The following are the first chapter from the book “True Crime Storytime – 12 Disturbing True Crime Stories to Keep You Up All Night”
In the 1930s, Liverpool, England, was not immune from the Great Depression that swept the United States. Many people lost their jobs, struggled to remain in their homes, and relied on food assistance simply to survive. William and Julia Wallace were not those people. An insurance agent, William Wallace still left for work each day at the ostentatious red brick Prudential Assurance Building. Julia, his wife, stayed home, tending to their modest but comfortable residence at 29 Wolverton Street in Anfield, a row of close-quartered townhouses in which adjoining dwellers shared a sidewall.
William, fifty-two and Julia, seventeen years his senior, often struck their neighbors and acquaintances as odd, for a variety of reasons. William pursued his interests in science by lecturing part-time in the chemistry department. He was known to be perpetually in ill-health after having a kidney removed, which could have contributed to his somewhat withdrawn temperament. His wife was even more introverted, notorious in the community for her difficult disposition and relentless suspicion of strangers. The only thing the two had in common was a love of music, William a violinist, and Julia an accomplished pianist. Those that knew the pair would describe their relationship as tense, loveless, and peculiar. But things in the Wallace household were about to get a lot weirder. As in hired assassins, embezzlement, and, of course murder.
Julia Wallace and William Wallace
Photo Credit: Chesshistory.com
Pommeled In the Parlor
William Wallace trudged up the stairs to his home tired, displeased, and a bit disoriented from the night’s events. He hadn’t told his wife, Julia, where he was going, as she was prone to paranoia, and would now have to come up with an explanation. However, seeing as the house was dark, maybe in a fortunate turn of events, his typically night-owlish wife was asleep. Luck didn’t seem to be on his side tonight; the front door was locked. He rounded the house to try the back, only to find it locked as well.
His neighbors, John and Florence Johnston approached, dressed as if for a night out on the town. Seeing that he was having a bit of trouble they stood by as William fiddled with the lock. At last, the door gave way. As he made his way through the rooms softly calling for his wife to no avail, he thought that maybe his fortune had improved. With his wife asleep, no explanation as to where he had been would be necessary. The old man couldn’t be farther from the truth.
His feet knew the well-worn paths in the dark, but he struck a match to light the gas lamps of the front parlor anyway. As the soft glow illuminated the room, the prone body of Julia came clearly into view. Her head, aimed at Willam’s feet, was the first thing he took in. Badly battered, her brain was exposed in places, and a pool of blood soaked the carpet. As his frantic gaze traveled downwards to her feet, pointed towards the fireplace, he noticed the blood spatters on the wall. Investigators would later note that some had seeped into the wallpaper as high as seven feet up. Beneath the still form of his wife lay a partially burned raincoat, an odd addition to the brutal murder scene. Numbly, William made his way back to the patiently waiting couple outside, “Oh, come see, she has been killed,” were the only words he uttered.
Scene of the Crime
Photo Credit: Pinterest
Curiosity, disbelief, a morose interest in the macabre; we’ll never know why the Johnstons followed William back into the house. But they were likely ill-prepared for the grim scene that awaited them. Indeed, there lay Julia in front of the gas fire. So close, they may have noted, that the fire was responsible for the burned raincoat as her dress was beginning to singe on one side. Or, they may have not noticed, being too distracted by the gray matter protruding from her skull. William, normally a man of few words, had another statement to make, “They’ve finished her. Look at her brains.”
1. The constable was called, and as any reputable officer would do, the investigation started at the beginning. Where was William Wallace in the hours leading up to his wife’s murder? It seemed William wouldn’t have to explain his whereabouts to his wife after all, but he would need to retell his tale to an audience who was equally suspicious.
Menlove Gardens East
The story actually began the day before. On January 18th, 1931, William stopped into the Liverpool Central Chess Club at the City Café on North John Street. He was a member who infrequently visited the establishment, dropping by for matches here and there as he had done that night.
While he was on his way, Samuel Beattie, the chess club captain answered a phone call at The City Cafe. A “strong and gruff” voice echoed through the line, repeatedly asking for William Wallace. Upon the second explanation that Mr. Wallace had yet to arrive at the club, the caller left a message. A Mr. “R. M. Qualtrough” wanted to discuss a few things with William at 25 Menlove Gardens East the next night at seven thirty.
When William received the message, he presumed it must be about insurance and it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up in the struggling economy. What he failed to question was how Qualtrough knew he would be at the club that evening, given that this was his first attendance in months.
Nevertheless, the next night, after supper with Julia, William set out. He was not familiar with any R. M. Qualtrough or Menlove Gardens East for that matter but figured it should not be too difficult to find. By six minutes after seven that night, he was on the tram, making the sixteen-minute journey from Anfield to Menlove Gardens North, presumably where Menlove Gardens East should be, too. He asked each station conductor if they knew where the stop was, and if they could instruct him as to when he needed to disembark. Around the same time, Julia was seen accepting a milk delivery back home in Anfield. None of the train staff knew of Menlove Gardens East so William decided to get off in Menlove Gardens West. On foot, he searched for the address Qualtrough had provided, checking with residents, a newsstand, and even a policeman. His search was fruitless, there was no Menlove Gardens East; only Menlove Gardens, North, South, and West. To add insult to injury, no one in the area had ever heard of an R.M. Qualtrough. Cold, tired, and exasperated he returned home.
Sitting at his kitchen table under the watchful eye of the police it was now a little after nine in the evening.
A search of his home revealed four British pounds (or about three hundred fifty dollars today) missing from the kitchen collection tin; which sat seemingly undisturbed where it always had, on the counter. No other valuables or money was missing. Over the next two weeks, police continued searching for the murderer who viciously beat Julia’s head to a pulp. Williams’ alibi was easy enough to follow up. He had been seen by numerous people on his search for Menlove Gardens East. The Johnstons had seen him trying to get into his locked home. Before that, a typist named Lillian Hall reported seeing him around eight thirty-five that night on Richmond Road, just a few blocks from his home. The ticket inspector and tram conductor testified to his boarding the train just past seven. Statements from the neighbors and the milkman placed Julia at home and alive around six forty-five in the evening.
According to the timeline, if William had murdered his wife, he would have had only fifteen minutes to brutally beat her, clean up, and make the seven o’clock train. Physical evidence didn’t support that theory either. An inspection of the drains showed that they hadn’t been used that night, meaning the assailant would have had to leave the home covered in the blood of his victim; not to mention locking the doors as he made his getaway. The only clue that didn’t quite fit was the telephone call from R.M. Qualtrough. Police traced the call and found that it was placed from a phone booth just four hundred yards from the Wallace’s home, right near the tram boarding station.
With little to go on, a missing four British pounds from the tin and a bedroom drawer that was slightly disheveled, it seemed as if the police were on a wild goose chase. At the time of Julia’s death, a serial burglar, known as Anfield Housebreaker, was terrorizing the area. However, the previous rash of break-ins didn’t match the scene at the Wallace’s. There were no other immediate suspects on the police’s list. Unfortunately, this didn’t bode well for Mr. Wallace.
The department handling the case, the Merseyside Police, was extremely short-staffed. This resulted in many positions being filled by officers or other persons who were very ill-equipped to do so, in terms of knowledge, experience, and status. The crime scene photographer was a journalist from the Liverpool Daily Post, and the coroner a forensics expert from Liverpool University. Based on photos and examination, the time of death was originally determined to be around eight in the evening, solidifying the fact that William couldn’t have murdered his wife due to his galivanting all over Menlove Gardens.
But then, two weeks into the investigation, the time of death was moved to six thirty that night, with a complete lack of evidence to merit such a change. With this new information, the police had a “young and fit” deputy retrace the route of William Wallace from the time he left his home until his return and discovery of his wife’s body. Disregarding the fact that the deputy was in much better shape and considerably younger than the elderly and ailing William, the police submitted the deputy’s ability to make the train after acting out a murder as evidence that Mrs. Wallace was likely murdered by her husband.
Upon his arrest, the trial was set for April 1931.
Assassins, Angry Coworkers, and an Apocryphal Trial
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning to the courtroom. Then, they unanimously declared that William Wallace was guilty of murdering his wife, Julia. The defense and the police department had put forth no substantial evidence or explanation of how Julia could have been murdered from within her locked home nor did they present anything to refute William’s solid alibi. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to hang the following month.
William Wallace being arrested
Photo Credit: Coolinterestingtuff.com
Witnesses of the trial claim that it was likely the old man’s demeanor during the trial, one noting his extraordinary composure. “Like every other observer, I found it enigmatic his seeming indifference to his surroundings. Shock? Callousness? Stoicism? Confidence? We shall never know.” Thankfully, the presumably emotionally-biased jury did not have the final say.
When an appeal was filed, the Court of Criminal Appeal in London immediately granted it, making Mr. Wallace a free man once again. Unfortunately, the public shunned him. He regularly came home to find hate mail and death threats. His coworkers avoided him, as did his clients. Eventually, he had to quit his job and move to a new home in Bromborough, Merseyside, where he died from kidney complications just two short years later.
Theories That Went Nowhere
Theories abound, long after the odd couple had passed away. Some held fast to the fact that Julia was murdered by her husband William. However, her earlier diary entries showed no discontent in their marriage, albeit placid and rather dull. His diaries and letters after the murder illustrated intense sorrow for the loss of Julia. Neighbors said as affectionless as their relationship seemed, they never heard arguing or witnessed anything that would suggest an affair. They lived a comfortable life and were not pressed for cash like much of the population during the Great Depression. The motive just wasn’t there.
Aside from that, by all accounts, Wallace would have had only fifteen minutes to murder his wife, clean up, and lock the doors. Additionally, for the large amount of blood spatter, he would have had to get rid of his stained clothes, but evidence showed that no washing up was done in the house. Wallace would have also had to place the call himself, acting as Qualtrough, but his friend at the chess club who received the call testified the man on the other line sounded nothing like Wallace. The pure lack of evidence and motive, combined with the near impossibility of a frail old man murdering his wife so brutally, and then racing around to conceal the evidence before boarding the tram exonerated William in most historians’ eyes.
Photo Credit: Chesshistory.com
There is another theory that William may have not done the deed himself but hired a killer to take care of the task for him. The addition of a second man helps make the timeline work; he could have bashed her skull and buried the evidence, and it also explains the mysterious caller’s voice. Some suspect the man the typist said she witnessed Wallace talking to wasn’t discussing the whereabouts of Menlove Gardens East but the whereabouts of his wife’s body and the murder weapon, having been paid to kill Julia for William Wallace. We may even have a name to put to the face, Richard Gordon Parry.
In the 1980s, as part of a radio show, the mechanic at a garage mere blocks from the Wallace residence at the time of the murder, called John Parkes, recalled Richard Parry stopping in around one in the morning. He commanded Parkes to wash his vehicle with the high-powered hose. When Parkes went to clean the rocker panels, he opened the car door and spotted a bloody glove. “If the police got that, they would hang me!” commented Parry. The perplexing Parry then rattled off an odd story concerning an iron bar and a drain. Parkes never told anyone until the radio show for fear of retaliation.
Why was he so afraid of Parry? That brings us to our final theory. Parry wasn’t a nobody. He was a former colleague of William Wallace at the Prudential insurance agency. The insurance company fired Parry on suspicions of embezzlement; suspicions allegedly perpetrated by Wallace.
Occasionally, Parry would pick up William’s collections when he was too ill to deliver them. Parry had been to the Wallace household on more than one occasion and was a member of William’s chess club as well. He was also a known criminal, picked up multiple times on charges of theft and sexual assault. Did he murder Julia after a robbery gone wrong? Or was killing his act of revenge against William for reporting his siphoning of funds to the insurance company administration? Police could never pin down the “why,” ultimately eliminating Parry from their suspect list. Despite the fact that his ex-fiancée retracted her statement in his alibi; telling Wallace’s lawyers that she wasn’t with Parry the night of the murder, it was completely fabricated.
Because most of the witnesses and former residents of Anfield have long since died, we will likely never know who killed Julia Wallace behind closed doors. Or their reason for doing so.
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