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CASE:Move to Murder DATE:1931
Double Check by Michael Banks

This guest article written by a reader of Move to Murder is interesting for several reasons. First, it espouses a new theory: Wallace might have had assistance from an unknown collaborator, which explains the title: in chess, a double check is when two pieces simultaneously place the opponent's king in jeopardy. Second, and more importantly in my view, it shows how Wallace might have killed his wife more quickly than previous accounts have suggested. Third, like the Conspiracy theory, it accommodates the testimony of Lily Hall.

Does the addition of a collaborator provide a more powerful explanation than the Wallace or Conspiracy theories? Or is it superfluous and the new account of the killing only adds to the case that Wallace acted alone?

Antony M. Brown

It's my opinion that, in the absence of any new evidence, the Wallace case will never be solved to the satisfaction of anything like a majority of those interested. As it stands we have five main theories with three of those theories garnering the overwhelming bulk of the support. The three main theories are: William Wallace killed his wife Julia; Richard Gordon Parry committed the murder or the murder was committed by an accomplice of Parry's in the course of a robbery. The two other theories are a) Wallace coerced Parry and a man called Marsden into killing Julia and b) Wallace killed Julia after Parry made an unconnected prank call. Of course none of these theories might be correct and so in the interest of completeness we might add c) Julia was killed by persons unknown for reasons unknown. Id like to discuss one further possibility.

In attempting to solve a crime that occurred close to ninety years ago we have to make interpretations based on what we do know and then try to fill in the gaps. We can say "if 'x' happened then it might explain why 'y' happened" or even 'if someone else did 'x' it might explain why 'y' didn't happen." The Accomplice Theory states that the existence of a second man best explains the events of ninety years ago. So it's my intention to test the water and see if we can postulate that Wallace might have had an accomplice and to see if this scenario is plausible and whether it answers any of the questions raised by the case.

Motive or the apparent lack of one is often cited as a factor against the possibility of Wallace being guilty. Motives however often remain hidden. They can fester beneath the surface of a marriage undetected by friends or family. How often after a murder have we heard friends or family say "they always seemed such a happy couple" or "he always seemed such a nice man." The majority of people that knew the Wallace's made such statements but there were dissenting voices. Nurse Wilson who had spent three weeks in the Wallace's home seeing them at close hand said that their relationship had "appeared strained, and devoid of sympathy and affection." Dr Curwen, who had nursed them both regularly did not believe that they were a happy couple and that 'harmony was sustained only by indifference.' Even the chairwoman Sarah Draper could only manage to say that they seemed on 'pretty friendly terms', whilst Alfred Mather, an ex-colleague of Wallace's called him 'the most soured man that he'd ever met' and a 'bad tempered devil'.

These comments can't be brushed aside as inconvenient. Wilson for example spent far more time with the Wallace's than friends would. Most couples would try to keep up appearances by hiding any discontent in social situations. William and Julia were both born in the Victorian era we have to remember, with all of that times loathing of scandal and gossip. Julia was also seventeen years older than she'd claimed to be. And so we have William, an intelligent, cultured man in poor health who probably expects that he won't have a long life remaining and what does he see in front of him. The rest of his life trudging the dreary streets of Clubmoor in all weathers before going home to nursemaid a woman who was increasingly looking and behaving more like an invalid mother. It's easy to imagine William's resentment building up and festering away.

And so I suggest that William, believing that he might only have a very few years to live, decides to kill Julia and spend his remaining years without a wife to nursemaid. He spends weeks thinking and planning every detail but realises that many of the obstacles that confronted him might be overcome if he'd got a confederate. Now, unlike Parry of course, Wallace didn't knowingly mix with criminals but he did remember one of his clients on his insurance round. He's been regularly talking to a client who was constantly behind in his payments. He tells Wallace he's up to his neck in debt and in arrears with his rent. Unemployment is high and because of a criminal record he cant get a job. He also thinks that his wife might be about to leave him. To sum up, this is a desperate man. Wallace tests the water over time then asks the question. Of course Wallace would have been aware of the risks. If the man said no then he could hardly have gone on to kill Julia and risked him either going to the police or spotting a nice little blackmail opportunity. The man said yes though and the plan was on. Wallace had been salting cash away over the years in a box in his lab and so he could offer, let's call him Mr X, £100 (half a year's wages for the average worker.) This would have solved all his financial issues for minimal involvement.

In previous conversations Mr X had let slip that he'd occasionally borrowed his brother-in-law's car so Wallace asked him if he could have arranged to have borrowed it for a a couple of days. He finds that his brother-in-law didn't need the car at those times and so the plan was on.

On the Monday evening Wallace left Wolverton Street just after 7. Mr X was parked near the exit to the alley in Richmond Park. Wallace checked that there's no one around and got in. They drove off and parked near to the phone box as Wallace was concerned about being seen and recognised. Wallace again checked that there was no one around and walked the few feet to the box. He made the call remembering to ask for his own address. He felt that this might have strengthened the view that someone was a) trying to get Wallace out of the house and b) he was double checking that they had got the right house. When he finished the call he checked that there was no one around and returned to the car. Mr X then drove him to the town centre near to the club. They waited for a few minutes as Wallace didn't want anyone asking how he'd gotten there so quickly after having left the house at 7. He left it a bit tight but arrived at the club at around 7.45. Mr X then went home.

On the Tuesday evening, after tea, Wallace took the money from the cash box and put a large paper bag somewhere accessible in the kitchen and then got ready to go out. He started to get worried as the milk boy was late and he couldn't kill Julia until he'd gone. Alan Close arrived around 6.35. Whilst Julia was dealing with him Wallace went into the Parlour to check his appearance in the mirror. The fire had been lit because Julia intended to play the piano for a while after he'd gone. When he heard the door close he called for Julia to bring him his mackintosh which she did. As she was handing it to him Wallace reached down, picked up the iron bar and struck Julia a blow. She fell against the fire and the mackintosh caught light. Wallace patted out the flame and then noticed that Julia was lying against the grate and that there was smoke coming from her skirt. He pulled her into the middle of the room cursing to himself. She began to groan. Wallace put the mackintosh on backwards giving it the appearance of a surgeons gown. He took an old pair of gloves out of the pocket and rained down the remaining blows. Years of growing resentment poured out. He took off the gloves making sure that he got no blood on his hands and then the mackintosh which was spattered with blood. He pushed the mackintosh beneath Julia's body believing that this would smear the evidence of blood spatter and so point the police away from seeing its real use.

It was now approximately 6.42. He went into the kitchen, retrieved the paper bag and put the iron bar and the gloves into it. He noticed some blood on his shirt cuffs so he took it of and put it into the bag too. He then went upstairs and put on another shirt fastening it up as he went back downstairs where he puts on his coat. He was now beginning to panic slightly. Close turning up late hadn't helped. He pulled off an old cupboard door to give the impression that someone had been looking elsewhere for cash. He turned down the gaslight in the Parlour. He then picked up the bag from the kitchen and turned down the rest of the lights before leaving by the back door. It was around 6.47.

He walked along the alley where Mr X was parked at the same spot in Richmond Park. Again he checked that there was no one around and got into the car. He made sure that Mr X knew what to do and he then payed him part of the money. He drove Wallace to his first tram stop and Wallace set off for MGE. Mr X went somewhere and burned the gloves and the shirt. He has plenty of time to dump the weapon anywhere (maybe a canal.)

When Wallace decided that he could continue his search no longer he returned home. When he got into Richmond Park Mr X was waiting for him at the alley way. He told Wallace that the evidence was destroyed and the weapon is where no one would ever find it. Wallace then gave Mr X the balance of the cash reminding him how much he was now implicated in the nights events. Mr X assured him again of his silence. Whilst this conversation was taking place Lillian Hall passed unseen but she recognised Wallace talking to an unknown man near to the alley way.

Wallace got home and went through his charade of not being able to get in. The reason for that part of his plan was twofold:

1) he wanted to give the impression that the killer might have still been in the house, perhaps escaping by the back door as Wallace was at the front; and

2) if he had a bit of luck and a neighbour or someone across the road might have seen him and it would have helped his cause if they later had said to the police "yes I saw Mr Wallace frantically trying to get into his house." As he returned to the back yard the Johnston's appeared unexpectedly. He asked if they had heard anything suspicious but they said no. Wallace tried the backdoor again and this time opened it. He was now getting more nervous; his mind was racing, trying to recall if he'd made any errors. For a second he thought of asking Mr Johnston to accompany him (due to the 'possibility' of the intruder still being inside) but thought it best that he had a final quick look around so he went in alone. When he got to the hall he bolted the front door as he'd planned all along to show why he couldn't get in. He had a look around upstairs and all looked in order. He went back downstairs and opened the Parlour door. He struck a match; edged past Julia's body and the pool of blood and turned on the gas. A few deep breaths and he returned to the back door to tell the Johnston's of his 'discovery'.

Michael Banks, January 2019

So who could have been the collaborator? It was someone Wallace could trust or blackmail, was short of money, was criminally inclined and had access to a car. It seems like a perfect description of... Gordon Parry. If only the police had thoroughly cross-checked his alibis for both nights. Antony M. Brown