. What would have happened probably is that she used her box to light the fire, then sat down on the chaise, leaving her match box on the table beside her. The fire had already been lit for at least a short while, if she was in the process of lighting it, her box of matches would surely be with her.
Going to turn off the fire, very possible. The series of events there sounds correct. The parlour is set at some point. Julia is sat on the chaise at some point. Julia turns out the fire, rises, and is struck viciously. Very plausible.
I don’t think people committing acts like this tend to consider forensic science. Especially not in 1931. Even with the most modern techniques, the window of time she was killed in is too narrow to be able to exonerate or convict anyone at all.
This is so interesting, my great grandfather DS Harry Bailey was on this case, I remember being told when I was younger that he was a detective in Liverpool and worked on well known case, my great uncle provided me some information with a photo of Harry standing outside in the back lane.
That is brilliant! I hope you enjoy reading your great grandfather’s statements:
Any inside scoops you have for us? 😉
This case never fails to reveal new (at least to me) bits of relevant information. Thanks for your remark about Alan Close being likely to see if the parlour light was on. It had me looking up the plan of 29 Wolverton Street. You are correct in that the parlour door is the first leading off the hall into a room. But before that door is reached there is an interior door in the hall, some feet behind the front door! This was new to me. It may be a solid door or one with a glass panel; we don’t know. It would certainly restrict a view of the parlour door (and any doors beyond) from the doorstep. And if the parlour door itself was closed…..
Regarding non-awareness of forensics, while this may be true of many people, Wallace was something of an amateur scientist who would be familiar with thermometers/temperature etc.
The narrow time window between Alan Close speaking with Mrs Wallace and Wallace boarding the tram at Lodge Lane almost exonerates Wallace by itself. This is an aspect which interests me and I might have something to post on it shortly.
Don’t forget that to get to the front door, the porch door would invariably be opened, giving Alan a glimpse through even if only when she returned with the jugs. It could be hard to discern if the room is lit in any case (assuming the hallway is lit?), but still, there were a number of the kids asked the same question and not one of them said there was light.
We do take their alleged recollections of the church clock face seriously. I suspect the room was not lit when Alan came, personally.
I think the events unfolded where she lit the fire, sat in the chaise, placed her box of matches on the little table beside that chair, rose from the chair (and possibly turned out the fireplace), and was subsequently struck down. The weapon may have been inadequate (spanner? See Dr. Schmunk’s discussion on the patterned injuries) necessitating the many hits, as Julia crawled barely alive round the room (hence the multiple distinct pools of blood, rather than just one big one where she fell and died instantly).
Yes the space in between the front door and the inner door is known as the vestibule, my in-laws have one in Kirkdale. Usually very much older houses. If you look at the plans/layout of the house too you will see that both the front door and vestibule door open to the left wall of the hallway and the Parlour door is on the right wall of the hallway. It depends if Julia left the vestibule door and/or the front door open as she left Alan on the step in order for him to see if any light was shining out of the parlour and of course the parlour door would need to be open too which is doubtful if you’re trying to keep the heat in the Parlour and also doubtful if you don’t want any heat inside the house to escape into a room not being used. At some point when Julia returned the jug to Alan she must have opened both the vestibule and front door to do so but like Mike says, at that point you’re not looking especially expecting it to be asked of you some time later. Great posts and opinions though.
She would have to open the porch door to get to the front door to hand the cans back. I did check the blueprints now you mention it, and it seems the doors open in the correct direction for it to be difficult to open the door without giving a view of the parlour door. She’s carrying jugs, so can’t easily just crack the door and slip round it.
Someone could sneak jugs round the door with a hand but it would look clearly odd lol. And then someone has to close the front door, unless Alan did so.
Fasten your seat belts!
I have been looking into the narrow time window between Alan Close speaking to Mrs Wallace and Wallace boarding the tram at Lodge Lane. This alone has been a strong point in Wallace’s favour; he barely had time to do it.
The Evening Express of the 21st January, the day after the murder, reported that Neil Norbury, a bread delivery boy, was the last person to see Mrs Wallace alive at ~4.15 on the 20th. He said she wore a scarf and complained of bronchitis. It also said erroneously that Wallace had left home at 6.15 headed for Menlove Gardens. There is little doubt that Close and his pals read this because when they met up that evening (21st) Close was asked what time he had seen Mrs Wallace and replied “6.45.” He was encouraged to go to the police with this information by Douglas Metcalf (‘You’d be a fool not to go”), Harold Jones (“..someone said there might be a reward.’), and others. Close did not want to go to the police and treated the whole thing as a joke saying “I’m the missing link.” He was eventually persuaded, went with his pals to No 29 and told the police about seeing Mrs Wallace.
Close had been to No 29 earlier with Elsie Wright to see if any milk was needed by the police but he didn’t tell them about seeing Mrs Wallace the previous evening.
On the stand and under oath at Wallace’s trial Alan Close:
1. denied mentioning 6.45 to his friends.
2. denied saying “I’m the missing link.”
3. denied being reluctant to go to the police with his evidence.
Ask yourself, as I have done: “Is this lad telling the truth?”
Close admitted being in a hurry on 20th January. He was running late as his bike was out of action. To save time he often delivered milk without seeing the house occupant.
I consider it quite possible that Close left the milk on the doorstep of No 29, then used the knocker, then he went to No 31, retrieved the empty cans from inside the open door and pulled this door closed (confirmed by Mrs Johnston). He then returned to No 29 and was picking up the empty cans from just inside the door of No 29 with the door open when he was seen by Allison Wildman. Close then closed the door of No 29 just as he had done at No 31.
If Julia was already dead in the parlour, Wallace would be hyper-vigilant about the milk delivery with the jug at the ready behind the front door.
Wallace claimed no knowledge of the milk delivery.
Alan Close was a lively and imaginative lad of 13. He clearly enjoyed his new-found status as the “missing link” with his pals and unlike them he treated the whole thing as a huge joke. But he did not want to go to the police (Why not if he would get his name in the newspaper like Neil Norbury; he’d be a local star.) Its as if “spinning a tale with the lads is one thing, but going to the police with it is another…” Once he had told the police of seeing Mrs Wallace, including the detail reported by Neil Norbury in the Evening Express about Mrs Wallace’s health, he was in a trap of his own making. He couldn’t get out and stuck to his story on the stand.
So much has been made of the narrow window of opportunity for Wallace to murder his wife. The timing has been examined minutely. But this is irrelevant if Alan Close was lying about the encounter with Julia Wallace as, in my view, he had done already on other points as shown above.
This alone does not prove Wallace was guilty of his wife’s murder but it does provide grounds for serious doubt about Alan Close’s evidence which has so far been unquestioned.
I look forward to seeing the comments of fellow posters.
Yes his story is a bit odd. However he was seen by Wildman waiting on the doorstep with the door open, not simply grabbing some cans and walking away.
IF Alan Close is lying about seeing Julia then of course that leaves Wallace time to do a lot more including washing and even drying himself with a towel that he would also dispose of with the weapon.
RMQ: Regarding this that you said earlier ”Regarding the iron bar, I think it might be there in the crime scene photo. My grandad pointed it out, there is a rod of some sort across the fender. If not that iron bar, what exactly is that?”
As you know Sarah Draper said there was also a poker missing as well as the iron bar and the poker was usually kept by the range in the middle kitchen. I think you yourself have ringed this poker on one of your photos/solutions to say it looks like a poker by the brass fender on the hearth, possibly there to use as a scraper for under the fire (for stumps and spent matches) in the event of the iron bar being missing. Julia may have used in in the week Sarah Draper didn’t call due to her husband’s death.
The ring is around a bar on the fender in the parlour. Dimensions seem about right to what Draper described. If it is the bar, that is an insane thing to miss. Like with Michael Peterson (“The Staircase” documentary) and the blowpoke… I am surprised it did not come up, asking Draper to identify the object in the photo. It could be the middle kitchen poker, and the original iron bar rolled down the back (as said by Goodman), hence the poker being used in its place, possibly.
However, the fire had been on that day in the middle kitchen, would they need the poker for that? I have a fireplace and don’t have any poker.
The narrow time window established by Alan Close’s story was a weakness in the prosecution case against Wallace. I am surprised that they didn’t challenge it more strongly e.g. by calling the other youngsters to give their recollection of the discussion prior to Close going to the police. This would surely have destroyed his credibility on the three points I raised and even raised doubt about his seeing Julia Wallace. Skillful questioning of Close, giving him an “out” by admitting to possible confusion with another evening when he did see Julia may have been fruitful too.
A similar approach regarding his claim that there was no light in the parlour would have helped too.
If Close was in fact lying, it was an unexpected gift to Wallace’s defence team. We can only imagine Wallace’s reaction.
Hi GED, RMQ,
Thanks for your feedback: much appreciated.
Quite right that Wildman saw Close waiting on the doorstep with the door (wide- or partly-?) open. It must have been little more than a glance in Close’s direction; he had no reason to remember details, as so often in this case.
But if indeed Close was waiting for the cans to be handed back to him it may well have been Wallace himself (NOT wearing his wife’s clothes!) who did so. Wallace was in the house until ~6.45. If Close had said it was Wallace, he (W) would have to agree: “Julia was reading the Echo in the warm kitchen/diner.” A guilty Wallace could be lying so this removes his narrow window of opportunity for the murder. Wallace said he did not recall the milk delivery which is strange if Julia heard the knocker, opened the door and spoke with Alan Close. Not to mention the fresh milk in the kitchen before he left.
If it was Wallace who took in the milk, he had no way of knowing that Alan Close would claim it was Julia. Telling the police that he didn’t remember the delivery was the safest option.
To summarise, I think one of his pals said to Alan Close: “It says here in the Evening Express that Neil Norbury was the last to see Mrs Wallace alive Al. But didn’t you see her when you delivered the milk?” Alan, only 13, sees an opportunity for a harmless deception to boost his status and answers “Yes.” “When? “At 6.45.” And it snowballed from there, especially after he told the police.
RMQ The ring around the implement on the fender looks like what I would describe as a poker myself. It has a knob on it too like Sarah Draper described. Another missed opportunity by the police or the defence to say ‘But isn’t this the missing poker’ (probably being used to replace the missing bar)
MIKE: We have assume that Close is lying and we also have to wonder why WHW doesn’t tell the police he answered the door to Close as he must be sure Close could come forward and will be questioned at some point and so if it was him who answered the door to Close he’d have hit the jackpot for Close to then say it was Julia who answered the door (as WHW would know she was very obviously dead by then) If Wallace was in the bathroom washing and then in the middle bedroom changing, I suppose it is possible the Close/Julia exchange went unheard by him.
If we are assuming things (though it’s a good idea) then we could assume Parkes is right, Assume Lily Hall is right/wrong (depending on what side you’re on) therefore I suppose we have to only go on the known facts. I’d love to know more about Thomas Brady getting the Ada Cook statement -How and when and consequently how Gannon obtained it? This could be another falsity to enhance an own agenda on the guilty parties?
Alan Close is obviously lying under oath, on the stand, by denying making the “missing link” remark to his friends, stating the time of 6.45, and being reluctant to go to the police. All three points are refuted by the statements of his pals which are internally consistent i.e. they agree with each other. He did the things which he is now denying on oath.
The assumption that he is possibly lying about his encounter with Mrs Wallace therefore is not made out of thin air. He has already been shown to be “economical with the truth.”
Why didn’t Wallace admit to taking in the milk? He would, as you say, expect Close to be questioned but didn’t know what he would say. Close might say he couldn’t remember who took in the milk on that particular evening. Wallace admitting to it raises suspicion especially if Close said it was usually Julia. Better to claim ignorance of the milk delivery which may, as you say, be the truth if he was upstairs preparing to leave.
If Julia had been killed before Close arrived, Wallace had every reason to let Close’s story to remain unchallenged, providing a false narrow window for him to have done it, cleaned up etc.
My journey through the case has been a long one with Parry ± an accomplice, Wallace, an opportunist stranger, and Mr Johnston taking centre stage as chief suspect at different times. To suggest Alan Close lied about seeing Mrs Wallace does support my current view that Wallace had plenty of time to do it but this is not an agenda. I still harbour doubts about Parry’s alibi (too “pat”) and the possible involvement of W Dennison (Mrs Brine’s nephew!). But unlike this aspect with Close, there is no supporting evidence to counter her alibi for Parry or support Dennison’s involvement.
Finally, childhood was much longer in 1931 than it is today (and all the better for it in my view.) Today’s 13 year olds are savvy and much more aware of consequences than they were in 1931. I can well understand how Alan Close may have been drawn into lying about Mrs Wallace. But that, I admit, doesn’t prove he did.
Mike I don’t think anyone of sound mind who took in milk from Alan would expect him to say “Julia took it in”. It would be far more likely he saw nobody at all. Except that he was seen actually standing at the door with the door open (not just picking up jugs and leaving).
Mike, it is certainly a very interesting theory and just like the other potential solutions you mention, is certainly one that cannot be just totally cast aside.
Hi GED, RMQ,
The taking in of the milk was done without any contact with the occupants of No 29 while Close was going to No 31, the Johnstons. By the time he returned to No 29 the milk for the Wallaces had been taken in and either
1. he retrieved his empty can from the vestibule without seeing anyone, then, as at No 31, he pulled the door closed.
2. he waited until someone returned to the front door with the empty can.
As RMQ says, Close was seen by Wildman standing before the open door of No 29 which suggests option No 2 is the one. I do agree that if Wallace returned the can into Close’s hands he would expect Close to confirm it when questioned. He would not expect Close to say it was definitely Julia.
If indeed Wallace killed Julia I don’t think he planned to use the milk delivery as some kind of time stamp; it was too unreliable. But having killed his wife between 6.05 and ~6.30 he would be careful to avoid a face to face with Alan Close especially if it was usually Julia who handled the milk delivery. It was best for him to leave some ambiguity about it (a) by quickly taking the milk from the can while Close was at No 31 and leaving the empty can in the vestibule, and (b) by feigning ignorance of the milk delivery (“I don’t remember”). So I agree with RMQ that on balance and in spite of Wildman’s account the non contact option is the better of the two.
It also fits with Close’s time-saving routine: Leave can on step, use knocker, go to next delivery, do the same, return to pick up empty can, close door. He did this at No 31 and possibly at many of his deliveries without seeing anyone, why should No 29 be any different?
It is, as GED says, a theory that should not be cast aside.
Close sticking to his story (if that’s what it was) reminds me of Timothy Evans in the Christie case. He said he had put his wife’s body down the drain in front of 10 Rillington Place. After police checked this out, Evans was told that it took three burly London policemen to lift the cast-iron cover from the drain (empty) so he couldn’t have done it. Evans with the IQ of a 12 year old replied “Well, I did.” Unlike Evans, nobody challenged Close’s version except for the timing.
Alan said Julia mentioned she was ill etc which was a true fact, which does suggest a conversation between the two recently (so he did on a recent occasion at least, see Mrs Wallace). He is seen standing at the doorstep, as in standing there not moving (waiting for someone to come to the door). If he were merely collecting jugs and such, you see he wouldn’t be waiting at the door he’d simply be picking up jugs and walking off.
The Evening Express reported that baker’s lad Neil Norbury was the last to see Julia alive at 4.15. “She complained of bronchitis and was wearing a scarf.” Close’s pals told him of this, if he didn’t already know, and Close claimed at this point that it was he, not Norbury, who had been the last person to have seen Julia at 6.45.
So the info about Julia being ill was in the paper; Close, in my view, incorporated it into his tale: “she had a cough.”
I’m pretty sure that at this stage he saw it as a harmless fib to gain status among his pals. His eventual agreement to tell the police was likely motivated by getting his name in the paper like Norbury and the prospect of a reward (which had been mentioned) rather than anything more serious.
I agree that Close standing on the top step in front of the open door (Wildman) strongly suggests he was patiently waiting for someone to return with the empty cans. And Wildman had a clear view of No 29 from the adjacent door of No 27.
All Wildman’s newspapers apart from No 27 were for even numbered houses on Wolverton Street so he would cross the road to pop his paper into No 27. Glancing to his right and seeing Alan Close with 2-3 milk cans on the top step of No 29 can have been little more than a snapshot in time lasting a few seconds at most. Not enough time to take in details of what Close was doing. “He had his back to me.” Close may for example, having picked up the cans, been about to close the door but by then Wildman was back across the street among the even numbers continuing his round.
Speaking as an ex-paper boy myself I can say that getting the job done as fast as possible is a priority. There’s no time to take in and remember details of mundane everyday events which only assume importance later.
But he has to approach the house right? And while approaching the house he would see Alan there. I don’t think he only sees Alan when he’s at the top of the front door steps to 27 putting the paper through. I think he sees him while approaching the house and would then have seen him for longer than a snapshot.
Yes, I too pictured Wildman crossing the street and seeing Alan Close at No 29 before he (W) got to No 27. I used “snapshot” to suggest that Wildman, preoccupied with his paper round, would give no more than a fleeting glance at Close. Just sufficient to register that Close wore a collegiate school cap and had some milk cans (the Wallace’s?) with him. Wildman, as he hurried along, had no reason to remember in detail what Close was doing. Its still an open question whether Close was waiting for the return of Mrs Wallace or was about to close the door. I think too much has been read into Wildman’s statement that Close was “standing on the top step…” as if he was standing bolt upright patiently waiting for Mrs Wallace, which I agree, he may have been. For me, still open.
While I’m on…Close it seems didn’t tell his parents he had seen Mrs Wallace the previous evening. If he had, they would have taken him to tell the police. And he visited No 29 with Elsie Wright to see if the police needed milk – again not mentioning it. It was only when his pals told him of Neil Norbury meeting Mrs W as reported in the Evening Express that Close adopted his “No, it was ME!” stance.
Close did lie on the stand, about inconsequential things which he could easily have admitted to. This is my main reason for doubting that he did see Mrs Wallace as he said. What started as a harmless joke got out of his control.
To quote Lieutenant Columbo: “Just one more thing…”
Mrs Johnston, on hearing the knocker, went to the front door, filled her jug there, left the can inside the doorway and returned to her kitchen.
Mrs Wallace went empty-handed to the front door, took the full milk can back to the kitchen, transferred the milk there, then returned to the front door, met Alan there (he says), then returned to the kitchen.
Why would anyone, expecting the milk delivery, go to the door empty-handed on hearing the knocker? It doubles the effort involved.
Hi Ged, Mike, CJ and everyone else!!
I’m very much inclined to take on board what Wildman said about seeing Close on the doorstep of Wallace’s house.He gives a sensible, sober and quite detailed description of the events as he remembered them that night.I also feel it’s important to remember that Wildman was a couple of years older than the other children who are mentioned in the case….Jones, Caird, Metcalf, Wright and Close himself.They were all 13/14 years of age and still at school.But Wildman was 16.He’d left school and had a job.He delivered newspapers simply to earn himself an extra bit of money.I think this makes a difference, as he’s probably a bit more mature and wiser than the others.So his claim of seeing Close on the doorstep of 29 Wolverton Street at 6.37/38pm that night definitely adds up for me.Don’t forget either that for a few seconds at least, he’d have only been a matter of a few feet from Close, so his noticing of Close’s Liverpool Collegiate School cap, Close standing there on the step with the front door open, his seeing Elsie Wright…these seemingly minor details, combined with the fact that re-runs of his newspaper delivery route taken with Wallace’s legal team tallied with what he said about the time convince me of this.
There are two other points I’d like to bring up.Firstly is the issue of the stocky man seen by Hall and Greenlees.Hall said the clock in her house showed a time of just after 8.40pm when she arrived home at 9 Letchworth Street, but was always kept five minutes fast.Let’s say the clock said 8.42pm, meaning the actual time was 8.37pm.The time it takes to walk from where Hall said she saw Wallace talking to the stocky man to 9 Letchworth Street takes about 45 seconds….I did it last week!! This means that in real time, her sighting of Wallace and the stocky man probably must have occurred at 8.36/37pm? Now, if the times given by both Hall and Greenlees are correct, then the Greenlees sighting must have occurred no more than two minutes after Hall’s sighting….possibly even less than that.Greenlees said he was back in his house, 95 Richmond Park, at 8.40pm.And he’d had a conversation with a stocky man about the non-existent 54 Richmond Park before going through his front door.As it takes just over three minutes to walk from Breck Road to 95 Richmond Park, this suggests that at 8.36/37 pm, Greenlees would have just started walking down Richmond Park himself, in the same direction Hall had just walked.Hall claimed that as she looked back over her shoulder,one of the men she saw walked towards Breck Road.If this man was Wallace, he’d have crossed over Richmond Park to walk down the narrow entry that led to Wolverton Street and the back door of his house….which is what he told police he did upon his return from Menlove Gardens.There’s also a wider alley a little further on he could have used that led to his back door, although as I’ve said, he told police he went down the narrower entry.But Greenlees doesn’t mention seeing anyone cross Richmond Park and heading down these alleys and entries to Wolverton Street.Yes, it was dark and he would have been a fair distance away.But he knew Wallace, who was tall and had distinctive manner of walking.Plus there were far less cars in the road in those days to obscure vision.Even from a distance, would Greenlees have seen Wallace heading down the entry? Greenlees not seeing Hall makes sense…she’d have turned right into Letchworth Street out of his view.But if what she claimed was correct, and the man she saw walking towards Breck Road WAS Wallace, then I think it’s possible Greenlees may have seen him.But he didn’t.So did Greenlees and Hall actually see the same man?What do others think?
Finally, I also think Ged makes a very relevant post.If Wallace was involved in some sort of conspiracy to have his wife killed by someone else, why not finish work at 6pm or a little later, and go straight to Menlove Gardens without bothering to go home? All he had to do was stretch things out a little time wise, then his alibi would have been rock solid.Certainly in terms of him being the actual killer!! But no…I’m still sticking with my distraction robbery gone wrong theory!!????
I think Wildman is very reliable as a witness, probably as you say, due to his maturity. Unfortunately he says only that Close was standing on the top step of No 29 with 2/3 milk cans and the door open. Just as he says a girl (E Wright) was waiting for Alan in the street without specifying where in the street. This is completely understandable; he was busy with his paper round and these were unimportant (at the time) details.
So in view of Close being less than truthful on the stand about inconsequential matters an element of doubt concerning his claimed conversation with Mrs Wallace has, for me, crept in.
True crime author Nigel Morland agrees: “The milk boy testimony does not stand up.” But he ascribes it to Close mis-remembering the incident which is unlikely as it was the following day when he made his claim.
The police had good reason to question his tale, providing as it did a narrow window for Wallace to have done it. So I assume he was grilled thoroughly and they were satisfied that he wasn’t lying.
Even so, I still have doubts!
Looked at objectively, Mr Greenlees meeting the stocky man has no connection whatsoever with the events at 29 Wolverton Street. It became connected when Mr Greenlees found it necessary to contact the police about it where it received scant attention. It has several worrying features:
The stranger searching for a non-existent address (as Wallace had done earlier).
The stranger not giving a name, profession, or reason for his quest hoping that it might jog Mr Greenlees’s memory: ” Oh, its Joe Smith the piano tuner you want is it? He’s at No 51, you must have the number wrong.”
Many murder cases attract people who want to be “in on the act” ranging from serial confessors to unreliable “witnesses.” The details of Wallace’s search of Menlove Gardens had been widely reported when Mr Greenlees came forward with his statement but even if it happened exactly as he describes I find it to be irrelevant.
2. Lily Hall
Ironically, Lily Hall’s testimony is more confused than that of Greenlees but I do think at some point she saw Wallace talking to another man. Whether it was on that particular night can be debated but if we assume it was, why would Wallace deny it? Well, as on this forum, it hints at a conspiracy even if it was in fact the Greenlees stocky man innocently asking Wallace for directions to No 54. Better deny the whole thing.
I also agree with Ged’s point: surely the whole point of hiring a hit man is to provide yourself with a rock solid alibi for the time of the murder. Wallace couldn’t do this if he was the killer.
If it happened that Mr. Greenlees saw this man looking for fake addresses within minutes of the thuds from the Wallace parlour as well as minutes from the sighting by Lily (of a similarly described man) and Wallace’s return, it is clearly relevant. Of course someone who does not have a genuine inquiry for an address would not stand there saying he wants Joe the piano tuner. Because he’s making it up and it’s not a real inquiry. Failing to do so might actually strengthen the idea the inquiry was bogus and not someone genuinely searching for an address.
There are many people who have had their spouses killed who had poor alibis such as simply being at the pub for a few hours. I could direct you to many such cases. The fact the execution was poor does not really mean anything. It’s not common for people to actually carry out crimes like this without getting caught for stupid reasons.
The mistaken date is very unlikely because it would not be the day prior because Wallace was at the chess club until half 10, and before that it was a Sunday. Wasn’t Lily coming home from work?
If we just focus on the Greenlees sighting, “someone who does not have a genuine enquiry….would not stand there….” But if he didn’t have a genuine quest to find No 54, what on Earth was his game? Julia’s killer calling attention to himself? – I don’t think so. I just do not see what Mr X has gained by accosting Mr Greenlees in this way. Suggestions are welcome.
If you’re saying you won’t entertain the idea it was anything else than a genuine request for the fake address 54 Richmond Park, you’re already deciding there is no way it is anything related to the killing. Since if it’s a legitimate request from someone trying to find 54 Richmond it’s clearly nothing to do with the slaying.
The only aspect of the Greenlees sighting which I have ruled out is stocky Mr X being the killer. All other options are still open. They are:
1. Mr G made it up; he is an attention-seeker,
2. Its true and Mr X is really looking for No 54 but has been given the wrong number, (see later)
3. Its true and Mr X knows No 54 doesn’t exist but for some reason wishes to be remembered by Mr G.
If 1 or 2 apply they are not related to the killing. If its No 3 then there may be a link yet to be discovered. I just can’t come up with a reason why Mr X would want to make at least his appearance known.
Here’s a far-fetched idea: Qualtrough, whoever he was, not only phoned Wallace at the chess club to send him on his fruitless mission. He also phoned Mr X with a similarly tempting message giving a false address in Wallace’s neighbourhood. This was done to muddy the waters when the inevitable investigation got underway. Just a thought….
The “thuds from Wallace’s parlour” were thought by Mrs Johnston to be the sound of her father taking off his boots in their parlour. Having been next door neighbours of the Wallace’s for years her ears were finely attuned to identifying sounds and their source e.g she heard Wallace’s “usual knock” at the front door. We don’t know if, after the murder was discovered, Mrs Johnston verified her original instinct re the source of the sounds.
So assuming Greenlees is truthful we can make a tenuous link with Lily Hall seeing the same man speaking with Wallace. But for me there is no credible link between this and these bumps in the night heard by Mrs Johnston.
I’d put more credence into 3 non attached witnesses seeing someone fleeing down Hanwell st onto Lower Breck Road at about 8.15/8.20. You don’t often get men ‘running like mad’ unless something is amiss, how often do you see it these days? Even if in itself it would be nothing to be alarmed about, add the fact a murder had just been committed and Hanwell st is exactly where someone fleeing the rear of Wolverton St would find themselves after emerging from the entry onto Richmond Park and turning right as it is the next road to go down. As for the stocky man. He cannot be connected unless he has a death wish (if the killer would be bloodied too) so if he did exist he must have been genuinely looking for an address but if it were me i’d also provide the name of the person i’m looking for so that’s dodgy imho. The more puzzling aspect is Lily Hall’s sighting. I can’t see why she’d make it up or mistake the day/time but I also can’t see any reason for Wallace to deny being seen talking to someone because even if that were to go against him in some way, the defence would surely just say as I have that why would men in cahoots with each other concerning a murder which has just happened hang around to be seen talking about it. In fact that’s pretty much what was implied in court and the sighting set aside as to not be considered fact.
I completely agree about the running men especially as the location fits with a hasty exit from the rear of No 29 Wolverton St. And the body was warmer than one would expect if she had been killed before 7.00 pm.
The whole Greenlees sighting is strange. I’ve given a far-fetched possibility but as you say, why not give more details: name/purpose of searching for No 54. It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t think Lily made it up. I think it was preferable for Wallace to deny it rather than admit it and expect innocent reasons (“He was asking directions..) to be believed in court.
Where are you getting that from? I spoke to several forensic experts, the transcripts are on this site. Determining Julia was not killed before 7 based on body temperature (figures for which, by the way, were never taken) is not possible.
Whether armchair detective or forensic expert we are faced with an almost total lack of reliable data in determining time of death. McFall originally said ~8pm then changed it to ~6 pm +/- 2 hours based on the unreliable rigor test.
Mrs Johnston felt Julia’s hand at around 8.45 and said it was slightly warm. Inspector Moore said the same at around 10 pm. The hand/arm cool more rapidly than the mass of the body (high surface area vs mass) so I find it surprising that any warmth could be detected in the hand after lying on the floor of that frigid parlour for 3 hours or more. The only heat source was the dying fire in the dining room. This may indicate a later time of death, say after ~7 pm, or Wallace did it and left the gas fire on a low heat setting to delay cooling of the body and suggest a false later time of death.
To repeat, nobody knows when Mrs Wallace was killed so these are just ideas.
MacFall was talking rubbish. There is no way to determine time of death within that window of time using rigor. Especially not in 1931. That is also something every forensic professional discussed with me and is in the transcripts.
There isn’t anything forensically speaking, and this with modern scientific knowledge, which can fix her time of death at any distinct point between 6.45 and 8.45.
This is woulds and shoulds, not necessarily accurate to the reality of the situation. The two men running was quite a bit before Parry left the Brines, and there is a SOLO (by Rod’s ideas) burglar who had gone there but there are two men running? It can’t be Parry and accomplice running as the sighting is too early.
It also precedes the sound of thumps from the parlour. Combined with the inability to make entry into the home which seems to imply somebody still in the property at the time William got back. More likely for someone to have slipped out while William was going around the house from the back door to the front again.
Firstly, not even the police or prosecution seem to have attached much importance to the 2 thuds, probably because that rules Wallace out as the killer. The defence should have made more of this even if I do think Flo Johnston was probably correct in assuming it was her dad taking his boots off.
Secondly, I don’t think Parry is one of the men running but are in fact the people he primed by telling them where the cash box was and making the call to get Wallace out of the vicinity.
Thirdly, I can’t see a burglary/murder happening just before 8.45 when Wallace would be expected home any minute having sent him on his errand around 7pm. I think the robbers/murder/s simply put the bolt on and Wallace did say it was bolted. FloJo couldn’t confirm whether it was or wasn’t and the copper not hearing it being drawn doesn’t mean it wasn’t. Wallace tho also strangely said he also had trouble with his key in the lock at the front door – quite a separate thing from the bolt being on. For me, the intruders are not still in the house when Wallace returns home. The body would be very warm with no rigor if only just killed then. The robbery for me, my gut instinct if I were doing it would be between 7.30 and 8pm when you know WHW is up in Menlove or making his way back but not close enough to catch you.
I mean, that’s fair, it is quite late in the evening. I’m not sure everything went as planned in whatever case. You can see the burning alone is a bit of a screw up.
It is certainly more coherent to have 3 people if you have Parry not at the scene. But it could be 2 if you think the killer is a relative of the Brines, good reason to give someone a fake alibi if it’s to save a relative’s life.
The bolt has nothing to do with the front door locking mechanism. That was gone over specifically by the locksmith. I continuously ask Antony for his alleged conversation with a professional locksmith. I had already spoken to Timpsons who said a key inserted on the interior would stop a key from outside turning. Antony claims otherwise, but now I’m not sure he actually got that information, as I’ve asked repeatedly for it for over a year now. He doesn’t like that a key on the interior and the time it happened would implicate the neighbors as bizarre as that is.
RMQ. A key on the inside most certainly would prevent opening a yale lock from the outside as would simply putting the snip on if the lock was likely like the one here
(sorry the link is so long)
The snip which we all used in the 70s to lock from the inside or to keep the catch open (depending on what you wanted to do) is that round button next to the knob. Wallace if guilty only had to say I had to release the snip to let the policeman in then hey presto all his troubles about being unable to gain entry into the house are gone.
You don’t understand. It’s about the key being unable to TURN on the first visit to the front door, which is not explicable by any bolt mechanism, the two were not connected. I can only replicate this by sticking a key in the interior side of a lock. That’s a modern lock, not sure if the effect is even still there with those old night latch type locks.
If I recall right, by the way, they use the term “snib” not snip, to refer to the little locking thing. There’s one of those on my grandad’s house door.
Wallace withdrew the bolt on the front door to let cops in (nobody heard it, but allegedly). The bolt and locking mechanism is not connected.
RMQ: I agree completely about time of death using rigor. Even body temperature is only approximate. McFall was a disgrace: no thermometer, changing his estimate of time of death based on unreliable rigor, and his explanation of rigor at the trial was worthy of Stanley Unwin.
And….as for Dr Hugh Pierce. What a waste of time he was. He simply repeated what McFall said because he had no mind of his own. He said time of death 6pm or maybe after then conceded 2 hours either side so 4pm comes into the equation – Really!! On answering Question 2145 he says Prof McFall asked me to examine for Rigor Mortis – so what was McFall there for then – both doing it? Neither doing a rectal thermometer reading. To Q2162 I was not doing the examination, Prof McFall was. And his biggest get out clause came in answer to Q2167. I was simply there by order of the Chief Constable. No joined up thinking or examination taking place at all. The work of Laurel & Hardy more like.
Yes, “another fine mess” as Ollie used to say.
Please bear with me. I may be missing something obvious here but where is the key hole on the body of the Yale lock allowing operation from inside the house? The illustration on the link shows no key hole on the inside part of this lock, just the spring-operated knob and the snip.
I can see how a key inserted into a conventional lock from inside would, by engaging the tumblers, prevent operation from outside but I don’t see how this applies to the Yale design. Are we sure that Wallace’s front door lock was a Yale?
Don’t know his type of lock, only that these were common. To lock this one from inside would require the snip to be on but he made no mention of that. The type where the barrel allows for locking with a key inside is different again but again no mention of anyone having put a key on the inside, whose key anyway. My current front door has to be locked with a key from the inside and I know that if my key is in it you can’t turn it from the outside. Just examples these.
Yeah, the bit about the key on the inside was new to me. Where did this come from? I looked it up: there are versions of Yale locks operated with an internal key but as we don’t know what kind of lock Wallace had, this is irrelevant.
RMQ: You said…You don’t understand. It’s about the key being unable to TURN on the first visit to the front door, which is not explicable by any bolt mechanism, the two were not connected. I can only replicate this by sticking a key in the interior side of a lock. That’s a modern lock, not sure if the effect is even still there with those old night latch type locks.
Please see the link I sent above. If his lock was one of these and the snib was on from the inside his key would not turn on the outside. However, Wallace did go on to say his key turned but slipped back. Moore tested it and found it faulty but was able to gain entry easily enough with Wallace there next to him. Wallace said ‘It was not like that this morning’. A guilty Wallace would surely say, yes it’s been playing up (No Julia to confirm or deny it) A guilty Wallace could also say he had to take the bolt off to let the first policeman in (backed up by Mrs J being unable to let him in), though she was useless in just why that was?
Please check and compare.
And note that the key did not turn on the first attempt but turned on the second. This suggests if there was some interior mechanism preventing the key from turning at all, someone was still in the house, because evidently whatever was causing the key to jam was taken away, allowing the key to turn on the second attempt.
Consider now, that the neighbours are exiting their back yard at the time the criminal would have had to have then left the house. Leaving by the back (bolt is drawn on the front door still, allegedly). The neighbors have a spare key by the way, which could be inserted on the interior to jam the key from turning.
They did not hear or see anyone running out the back door. Mr. Greenlees and others milling about nearby also did not see anyone rushing away at this time. The back door is carefully closed behind the criminal as he runs away?
Attention must be paid to things of this nature. I did contact a locksmith but Antony claimed (no evidence ever provided despite my many requests though) a key on the inside would not matter for jamming an exterior key from turning.
For me the key not turning the first time but turning the second time can just mean Wallace didn’t fiddle with it enough the first time to get it to turn, perhaps the second time he was a bit more concerned and tried it harder. Of course here, we are assuming he is innocent and just trying to genuinely get in, otherwise why does he need to change how he found the lock at all, just say both times were the same. If guilty he must surely know the locks are going to be tested if he’s using them as part of his not getting in strategy so why not just say the key turned both times but it was the bolt being drawn across that prevented me getting in. By now and giving this evidence, he knows that Flo Johnston can’t be sure if it was or not as he had to intervene to let the first policeman in. For me the reason the Johnston’s, Greenlees or Lily Hall didn’t see anyone running away was because nobody was still inside the house at this late time. If you are implying the Johnston’s are involved then I still cannot see why they would put themselves in the firing line as to be right there with all the palava and questioning going on unless it was to be nosey and keep tabs on the situation but what would the other people in the house be wondering they were up to. What I do find strange is that i’m sure I read the Johnston’s daughter Wasn’t expecting a visit from them that evening and it was much later than they’d normally go there.
All of these door failures are allegedly, he claims, the first time any of them had ever happened. By sheer coincidence? He suggested that he thought the killer was still inside, he only changed his mind when everyone else made out that such a thing was not possible. If he’s innocent, what if he was in fact correct?
It’s not worth concerning yourself with what you think he should have done. He could have done X or Y, it doesn’t really mean anything. With any case in which a murderer was caught, I could tell you things he could and should have done. Actually some of those assumptions aren’t even true. Florence tried the door first so if the bolt is drawn you would expect that she saw the state of the lock. And actually it’s a bit nonsensical to say he would surely know the locks would be tested, I don’t think that’s necessarily something people would all assume.
People who suggest the neighbours killed her suggest they went in with Wallace so the presence of their fingerprints and anything else would not look suspicious.
The locks on Wallace’s front and back doors were examined and pronounced to be in poor condition. I was for several weeks having problems locking/unlocking my front door. I tried WD40 but the problem persisted until eventually we were locked out and had to call a locksmith to replace the lock. So in my experience locks don’t suddenly fail; they become gradually stiffer and much jiggling is needed to get in/out.
Also, if there had been a key inserted from the inside Wallace would not be able to get his key in from the outside, let alone turn it. The tumblers would be engaged by the inside key and make insertion of an outside key impossible.
Finally, as Ged says, where did this extra “Inside key” come from? Mr Johnston did offer to try his back door key but it was never established that the Johnstons did in fact have duplicate keys for No 29. Although, having taken care of Puss during the Wallace’s holidays they may have had duplicates made.
So for these reasons and assuming Wallace was truthful, I think the lock had been troublesome for some time and, if innocent, he would be somewhat worried and agitated following his fruitless trek to Menlove Gardens, hence the difficulty getting in.
I cannot come up with a good reason why the killer would hang around to the point where he is surprised by Wallace’s return. He’s had since 6.45 to do the job and get out; why is he still there at 8.30?
On a modern lock, if you simply stick a key in the inside you can still insert one from the outside. But it won’t turn. I know because I have tried it. You don’t put the inside key into a turned position. This is a modern lock that I tried this on and I think the Wallace house did not actually have a keyhole on the interior. But the interior-side key would explain a failure to turn the key.
More details about the lock were not provided to know if there was an interior keyhole or not.
RMQ if I had murdered or arranged the murder of my wife and there had been no sign of a break in and I used a ‘not able to gain entry’ excuse because of faulty locks (especially if a 2nd trip to a 2nd door happened to coincide with my neighbours coming out to give me a further alibi was involved) then surely anybody thinking ahead like this master chess player so we’re told would have considered the being unable to gain entry would be challenged because as we can see just by our conversations about it, it is a major part of the story. I think the bolt being drawn against him would most certainly have been the first time it had ever happened to him as it’s the first time he’s had intruders inside and certainly the first time his wife had ever been killed so yes there are lots of firsts. Why does the bolt being drawn against him at 8.45pm mean the intruder/s have to be still inside, they wouldn’t open it when leaving but just leave it on. As for the Johnston’s fingerprints Having minded puss in the past and they could say they’ve drawn and undrawn the curtains, put lights on and off to make the place look lived in etc (whilst the Wallace’s were away) their fingerprints would be in there already, they could even say on one visit they used the toilet, picked up the mail from the floor and put it on the table for them, the place would be cross contaminated with prints of all kinds. Of course it’s relevant to say what he could have done and should have done because we have to believe he thought everything out. Why for instance drop yourself in it by saying things that are agreeing with the prosecution if it was masterfully planned.
You still aren’t quite understanding, GED. The bolt has absolutely zero connection to the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism is absolutely independent, and there is nothing about any bolt on that door which would prevent the key from turning. This was delved into at some length.
The key being unable to turn in the lock at all, is the first time such a thing had ever happened. No bolt has any effect on this at all. There is not good explanation for the key being unable to turn at all. The back door failed on the first attempt also. He claimed he thought the back door was bolted against him. He himself claimed he thought someone was still in the house at the time, so either he really had that impression, or was wanting to give the impression that is what had happened.
When he goes back to the front door for the second time, THE KEY TURNS, but the door will not open due to the bolt. The key turns with no issue, because the bolt has nothing to do with the key. Whatever means had been preventing the turning of the key, is no longer present. When he goes back to the back door, it opens easily on that second attempt. Like this:
1. Front door KEY WILL NOT TURN AT ALL.
2. Back door appears bolted.
3. Front door KEY TURNS. But the door is bolted from the inside.
4. The back door now opens without issue.
I do not know which means may have at the time been available to attackers to jam up keys, but such a mechanism has been removed between the two visits to the front door. And the back door is off bolt on the second visit. So it would appear based on those events that someone removed some mechanism from the interior side of the front door (whatever means were causing the inability of the key to turn), unbolted the back door, then escaped out the back… However, do consider that if the murderer had just intercepted Wallace, the more time Wallace can waste being “unable” to get in, the more time that person has to get away from the crime scene.
There are of course, plenty of intelligent murderers who have carried out low quality murders, pathetic cover up attempts, and easily falsified alibis.
(P.S. it was January, and not even close to the time the Wallaces had gone on holiday. In fact I think it’s not even the same year, that was 1926 or something was it not? The postcards have the date).
Let’s look at another thing. Much was made of his knock at the door when he got back. it was a light knock, was it your usual knock, Flojo asked about the knock and did she hear it etc, add to this the 4 trips, 2 to each door – all done it was said so that he would have somebody with him upon entry into his house eventually, proving he’d only just got home and found her dead, yeah, right, do you agree?
If all this making himself noticed palava is correct, all he had to do upon coming home on his last tram is to make the tram staff aware of him again and that’s his time stamp. Tell the conductor about his fruitless search, even admit to speaking to someone about directions in Richmond Park at 8.40/8.45 and then make a big racket at the first time he approaches his front door and can’t get in. Bang on it, shout Julia through the letterbox and if the Johnston’s or somebody else didn’t come out to see what was going on then knock and say can I try your key please or have you heard anything suspicious tonight etc etc. You see, going back and forth from the front to the back in the hope of coincidentally bumping into someone coming out at that hour on a winters night just doesn’t wash with me.
There’s too much that we don’t know in this discussion: type of lock?, keyhole on the inside? etc. I would just add that my front door dates from 1913, around the time Wallace’s door was installed (1910). The original lock was a hefty affair some 9x5x1 inches and was set into the body of the door in a chiselled-out cavity. Note that the depth of the lock unit was only 1 inch. This lock is key-operated from inside or outside using a chunky substantial key. With this key in the lock from the inside there is no way that a duplicate key could be inserted from outside. As RMQ has shown, modern locks are different.
But as Sherlock Holmes once said: “We are subject, Watson, to a plethora of hypothesis, conjecture, and supposition.” In other words: “guesswork.”
Hi Ged, RMQ,
I would like to hear your opinion/thoughts on the following:
An innocent Wallace didn’t know precisely the kind of business Qualtrough had in mind. A 21st birthday was mentioned but this was the reason Mr Q gave for not calling Wallace later, not as the potential policy with the Prudential. However, Wallace assumed it was. So Wallace put the papers/brochures in his briefcase and set off to Menlove. He returns disappointed, discovers his wife dead etc.
It isn’t surprising that not a single Menlove witness, or the Johnstons, mention Wallace carrying a briefcase; why should they? An irrelevant detail.
But I do find it surprising that the police don’t mention finding and examining his briefcase either. If found it would be of great interest to them of course and would surely have been mentioned in a report.
An innocent Wallace would drop his case onto chair, table, or floor on entering his home and starting the search for Julia. It would still be there in full view when the police arrived. The written record even gives us the contents of Julia’s handbag on the chair in the dining kitchen but a briefcase is never mentioned.
Is it likely an innocent Wallace forgot to take his case with documents to Menlove? Very unlikely.
Did a guilty Wallace forget it as he hastily left the house after the killing?
Or did a guilty Wallace, knowing he wouldn’t be meeting Mr Q, simply leave it where he put it (cupboard? shelf?) at 6.05 when he came home from his rounds?
Any Prudential agent seeking new business would carry a briefcase. If Wallace didn’t take his case to Menlove Gardens it is a damning point against him.
Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated.
He possiblyy had no briefcase, because Hemmerde apparently suggested Wallace had hid the iron bar up his sleeve. If he had a briefcase, there’s no need to suggest he’d stuck bars up his sleeves.
But it’s not a known factor.
Thanks for that RMQ. A good point which I hadn’t thought of. But as you say, no definitive proof one way or the other.
I just googled Prudential Agent Briefcase and it appears that the Company issued agents with a leather briefcase bearing the Company’s initials and with a security device to protect it against theft of monies collected by the agent. There’s a short film showing the Prudential briefcase and these features.
I couldn’t picture Wallace going on Pru business in all weathers with papers, brochures, forms etc stuffed into his pockets so this would appear to answer the question: he most likely had a company-issued briefcase.
If he took it to Menlove Gardens either innocently or for verisimilitude, why doesn’t it appear anywhere in the written record of the case?
Like you GED, I don’t think Wallace was expecting/hoping to meet a neighbour out and about as he tried the front and back doors. It was a charade to support his original contention that there was someone in the house when he returned. If the Johnstons hadn’t emerged he would have gone to them or the Holmes’s with his story. I also don’t think it was a time stamp. He had plenty of that from the Menlove witnesses. Wallace soon abandoned his idea of someone in the house.
RMQ: Why would the intruder bother to unblock the front door lock between W’s first and second visits? Why not just leave an inactivated lock/engaged bolt in place and rush out of the back door when W was heard to be at the front?
Any more thoughts from both of you on the briefcase aspect would be welcome.
Regarding the reason for WHW’s visit to Menlove. Beattie says in his statement about the Q call. ‘He said it was his daughter’s 21st birthday and he would like to do something for her which would be in the nature of business for Mr Wallace.’ Wallace says when questioned about why he would be out of his collecting district pursuing a policy up there that he expected it to be a life policy so I expect he would have taken only paperwork pertaining to that sort of policy and may well have just folded them into the inside pocket of his mac. Either way, briefcase or mac, you’d have thought the police would have insisted on seeing them before they had the alibi proof from the people who saw him up there.
Now about this 21st birthday story. As we know Parry was invited to (he later said organising in 1966) a 21st birthday party from the Williamson’s. Is it too much of a coincidence (there seems to be a lot in this case) to suggest that Parry ad-libbed something from his recent thoughts when relaying this message. If he didn’t know a murder would in fact happen and there wouldn’t be all this hullabaloo when after all only a robbery was only ever planned, he wouldn’t know that the coincidence would ever come out after the call would be scrutinised so intensely.
Regarding the locks. I still think Wallace, if guilty, knowing he’d be questioning on his failure to gain entry, only had to bolt the front door himself after the murder. Even if he’d forget to do it, he was first back into the house after the murder and could have done it and even pretended to unbolt it saying to the Johnston’s look, it had been bolted which was why I couldn’t get in. We can’t have Wallace as the master planner one minute and forgetting such an important factor the next.
Thanks for your thoughts. It is quite possible that WHW anticipated only a life policy as you say and took only the relevant papers in his fawn overcoat. In any case Pru agents were told to enquire about a prospective customer’s pension arrangements, mortgage, other family members etc. etc. to gain business – hence the need for a briefcase. He might need to split the commission with the local agent if he initiated the business on these.
Yes, its a mystery why, guilty or innocent, his briefcase isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Wallace story. If found to be bloodstain-free it surely would be part of Wallace’s defence.
Parry is tailor-made for the role of Qualtrough; he had not only the Williamson 21st that year but that of his fiancee Lily Lloyd in September. Even not expecting the close scrutiny the call has been given, it was an unnecessary, possibly subconscious, slip of the tongue. He could just have said “I can’t call later. I’m busy.”
Wallace had clients close to the Lloyds’ home and had met Parry near there in December 1931. Maybe from Parry or local gossip, WHW learned of Lily’s 21st. And Wallace did point the finger at Parry later so maybe it wasn’t a slip of the tongue but the laying of a false trail by Wallace as Qualtrough.
I don’t believe anyone was in No 29 when Wallace returned. None of the neighbours with their ears finely attuned to the sound of doors opening and closing, knocks at the door etc heard anyone closing that back door (why close it?) behind them as the killer fled. The Johnstons would be at the rear of their house preparing to leave and they heard nothing. I agree that Wallace had many opportunities to bolt the front door.
That’s right, unless the killer was in fact one of the neighbors.
You see it begin to sink in now, that there is no good explanation for many of these factors. There are so many critical details packed into the final part of the evening.
Let’s give Slemen’s version some credence for a while then. So Johnston made the call, what and he really did try to swindle a free call or just pressed the wrong button by mistake? Anyhow, nobody at the chess club would know his voice but would JJ know for sure Wallace was due down there on the Monday night, if so how unless Julia had mentioned it to Flo or someone say during the weekend before, who knows the intricisies of what conversations went on in the build up. Flo then says she heard 2 thumps to put the police off their scent and muddy the waters? So why the murder – is he rumbled. Does he think Julia’s gone out with him – Wallace says she never went down the entry with him and Wallace says she never had the mac over her on seeing him out the yard door. Wasn’t it said the Johnston’s tried to lure Julia down the entry saying they’d seen Puss? How about this story of Flo sporting black eyes after JJ heard her talking to a neighbour about it? If only we knew who ‘Stan’ was?
Assuming that Tom Slemen’s account of Johnston’s confession is accurate and his subsequent research solid there are good reasons for suspecting JJ as the killer.
1. It was his last night as the Wallace’s next door neighbour. Close proximity to the crime scene and at home when it happened.
2. His close friend from Cammell Laird lived in Menlove Gardens. JJ had visited him at home several times. Pure coincidence??
3. The Johnstons leaving “to visit their daughter” at the late hour of 8.45. They would see her the following day when they moved in. What was so urgent?
4. Why did Johnston urge Wallace to check upstairs for missing items when he (W) had already done so?
5. They were cagey about how well they knew the Wallaces claiming only 3 visits to Mrs Wallace in the parlour in the last 10 years. Postcards from Mrs Wallace tell a different story: the Johnstons fed Puss while the Wallace’s were on holiday and may have been given a key (plants, curtains, general check that all was O.K.)
6. The burglaries in Wolverton Street ceased when the Johnstons moved house.
7. Johnston allegedly assaulted his wife on hearing her discussing the case with a neighbour: propensity for violence against women.
So even without the confession we have enough for Mr Johnston to be thoroughly investigated. I disagree with Slemen about the involvement of Mrs Johnston.
Somehow the missing cat at this particular time and its sudden reappearance after the murder are part of the Johnston story but I don’t know where it fits in.
Sadly the police homed in on chief suspect Wallace from the very beginning. Their questioning of Johnston was just going through the motions – they had their man.
Great recap Michael.
Thanks GED. After reading your questions, here are my thoughts. If JJ was a thief/burglar he would be the type to wangle a free telephone call.
In the 1930’s people knew much more about their neighbours than today. Much more communal activity in that pre-TV era outside the home. Wallace had few outside interests and if JJ saw him waiting for a downtown tram on a Monday evening as he (JJ) came home it would be a good guess he (W) was chess club-bound. Maybe JJ knew Mr Caird the grocer, knew he played chess, so the message could be relayed via him. It was a “let’s see if it works” thing rather than a foolproof plan. If it didn’t, nothing lost.
I don’t think Mrs J was involved; the two thumps were the sound of her Dad’s boots hitting the parlour floor.
Its possible Julia went out looking for Puss after she parted from Wallace. JJ assumed she was following W to the tram stop; he entered No 29, disappointed with the meagre haul from the cash box, and thinking he had time, he looked in the parlour and was surprised by Julia’s return with fatal results. He’d told Mrs J that he was out posting a letter.
Back home he calmly changes his clothing and surprises Mrs J by suggesting they visit their daughter hoping to be away from the scene before the balloon goes up. As he is something of a bully, she knows its best to agree.
Lots of guesswork there GED I agree, but it removes all doubt about Wallace’s tight time window and his blood-free clothing if it was JJ who did it.
The replacement of the cash box on the high shelf suggests an attempt to delay discovery of the theft. The breaking of the cabinet followed and may have been accidental. If JJ had told Mrs Wallace he had seen her cat in an entry nearby, then remained behind as she left to search for it, it would be to his advantage to delay discovery of the theft for as long as possible. If Wallace took the box down on the Wednesday before starting his rounds, and discovered money was missing, an overnight burglar might be suspected. An earlier discovery might raise some doubts about Johnston but he was believed to be of good character and would say he went home after speaking to Mrs Wallace.
An imaginary scenario which ticks a number of boxes.
Possible, but it still doesn’t explain why the gas fire was lit. If this all happened just as soon as William left I am assuming Julia hasn’t had time to light the fire assuming she might decide to play some music to while the time away. I imagine you are saying Julia entered the parlour in the meantime and lit the fire when JJ stumbled upon her. I’ve always thought the broken door was somehow connected with the thief using the ledge to look in the cashbox whilst he was still up there (no need to take it down at all) and perhaps opened the door to rest his foot on and it broke off. I doubt he would break it on purpose causing even more noise than it necessary. I still don’t think the Johnston’s would emmerse themselves in this too deeply if involved and just stay in and act all innocent when the eventual police commotion arrived outside.
Although my current suspect No 1 is Wallace himself, the potential guilt of neighbour Johnston cannot be eliminated as a possibility.
One theory is that after Wallace had left JJ told Mrs Wallace he had seen Puss in an entry nearby and with Wallace’s mac over her shoulders against the cold she set off in search. JJ quickly entered No 29 and rifled the cash box, accidentally breaking the cabinet door. He then entered the parlour in search of more cash or hid there when Mrs Wallace returned sooner than expected.
William had earlier said he preferred a musical evening to the Menlove trip so Julia lit the gas fire in preparation. He then changed his mind, got changed and left for Menlove. On her return from her fruitless search for Puss she, with mac still over her shoulders, entered to parlour to turn the gas fire off where she was shocked to find neighbour Johnston…..
Its an attractive theory but with no hard evidence at all to support it! Still, that’s what this forum is all about: the free exchange and discussion of theories from the plausible to the far-fetched.
Its pure speculation but if Wallace genuinely was undecided whether to follow up on Q’s message he may have told Julia to light the parlour fire in preparation for music practice. She does so, but he changes his mind and decides to go anyway. A short time after he leaves JJ taps on the back door and tells Julia he’s seen Puss in an entry nearby. Julia grabs Wallace’s mac from the hall stand, drapes it over her shoulders and sets off. JJ stays behind, quickly enters No 29, empties cash box, accidentally breaks cabinet door, then checks out the parlour. Julia returns sooner than he expects. She goes to the parlour to turn the fire off, W’s mac still around her shoulders, and JJ feeling trapped and fearing recognition attacks her with the poker.
I agree that JJ wouldn’t want to involve himself too deeply. Their meeting Wallace in the entry was by chance. Had they left 10 minutes earlier they would be away and their involvement reduced to that of the other neighbours (the Holmes’s) which was JJ’s plan and fits with the sudden decision to visit a daughter who wasn’t expecting them. I don’t think Mrs J was involved.
And I’m not totally convinced that JJ was involved either! This is just my response to your suggestion GED to give Tom Slemen’s theory some credence. While doing so I realised that, although there are holes, it has quite a bit in it’s favour.
It is a pity that Mr Slemen seems to have vanished like one of the ghosts he writes about. From what I’ve read all attempts to contact him fail.
Thanks very much for responding to my postings.
Excellent theory, takes care of why the fire is lit. I’m intrigued though as to why you have Wallace himself. Alone or in collusion with someone? And yes, you are right in that we can all bandy about some ideas here.
Although Wallace is my front runner I’m not married to any particular theory. Johnston is also a reasonable suspect.
Julia Wallace had come down in the world. She saw herself as a cultured lady (water colours/music) and invented a false back story for herself: her age (~52), father a vet, mother French, none of which was true. Married to the unambitious plodder William, they were renting a terraced house in an Anfield back street. She recalled better days in Harrogate and let Wallace know it. Plagued by his worsening kidney disease Wallace decided to end it and have some peace in the time he had left. Wallace’s diary: ‘this is the house Julia always wanted…” Drip. Drip…
The phone message:
Wallace didn’t ask Beattie if Mr Q had left a phone number. Domestic phones were not common in 1931 but Q might be ringing from home. Wallace could
1. verify that Q was a potential client and not a time waster
2. confirm he had received the message and would be there as suggested.
3. ask Q the best way to get from Anfield to Menlove.
4. get more detail on the business Q had in mind for his daughter.
Only a guilty Wallace knew the call came from a public phone.
Meeting Beattie at the tram stop:
Wallace had just been told by the police that the call had been traced and timed at ~7.00 pm. ( a deliberate deception?). He told Beattie the police had cleared him (untrue) then asked him to recall the time of the call. “About 7.00 pm or shortly after” (a guesstimate by Beattie). Note that at this point W has been given the same time by two people who are best placed to know the time. An innocent man wouldn’t even need Beattie’s confirmation of the time. But even this wasn’t enough for Wallace. He goes on to say: “Can’t you get it closer than that?” Beattie: “I’m afraid I can’t”
Its as if Wallace as Qualtrough knows very well the call was around 7.20 which provides a narrow time window for W to have made the call and get to the club by 7.45. To hear 7.00 pm which gave him ample time must have been frustrating, hence his persistence.
The 11 blows counted by the pathologist suggest the venting of anger against the victim: overkill.
In spite of much bluster about Parry having done it Wallace made no attempt to investigate Parry’s alibi with a private detective.This would clear his own name for the doubters and bring his wife’s killer to justice but he did nothing.
So Ged those are some of my main points against Wallace. For me any innocent explanations are outweighed by the guilty ones.
Knowing Wallace’s solitary nature, as well as the difficulty and risk of engaging a confederate, if it was Wallace he acted alone. In a hired hit man scenario the Qualtrough ruse would not be needed; Wallace would have a cast-iron alibi for the murder period.
However, we do not know who killed Julia Wallace and as long as that is the case, all options must remain on the table.
Very interesting theory Mike. Also of course he denied all knowledge of an iron bar ever being close to the gas fire which was now missing. How though do you account for the lack of blood on him or doing this between 6.38 and 6.49 and still making the tram and seeming to all he met as not like somebody who had just committed a murder (Unless as you’ve said previously that Close didn’t in fact see Julia) How about Beattie not recognising his voice? How about W using the phone box and getting on the tram at Townsend lane – he couldn’t know he hadn’t been seen by anyone who knew him or of him or would recognise him afterwards.
How do you mean in that with a hired hit man scenario the Q ruse wouldn’t be needed. Isn’t it still getting him out of the way as to be a suspect.
I think the mac was used as an effective shield against blood spray possibly by being thrown over J’s head before the attack but otherwise in bullfighter cape mode.
Wallace’s whole plan was to create tight time windows for the phone call and the murder to introduce doubt that he could have done it. And it worked!
Wallace was a practiced stoic who, and he admitted this, never showed emotions to the outside world. Of all people he would appear calm and collected. A police officer said “He didn’t look to me like a man who had just beaten his wife to death.”
Beattie hadn’t seen Wallace in the previous two months and didn’t know him very well at all. If a Mr Qualtrough asked for Mr Wallace it would never occur to B that this was Wallace himself. I live in Brussels and I rang my brother in the UK in the daytime on his mobile. Something I had never done previously. Even after I said it was “Mike” he thought it was Mike from the garage!
Being seen making the Qualtrough call was a risk but people hurrying home on a winter’s evening would hardly notice a dark figure with his back to them in the phone box.
The whole purpose of hiring a hit man is to provide a rock solid alibi for the guy who wants the job done. The Qualtrough plan could have been adapted to do this but it was needlessly complex and gave rise to doubt. Wallace could have had it done on one of his “office days” when he was a Pru HQ surrounded by his colleagues as witnesses.
All this is far from proof that Wallace did it of course but I hope it answers the points you have raised.
Mike (not from the garage!)
Apparently it was not thrown over her head. Please read through the several forensic analysis articles, that’s what I had been told.
Yes, of course the mac couldn’t have been thrown over Julia’s head, at least initially, otherwise you can’t explain the extensive blood splatter all around the room, reaching seven foot in height on the wall.
Ha Mike (not from the garage) Yes it does answer my questions. I’m sure i’ve seen you post this about ringing your brother before. Either on here or another forum?
It must have been on this forum; its the only one I’m on apart from one in the USA dealing with the Lindbergh kidnapped toddler case. If you think the Wallace case is complicated…..
I’m on the fence as regards Alan Close seeing Julia. Its just that his casual attitude to the truth leads to doubt. If it was Julia’s habit to see Close deliver the milk I think Wallace planned the attack for immediately afterwards even if Alan was as late as 7.00 pm. He could say he wasn’t feeling well but decided at the last minute to go to Menlove. As I said, it was all about creating a tight time window and consequent doubt.
Is that you having a ‘debate’ with Joe on the Lindbergh forum Michael? 🙂
Yep, I plead guilty! It was Ludovic Kennedy’s “The airman and the carpenter” which first triggered my interest but the best and latest book on the case is “The case that never dies” by C Lloyd Gardner. Forum member Joe strongly believes Hauptmann did it all: kidnap /ransom etc but there’s much evidence suggesting otherwise. A complex case with some strange characters, including Lindbergh himself.
My contributions to the Lindbergh forum are under the pen name “Sherlock”. I mention this to avoid confusion with contributor “Michael” who is Michael Melski, a renowned expert on the case who regularly locks horns with Joe.
Ah ok. Thanks Michael.
Hi Ged, Mike, RMQ and everyone else!!
Not been on here for a couple of months, but was reading through some of the comments and discussions that have recently been taking place on the site earlier today.I just wanted to say there have been some really interesting contributions.Mike’s comments about William not apparently having a briefcase with him during his trip to Menlove Gardens is certainly something I hadn’t considered before!! Unless he believed the necessary paperwork he thought he’d require that night was actually not that substantial, and could be fitted into a pocket in his coat? Who can say? And there appears to nothing to suggest that William was ever asked by the police to show them any relevant paperwork.But it’s another good talking point about the case that Mike raises.I also enjoyed reading the comments made about the locks…so much so, that I actually checked my own front door lock, leaving my wife’s key in the inside lock and trying to open the door from the outside using my own key!! It wouldn’t open, which I knew it wouldn’t, but I felt I needed confirmation!!????
But for me, one of the biggest and most crucial elements of this case that’s never been resolved is something I’ve mentioned before, and make no apologies for mentioning again…on the evening of the telephone call to the City Cafe, why did Parry leave Lily Lloyd’s house barely ten or so minutes after getting there, without even seeing her, let alone speak to her? And even more importantly, why did he so obviously lie to the police about his movements during this time? I’m absolutely convinced Parry made the call, and that this particular episode is huge in the overall context of the case.The apparent failure of the police to notice the glaring discrepancies when corroborating the statements of Parry, Lily Lloyd and Lily’s mother is astonishing.This whole situation is very interesting in several ways.Why does Parry’s statement so obviously not tally with those of his girlfriend and her Mother? Why have the police not called him back in to quiz him about these discrepancies? Were they so convinced from the outset that Wallace was their man, that alternative theories were never fully considered? Or did sheer incompetence on the part of the police mean that the discrepancies in Parry’s statement were actually not noticed and acted upon?….Surely not?…You’d hope that even an allegedly corrupt and inefficient Liverpool City Police Force would pick up on something so glaringly amiss as contradictions in people’s statements.
I think one possible reason for Parry’s statement being at odds with those of both Lily and her Mother is his making of the call itself.I’m sure John Gannon mentions in his book how whoever made the call WASN’T trying to get it for free.Please excuse my use of upper case letters, I’m not being rude, just aiming for emphasis.Anyway, I think Gannon stated that there actually WAS a technical problem with the telephone kiosk, meaning the call never went through to the City Cafe first time.Under these circumstances, it was the policy of the telephone exchange dealing with the call to make a note of any faults.Now I think it’s very, very unlikely that Parry would have known this.He’s assuming the call either can’t or won’t be traced…meaning he’s probably not expecting to get asked questions about his activities or whereabouts on the Monday evening….unlike the Tuesday, the robbery night, when he knows he’s likely going to have to prove to the police he was nowhere near Wolverton Street, which is when his Olivia Brine alibi will come into play. This incorrect assumption on his part that the call can’t be traced means he makes some very obvious mistakes in his statement covering the Monday at the time of the call.Being asked unexpected questions appears to have thrown him…he hasn’t properly thought through what he needed to say to cover himself for the time the call was made, and for where he went at about 7.45pm. Yet he’s somehow got away it!! By the way, Ged deserves a lot of credit here.He suggested much of this before I did, either on here, or on the Facebook site, and I’m just rehashing it really.
As I’ve said,I believe these blatant contradictions in Parry’s statement are an integral part of the case.There simply HAS to be a reason why he suddenly left Lily’s house, and there HAS to be a reason why he’s so clearly lied to the police about it.For me, there three reasons….all as possible as each other in my opinion.
1.After seeing Wallace leave his house for Breck Road, at approximately 7.15, Parry makes the call.After arriving at Lily’s, he then decides to drive to North John Street, and check himself if Wallace has indeed gone to his Chess Club at the City Cafe.
2.Parry leaves Lily’s, having made the call 25 minutes earlier, and goes to meet an accomplice(William Denison?) who Parry has asked to follow Wallace to check he’s gone to the club.
3.Parry leaves Lily’s having made the call 25 minutes earlier, and meets up with TWO accomplices(William Denison and “Qualtrough”?) somewhere near North John Street (Park Lane?).Wallace’s attendance at the Chess Club is confirmed, meaning he’s almost certainly received the Menlove Gardens/Qualtrough message.This gives them the green light to attempt the distraction robbery the following evening.Between 8.30 and 9pm, Parry returns to Lily’s house at 7 Missouri Road.
As I’ve said before, I don’t believe Parry was the murderer.But I AM convinced he’s up to his neck in it!! He’s made the phone call to set the ball rolling, and he’s made that phone call because of his knowledge of both Wallace’s domestic and working patterns.Yes, things may have altered in this regard from when Parry worked at the Prudential himself a couple of years earlier…but he’s a taking a punt that with Wallace being generally a creature of habit, things might NOT have changed.And financially, this would have been a punt well worth taking in 1931 if Wallace had conducted his normal collections round that week.Even a three way split would have been quite profitable had things gone to plan.
As I said at the start, the discussions about all aspects of this case are fascinating.And it’s great seeing people making contributions to the debate and getting involved.It’s what this site is all about, and I LOVE it!!???? But I do honestly feel that Parry’s movements and whereabouts on the night of the phone call, and his subsequent lies and contradictory statements about them, may just be where the real crux of this case could lie.
Cheers everyone…..and thanks for reading!!
Don’t forget, Parry wouldn’t need to concoct an alibi for the Tuesday evening if Julia was not going to be killed. As a surviving Julia would have seen the thief and would be able to attest that it wasn’t Gordon.
Wallace probably paid Gordon. Julia was no longer sharing a bed with William, she’d been sleeping in the other bedroom where the Johnston relative had seen her that morning. William was allegedly visiting male prostitutes, so say she found out and was going to leave him, so he offered them money to kill her.
The killer went to take the payment money for the murder but got blood on some of the bills and those were left in the house. These are the bills Wallace purposefully pulls out in front of the police officer to give plausible reason for contamination of the notes.
I’ve seen a LOT of crimes almost identical to the Wallace case on the “Fatal Vows” true crime documentary series.
Wallace was clearly a gay man.
These types of cases repeat themselves and it is a story as old as time.
Wallace was found out as being a queen by Julia and hired her done in by Parry and possibly someone else (the actual murderer).
It is basically John Gannon’s theory, except it is Wallace being gay not Gannon’s made up gigolo theory (perhaps he has watched too many soap operas.)
There was even a post where a guy admitted his father was a gay prostitute for Wallace.
Look, I get this theory sounds perhaps a bit out there at first glance, but what I find interesting is the absolute refusal to consider it, when it makes total sense when you look at it.
Unfortunately, many people claim they “can’t see” this or that or create weird autistic objections to any theory they find objectionable or whatever. Talking things out or offer counterarguments is fine, but it seems people just wanna silence theories they find controversial or aren’t in line with their pet theories. Admittedly some are worse than others with this. Rod Stringer is probably the worst, but Antony Brown is getting up there. Ged seems fair although there is plenty he “can’t see” when it suits him.
I think people don’t want to accept Wallace was a gay man. This is harder for many than to accept he was a murderer. Well guess what—he was both! It upsets me too as I used to view Herbert as a personal idol and it makes it harder for me to relate to him— but it’s 2023 and we need to get over it.
In that case, it would certainly not be unusual for him to have married a significantly older woman and never have children with her. And Julia’s entire family refusing to attend the wedding would also not be so strange, if they had suspected he was a gay man marrying Julia to be his “beard”.
Perhaps also not as odd either, for Wallace to be friends with Parry, exchanging Christmas gifts and so long after Parry’s employment ended too. Very different people of a very different age, an unlikely friendship under ordinary circumstances. “Sexually odd”/”deviant” says Gordon about William. To what did he refer? How would he know?
Incidentally, my grandma’s first comment after reading about the case was “was he a gay man?”
Good to have you back with us. I agree that Parry dashing off after spending only ~10 minutes at Lily Lloyds deserves an explanation. If he was the caller he wouldn’t know exactly when Wallace would leave for the chess club. He would know Lily’s music lesson schedule so why put in an appearance knowing she’d be busy? I think it more likely he would be monitoring Wallace leaving home. By going briefly to Lilys he might have missed Wallace leaving for his chess evening. The Qualtrough call was clearly planned with some precision so I can’t see any reason for Parry to visit Lily’s house, however briefly, if he was the caller.
Parry did lie to the police about his movements on the Monday evening which is strange if he just wanted to avoid suspicion he had made a 10 minute phone call. Although engaged to Lily Lloyd I think it likely he was “playing away” and may have spent some time with another girl. This had to kept under wraps and may also account for his not mentioning his 3 hours at the Brine house to Lily or her mother on the Tuesday evening. I also consider it likely that Parry asked the police to use their discretion regarding his alibis and once they realised he was in the clear, they did so.
We should also recall the phone operator describing Q’s voice as “that of an older man.”
As regards Parry having to prove he was “nowhere near Wolverton Street” on the Tuesday evening he chose Mrs Brine’s house which is only a 5 minute drive away from Wallace’s home! This suggests to me that the Brine alibi was genuine. A false alibi would have been further away.
The complicated Qualtrough ruse was so unnecessary for a distraction robbery. Although the official “paying in” day was Wednesday it was Wallace’s habit to pay in on Thursdays. A simple knock on Wallace’s back door on Wednesday and any number of distraction techniques could be used e.g getting Julia to go upstairs and turn on the sink tap while the “water pressure” is checked in the kitchen.. “We’ve had reports….” etc. In that more trusting time this would work.
That’s a very good point which you raise about Parry not needing an alibi for the Tuesday evening if the murder wasn’t planned. This reinforces my feeling that his Brine alibi is genuine, but with some murky aspects related to Parry’s love life.
As for Wallace “allegedly visiting male prostitutes” and being “clearly a gay man” (J Levin) there is not a scintilla of evidence to support either of these assertions apart from Parry’s throw away remark to J Goodman that he (W) was “sexually odd.” Coming from that source….
If Wallace was paying Parry or anyone else he would have given the green light for an evening when his cash box was full of the Pru’s money, not the measly £4 which was missing.
Wallace and Parry didn’t “exchange Christmas gifts.” Around Christmas time they ran into each other near Lily Lloyd’s house. They exchanged pleasantries and Parry gave Wallace a Gresham Assurance Company calendar. Hardly an exchange of gifts between bosom friends.
Parry is undoubtedly a “shoe-in” for the role of Qualtrough because of his poor character, acting ability, dishonesty, and knowledge of Wallace’s household and routine. Accordingly he, like something stuck to your shoe, is difficult to get rid of. However in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary, I don’t think he was involved.
As Mr Justice Wright said of Wallace: “We are not here talking of suspicion, no matter how grave. Suspicion is not enough.”
There is actually a post Ged or some others have, regarding Wallace having paid the man’s dad for sex. It was originally given to Gannon but Gannon deleted his blog on which that post appeared.
By the disarray of bedsheets and sighting of Julia up in the “spare” bedroom (which was allegedly never slept in), she had stopped sharing a bed with William. There isn’t any bedsheets on the kitchen table, Gannon is guessing and guessed incorrectly (he guesses often, “could it be that ___” etc). It’s clothing, Julia frequently worked on clothing. Actually in Goodman’s files an officer who was at the scene mentioned the sewing on the table. That statement is on this site.
There is a reason she decided to stop sharing a bed with William. This was not something they always had done, because Cadwallader had stumbled in on the two of them sleeping in the bed when drunkenly mistaking their house as his own.
If it was a robbery and Julia did not know the burglar there is simply no reason whatsoever to bash her head in repeatedly to a pulp. There is no need to kill her at all if “found out”. She’s both sick and elderly. There are not even ant home phones to contact police. Anyone not known to Julia can easily just run out the door, or even just knock her out and run off. To keep smashing her skull in over and over is absolutely not necessary.
There are so many similar real world cases which were solved.
I hope GED can give us more detail on this angle of Wallace’s sexuality. In the meantime a couple of things strike me as odd: it was the man’s dad (presumably bisexual) who received the payment from Wallace, and somehow the son got to know about it (from dad!?) and felt free to share this information! But let us wait for GED’s reply.
For me there’s no special significance in the Wallaces sleeping apart. Married for 17 years, Wallace was 52 , ailing, and looked 20 years older than he was. Julia actually was almost 20 years older than widely believed.
RMQ, I completely agree with your reasoning about the murderous attack on Mrs Wallace being totally “over the top” if she didn’t recognise the robber. Whoever it was had been recognised by Julia. If the estimate of 11 blows is anywhere near accurate this was an overkill delivered with passion and determination.
Good day all. Glad to see some interest resurrected. It’s certainly not me who has any information about W’s sexuality. I think I like others had read somewhere that some bloke had moved to America after W’s acquittal as he had had sexual contact with W at the Pru – I think the story went something like that and this (possibly other bloke) whose dad told him about W’s sexuality but as Michael says: There is no proof of same, W would make sure the cash box was full to allow payment to Parry or whoever and there were no exchanges of xmas gifts. Parry for me made the call (Beattie didn’t recognise the voice, that’s the crux) He also tried to swindle the money but it wasn’t so the call could be traced he couldn’t know that. The phone engineer under oath makes no mention of it being faulty. Parry for me goes to Lily’s house afterwards as an alibi just in case he is quizzed about the call as it would still be a matter of interest even in just the robbery. Julia was seen in the front bedroom but there’s no evidence she was sleeping there and W makes no mention of it being J’s room. I am quite open to any scenario which is why i’m still on these forums but P rejecting W’s request to do a murder for him for me rules out him even being asked. Isn’t there newspaper articles on here posted by RMQ/Josh of the housebreakers beating elderly people to an inch of their death even though they were not known to their victims?
We have no idea how much money was in the house or in the cash box. Please do not forget that, as it’s quite important to not presume there wasn’t any further money in that house prior. Crewe also made mention of an unaccounted for amount of £18? Was it £18? It’s in the full trial but I’m on mobile.
“P rejecting W’s request to do a murder for him for me rules out him even being asked.” GED I see you do not watch much true crime!!!! Among people who get caught for hiring a killing, they are commonly arrested because someone else comes forward and said the suspect asked them to carry out the murder but they declined/thought the person was joking. Before, evidently, the person found someone who agreed to do it.
I would recommend watching a series like Fatal Vows to learn more about how real world marital murders are carried out and the circumstances surrounding that. Hired killings are quite frequent, and the spouse will go on a short trip away from the house while it happens, often somewhere with CCTV (in modern times) to establish an alibi for the murder. Then they come home to “find” their spouse has been murdered.
I watch a lot of true crime RMQ, it is possibly my fave tv subject. You have all the court transcripts here, you posted them, read them. The Pru books prove there wasn’t a windfall in the house. Ws own bank account proves there was no windfall. Nothing in that way was left for presumption so to turn your account on its head, why should we presume there was a windfall in the house. Like you say many true crime murders are solved because X tells the police that Y asked him to be a hitman, this is why it was too risky for W to ask P and it just isn’t in his character. If he is this mastermind and with double jeapardy, W would not have gone to his grave without gloating about getting away with the perfect murder. Instead we have him lovingly talking about J in his later memoirs. As said before, if hiring anyone, just don’t go home from work on the tues, go straight to Menlove. N0 – Must try harder 😉 (Banter)
“Like you say many true crime murders are solved because X tells the police that Y asked him to be a hitman, this is why it was too risky for W to ask P”
So you are agreeing many true crime murders for hire are solved and shown to be done a certain way and then you say that’s why it was too risky for Wallace to do it that way? Lol, I don’t follow.
Seems like a non sequitur to me. Or even more than that it’s like you are proving the opposite point from your conclusion.
I do agree if Wallace did hire it, the fact he didn’t give himself a better alibi (arguably for both nights) is the best argument against it logically. However, we see many other murder for hires doing things in strange ways too, and we could argue Wallace figured the voice not being his on the phone would be enough. Also perhaps he did not want to be there at the club when the call came thru, and wanted to set things up before he left on the murder night for the hitman.
PS. I noticed your outstanding diorama/model of Liverpool in the 70s and I am really impressed. It’s a shame yoliverpool was shut down as I would love to learn more about Liverpool. I believe Chicago was modeled on Liverpool?
Josh. Of the many true crime documentaries I have watched, some involving hitmen, they have largely been professional hitmen or trusted friends, not someone who had a history whereby one possibly got the other the sack by dobbing him in for robbing the firm they both worked for thereby which could feasibly result in P going straight to the police in revenge on W. These two individuals were as alike as chalk and cheese in their every day existence. You are not only stating W would trust P in the first place to ask such a thing of him but then that he grassed him up by pointing the finger at him straight after the murder. However, as we don’t really know what happened for sure, I accept that all possibilities are on the table but some are more unlikely than others ie. Occam’s razor.
Thank you for your kind remarks about the model. One is currently in the Museum of Liverpool and the extended version I constructed during the Covid lockdown is due to go on various exhibitions around Liverpool – to be fitted in with my friend’s film screenings pertaining to the area covered in the model. Yo Liverpool was a fantastic resource and is still online as a read only site but its owner Kev is on my inacityliving facebook site. Chicago indeed did take its skyscraper lead from some of Liverpool’s buildings including the Royal Liver Building and Orleans House.
As I suspected, and confirmed by GED, there is no solid evidence that Wallace was gay. All this stems from Parry’s remark that he (W) was “sexually odd.” Well he may have been but any marital problems arising from it would surely have been sorted at the start of their marriage, not 17 years later.
I don’t place much weight on Beattie not recognising Qualtrough’s voice. A telephone voice sounds different to a face to face conversational voice especially with the simple technology of 1931 where reception and clarity were frequent problems. Beattie barely knew Wallace and hadn’t seen him at the club during the last two months. And Q asked to speak to Wallace. Even if Q and Wallace shared a strong regional accent, Beattie would never think that Q was Wallace. Staid, ailing Wallace playing a joke? I don’t think so. Factor in the possibility of a handkerchief over the handset microphone to distort the voice and the caller could have been anybody.
If Wallace was Qualtrough he may have bungled the call deliberately, hoping that a record of it would be made and the call traced. Tracing it to the Anfield call box would be consistent with a non-Wallace Qualtrough monitoring his movements but fixing the time at the exchange gives Wallace a narrow time window to get to the club in time. I think the whole case hinges on the creation of these narrow time windows by Wallace both on the Monday and the Tuesday deliberately creating subsequent doubt that Wallace was the killer.
Personally I put a lot on Beattie not recognising the Q voice. Even if he didn’t at the time of the call surely after the murder he’d put two and tow together and how could W trust he’d gotten away with his voice not being recognised.
I also thing W deliberately botching the call so it may be traced, and traced to near his house and a box he admitted using before (which he didn’t have to do) would surely be too obvious and was a case made against him by the prosecution so he’d have to be nuts and couldn’t run the risk that cinema or pub goers and locals and clients would not see him using it.
Since my last post I have been thinking along the same lines as you regarding the phone call. I think that at the time of the call it never crossed Beattie’s mind that it was Wallace himself posing as Qualtrough. However when the murder was revealed and suspicion of Wallace was everywhere he may have had second thoughts to the extent of “Well, it could have been him.” But this is a change of opinion based on new information so Beattie, whatever his current opinion, stuck to his original impression when testifying that it would be a “great stretch of the imagination” to say it was Wallace’s voice. We don’t know Beattie’s final opinion re Wallace’s guilt/innocence but many of his Prudential colleagues shunned him after the appeal and he complained of taking his lunch alone at Cottle’s Cafe.
Wallace using his local phone is, at least to me, not as crazy as it appears. He could say the real Mr Q was monitoring his movements and made the call. The chance of him being ID’d making the call as people scurried by on a dark winter’s night as he stood in the unlit phone box was slim.
Beattie wrote Wallace a personal letter after he won his appeal, it doesn’t seem in that letter that he thought Wallace was guilty.
I didn’t know about this personal letter from Beattie. Very interesting. This does seem to indicate Beattie’s considered opinion that Wallace was innocent. Can you access it and post it for us?
Until Tom Slemen reported the confession of Mr Johnston there was no more suspicion of him than of the other next door neighbours, the Holmes household. Putting the confession aside, I have always been intrigued by Tom Slemen finding that Mr Johnston had a close friend, a colleague at Cammell Laird, who lived in Menlove Gardens. Johnston visited him at home on several occasions so he would be familiar with the layout of the district.
Is it pure coincidence that Wallace’s next door neighbour knew MG East, in a district some 4 miles from Wolverton Street, did not exist?
I recall reading on this forum, but can no longer find it, that RMQ checked out Slemen’s claims as far as it was possible. If I remember correctly, the friendship was confirmed but there was a difference with Slemen regarding whether it was North, South, or West where this guy lived. If RMQ can give us more details, I for one, would really appreciate it as this has bothered me for some time.
The “confession”: Russell Johnston who I believe is the grandson of our Mr J, has denied such a confession could have happened because the family were constantly at Mr J’s bedside until he died. I would have expected him to describe Mr J as an honest even-tempered fellow who abhorred violence and really liked both the Wallace’s etc. etc. and the very last person to be considered as a suspect. Not to mention being so far “gone” with dementia that anything he said was unreliable. Instead we had the weak story of the 24/7 bedside vigil.
The fact is we know very little about neighbour Johnston but if our fellow poster RMQ can help with confirmation of the Menlove Gardens connection, this is surely something that cannot be pure chance. Thanks in advance RMQ for anything you can turn up.
Mark Russell and myself met Russell Johnston at a Wallace event at Prenton Golf club on the Wirral some years back. He vehemently denied any wrong doing by his grandad and said he was going to sue Tom Slemen for libel and defamation of character if he didn’t withdraw his statement. I don’t believe Tom Slemen did withdraw it and I can find no mention of him being sued. It was just another part of bad policing that the Johnston’s were not quizzed more about their having to be coming out of their house at that hour to go on an unplanned visit (according to their daughter) when they were going to be moving in with her anyway the following day. Also, about this unplanned visit. Is there any confirmation that their daughter said it was unplanned and that they certainly never visited her that late before, which I think i’ve read in books. What of the story of Mr J. having blackened his wife’s eyes when he overheard her talking too much to a neighbour once they’d moved? However, I also believe that if they had anything to do with this, why would they get involved right in the middle of it and not just stay indoors. It has been said on here that they got themselves involved just to make sure they’d left no incriminating evidence at No.29 such as fingerprints but they had been visitors and cat minders in the house previously so their prints could legitimately be in the Wallaces.
Hi Ged and Mike,
I tend to agree the Johnstons are suspect although likely not involved on balance.
But it’s sure suspicious they were going out right then especially when you consider John woke up at 3 am or whatever to go for his docks job lol.
Also John returns at 645 right when Wallace was leaving and could easily overheard Wallace talking about going to MGE to Julia on way out or ran into Julia who mentioned it right after Wallace left when bolting the back.
The main reason I think they probably are not involved is I don’t think they had the knowledge to make the call or need for the call (plus Parry really seems like the caller.) But of course one can construct scenarios where they are still guilty even if not the caller (as I did in last paragraph)
Moat likely they were innocent with some unfortunate coincidences pointing to them but when you add in Slemen’s account it does raise an eyebrow.
You are quite right in that most, if not all, of the case against Mr Johnston is based on what may be unfortunate coincidences. Two among these are:
It was Johnston’s last night as Wallace’s next door neighbour and the last opportunity for him to do the robbery without too much inconvenience.
Johnston was allegedly familiar with the Menlove Gardens area.
If Johnston is guilty it must have been planned well in advance: he would need the phone number of Cottle’s Cafe for example which was not in the directory.
One thing is certain: he should have been questioned more thoroughly at the time and if possible eliminated as a suspect.
I may be wrong but I don’t think a libel/defamation action can be brought if the person is dead. At least I hope not! If it could the descendants of Wallace, Parry, Marsden etc would be queuing up.
8.45 pm is certainly late to be setting off; I read the daughter said they usually visited her by arrangement and much earlier. Regarding Johnston (if guilty) staying indoors, I think his plan was to get out of the neighbourhood before the murder was discovered. The murder was unplanned, hence the unplanned snap decision to “visit our daughter.” Meeting Wallace was just his bad luck. All speculation of course.
If it can be shown that Johnston was familiar with Menlove Gardens from visiting his friend/work colleague there then he has to be taken seriously as a suspect. That cannot be pure coincidence. And on top of everything, for what its worth, we have J’s confession.