the murder of Julia Wallace
After the last couple of episodes, we’re crashing back to earth this week with the lesser known story of William Herbert Wallace and his wife Julia. This is a case named over and over again as the quintessential murder mystery, despite its relatively unknown status.
The Killing of Julia Wallace – John Goodman – A good account of events and cheap too!
The Murder of Julia Wallace – James Murphy – Another good account, but more expensive and slightly harder to get hold of.
Court Transcript – The complete transcript of the court case of William Herbert Wallace.
The Man from The Pru – Feature length film based on the case.
If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving us a review over in itunes or your app of choice. It really helps us out. Cheers!
Lacking the infamy of the Black Dahlia or Jack the Ripper, the Murder of Julia Wallace often flies under the radar. Set in Liverpool to the backdrop of a bitterly cold winter, it is a visceral murder case with very few forthright answers. Contemporarily described as “One of the most diabolically ingenious murder mysteries of modern times”, tonight, we turn our eye on the life of William Herbert Wallace and the sudden, unresolved murder of his wife Julia. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
During the latter half of the 18th and throughout most of the 19th Centuries, Liverpool was in a constant tug of war with several cities, including the likes of Glasgow, Birmingham, and Manchester to be crowned “The Second City of the British Empire”, generating huge wealth, pushing social and economic boundaries. Throughout the Victorian era, it maintained a staggering level of activity, with over 40% of the worlds trade passing through the dockyards. It was home to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first railroad system to discard the use of animals in favour of steam power exclusively, as well as a host of other innovations such as signalling and fully scheduled timetables. The offices of the White Star Line sat by the docks, famous for its ownership of the Titanic, which, whilst built in Ireland, was registered at one of the many docks on the River Mersey that thrived with ships. Through Irish immigration and border expansion, in less than a hundred years, the city more than trebled in size.
Despite these heights, Liverpool quickly began floundering as the 20th Century broke. The Atlantic slave trade, which had funded much of the cities earlier successes, was firmly abolished 100 years prior and exports of goods had stagnated and eventually started to shrink. By 1931 the population of Liverpool sat at a number around 850,000 strong, the bars filled with the Jazz of Duke Ellington, the cinemas lit up with the scratchy, black and white of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The streets were lined with new housing, emerging from the re-housing projects that had sprung up to negate the rising unemployment as the grip of the Great Depression reached out across oceans, uprooting entire industry’s and wrecking trade markets overnight.
The winter of 1931 was a cold and bitter one, snow and ice had laid on the ground for much of it and storms blew through regularly. For most, life was permeated by the simple pleasures of radio plays and walks in the local parks. And so it was for William herbert Wallace and his wife Julia, residents of Wolverton Street, Liverpool who, until this point, none had heard of. Within a year, this would all change, as William Herbert Wallace was about to become a household name throughout Liverpool and the Nation.
William Herbert Wallace
William Herbert Wallace was born in Millom, Cumberland, in the North West of England on the 29th August, 1878. He was the first of three children to his parents, Margery Hall and Benjamin Wallace, a printer and stationer by trade and part-time insurance agent for the Prudential. At a young age he showed enthusiasm for the outdoors, sports and the arts and was known to enjoy nature, cricket, football and greek and roman philosophy. His father was an amateur Geologist and mother a pianist, both having a solid influence on William as he grew older, when he developed a keen in interest in Chemistry and learned to play the Violin.
As a youth, he helped his father in the print workshop and in 1892, at the age of 14, left school to start work as a drapers assistant, studying a five year apprenticeship under master draper Thomas H Tenant, in Barrow. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, he worked in several positions relating to drapery, but fancied himself more worldly.
“Wanderlust which had obsessed me in earlier years grew to fever heat and at the age of 23, I sailed for India.”
William arrived in India in 1902 and took up a salesman’s position in the Calcutta branch of Whiteway, Laidlaw and Co. however he suffered from kidney trouble and after just a few years, in 1905, moved to Shanghai, where his brother worked as a printer for the British government with his wife. This move was again, short lived and after several hospital stays due to recurrent problems with his kidneys, he returned to England by doctors advice, on 19th March 1907. Within a month of his return, he was admitted to hospital for surgery to remove his left kidney. It took him 18 months to recover and return to work at a Manchester branch of Whiteway, Laidlaw and Co. however he found the work tiresome and droll and so instead, left the company to pursue his interest in politics. He lived with his family in Harrogate and begun speaking for the local Liberal Party. In 1910, he took the position of Liberal Registration Agent in the Ripon division of Yorkshire. It was at this time that he met Julia Dennis, who captivated him immediately. In his diary, he wrote of his feelings for her:
“Dark haired, dark eyed, full of energy and vivaciousness, she filled in every corner of the picture I had dreamed of, that “One woman of all the world” most men enshrine in their hearts.”
She lived just two streets down from William and the pair began spending a great deal of their free time together.
Julia Dennis (Wallace)
Julia Dennis has a somewhat more mysterious early life and certain dates and details were obfuscated moving many of the facts into a grey area. What is known is that she was born on the 28th April, 1861 in Bruntcliffe Farm, North Yorkshire. She was the second of seven children born to her parents William Dennis and Anne Smith. On the eve of her tenth birthday, Julia’s mother Anne died giving birth to her seventh child, which hit her father very hard. His health suffered and eventually this forced him to give up farming, instead taking on a role as Innkeeper. It was a briefly held position however as in 1875, he too passed away, succumbing to liver disease.
Julia embarked on a career of teaching and became governess to several families, an occupation which could offer her stability and a roof above her head. It is during this time when facts surrounding Julia turn a little South. At the age of forty, she cut ten years from her age on the official census, giving herself as thirty, a fabrication possibly invented to aid in her employment, though she apparently took this new age into her relationship with William Herbert Wallace.
After the pair met, they begun dating and quickly married in 1914. On their marriage certificate, she gave herself the age of 37, sixteen years younger than her actual age of 53 and she also fabricated her parents occupations, promoting her father to Veterinary surgeon and her mothers name gained an accent aigu and a French origin. Her birth place had also shifted to leafy and well-off Sussex. It’s been theorised that these fabrications were made by Julia originally to aid her in securing employment as a governess, being that most women in the role were young, single and from middle class, well-bred backgrounds, which her own true background fell quite a way short. How much of the deception was known by William Herbert Wallace, now her husband, is unknown. None of her siblings attended the wedding, had he married Julia knowing only her name as the only truth?
Regardless, the pair were now happily married and William and his father moved in with Julia, living in her flat in Harrogate. At the outbreak of war in 1914 however, all party politics were suspended and Williams position in the Liberal party was lost. Instead he answered the call to fight for King and Country, like most men of the time. He answered the call six times in fact, each time unsuccessful as his medical issues surrounding his earlier kidney surgery stopped him from enlisting. Instead, with the aid of his father, he took a position as an insurance salesman with the Prudential, earning £270 a year plus 30% commision, a good wage at the time. This new job was based in Liverpool and so William and Julia upped sticks and rehomed themselves in central Liverpool in March of 1915, living in the district of Clubmoor, nearby to Williams agency. One year later in July 1915, they moved to a three bedroom terraced house in Wolverton Street, Anfield, built only three years prior and settled down to a comfortable life. It was an unremarkable, lower middle class area of Liverpool, the houses not at all showy, but a step up from some of the more destiture housing in the lower class areas. They lived reasonably well, able to afford a cleaning lady who visited once per week and by all accounts appear to have had a happy marriage. William described these early days of their marriage as:
“Filled with complete enjoyment… With all the happiness of quietude and mutual interest and affection.”
They slept in the master bedroom, whilst William turned one of the spare rooms into a Chemistry Lab and Julia the other into a storeroom for her various accessories, hats and clothes items. William studied Chemistry at the Liverpool Technical College and two years later, began working there as a part time lecturer in Chemistry, a position which he held for five years.
William and Julia’s evenings were filled with listening to radio plays together, William, who had recently taken up playing the violin, accompanied Julia whilst she played piano and the couple often took walks together in the local parks. William founded the Central Chess club with his friend James Caird and twice a week the club met in Cottles City Cafe, in the basement of 24 North John Street, a venue which played hire to many activities. Not the greatest player in the club, William played only on the second string team and attended the club semi-regularly, attending on most Mondays, however he tended to skip the later Thursday meetup unless he was scheduled for a tournament match. Towards the end of the 1920’s, Williams health once again caught up with him and he suffered frequent bouts of kidney ailments, headaches and depression, often leaving him bed-bound. Further to this, Julia too seemed to suffer from equal bouts of poor health, often gastric or bronchial in nature and the pair seemingly lived for several years, alternating periods of health and sickness. During a spat of Bronchitis, William found himself bedridden and as such, handed over his insurance rounds to colleague Richard Parry, who covered for him and visited William at home to hand over cash collections and brief William on the work undertaken.
And so life continued for the Wallaces, alternating bouts of illnesses but otherwise living a quiet life. When asked about the couple, opinions were mixed. One nurse, Mrs Florence Wilson, remarked on them as:
“A very peculiar couple, their attitude towards one another appeared to be strained and the feeling of sympathy and confidence which one usually found existing between man and wife appeared to be entirely absent.”
She described Wallace as:
“A man who appeared to have suffered a keen disappointment in life.”
And Julia as:
“Peculiar in her manner and dirty. During her husband’s illness, she slept on the sofa in the kitchen although the front bedroom was vacant. Relations between them were not those of a normal couple and they were certainly not the happy and devoted couple as described by other people.”
This was an observation and opinion shared by the family doctor who also remarked on his thoughts that the couple appeared to perhaps not be as happy as they liked to appear to others. William Herbert Wallace himself makes little mention of fighting or malice in his diary entries. In fact, quite the opposite, he wrote instead of his concern for Julia when she returned home late one night, leaving him with a great anxiety that she may have befallen a road accident. This even lead him to check in at the local police station to see if any reports of accidents had come in that evening. When she returned safely, delayed due to an accident on the tracks of the train she was riding, he wrote:
“It was a relief to know she was safe and sound.”
And there are many other entries pertaining to their marriage, on May 15th, 1929 he wrote:
“Julia reminds me today it was fifteen years ago yesterday since we were married. Well, I don’t think either of us regrets the step. We seemed to have pulled well together and I think we both get as much pleasure and contemptment out of life as most people.”
Whilst it seems he forgot their wedding anniversary, his sentiment seems fairly clear. Whether or not they lived in perfect happiness and harmony, the couples relationship overwhelmingly seems to have been one of placid companionship, filled with music and light radio entertainment, continually disrupted by illness, but for the most part quietly content. That was until January of 1931 when the story of William and Julia Wallace take a nosedive into the world of murder, suspicion and mystery.
January 19th, 1931
Monday 19th January 1931 was another damp, windy day, following a week of storms that had been hanging over Liverpool. William left for work around 10am, catching the tram to his locale and by 2:30pm he was back home, having a schedule which allowed him every other Monday afternoon off. He had a chess meetup that night and after eating together with Julia, he set out between 7:15 and 7:20pm, leaving via the back door and walked to the tram station to catch the no.14 tram that would take him there. At 7:20pm, Louisa Alfreds, a switchboard operator at the Anfield telephone exchange connected to a phone box, receiving a call from a man asking to be connected to Cottles City Cafe, the home of the Chess Club. After failing at the first try to connect the two, the same man called back two minutes later. This time he spoke with another operator, Lillian Martha Kelly. After conferring with her supervisor, Annie Roberts, concerning the initial connection difficulties, the call went through successfully and Annie logged the interaction, on account of the earlier troubles, including the phone box number, Anfield 1627 and the receiving number, Bank 3581.
Gladys Harley, waitress at the Cafe picked up the phone receiver in the venues small phone booth. A man’s voice enquired after William Herbert Wallace, asking if he was at the Cafe. Gladys handed the call over to chess club captain Samuel Beattie, who explained to the caller that though he had not seen Wallace yet that evening and couldn’t say for sure if he would show up or not for the meeting, though if he did, he would be due to arrive shortly and it may be better to call back later. The caller stated that he was unable to call again and instead asked for Wallace’s address, though Beattie himself did not know it. Instead, the caller suggested, if possible, could he leave a message with Beattie to pass on instead? He told Beattie that his daughter had just turned 21 and that he would like to speak to Wallace concerning his business of Insurance, insisting that it was Wallace specifically he wanted to deal with. He then left his name, R.M Qualtrough and address of 25 Menlove Gardens East, Mossley Hill and asked that Wallace visit him at home the following evening at 7:30pm. Beattie wrote the information down to pass on to Wallace and the caller hung up after confirming Beattie had taken the correct information.
At 7:45pm, Wallace entered the Cafe, greeted his friend James Caird and sat down to play chess with another member. As Caird walked through the Cafe, he was taken aside by Beattie who asked Caird for Wallace’s address, whereby Caird confirmed to Beattie that William had by now arrived. Beattie then approached Williams table and passed on the message he had received from the earlier call. Wallace wrote the details of the message into his Prudential notebook, initially taking down the address as Menlove gardens West until Beattie corrected him, whereby he struck out West and corrected the note. He was initially confused by the message, he had never heard of an R.M Qualtrough, nor a Menlove Gardens West and after some brief discussion with other members who too could offer no assistance on the address, he wrote the details into his Prudential notebook and returned to his game.
At 10pm, William Wallace left the Chess club with James Caird and fellow member Mr Betton. The trio caught a tram and head home, Caird lived in Letchworth Street, just a few streets down from Wolverton St, Wallace and Caird walked along the street discussing the message, Qualtrough being an unusual name that neither had heard before. The two made their farewells at Cairds doorstep and after a couple of minutes further walking, Wallace too reached home. Julia was still awake and the couple ate a late supper and retired to bed.
January 20th, 1931
The morning of Tuesday January 20th was a continuation of the week long poor weather, grey, cold and wet. William Wallace donned his bowler hat and mac and ventured out in the rain to do his rounds at 10:30am, returning at 2pm for lunch with Julia. By now the weather was much improved and after eating, he left once again at around 3:15pm to finish up his days work.
At 5:15pm, William made his last call of the day at 19 Eastman Road, before returning home at 6:05pm, for a light supper together with Julia. He had been turning over the previous nights message from Qualtrough all day and the time had come to make a decision. Deciding it best that he at least check out the mysterious address, it was after all a decent work oppurtunity, he left home at 6:45pm to track down the elusive Menlove Gardens East. Wallace hopped on the No.26 tram that took him to Tunnel Road and crossed onto the No.5 tram at 7:06, he chatted with the conductor, Thomas Charles Phillips along the journey and confirmed four times with Edward Angus, the ticket inspector, that he was on the right route, eventually jumping off at Penny Lane to catch a second connection, boarding the No5A tram at 7:15pm, the 5A took him to his final jumping off point on the corner of Menlove Avenue and Menlove Gardens West at 7:20pm.
Wallace walked down through Menlove Gardens West and turned into Menlove Gardens North. The maze of roads was frustrating and he stopped a passerby, the woman wasn’t overly sure where East was, and suggested it could be a continuation of Menlove Gardens West, so Wallace doubled back on himself and continued down Menlove Gardens West until it turned into Dudlow Lane. Here he met another passerby, Sydney Green, and asked directions again. Green explained to wallace that there isn’t an East as far as he was aware, only a North, South and West. Feeling he might be on a wild goose chase, Wallace instead decided to try 25 Menlove Gardens West and knocked at the door apprehensively. 25 West was the home of Mr Richard Mather and his wife Katie Ellen Mather who answered the door and confirmed with Wallace that she’d never heard of an R.M Qualtrough and he certainly wasn’t living at the residence. Wallace thanked her for her time and stepped back out onto the pavement of Menlove Gardens West. He tried Menlove Avenue, and Menlove Gardens South, but found that all the numbers of the houses were evenly numbered, here, he met another passerby who couldn’t help, being a stranger to the area. A thought occurred now to Wallace, he somewhat recognised the area, his superintendent at the Prudential lived nearby, maybe he could help. He stopped by his house, knocking on the door, but unfortunately the home was empty for the evening and no answer came. Now at a complete loss, he wandered once again around the local streets until he eventually met PC James Edward Serjeant. The PC confirmed Sydney Greens earlier thoughts, that there was in fact, no Menlove Gardens East, instead suggesting Wallace to try the local Post Office for a directory where he could at least check for the name Qualtrough.
It had been almost half an hour of searching before Wallace walked into the Alberton Road Post Office at 7:45pm. However, Wallaces poor luck continued and there was no directory, the manager of the Post Office suggested to Wallace to try instead the newsagents across the street and finally, after asking the manager, a Mrs Lily Pinches, he was loaned the use of a directory, though Lily Pinches confirmed, as she passed the book over, that there was certainly no Menlove Gardens East. By 8:10, Wallace conceded the loss and decided to return home, frustrated. He repeated the tram connections home, arriving in Wolverton street at 8:45pm.
Tired and cold, WIlliam Wallace slid his door key into the front door of his house, only to find the door would not budge and there was no reply to his rapping. With a sigh, he removed the key and tried the back door instead. There was a dim light shining from the scullery into the gloom of the kitchen but little sign of any life. Again, after trying his key in the door, he found that it too would not budge and knocked hard on the wood. There was no reply. Skipping from back to front and then after confirming the door would not open, back to the rear entrance again, he met his neighbours, John Sharpe Johnstone and his wife Florence Johnstone who joined him and suggested retrieving their spare key if he continued to have no luck. William mentioned that it was somewhat concerning, as Julia would not have gone out, as she was currently suffering from a bad cold and asked if they had heard anything unusual that night, the neighbours explained they had not, just as the door finally gave. William entered the dimly lit house, lighting a lamp with a match. Moments later he burst back through the same door, exclaiming to the Johnstons
“come and see, she’s been killed!”
The Johnstones slowly followed Wallace through the house from the kitchen, following his lamp light into the lounge and there, fully clothed and lying on the floor covered in a blood stained mac, was the body of Julia Wallace.
Julia’s body was lying on the rug on the floor, feet towards the fire place. Her head had been badly battered and it appeared she had been dead for a while. There was a large gash above her left ear and her skull had been shattered. Mr Johnstone went to fetch the police and doctor and told his wife and William not to touch anything in the house. The pair removed themselves to the kitchen to await the arrival of the authorities. William noticed a shelf in the kitchen where he kept his Prudential collection box had had it’s door torn off at the hinges so he took down the metal cash tin and found that around £4 had been taken, a sum worth around £260 today, once adjusted for inflation.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnstone had alerted his local GP, Dr Dunlop and continued on to the police station where he told the PC on desk duty who informed and dispatched PC Fred Williams to the scene. PC Williams arrived at Wolverton street at 9:10pm and took Julias pulse, finding no signs of life. He and William then checked the upstairs bedrooms, during which William explains to the PC the brief details of his trip to find the nonexistent Menlove Gardens East. The two rear rooms appeared undisturbed, but the front bedroom, where Julia kept many of her personal items was found a scene of some distress. Julias hats were strewn across the room, bedclothes were pulled from the bed and pillows and handbags were lying on the bed and floor, though it appeared as if nothing had been stolen. The two moved back down to the kitchen and sat down at the table. William noticed Julias handbag and checked the contents, noting again that nothing appeared to have been stolen, when a second police officer, Sergeant Breslin arrived at Wolverton Street and a sudden flurry of activity swept through the house as Dr John Edward Whitley Macfall, professor of forensic medicine from the University of Liverpool along with Detective Superintendent Hubert Moore and the head of the Liverpool Special branch Sergeant Adolphus Fothergill also showed up to inspect the scene. Macfall inspected Julias body and noted that with no defensive wounds, many of the blows to the head would have been administered whilst she was face down on the floor, concluding that it was a prolonged and frenzied attack. He gave a time of death for Julia to be around 8pm, estimated from the state of Rigor Mortis as it had spread through the body. The night was a long one for William, as police came and went until the early hours of the next morning. William told and retold his movements for the night, time and again and was inspected for traces of blood, none of which were found. Eventually, Julia’s body was removed from the house at 1:15am leaving behind Williams blood stained mac, lying in a macabre pile amongst blood matted hair in the center of the lounge. It was 4am before William was driven to the house of his Sister-in-law where he had planned to stay during the police investigation of his home on Wolverton street. There was little sleep to be had that night, both for William who was in a state of some shock and the police whose work had only just begun. Over the subsequent days, Julias autopsy revealed she had died from one of eleven wounds on her head, administered by a blunt object that was assumed to have been a metal bar and quite possibly a fire-poker, found to be missing from the Wallaces home. Despite extensive searches of the area and local drains and sewers, no murder weapon was ever found. The grisly murder was causing a considerable stir in the area and theories and suspicions as to the identity of the killer quickly began circulating.
Almost immediately rumours began circulating concerning the murder of Julia Wallace and suspicions that William was the killer followed promptly. Within a matter of hours, people were passing on slivers of information, some gleaned from facts and others manufactured as the story travelled through Anfield.
Wallace was also suspect number one as far as the police were concerned, simply by association as is common in preliminary stages of a murder investigation. The wallaces were seemingly inoffensive with no enemies and though £4 had been taken from Williams lockbox, there were many valuables left behind, as well as cash in Julias handbag in the kitchen. In fact, there was really little else to go on at this early point in the investigation. The police immediately began taking testimony from witnesses as they came forward, as well as attempting to corroborate Wallaces own story of his movements whilst hunting down the non-existent Menlove Gardens East, a story he recounted step by step in his first official statement. One key witness turned out to be Alan Close, a sixteen year old milk delivery boy, who had delivered milk to the Wallaces and was the last to have seen Julia alive at 6:45pm. He was cajoled by his friends to tell this information to the police, which he did and had his story corroborated by the local paperboy who saw both Alan Close and Julia at the time suggested.
This information meant that if William Wallace was indeed the killer, he had just over 20 minutes to murder his wife, clean himself up and make the journey to the tram stop to catch a tram by 7:06pm. The journey on foot between Wolverton Street and the Tram stop on the corner of West Derby Road, a distance of 605 yards and one repeatedly reconstructed by police, who found it a close call. At times they actually ran the journey, just to extend the amount of time it would give the hypothetical Wallace to murder his wife, clean up and feign a robbery. It was a stretch, but with no other suspects, the suspicion continued to fall on Wallace, who the police theorised had made the call to the Chess club the previous night himself, to help set up his own alibis. There was only one other suspect at that time, a man known both to Wallace and the police, Richard Parry.
Richard Parry was born on 12th January, 1909 in Liverpool, the first of six children to William John Parry, a treasurer to the Liverpool Cooperation and Lillian Jane Evans. The family was comfortable financially and staunch methodists. Richards father was a fairly distinguished liverpudlian, a veteran of the first world war, he went on to serve as treasurer or chairman on several boards and committees across the city. Richard, the eldest son, had a lot to live up to, or rebel against.
Whilst at school, Richard Parry suffered his first brush with the law. Every morning as he walked to school, he pulled down a boundary wall surrounding the building sites of new housing being erected along his route. He did it so often that it had become a part of his morning routine and eventually this caught up with him, as the builders stood watch to catch whoever was causing the damage. The damage he had caused was quite considerable and he was eventually convicted at a juvenile court for Damaging Property. Whether or not this foreshadowed his future misdemeanors, or was just a youth causing mischief is something unknown.
Whilst at school, Parry developed an interest in acting and joined the schools dramatics society, where he met his future girlfriend Lily Loyd. in 1923, he left school and in 1926, joined the Prudential as an apprentice insurance salesman, whilst continuing his interest in acting through joining the Mersey amateur dramatics society which met in the same building as Wallace’s chess club every Thursday night.
Whilst covering Williams work as he recovered from Bronchitis in the winter of 1928, William noted that the cash that Parry had collected from Williams patch and had been bringing to his house, had some discrepancies. When confronted about this by William, Parry smoothed the whole thing over by paying out of his own pocket to cover the losses.
Parry became a suspect for having a known motive, he had been confronted by William for discrepancies in his takings and may or may not have led to a mutual agreement arranged between Parry, his father and the Prudential on his departure from the company. Furthermore, he knew the interior of the house and would have been a familiar face to Julia, who may have let him into the house without any concern. Parry frequented the same Cafe as Wallace as a member of the Mersey amateur dramatics club and could have easily seen a timetable for members of the Chess club, which hung on a noticeboard by the door and there were also hints to the police that Parry may have had a somewhat more intimate relationship with Julia, though it was all speculation on the part of the authorities. Wallace himself had given Parrys name to the police during his initial statement as a person Julia would have let into the house whilst he was not home. The police really had very little else to go on and so investigations into Parrys whereabouts were undertaken.
As it happens, on the night of the phone call, Parry had been visiting his girlfriend Lily Loyd, a fact backed up by her mother, Josephine Lloyd who told the police that Parry had dropped by the house at “about 7:15pm”, the exact time the call was being made to the Chess club by “Qualtrough”. The phone box itself was able to be tracked via the records taken by the operator supervisor due to the initial failed connection and it was found to be in Rochester Road, some 20 minutes drive away from Lilys house. This appeared to be a solid alibis for Parry. More damingly for wallace, it was a mere 400 yards from his own house.
As for the night of the murder itself, Parry apparently had an alibis covering himself for that too. He stated that he had dropped by to see a Mrs Brine, where he had stayed until 8:30pm, also present were her daughter and nephew. He then went out and bought some cigarettes and a paper from the Post Office and then on to a store on West Derby Road to enquire about a battery for a radio. He dropped in on a friend, Mrs Williamson to chat for ten minutes concerning her daughters upcoming 21st Birthday plans around 8:30pm and then on to collect Lily from the local cinema where she worked. Both Lily and her mother confirmed he then stayed from 9PM until 11PM that night, before leaving to return home.
These were not the only witnesses for Parrys whereabouts that night however. But for now, the police found the alibis to check out and inquiry into Parry as a suspect died down. Instead the police refocused their efforts onto Wallace, dispatching a plain clothed officer to tail him and note his every move.Still the police were busy reenacting wallace’s journey, figuring it be an average of 18 minutes and thus, they concluded that Wallace would have had the time to do what he needed and still make the tram by 7:06pm. They didn’t however, account for any cleaning of blood stains from skin or clothes, nor for Wallace’s poor health, but regardless, Inspector Moor was quite happy with the results. Wallace was pulled in once again to give a fourth statement to police and despite no glaring faults, or changes to his original story, a warrant for his arrest was issued and at 7pm on the 2nd February, he was apprehended by Superintendent Hubert Moore, Charles Thomas and Inspector Herbert Gold whilst staying with his sister in law, for the wilful murder of his wife Julia Wallace. As he was read his arrest, he simply replied:
“What can I to say in answer to a charge of which I am absolutely innocent?”
The next day at 10:30am, people poured into the Liverpool court room in order to catch a glimpse at the proceedings. Police had to disperse a packed entrance hall of about 200 hopefuls who had arrived too late to secure a place in the courtroom itself. Whilst the prosecution outlined the case against Wallace, he stood in the dock, stoic and composed in a dark suit, bowler hat perched on a seat. As the prosecuting solicitor read the details, he made mis-statement after mis-statement, one after the after totalling 18 errors by the time he had completed his speech. Some of the errors were simple, such as mistaking districts and addresses, some statements were critical, such as:
“On entering the back door, the accused asked his neighbours to wait in case there was anything wrong”
This was in fact, the other way round. It was the Johnstons themselves that suggested they wait. Details like this were left unchallenged and when asked if he had anything to say, wallace merely stood and told the packed room:
“Nothing sir, except that I am absolutely innocent of the charge.”
Wallace was later that day made to stand in several line-ups for witnesses to positively identify him as the man they had seen on the night of the 20th January, making his journey to Menlove gardens. He then confirmed his solicitor to be that of Hector Munro, of Herbert J Davis, Berthen and Munro and a member of the Chess club, although the two men were not known well to one another. Wallace was then lead away to await trial in Walton Prison. Funds for the services of Munro were supplied partially by Wallace and his younger brother, with substantial donations from both local Prudential officers and Union members nationwide who sent representatives to meet with Munro to ask questions and even hold a mock trial of sorts. Once they heard Munro out on the facts of the case, the Union voted to cover the expenses for Wallaces defence, an act which made history as the first time a trade union would guarantee defence costs of a member.
Parkes and Parry
As alluded to earlier, There was another witness who had seen parry on the night of the 20th, a man who now, after Wallaces arrest, chose to speak up about a matter that had been lying heavily on his mind. Parkes worked as a mechanic at a local Taxi rank and garage, a place that acted as something of a hub for overnight traffic in the area, often the workers there would invite customers in to warm themselves with a mug of tea and a bit of gossip and conversation. On the night of the murder, Parkes had heard all about the commotion at the Wallace household and rumours had already began flying through the place that Wallace was the man responsible for the crime. Later that evening however, Richard Parry paid Parkes a visit. He appeared agitated and asked Parkes to hose his car down, inside and out. Parkes turned the high powered hose to the job, despite thinking to himself that the car seemed fairly clean. When he inspected the the interior of the car, to ensure he wouldn’t soak anything important, Parkes found a leather glove, covered in blood in the passenger compartment. Parry snatched it from him promptly, jokingly saying “If the police found that, they’d hang me.” Parry paid parks for the job and took off into the night, leaving Parkes with a decision to make. After confiding with his boss before signing out for the night, the pair concluded to have nothing to do with the whole situation, unless Wallace was arrested for the killing of Julia. Now that had come to pass, Parkes decided, finally, to speak up.
Parkes asked his boss to contact the police about the incident and Superintendent Moore showed up to take the statement and hear Parkes story. Once he had concluded telling the inspector all the details of his finding of the glove, Moore simply dismissed the entire event outright and disregarded the entire affair.
The committal proceedings begun on Thursday, February 19th and once again, the prosecuting solicitor repeated the same mis-statements in his opening speech to the court that he had made in his previous appearance, this time including several more. This time however, it proved to be too much and Schofield Allen, who was appearing on behalf of Munro to defend Wallace stood to his feet and told the court
“Time after time Mr Bishop is suggesting things. It is his duty to present this case fairly, without bias and on the facts. Wallace is on trial for his life and my friend seems to forget that. Mr Bishops duty is to present the case for the Crown, cold, hard, logical facts are needed and not things to prejudice Wallace. I protest strongly about this, and this is not the first time it has been done.”
The remainder of the day was dedicated to hearing testimony from various witnesses on the character of Wallace, his relationship with Julia as well as some details pertaining to the phone call made to the Cafe on the night of the 19th January, including the fact that the phone box was situated 400 yards from Wallace’s house in Wolverton Street. The committal proceedings lasted for a further six days, passing by with as much public interest as the first, each morning queues formed outside the courthouse with many having to be turned away once capacity had been reached. Witness testimony was heard pertaining to all facets of Wallace’s movements on both the night of and the night before the murder, as well as evidence submitted that no force of entry had been noted on Wallaces property, either to the house or the rear garden, along with several statements made concerning Wallaces diaries that he had meticulously kept for the years leading up to the present and that included many references to his life with Julia being one of contentment. The hearing concluded with a statement from Wallace:
“I plead not guilty to the charge made against me and I am advised to reserve my defence. I would like to say that my wife and I lived together on the very happiest of terms, during the period of some 18 years of our married life.”
“The suggestion that I murdered my wife is monstrous. That I should attack and kill her is, to all who knew us, unthinkable and unbelievable; all the more so when it must be realised that I could not gain one possible advantage by committing such a deed. Nor do the police suggest I gained any advantage.”
“On the contrary, in actual fact, I have lost a devoted and loving comrade, My home life is completely broken up and everything that I hold dear has been ruthlessly uprooted and torn from me. I am now left to face the torture of this nerve wracking ordeal. I protest once more that I am entirely innocent of this terrible crime.”
He then sat down, silently and awaited the date of the trial.
The trial proper began at 10am on Wednesday 22nd April, at St.Georges Hall. Just like the pre-trial seatings, the affair was the subject of huge public interest and the court room, with room for 300 people was easily filled, with many hundreds more turned away outside. William Wallace faced the courtroom on that morning and firmly stated his plea, Not guilty. The prosecution gave a two hour long overview of the case and the witnesses were called to give evidence. Amongst the topics on that first day, most concentrated on Wallaces movements on the 19th of January, the phone call made to the City Cafe and the voice on the other end of the phone.
PC James Rothwell, gave evidence of seeing Wallace at 3:30pm on the 20th whilst he was working. The policeman was well acquainted with Wallace, being both a local to the area and one of his customers. PC Rothwell stated that Wallace was looking
“haggard and drawn, and he was very distressed — unusually distressed. He was dabbing
his eye with his coat-sleeve, and he appeared as if he had been crying.“
Though through further questioning, he admitted he was unsure if he was actually crying or if perhaps, the cold wind could simply have been stinging his eyes. When Samuel beattie was cross examined, he was asked:
“Do you know mr wallace’s voice well?”, to which he replied, “Yes”.
“Does it occur to you now it was anything like his voice?”, his reply was not one of ambiguity.
“It would be a great stretch of the imagination for me to say it was anything like that.”
The remainder of the day continued by questioning witnesses who spoke to wallace on the night of the 19th January, whilst he made his way to, and hunted for, Menlove Gardens East.
The second day opened with the Johnstones, Wallaces neighbours, present at the time he discovered Julias body, who gave their account of the evening. Next up were various police officers who responded to the immediate discovery of the murder, including superintendent Moore, who confirmed with the prosecution that all the windows were locked and that there was no evidence of forceful entry to the house. Afterwards Wallaces cleaning lady was called to the stand, who told the court of the missing poker from the fireplace and then a locksmith, who confirmed that he had examined the locks of Wallace’s house for the police the day following the murder and concluded they were both stiff, but in good working order.
The third day saw queues forming outside the court at 5:30am, it was to be a big day for the trial, William was to take the stand for the first time and the furore outside the court was palpable as thousands were turned away. Under cross examination, the prosecution heavily insinuated that Wallace had concocted the entire set of events leading up to the murder of Julia, pointing out several key points, namely that “Qualtrough”, if he truly was unknown to Wallace, would have had no possible means to know whether or not Wallace had received his massage at the chess club. He pointed out the phone box being a mere 400 yards from Wallace’s house and that if “Qualtrough” was a fake in order to lure Wallace away from his home on the night of the 20th to find an address which never existed, it was a plan that relied on the chance successes of a precarious chain of improbable events. He also questioned Wallace as to his conversations with so many people whilst he searched for Menlove Gardens East, suggesting that many were unnecessary and full of details, such as giving the time and over explanations of his activities that were seemingly out of the ordinary along with pointing out that the sheer number of people asked was a result of the address intentionally being wrong, again, the prosecution heavily insinuated that the address given to Wallace was incorrect precisely to provide him with an array of witnesses to his alibis.
“If you had been given the right address, of course, you need not make a number of enquiries, one would have been sufficient, you follow what I mean? The wrong address is essential in the creation of evidence for the alibis. Do you follow that? If you are told of an address which does not exist, you can ask seven or eight, everyone of whom would be a witness where you were.”
The prosecution then followed with making points of both the poor job of a thief, if the crime was indeed a burglary gone awry on account of the many valuables left untouched and probed Wallace on the locks to his doors and why he had such trouble entering the house, suggesting that perhaps he was merely waiting for his neighbours to arrive, to provide further witnesses. After more than three hours on the stand, Wallace finally stepped down and made way for Professor James Edward Dible, Pathologist at Liverpool University who called into question the veracity of the time of death, due to the inaccurate method of measuring the state of Rigor Mortis as the sole predictor.
Saturday the 25th April saw the final day of the trial of William Wallace. With Capital Punishment yet to be outlawed in England, if he was found guilty, there was a very real chance he would be sentenced to hang. The closing speech for the defence begun by drawing heavy doubts as to the likelihood that wallace made the original phone call to the chess club and in highlighting the accuracy of the time of death and concluded as such:
“Members of the jury, I have finished. The onus in this matter, the burden of proof, is wholly upon the Crown. You have got a crime here without a motive ; you have got a man here against whose character there is not a word to be said ; you have got a man here whose affection for his wife cannot be doubted. You are trying a man for the murder of a woman, who was his only companion, for no benefit. The Romans had a maxim which is as true to-
day as it was then : ”No one ever suddenly became the basest of men.” How can you conceive such a man with these antecedents doing such a thing as this? Finally, if I may say so, it is not enough that you should think it possible that he did this – not merely enough, but it is not nearly enough. On looking at the two stories, you may say : “Well, the story of the Defence does not sound very likely, but the story of the Prosecution does not sound
very likely either” ; and if that be the state of your minds, then he is entitled to be acquitted. I suggest that this should be the state of your minds : The story for the Defence is not very likely, but at least it is consistent with all the facts ; the story for the Prosecution sounds
It was then the turn for the prosecution to give it’s closing speech. The speech addressed the two vital points focused on by the defence, that of the phone call and the time of death.
“Let us take the facts on the first. The prisoner admits that on the Monday night about 7.15 he left his house. About 7.15 obviously may mean two or three minutes one way or the other. He gave that statement quite early on – I think the night of the murder – and that statement is not and cannot be varied. The telephone box is four hundred yards from his house. Walking five miles an hour, one would do that in rather under three minutes ; walking four miles an hour, in rather over. He is a tall man, and one could probably fairly give him a good four miles an hour walking at night at 7.15. From the telephone box, about three minutes from his house, someone tries to get through to the City Caff. My learned friend said : “How did the Recorder get the fact that nobody knew or could know he was going to be there ? He must have got it from the police” - I did not, I got it from his client. In the deposition, as I put it to him. Inspector Gold, giving his evidence before the Magistrates, and again here, said “I asked him if he knew anyone who knew he was going to the club “; and, ”Had he told anyone he was going ?“ To that, Wallace said : “No, I had not told anyone I was going, and I cannot think of anyone who knew I was going” ; and upon that I based the statement that nobody would know that he was going or could know. It is suggested somebody might have looked at the match list up in the City Cafe , and I think you know, from Mr. Beattie, that that was only provisional as people might never turn up for their matches, and have acted upon that. Now let me come back. Assuming he left the house on this three minutes’ journey at 7.15, he could easily have been in that telephone box at 7.18 ; but by a singular coincidence the man who wanted him, Qualtrough, was in that telephone box at the identical time at which Mr. Wallace might have been there, and, by another singular coincidence, at that moment was trying to ring up Mr. Wallace. That is how it starts. The man in the box is ringing up at a time when, on Mr. Wallace’s own times, he might perfectly well have been there”
The defence went on to explain the ease of disguising one’s voice over a telephone call and once again reiterating that if the man who made the call was not Wallace, it would be absurd to simply cross one’s fingers and hope he received the message, not knowing if Wallace would turn up at the Chess club or not and the numerous other junctions that this plan crossed but could have easily failed, were it not for dumb luck. The speech pointed to Wallaces behaviour throughout the evening of the 20th January, up to and after his discovery of Julias body and concluded:
“Now, members of the jury, the points I want to draw your attention to in conclusion are these : First of all, the overwhelming probability that the man who left this house at 7.15 on the evening of the 19th was the man who was in the telephone box about 7.15. He said three minutes later than that, 7.18. Only three minutes walk from his house there is a telephone box from which this call goes through. I suggest to you that on that part of the case a great deal points, if not everything, to the man there being the prisoner. As regards the time of death, the other point that my learned friend said was so vital, I submit that that also is easily established. The man who had made his plans, whether the boy was seen at 6.30 or 6.35 talking to this woman, had, between that time and 6.49, practically twenty minutes, and there is no reason to suppose that a man who had done a thing like that would go very slowly. If he did it, he was trying to create an alibi, and he would”
“I am bound to suggest to you, on behalf of the Crown, that the evidence connecting this man with that message is strong evidence ; that the evidence that this woman was alive roundabout 6.30 is strong evidence ; the evidence of what that man did when he came back to the house is strong evidence that he was not acting then as an innocent man”
The judge gave his final speech to the packed, restless courtroom, emphasising the lack of motive and dismissed the jury to make their deliberations. It took the jury a single hour to consider the evidence for the case for and against wallace and when they returned, the judge stood to give the verdict. The courtroom, so full of chatter and restless onlookers throughout fell deathly silent to hear the outcome.
The foreman of the Jury gave the decision. “Do you find the prisoner guilty, or not guilty of murder?”
“Guilty” came the reply.
When asked if he had anything to say as to why he should not be sentenced to death, Wallace stood calmly, hands behind his back and stated simply:
“I am not guilty. I cannot say anything else.”
Wallace disappeared from view, slowly taking the steps out of the courtroom as the trial concluded. In a twist of events however, wallace was not done yet.
As Wallace was removed from court and taken back to Walton Prison, the gears were already turning for the defence to launch an appeal against the guilty verdict and it was officially lodged on Monday 27th April, stating that the weight of evidence was against the verdict, as consistent with innocence as it was with guilt. The appeal took place on the 18th and 19th of May at the court of criminal appeal in the Strand, London. Both the defence and prosecution laid out long, exhaustive speeches and once they were completed, the presiding judges allowed the appeal and removed themselves to discuss their verdict.
At 4:15pm, in a decision of some uniqueness, the guilty verdict against wallace was overthrown, not for admission of new evidence, or any mis-trial by a preceding judge, but for error in judgement by a standing jury. The evidence, it was decided, was not enough to offer a guilty verdict.
“The conclusion that we have arrived – is that the case against the appellant which we have carefully and anxiously considered – and discussed – was not proved with that certainty which is necessary in order to justify a verdict of guilty.”
William Herbert Wallace left the appeals court and returned to Liverpool a free man.
In the months following the appeal, Wallace attempted to return to work at the Prudential, but found quickly that not everyone in Liverpool supported his freedom. He was routinely harassed, making his work and home life equally difficult. He moved house, to a small bungalow on the Wirral, just outside of Central Liverpool. He commuted to an office position the Prudential had moved him to to allow him to work away from the public eye.
In the winter of 1932, Williams kidney problems began flaring up again and in February 1933, he was hospitalised, requiring surgery. The surgery failed and on the 26th February 1933, William herbert Wallace passed away. On the 18th March, just under two years from his successful appeal, he was buried in the Anfield Cemetery in the same grave as Julia.
The case of Julia Wallace is one that has fascinated for decades and with it’s meticulous documentation, one that has been worked over time and time again. New information was still being unveiled 50 years on from the original date of the murder and there has been numerous books based either directly on or heavily influenced by the case, as well as a feature length film.
Nowadays, there are two main schools of thought as to what happened on the nights of 19th and 20th January, 1931.
In the first, we have those that believe Wallace to be the killer. That the crime was coldly worked out, calculated in minute detail and carried out very nearly to perfection. Those that believe this theory build a case against Wallace that he left home to go to the chess club on the 19th, made the call on the way, ensuring to fudge the original call to the operator, ensuring a log of the call would be made. He then proceeded to kill his wife on the 20th whilst dressed in his macintosh, stripped off the coat placing it on her body and made quick work of the journey to the tram station for 7:06 to make the journey to Menlove Avenue. Naturally, he knew the address was false and so made pains to speak to as many people as possible, creating himself an alibis with a great many witnesses. Upon his return, he made an intentional fuss at his front and back door to draw attention to his neighbours, once again gaining witnesses for his return home and discovery of the body. In this theory, Wallace had to have thought through hundreds of minute details, such as his taking the address down wrongly in the City Cafe when he received the message, right down to the conversations he had with each witness, ensuring just enough information was given or received to allow both success as evidence and failure on the part of finding the falsehood of the address at too early a point in his plan.
However, if that is the case, one must ask the question why he would have done such a thing in the first place? There are further suggestions that his married life may not have been all that Wallace made it out to be, however, why would one lie in their own private diaries? There are suggestions that Julia was having an affair, but it all lies in speculation. The macintosh in the theory does explain how he remained clean during the murder to an extent, however, would it have been possible to contain the blood merely to the mac and not anywhere else, when blood spatter reached seven feet up the walls of the lounge? Some say his behaviour after the murder was too cold, too uncaring for a loving husband grieving for his wife, whilst others point to his stoic personality even before the murder, as well as the pressures to remain strong in a crisis that many judged as amiable for the time.
The second theory is that it was another who phoned the Cafe to leave Wallace the message, pretending to be Qualtrough to lure him from his home allowing the murder to be carried out. As there was no forceful entry to the house, it is suggested that the door was knocked and whomever it was, was familiar to Julia and William and voluntarily asked inside the house. The killer then proceeded to murder Julia and flee before Wallace returned home. The macintosh in this theory was commented on by Wallace himself, who suggested that perhaps Julia tossed it over her own shoulders when she went to open the front door, outside being as cold as it was.
In this case, the murderer is most often theorised to have been Richard Parry. Parry had something of a motive and a history of minor criminal offences, including theft. In later life, he continued this trend. Parry also spent time in the City Cafe and could easily have seen the Chess clubs timetable, pinned to the noticeboard by the door that detailed Wallaces participation at the club on the 19th. Many years later, in 1981, his then girlfriend, Lily Loyd suggested whilst being interviewed for a radio program that she covered for parry to help create him an alibis, claiming she told police she had met Parry at 9pm on the night of the 20th, but in fact, it had been much later. How much later she was unsure of and refused to give further details. The details of Parrys whereabouts on the night of the call are also at odds with Lily Loyds statement and allow for Parry to have had ample opportunity to have made the call to the cafe. And what of the glove found in the car, covered in blood? These are all very damning on the part of Parry, but are no less circumstantial than the evidence against Wallace.
There are many other theories beyond. Some believe it could have been the neighbours, some a local burglar who had been carrying out a spat of break ins at the time. Others suggest hybrid theories involving Wallace, Parry and a third man, Joseph Marsden.
Almost all evidence for the case against Wallace is as circumstantial as the evidence against Parry, or anyone else. Mysteries remain and with every answer, there are new questions, one example being that if it wasn’t Wallace in the phone box, why had he not called into the wallaces house on the night of the 19th? After all, the Box was a mere 400 yards away? Edgar Lustgarten, One time President of the Oxford Union, crime novelist and journalist wrote of the case:
“… as a mental exercise, as a challenge to one’s powers of deduction and analysis, the Wallace murder is in a class by itself. It has all the maddening, frustrating fascination of a chess problem that ends in perpetual check. … Any set of circumstances that is extracted from it will readily support two incompatible hypotheses; they will be equally consistent with innocence and guilt. It is pre-eminently the case where everything is cancelled out by something else.”
The case of the murder of Julia Wallace endures, both intriguing and frustrating in equal parts. With police files now missing and with many of the direct contacts to the case now deceased, it will, more than likely, maintain its position in “perpetual check.”