No announcement yet.

Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery

    Coming up soon on an all new episode of Rippercast, Tom Wescott and Jonathan Menges will interview Mark Russell, the author of the new book

    Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery.

    We’d like to open the show up to listener questions.

    So, if you have a question you’d like to put to Mark Russell, post it below or PM me...and we’ll sing your name over the air.

    The link to the episode will be posted in the thread below.

    Stay tuned,


  • #2
    Between myself, Antony and the other posters on the Wallace thread I think we could come up with around 1500 Jon

    Sir Herlock Sholmes

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”


    • #3
      So, besides my obvious question about Amy's involvement, LOL, were the Johnstons involved. WWH has done great analysis on them, STAN, puss the cat,étc,.
      Last edited by Ven; 02-02-2021, 10:59 AM.


      • #4
        My question Jon:

        “Like you I strongly favour a guilty Wallace but my main area of doubt is related to his movements on the Monday evening and how he’d have viewed the risk that he was taking. What if he’d been seen near the phone box for example? Or if the conductor had recalled him getting onto the tram (or even a bus) near to the phone box? Or if someone that had known him got on at the Belmont Road stop and noticed that Wallace was already onboard? With hindsight of course we know that the police didn’t investigate the Monday evening trams but how do you think that Wallace would have assessed and dealt with the risks?”

        Sir Herlock Sholmes

        “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”


        • #5
          We’ll be recording Sunday afternoon GMT (7 Feb) so you have until then to get me your questions or comments about ‘Checkmate’.



          • #6
            Thanks JM....
            so my question is ....

            From page 253 of the trial -

            Q. I notice that afterwards in your first statement you say: first of all, when I arrived at my house at 2.10 "my wife was then well and I had DINNER and left the hose", and again afterwards; "I entered my house and had TEA with my wife who was quite well". (This would have been at 6.05pm when he returned home after finishing work for the day)
            A. Yes, except for the slight cold.

            then on Page 255 (so only a few minutes later) -
            Q. Had you ever told your wife you were going out that night?
            A. Certainly, we discussed it.
            Q. You discussed it?
            A. We discussed it at TEA time.
            (NOT the previous night after chess, NOT at breakfast, NOT at DINNER at 2.10 BUT at TEA after work!)

            William, in his own words clearly distinguishes between DINNER and TEA.

            DINNER could now be considered the main meal you have at night HOWEVER, TEA could never be considered to be had at lunch time i.e. around midday...a "cup of tea" could be had at any time but TEA by itself was never Dinner/Lunch. In those days DINNER was the main meal had at lunch time and in Munro's typed statement from William, William does refer to the midday/early afternoon meal as both Dinner or Lunch at different times. The meal he has when he finishes work for the day at around 6pm is always referred to as Tea.

            If he didn't discuss it until TEA time then Amy could not possible have had the discussion she said she did with Julia.

            Some people have claimed that "told" and "Discussed" are two different things and that he "may have" "told" her at some previous time, and then "discussed" at "Tea". However, in a written statement William says -
            "... I arrived home at 6.05pm. I remember the time quite well because, I looked at the time on the mantlepiece to ascertain how much time I had to spare before leaving for Manlove Gardens East." BTW the clock on the mantlepiece is in the kitchen.

            So, you can't use two different definitions/uses of the words William used to suit both instances.

            A) He either told/discussed before tea, which makes his statement at trial a lie, or

            (B) he told/discussed at Tea AFTER he had already decided to go. Or

            (C) He never mentioned the trip to Julia at all.


            (A) William is lying under oath

            (B) Whether William's lying or telling the truth, Amy could not have discussed it with Julia a 3.30pm that afternoon

            (C) William lied at trial and both he and Amy lied in their statements.

            Let's say, for example, he did tell Julia at breakfast -

            (A) he didn't answer the simple question at trial...but still stated Tea time. And Julia didn't question it?...otherwise it would have been "discussed"...seems a bit strange.

            (B ) although telling Julia about at breakfast, they discussed at Tea AFTER he had already decided to go...seems a bit strange

            (C) no point to make here - if we are guessing he told her a breakfast.

            If AMY wasn't involved how do you explain the above?


            • #7
              I haven’t had the opportunity to read Mark’s book yet, but here are two things I’m wondering about:

              How could Wallace have imagined the Qualtrough phone call would provide him with an alibi, when he couldn’t have expected anyone to witness seeing Julia alive after six o'clock or a few minutes later?

              Discussion: This is one of my key reasons for doubting Wallace’s guilt. As it was, the milk boy Alan Close saw Julia alive probably around 6:37 or 6:38 (he himself told other kids “a quarter to seven"), giving Wallace only a dozen minutes or so at most to murder his wife, set the “robbery" scene and leave the house with his clothes spotlessly clean. That’s hard to believe in itself, but whether it makes an "alibi" is at least debatable. However, under normal circumstances Wallace would not expect anyone to see Julia as late as that. Alan Close would usually arrive on his bike around six o'clock, half an hour or more earlier, Except I understand that some fault with the front wheel of his bike prevented him from riding it that day. He had to do his round on “Shanks's pony" instead, so it took him that much longer.

              Wallace could not possibly have predicted this. As it was, it was pure dumb luck for Wallace that Julia was seen alive late enough to make people seriously doubt whether he could have killed her in the time available. If Alan had arrived at his usual time, and if Wallace did kill Julia afterwards, he would have had forty minutes or more to clean up, but be left with no alibi at all.

              Alternatively, if he did make the Qualtrough call to fake an alibi, he should have made the appointment for 7:00 instead of 7:30, half an hour earlier, allowing Alan to see Julia alive at his usual time, then rush-rush-rush to kill her and off to catch his tram. But he didn't do that.

              A second question that’s really bugging me about this whole affair, though it’s only tangentially relevant to the murder itself. Mark may know nothing about it, but I understand he’s done research:

              Can we really be sure that Julia Dennis was born on the 28th of April 1861, or thereabouts?

              Discussion: I have a hard time believing she was really seventeen years older than Wallace, without his even realizing it! I'm told that James Murphy discovered her birth certificate, but I don’t know where or how, and I question whether he got the right Julia Dennis. Did her family members have it in their possession? (which seems unlikely), or did he hunt for Julia Dennis in public records and hit on the wrong one?

              Mind you, it’s curious that Wallace in his statement to police described her as ”age believed 52 years.” the same as his own. To me this alone is strange, to say the least. Didn’t he know, or at least believe he knew (whether rightly or not!), how old his wife was? I mean, don’t people have birthdays that they celebrate? And aren’t they known to their relatives, most of all their own families, and their spouses especially? I’d never forget when my late wife’s birthday was, my mother's, my father’s, my daughter’s.

              The birth year is another matter, and certainly some people in the lower classes back then seemed to be uncertain about their birth dates, but surely not educated people like Wallace and Julia. Admittedly too she could have lied to him about her age, as some women seem to have done, especially back in those days when records were not so stringently kept. I recall for instance that when Patrick Herbert Mahon murdered Emily Beilby Kaye in 1924, he reported her age as 29 when she was actually 38. So maybe she lied to him about her age.

              But nine years' difference is one thing; seventeen years' difference is quite another. If Julia told Wallace she was 35 when they married in 1914, could he not tell the difference between a woman of 35 and one who was actually 52 at the time (and presumably menopausal)? In addition, MacFall at autopsy estimated her age as about 55, which is much closer to 52 than it is to 69. So I’m bound to be skeptical.

              There may be more information in Murphy’s book, but it's completely unobtainable right now. (And probably costs an arm and a leg if one is available.) Unfortunately that/s a general problem with books of this type.
              Last edited by Gordon; 02-07-2021, 07:53 AM.


              • #8
                Hey Gordon, it's one of my MOTIVES to the murder.. maybe he only just found out about it. Julia's age.
                Last edited by Ven; 02-07-2021, 12:51 PM.


                • #9
                  I don't blame you, Ven! It certainly is hard to discern a motive.


                  • #10
                    Isn't that one of the most important questions: that of a two year old: why?

                    In a prior post I listed
                    - he was gay and Julia was about to out him (no evidence apart from an off remark that he was sexually odd - more likely into whipping)
                    - Julia was declining and becoming an embarrassment
                    - he wanted to live with someone else (but when he could, he didn't)
                    - he wanted freedom to grow roses (sorry that is his joke)

                    I didn't include
                    - because he had found out Julia had lied about her age

                    Since Wallace was an adult, a stoic, and not given to undue emotion.
                    And why would it matter? He was no longer young so having an aging wife would not in itself be embarrassing and anyway he rarely socialised.
                    I suppose if Wallace had longed for children, and Julia gave him assurance that it was still possible, only to have all attempts end in failure to produce issue...
                    But he wasn't Wallace VIII.
                    It is a plot from a very entertaining Agatha Christie story, involving rubella IIRC.
                    And as a motive for murder, I reckon that's where it belongs.


                    • #11
                      My own question would be: is there any likelihood that McFall was leaned on (by the police) to bring back his TOD estimate to when he did?

                      My thought is that if Wallace did it with an accomplice he needed a thorough alibi for an agreed time.
                      Looking at his trail through Liverpool, the most likely agreed time would be 8 o'clock. At about that time he was still asking PC Plod where MGE was and making sure the constable recorded the time of his asking.
                      And McFall's original estimate would have cleared him.
                      But then he put it back. So Wallace was now exposed.
                      And we only have the professor's word that he didn't use rectal temperature or other appropriate techniques, which would have removed such leeway on the time of death.
                      (As professors go he looked a bit of a Charlie as a result.)
                      Just a thought.


                      • #12
                        The audio of Rippercast's interview with Mark Russell can be found at the following link:


                        Also in Spotify, Stitcher, Apple & Google podcasts, and all popular podcast apps worldwide.

                        The video of our interview, should you prefer to see us, is available to play here:


                        Thank you to Mark Russell, Tom Wescott and Jon Rees.

                        Thanks for the listener questions- I tried to get them all in- and I hope that you enjoy the show.



                        • #13
                          Thanks Jonathan. It was great talking with you, Tom and Jon
                          "It is Accomplished"


                          • #14
                            I enjoyed the podcast. Well done all

                            Sir Herlock Sholmes

                            “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”


                            • #15
                              I enjoyed the Rippercast. so thanks to everyone involved.

                              Also, JM, thank you for posting the link to Mango Books. I promptly made use of it.

                              I’m rather a novice to the Wallace case, as the more discerning students here may have gathered. I’ve been familiar with the outline of the case for decades, but not with all the crucial details, so I’ve been “getting up to speed” on those.. As a result, I’ve been looking to see what books on the topic are (a) truly worth reading and (b) obtainable!

                              Some books may satisfy both criteria: notably Wyngarde-Brown’s Trial--obviously a key resource, which is also available free on the Web. Some books satisfy neither criterion, such as John Rowland’s 1949 The Wallace Case--interesting historically no doubt, but long since superseded, and unobtainable besides.

                              Some books satisfy one criterion but not the other. Ronald Bartle’s 2012 The Telephone Murder is still freely available, but probably not worth reading. I gather from reviews that it’s nothing but a rehash of information already available, and riddled with errors besides. What can we say to an author who tells us “Allison” Wildman was a girl? I suspect this book is “a little pot-boiler” and no more.

                              There’s Jonathan Goodman’s The Killing of Julia Wallace of course--a classic--but I already have his book. And Roger Wilkes, Yseult Bridges and others, all of historical interest, but I dare say there’s nothing new there that hasn’t been summarized or retold by others. I don’t plan to make a lifelong study of the Wallace case, and everything everyone has ever said about it!

                              At the other end of the scale is James Murphy’s 2001 Murder of Julia Wallace, highly regarded by many for his original research--but currently unavailable at any price, or so it seems. However, I’m gathering now that Murphy’s veracity left something to be desired.

                              Then there’s John Gannon’s 2012 The Killing of Julia Wallace--echoing Goodman’s title. This has had mixed reviews. Some have criticized it for errors. On the other hand, one serious student of the case called it his “favorite research book”--though he recommended the Kindle edition because it was searchable. Readers are warned to shop around. claims only one copy in stock, a paperback, already selling at a premium for $93.97! is touting a new copy--though only one available--for £18.99.

                              Bringing this up to date, there’s Tony’s Cold Case Jury book Move to Murder, which I’m sure is well worth reading--criterion (a)--but it’s only “semi”-available, criterion (b), and seems to be out of print already, with only used copies available--after less than two years in publication, despite excellent reviews. In this case it was rather than who offered the better deal. The UK site is asking £58.99 for a used paperback copy! They were offering a new copy a short while ago, and if anyone is wondering where it went, I was the one who grabbed it. Another complaint is that I’m sure it was the same copy, from a UK outfit called “Cavalier Books,” that was offered on but also on for a much higher price! So there’s no rule about which site offers the better deals. You have to shop around, that’s all.

                              The other catch is that the book is not estimated to arrive until some time between the end of February and the middle of March! That’s part of what I mean by “semi-available.” Haven’t they heard of airmail? Gee, even Brunel’s Great Western steamship only took fifteen days to cross the Atlantic back in 1848. You’d think these guys were sending it on the Mayflower, and the rest of the way to Phoenix (where I live) by covered wagon!

                              Part of the problem seems to be that they haven’t even shipped it yet, when I ordered it in January, so the folks at Cavalier Books really need to pull their finger out. Perhaps they’re well named, since they seem to have a “cavalier” attitude toward their customers.’

                              Mark Russell’s Checkmate is a different matter. It’s listed on, but it’s temporarily out of stock, It’s listed on, but at a higher price, and won’t be available until August--as was mentioned on the podcast. So I’m grateful for the referral to Mango Books, which does have it available, and it’s naturally good to support a company that has been supportive in its turn to an author like Mark. Furthermore, their e-mail this morning told me they’d shipped my copy (which I ordered Saturday), so they’re on the ball. Congratulations to Mango Books!