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ColdCaseJury 06-06-2016 11:11 AM

Do you think William Herbert Wallace was guilty?
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Do you think William Herbert Wallace was guilty of the murder of his wife Julia?

The Wallace case is arguably one of the most famous in the canon of unsolved murders. The case has everything: a mysterious telephone call, the suspicious behaviour of her husband on the night of the murder, and one of the most bizarre clues in criminal history – a burnt mackintosh stuffed under the victim’s body. It's now the subject of my latest Cold Case Jury e-book, Move to Murder, which has just been published.

The story is well known. In January 1931, a telephone message was left at a Liverpool chess club, instructing one of its members, insurance agent William Wallace, to meet a Mr Qualtrough. But the address given by the mystery caller did not exist and Wallace returned home to find his wife Julia bludgeoned to death. The case turns on the telephone call. Who made it? The police thought it was Wallace, creating an alibi that might have come from an Agatha Christie thriller. Wallace stood trial, was found guilty, but his death sentence was quashed on appeal.

Over the decades scores of books and articles have been published on the case, each advancing a theory on who might have killed Julia Wallace. My research reveals that four major theories that have been advanced to explain the murder:

- William Wallace acted alone in killing his wife, creating a devious alibi by making the telephone call to his chess club.

- Hard-up insurance salesman Gordon Parry made the telephone call to lure William Wallace from his house. He murdered Julia Wallace after he failed to extort money from her.

- William Wallace orchestrated the killing of his wife. The conspiracy involved Gordon Parry making the infamous telephone call to provide an alibi for Wallace, and the murder was committed by Joseph Marsden, a clerk who was being blackmailed by Wallace.

- Most recently, the late novelist P. D. James suggested that William Wallace killed his wife after exploiting a prank telephone call, which gave him the chance to commit the perfect murder.

These four theories are reconstructed, the evidence sifted and discussed, and then readers are asked to deliver their verdicts online. Like the Ripper murders, I don’t believe the Wallace case will ever be satisfactorily resolved - I believe we do not have all the facts. With the release of the police files, however, we now have all the available information, more than was presented to the original jury in April 1931.

So was William Wallace a cunning murderer, or a victim of the crime himself?

I'd love to hear your views.

Antony Matthew Brown
Author, Move to Murder, an investigation into the Julia Wallace murder.

sdreid 06-06-2016 12:05 PM

3 to 1 - Wallace did it.

ColdCaseJury 06-06-2016 12:51 PM


Originally Posted by sdreid (Post 383532)
3 to 1 - Wallace did it.

Given that Wallace is involved in three out of the four major theories, I can see your odds have a mathematical basis!

ChrisGeorge 06-06-2016 02:13 PM

The man certainly acted oddly, his alibi of chasing after an apparently hoax address seems strange and possibly implausible. The bizarre thing though is that after Wallace was acquitted and later died, he and his wife were buried in the same grave in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. So if he did do it, they are together now. :shakehead:

Liverpool City Police page on this curious case:

Recent photograph of the Wallace grave in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool, by Steve B

Steve noted, "This is the Wallace headstone in Anfield Cemetery, and you can see that Julia's age is given as 52 which I believe is wrong, she was 69. This also makes her age on the death cert wrong, as this also says she was 52..."

The following is a great thread on the Wallace case with postings by Liverpool historian and photo expert Ged Fagan and others --

or check out Ged's own blog on the case at


ColdCaseJury 06-06-2016 02:53 PM


Originally Posted by ChrisGeorge (Post 383544)
So if he did do it, they are together now.

Chris, thanks for your reply. Your comment (above) echoes the last lines of my book. In the Epilogue (The Indignities of Murder), I say:

If William Herbert Wallace was involved in her murder, Julia Wallace forever rests in silence next to her killer. Perhaps this would be the greatest indignity of all.

But did he do it? That is the question.

sdreid 06-06-2016 03:14 PM

Parry is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. At least one of the people (an adolescent) who gave him an alibi for the actual time of the murder outlived him by many years and had no reason at that point to maintain their account if it wasn't true.

sdreid 06-06-2016 03:16 PM

I'm not sure how Goodman even centered on Parry unless he didn't know the full story. In my view, Wallace did it then hit the road.

ColdCaseJury 06-07-2016 12:00 AM


Originally Posted by sdreid (Post 383554)
Parry is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. At least one of the people (an adolescent) who gave him an alibi for the actual time of the murder outlived him by many years and had no reason at that point to maintain their account if it wasn't true.

You accept Parry's alibi for the night of the murder, but we know that Parry misled the police about his whereabouts on the night of the call. Parry said in his police statement he was at his girlfriend's house from 5:30pm to 11:30pm on 19 Monday 1931. BUT his girlfriend said in her statement that Parry called at about 7:35pm (giving him time to make the call, BTW) while she was giving a piano lesson, he left, returning at about 9pm.

Parry cannot escape the shadow of suspicion as easily as you suggest.

ColdCaseJury 06-07-2016 12:15 AM


Originally Posted by sdreid (Post 383555)
I'm not sure how Goodman even centered on Parry unless he didn't know the full story. In my view, Wallace did it then hit the road.

To be fair to Goodman, he did not focus on Parry in his 1969 book The Killing of Julia of Wallace. His aim in his book was to prove Wallace innocent, and only spent a few pages speculating on the identity of the murderer. True, he supported Roger Wilkes in the radio broadcasts in 1980, which pointed the finger at Parry.

But did Wallace have enough time to commit the crime? If you read James Murphy's account of what Wallace did, Wallace had to do an awful lot to do in a very short time. From my book:

If the milk boy saw Julia Wallace alive at 6:45pm, as he originally told his friends, then Wallace could never have completed everything he is alleged to have done – bludgeon his wife, wash, dry, dress, tidy the bathroom, clean and possibly hide the iron bar, and stage a robbery – in only three minutes before departing his house at 6:48pm [see Exhibit H in the Evidence File for a justification of the departure time]. This is why your view on the timing of the milk delivery is crucial: if you believe that the Alan Close spoke to Julia Wallace at 6:45pm then you cannot accept this view of the murder. If you believe that Alan Close called earlier, the maximum amount of time available to Wallace was 18 minutes. How long does it take to kill, clean up, stage the house and leave? For how long would you scrub the bath, knowing that if the police found a trace of blood you might be hanged? Did Wallace have enough time? This is a crucial question.

Graham 06-07-2016 02:11 AM

I think it's highly likely that Parry was guilty.

[1] There were the bloodied gloves the garage-man saw in Parry's car when he was cleaning it.

[2] Parry claimed he was with his fiancee Lily Lloyd all that evening, but some time afterwards, I believe after Wallace had died, she said she had been playing piano in a cinema that evening.

[3] Parry was in debt and according to Wallace knew where he, Wallace, kept his insurance collection money.

However, the front door and back door, were locked when Wallace returned home. He went next door to ask his neighbour if he had heard anything, and when he returned to the back door with the neighbour they found it unlocked. I always thought this very odd.


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