Recap: E38 Julia Wallace

“The Wallace case is the nonpareil of all murder mysteries. [It] is unbeatable.  It will always be unbeatable.” – Raymond Chandler, author of The Big Sleep

A sixty-nine-year-old woman named Julia Wallace was struck in the head eleven times by a blunt instrument in an attack so brutal her brain matter spilled out onto the floor. Her body was found in front of the fireplace in the Liverpool home she shared with her husband William. Although he was convicted for murdering his wife, the conviction was later overturned. Was William Wallace responsible for the crime?

Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie retrace the timeline leading up to and after the murder. They also closely examine the trial, the case’s two primes suspects and a mysterious caller.


On January 19th, 1931, at the Liverpool Chess Club William Wallace frequents, a man identifying himself as R.M. Qualtrough calls the club to leave a message for him. Samuel Beattie, the chess captain, suggests he call William directly, but the mystery man doesn’t have another number. Qualtrough tells Samuel that he wants to meet William about an endowment policy for his daughter. Samuel writes down the man’s unfamiliar address and instructions for William to meet him the next day at 7:30pm. When William arrives later that evening, he’s excited to learn about the new business prospect and wins at chess that night.

The next evening, at 6:00pm, William has a strained conversation with Julia. He is in high spirits and tries to be cordial, but Julia feels miserable from being sick and behaves rudely.  At around 6:30/6:45pm, the neighborhood milk boy, Alan Close, stops by to pick up his earnings from Julia. Her mood softens at his presence and she thanks him for his well wishes regarding the improvement of her health. Alan is the last to see her alive.

From 7:06 to 7:15pm, William travels by streetcar to attend his appointment with R.M. Qualtrough. Loud enough for all the passengers to hear, William repeatedly asks the conductor to call out his stop. Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter and Wenndy suspect he may have been trying to make himself memorable and establish an alibi.

William then transfers to another streetcar and asks the next conductor if the route will take him to Menlove Gardens East, where Qualtrough allegedly resides. There conductor knows there is a Menlove Gardens West, North and South, but he has never heard of a Menlove Gardens East.

William gets off at Menlove Avenue and knocks on a woman named Katie Mather’s door to ask for directions. She doesn’t recognize the address, or the name R.M. Qualtrough, and is unable to help him. At 7:45pm, William approaches a constable but doesn’t have any further luck.

After failed inquiries at a newsstand and the post office, William returns home around 8:45pm and his neighbors, John and Florence Johnston, witness him struggling to open the back door. John fetches the spare key, but William forces his key into the lock and opens the door. The Johnstons are present when William discovers Julia’s body.

Sgt. Harry Bailey, Inspector Herbert Gold, Detective Superintendent Hubert Moore and John McFall, Professor of Forensic Medicine, reported to the scene of Julia’s murder. Professor John McFall tells Inspector Gold that Julia died at 8:00pm that evening, give or take an hour, based on the victim’s rigidity. His failure to utilize more up-to-date methods of determining time of death causes problems when another viable suspect surfaces later in the case.

Investigators note the lack of evidence of forced entry and William’s Mackintosh raincoat lying beneath Julia’s body. It is partially singed by the fire. William is brought back to the police station for a long interrogation session.

During questioning, William tells Inspector Gold and Sgt. Bailey that a former colleague by the name of Richard Gordon Parry may have committed the crime. Julia knew Richard well enough to let him into the house even if he came unannounced. After catching Richard stealing money at work and getting him fired, William believes Richard could have come to the house with nefarious intentions.

Richard not only provides an alibi for the night of the murder, but--without provocation--he also provides an alibi for when the mysterious phone call is made. The only thing keeping investigators from seriously looking at Richard as a suspect is John McFall’s flawed approximation of Julia’s time of death.

On the night of the murder, just hours after the investigation began, Richard paid Atkinson’s all-night garage a visit. Agitated, Richard instructs the attendant, John Parkes, to power wash the inside and outside of his car. In the process, John Parkes finds a bloody leather baseball mitt in the glove compartment. Following his boss’s orders, John Parkes does not immediately notify the authorities.

Investigators retrace William’s steps on the night of the murder and determine he had enough time to kill his wife. While conversing with Detective Superintendent Moore and Sgt. Bailey, Inspector Gold suggests that as a chess player, William’s ability to calculate and anticipate moves gave him wherewithal to premeditate his wife’s murder. He points out the strangeness of the R.M. Qualtrough call and William’s over-the-top efforts to be memorable during his trip to the non-existent Menlove Gardens East. Inspector Gold suspects R.M. Qualtrough is really William. At that moment, a constable enters the room and announces to the group that the R.M. Qualtrough call was traced to a phone booth 400 yards from Mr. Wallace’s flat.

When William Wallace is arrested by Inspector Gold, the press prints numerous theories regarding his motive. One postulates that he overly insured Julia and killed her for the money. Another puts forth the possibility that Julia had a terminal disease and her death was a mercy killing. Carter and Wenndy disprove the first two. The other theories are more outlandish, claiming that William was a Satanist, an opium addict and a philanderer having an affair with his sister-in-law Amy. Carter suggests Julia could have had a secret lover herself and was killed by him.

Upon William’s arrest, John Parkes comes forward to tell the authorities what he saw when washing Richard Gordon Parry’s car. Convinced they already caught the killer, the investigators completely disregard his testimony.

On next week’s episode, Carter and Wenndy strive to determine who was the logical, calculated murderer – William Wallace or Richard Gordon Parry?