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CASE:Move to Murder DATE:1931
The Elephant In The Room by Michael Banks

This guest article written by a reader of Move to Murder argues for Wallace's guilt. It provides a scenario in which he might have been able to commit the crime far more quickly than has been previously thought, including the account presented by author James Murphy. It is worth noting that a wife murdered in her own home is more likely to be killed by her husband or someone emotionally close to her. Indeed, based on Home Office data, it might be three times more likely. This means if we know that a wife has been killed in her home and - before hearing any specific evidence - we guess that she was killed by her husband, we would be correct three times out of four. Not bad odds. But is this case the one out of four? This article argues it is definitely not. It is an abridged version of a more in-depth treatise on the guilt of William Wallace, which is available as a PDF here.

Antony M. Brown

When the police files on the Julia Wallace murder were released in 2001, it was found that Richard Gordon Parry had an alibi for the night of the murder. Realising that Parry couldn't have killed Julia Wallace, you might have been forgiven for assuming that the weight of public opinion would have shifted to believe that her husband was the killer. But over the ensuing years much effort has been made to construct and consider ever more complex scenarios. All of which ignore The Elephant In The Room: the most obvious and the most likely suspect is William Herbert Wallace.

The image of William and Julia Wallace as the quiet, contented married couple is one that many find a barrier to considering William as the murderer of his wife but, as in most areas of life, things aren't always as they appear. Their few friends and associates said that they appeared happy and yet Dr Curwen who regularly treated them both at home felt that "harmony was sustained only by indifference." Nurse Wilson who spent three weeks at the house around eight years before said that their relationship "appeared strained" and "devoid of sympathy and affection." Both saw the Wallaces at close hand and when the shields of respectability might have been down. Wallace's former colleague Alfred Mather called William "the most soured man he'd ever met" and described him as a "bad tempered devil." Add this to the fact that Julia had lied to her husband about her true age (instead of being 53 like William she was actually 69) and our picture of this happy couple might alter somewhat. William had a potential life shortening illness and so the thought of spending his remaining years caring for a wife that was more like a permanently ill mother might have been one that he dreaded. And what if he'd discovered that his wife was nearly 70? Might this not have been the final straw? I think that he decided to kill his wife. It happens.

On the Monday night (the night of the now legendary Qualtrough phone call) William said that he'd left the house at 7.15 and caught a tram to the Chess Club from a stop near to the junction of Breck Road and Belmont Road. The first question to ask (which no one appeared to have done at the time) was why did he walk past two perfectly good tram stops to get there? The first was just a few yards from his back gate? I think that he was putting himself as far away from the call box as possible (and the nearby tram stop). The call was logged at just the time that William would have reached it had he turned right out of Richmond Park instead of left. Chess club captain Samuel Beattie said that the voice didn't sound like William's but is it so unbelievable on a poor sound quality 1930s phone with someone disguising their voice? Beattie was a serious business man and the idea of a prank call would have been an alien concept to him especially in a call related to matters of business. William hadn't been to the club for 3 or 4 weeks so only he knew that he would attend that night.

It's often claimed that William wouldn't have had time to have killed Julia but this ignores the known facts. We have combined evidence of his two neighbours, the milk boy Allan Close (after his interview with detectives) and paper boy James Wildman. The evidence of the first 3 put Close at the Wallace's door between 6.30 and 6.35 while Wildman gave the time as 6.37/6.38. If Close left at 6.38 then William had 12 minutes to kill Julia as 6.50 was shown to have been the latest time that he could have left the house to reach his tram. I believe that this was ample time. He could have done it in considerably less in my opinion. Those that claim that a longer time was required base this opinion on William having to clean himself for blood but there was no evidence for any clean up in the sinks or the bath.

William's mackintosh was discovered bunched up beneath her body though. Why was it there? Some say that Julia put it over her shoulders to answer the door but this raises three problems. 1. Why didn't she simply wear her own coat on the same coat hooks (she didn't own a mackintosh and so couldn't have taken it in error.) 2. She hadn't worn a coat a few minutes earlier when she'd actually gone outside and walked to the back gate and back (was it colder inside than out?!) And 3. If it was on her back how did she fall onto her front with the coat bunched up beneath her? I think Wallace struck Julia down and, as she lay unconscious he knelt next to her, draped the mackintosh over his left arm and shielded himself from just below his eyes to the carpet. Maybe with a little good fortune thrown in he avoided getting blood on him. How long? A couple of minutes? All that he then had to do was empty the cash box and pull off a cupboard door then dispose of the weapon on his route. On with his coat and off he went. Timing wasn't an issue. William could easily have left the house by 6.45.

We also have to ask three more very important questions. Firstly, why was there no blood contamination outside of the Parlour. It's unthinkable that anyone other than William might have intended to murder the innocuous Julia so many believe that this was a robbery gone wrong. A thief would have had no real need for caution as long as he'd left no fingerprints (gloves would have been likely). Yet there was no blood on the gas jets (which were turned down) the doors, the door handles, the carpets, the walls or the gate. William had to avoid blood though for his evenings journey. This speaks of a cautious killer. A spur-of-the-moment killer had little need for such caution.

Secondly, why would a thief/killer have turned down the lights? There's simply no good reason. But is there for William? Yes there is. He was working to a plan where he was to 'discover' the body later on. What if, after he'd left, say 10 minutes later a visitor came? Maybe his sister-in-law Amy. She knocks, sees the lights are on but gets no response. She panics and the police are called and on investigation they find that William says that he'd left Julia alive at 6.45 and yet in the space of 10 minutes someone had talked their way in and murdered Julia leaving no blood outside of the room and then they'd gone straight to the cash box, taken the cash, returned the box to the shelf and left. Only William benefitted from turning the lights off.

Third, William said that the front door was bolted. By whom? If Julia had let someone in it certainly wasn't her as she knew that William was due to return by the front door and that she'd also have to let the visitor out. Obviously the killer couldn't have done it as he was trying to deceive Julia (requesting that she bolted the door would hardly have helped his cause). And why would he have done it after he'd killed her as he obviously hadn't hung around to search for cash as there was no evidence of any search for cash or valuables. We only have William's word that the door was locked but it makes no sense. This was part of William's plan: to hint that someone was still in the house when he'd got back from Menlove Gardens East. More of that later.

Now we consider the journey to see the non-existent Qualtrough at the equally non- existance Menlove Gardens East (MGE). During this three tram journey William constantly pesters Tram conductors about how to get to MGE stressing that he was a 'complete stranger' in that area. He repeats the same questions and even asks an Inspector the same question after he'd asked a Conductor two minutes earlier. Now you might think that it wasn't such strange behaviour for a 'complete stranger' to the area and one desperate to land a potentially lucrative commission? As for the commission, he was so desperate to get it that just 24 hours earlier he told his best friend James Caird that he hadn't even made up his mind to go! And was he a 'complete stranger?' No he wasn't. His sister-in-law Amy lived at 83 Ullet Road, which was a major road off Smithdown Lane where William caught his second tram. William had visited their house several times. William and Julia visited Calderstones Park in the heart of the area two or three times a year. They would even have used the same tram that William used that night. Most damning of all was the fact that his supervisor at the Prudential, Joseph Crewe, lived in Green Lane which is between a Menlove Avenue and Allerton Road. Not only had William been to his house several times for violin lessons but he'd actually tried at his house that very night but the Crewe's weren't at home. The final fact that should destroy any shred of credence for this lie that William was a 'complete stranger' in the area is the fact that during the investigation William was interviewed several times and gave four statements. He mentions the strangers that he'd met that night, the routes that he'd taken and every location and yet he made no mention at all of visiting the house of the one person that night that he'd actually known. Why was that? Because if he'd mentioned Crewe it would have given the lie to his claim to have been a stranger in a strange land.

On this quest William is repeatedly told that MGE doesn't exist but on he goes. And on and on. Even when he's told this by a Constable on his beat William ploughs on. This sense of unreality is increased when we read that after speaking to the second person that night, Kate Mather, he'd said "It's strange, there is no east." So right at the early part of his search he's come to believe that MGE doesn't exist but he continues desperately in search of a commission that he was hardly bothered about 24 hours earlier. On he goes until he's checked a Directory at a newsagent and found that...yes, there is no MGE at which point he becomes worried about his wife and heads home. Only now?

So he returns home taking a less familiar tram route (one that he hadn't used since 1929) and yet no one hears a peep out of him. Gone is the nervous, babbling 'stranger' of the outward journey's familiar route to be replaced by a more confident traveller on a less familiar one. Really? Indeed when the police had called for witnesses, two tram conductors and one inspector from the outward journey immediately came forward because they easily remembered the annoying William. Not one came forward from the journey home. No one remembered seeing him. This, like the search for MGE, was a charade. It was William ensuring that he was remembered. It was part of the plan. William then arrived home at 8.45. He can't get in at first the front door, then the back door, then the front again so he returned to the backdoor for the second time where he bumped into his neighbours the Johnston's who were just heading out. He immediately asks if they've heard anything suspicious so he's obviously fearing the worst.

At this point it's worth mentioning that William had lived at number 29 for 16 years and the first and only time that the back door look had defeated him was on the night that his wife lay dead in the Parlour! He finally gets inside to find the house in darkness and a cupboard door torn of at the hinges. He couldn't fail to have feared for the safety of his wife and yet, standing within reach of the Parlour door, he ignores it to go upstairs. Some have excused this by saying that the Parlour was only used for visitors and musical evenings. This would undoubtedly have been the case but Julia would have had any number of reasons for going in there and it would have taken William two seconds to have checked before going upstairs. Why did he do this? Maybe he wanted one last look around to check for mistakes. Maybe he was getting nervous being so close to the point where the police got involved that he wanted a couple of minutes to compose himself. He returns to the Parlour after going upstairs and 'discovers' Julia. He tells the Johnston's to accompany him inside. A doctor and the police are sent for and events take their course.

At this point is well worth mentioning the front door. William was adamant that it was bolted. Earlier I explained why this was unlikely in the extreme but let's let's look at what was said at the trial to remove any doubts. Firstly, William said that the front door was bolted. Secondly, Mrs Johnston said that when PC William's arrived (the first police officer at the scene) she tried to open the door but she couldn't do it because " is a different lock to mine and I think I was agitated." She was agitated and not blind. It's wasn't because it was bolted that she couldn't open the lock. Then Hemmerde cross-examined PC Williams on the subject:

Hemmerde: What happened?

Williams: After a few seconds of fumbling by someone inside the front door was opened by the accused...

Hemmerde: While the fumbling was on did you or did you not hear any bolt being drawn?

Williams: I did not.

He was in the ideal position to have heard it. He heard Mr Johnston fumbling with the lock but no bolt being drawn. This seems fairly clear. If no bolt was drawn then William Wallace was lying to give the impression that a killer had been inside the house. There had been no killer inside that house since around 6.45 and then until 8.45 when William Herbert Wallace returned home after his phoney search, in an area that he pretended not to have known, for a non-existent man in a non-existent Street.

After 90 years William Wallace is not only by far the most likely suspect he's the only suspect. No leaps of faith are required or complex plots. It was just William.

Michael Banks, February 2020