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UK The Julia Wallace Mystery - 1931

Discussion in 'Europe: Cold Cases' started by Lily, Jul 22, 2015.

  1. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member


    It was Tuesday, January 20, a numbing, black night. The neighbours, a couple called Johnston, had been on their way out when they stumbled on Wallace looking agitated in the rear entry. He told them he'd been out for a couple of hours, returning home to find all the doors locked against him. Mr Johnston suggested trying again. "It opens now," murmured Wallace, disappearing through the back door. Moments later he was back. "Come and see!" he exclaimed. "She's been killed!"

    Wallace's tale was a strange one. On the evening before the killing, he had gone to play chess at a cafe in central Liverpool, arriving to find that a message had been telephoned to the cafe not half an hour before. Wallace was to call the following evening at 7.30 at 25 Menlove Gardens East. Although not knowing the caller - who gave his name as

    R M Qualtrough - Wallace, scenting commission, kept the appointment.

    On the next night, leaving Julia sniffling at the back gate, Wallace said he'd taken a series of trams to the leafy suburb of Allerton. But Menlove Gardens turned out to be a triangular affair, and while there was a Menlove Gardens North, South and West, there was no Menlove Gardens East. Nor had anyone heard of R M Qualtrough. Back home, there was Julia, dead on the rug.

    Now the nightmare began in earnest. The police piled in, led by the half-cut CID chief, Det Supt Moore, who almost tripped over the pathologist, down on all-fours observing the progress of rigor mortis. No need to take the rectal temperature, said Professor MacFall. Mrs Wallace had been dead a good four hours. And that meant that Wallace did it before setting out for Menlove Gardens. Supt Moore liked the sound of that.

    Little house, big crowds, police, doctors, photographers, neighbours. Blood all over the parlour, pools on the carpet, spurts and stipples on the walls and pictures. Under the body, a bloodstained mackintosh. "Is this yours, Mr Wallace?" It was. But at the Anfield bridewell, Wallace, his clothes, boots, hands, hair, even his Crippenesque wire-rimmed glasses, were all blood-free.

    Neighbours in Wolverton Street said the Wallaces were a queer couple, dingy and withdrawn. Married for 16 years, no children. Wallace, tall, cadaverous, played chess and the fiddle, looked like a murderer. Julia came down in the world when she married him. MacFall reported she was wearing patched-up corsets when he found her.

    Moore was convinced that Wallace was Qualtrough. By a fluke, the mysterious call to the chess club was traced to a kiosk just 400 yards from Wallace's front door, and smack bang next to the tram stop for central Liverpool. So, Moore concluded, Wallace made the Qualtrough call, left a message, hopped on a tram, got to the cafe, picked up the message. Frontispiece for the perfect alibi.

    But the whole case turned on time. To catch the tram that took him to Menlove Gardens, Wallace would have had to have left home no later than 6.49. But a milkboy swore seeing Julia alive on her front doorstep at 6.45. In the time available, could wheezy Wallace, at 52, a heavy smoker, out of condition with a chronic kidney complaint, really have stripped naked (wearing the mackintosh to shield himself from splashing blood), bludgeoned his wife to death, cleaned and secreted the murder weapon (never found), faked a burglary, attended to various gas-jets, fires, locks and bolts, and dressed himself for a journey across Liverpool, calm and composed, on a winter's night?

    A dozy Liverpool jury thought he could. Wallace was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He got off on appeal, left Wolverton Street and his suspicious neighbours and moved across the Mersey to a bungalow in the Wirral. He died a broken man less than two years later, having first fingered a local Jack-the-Lad ("rather foppish, wears spats, very plausible") as his own prime suspect. But that's another story.


    Shopkeepers and the policeman were able to verify Wallace’s futile trip on the night of the murder, but, nonetheless, Wallace was arrested for the murder of his wife on February 22nd.

    During the initial phases of the investigation, Wallace’s behavior raised a few eyebrows. During the inquiry and subsequent trial Wallace seemed detached and monotone, if not cold, while detailing the events around the horrible murder of a loved one. He took the stand and failed to impress the jury. Why? As an observer of the trial, crime writer F. Tennyson Jesse wrote: “People of unpleasing personality…should be advised never to go into the witness box. The jury did not like the man, or his manner which could have been either stoicism or callousness. They did not understand his lack of expression of any kind and they knew it hid something. It could have hidden sorrow or guilt and they made their choice.”

    Wallace was found guilty and sentenced to hang. He was spared and released by an appellate court, who felt the verdict did not match the purely circumstantial evidence.

    Who was the mysterious R. M. Qualtrough who falsely arranged to have Wallace out of the house at the time of the murder? The chess club member who spoke to him on the phone swore the voice was nothing like Wallace’s voice.

    Wallace found it impossible to return to his life in Liverpool, so he moved to the country where he died in 1933.

    And so the case sat for almost fifty years. In 1980, a radio program about the case pointed the finger at a co-worker of Wallace’s as the killer. The story went that the man, who had an alibi of being with his girlfriend on the evening in question, appeared at a garage on the night of the 20th needing his car completely cleaned, inside and out. The garage attendant noticed blood-soaked gloves inside the car. The radio program tracked down the man’s former girlfriend who stated that the man had not been with her at any time on the 20th.

    Was this the long-sought solution?


    But officially it remains an unsolved mystery.

    GarAndMo49, Kimster and WindStorm like this.
  2. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

  3. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    New theory in famous Liverpool William Wallace murder case

    Leading crime novelist PD James has revealed a new theory to solve Liverpool’s most celebrated real-life murder mystery.

    Police believed Wallace had himself made the Qualtrough phone call to establish an alibi for himself as part of an elaborate murder plot. The alternate theory was that the real killer made the call to lure Wallace away from home to leave Julia unguarded.

    Ms James says she believes the call was made by Richard Gordon Parry, a 22 year-old former colleague who Wallace got sacked from the Prudential. It was, she claims, an act of revenge - “a sick and malicious joke”.

    Writing in the Sunday Times Magazine, she said: “The Qualtrough call was the first step in Parry’s plan to send an ageing and sick man travelling through the cold winter’s night in the hope of an important commission, only for him to realise after making a double futile journey, that an enemy was laughing at him for being a fool.”

    She believes the only remaining suspect is Wallace himself. “Perhaps when he struck the first tremendous blow that killed her, and the 10 afterwards delivered with such force, it was years of striving and constant disappointment that he was obliterating.”


    Three men linked to Liverpool murder in The Killing of Julia Wallace by West Derby author John Gannon

    The three names discussed by John Gannon are William Herbert Wallace, Richard Gordon Parry and Joseph Caleb Marsden.

    Wallace, says the author, knew he didn’t have long to live and didn’t want to spend his last years with his wife – so planned the murder, persuading petty thief Parry to make a phone call which provided Wallace with an alibi, and blackmailing reluctant killer Marsden to do the deed.

    Marsden was about to marry into money – and a very well-connected family – and Wallace, says John, knew his wife had been paying Marsden for sex.

    It’s already well-known that Wallace attended a meeting of the Liverpool Chess Club on January 19, 1931, where he was handed a ‘phone message asking him to call at 25 Menlove Gardens East the following evening to discuss insurance business with an “R.M. Qualtrough”.

    Wallace made the journey to this non-existent address and returned home to discover his wife’s battered body.

    A previous author had introduced the name of Richard Gordon Parry, who had been a junior employee at Wallace’s firm but was sacked for stealing.

    It was suggested Parry knew Wallace’s takings for the day would be at his home and, since he also knew Mrs Wallace, could easily have gained entry. But the police were satisfied with Parry’s alibi.

    Marsden’s name, despite being mentioned in a statement given to the police by Wallace (as someone known to himself and his wife and who would have been allowed into the house), appeared to have been airbrushed from the case.

    John includes an astonishing amount of detail and he describes the book as an “encyclopaedia of the Wallace case”.

    GarAndMo49 likes this.

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