William Wallace was doomed from the start. On February 19th, 1931, a month after the murder of his wife, court proceedings to try William for the murder began. No motives or other suspects were considered by the prosecution or defense, and the jury reached a verdict based on their own biases, rather than concrete evidence. Even though William won the appeal, his life was as good as over.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie walk listeners through the trial, reexamine evidence and speculate whether William’s disgraced former colleague, Richard Gordon Parry, could have been the true killer.
Two constables guarding the front door talk about the sizable crowd gathering outside the courthouse for the Committal Proceedings, and the murder suspect’s arrival enlivens the spectators. Some shout “wife killer” while others proclaim his innocence. A reporter tries to get William’s attention and the constables hold a steady line against the surging crowd.
Inside the courtroom, prosecutor J.R. Bishop calls thirty-five witnesses to the stand including Samuel Beattie, the Johnstons, Alan Close, Katie Mather and the two streetcar conductors William encountered the night Julia was bludgeoned to death. J.R. Bishop makes numerous misstatements about William and the details of the murder in his opening statement. Defense attorney Sydney Scholefield Allen objects and William pleads not guilty.
In defending a man of meager means, William’s lawyers take on the task of raising funds for their fees. The trade union their client belongs to and William’s brother Joseph both contribute money to the cause.
For the trial itself, Roland Oliver heads William’s defense team and Robert Alderson Wright serves as the presiding judge. Prosecutor Edward Hemmerde questions Samuel Beattie about the phone call he received from R.M. Qualtrough. Despite pressure from Edward to say otherwise, Samuel asserts that the voice sounded nothing like William’s.
When John Johnston takes the stand, Edward tries to twist his words around to portray William as an unempathetic husband, but he persists in testifying that the marriage was a loving and caring one. Following Florence Johnston’s testimony, Professor John McFall’s comments point to the contrary. He describes William’s behavior at the scene as abnormal, telling the court that he seemed calm and emotionally detached after discovering his wife’s body.
Edward returns to his seat and Roland Oliver takes a turn at cross-examining the forensics expert. His line of questioning reveals that Professor John McFall did not take notes at the crime scene, so the facts he “remembers” are circumspect. Roland also calls John McFall out for using an unreliable method for determining time of death. With his incompetence brought to light, John McFall becomes flustered.
At the next court session, William takes the stand and Edward Hemmerde surprises him with an off-the-wall question. Edward asks William if he likes to play the violin in the nude. The prosecutor then presents a preposterous theory that William wore only his Mackintosh raincoat when he murdered his wife and that he tried to burn the evidence, only to panic and shove it under Julia instead. The prosecution’s scenario is much more plausible.
After both lawyers give their closing statements, Judge Wright addresses the jury directly and instructs them to pass judgement based solely on the evidence. He also reminds them that neither the prosecution or the defense uncovered William’s motive for murdering Julia. Suspicion in Richard Gordon Parry, or anyone else, was never mentioned either.
Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the jury finds William Wallace guilty and Judge Wright passes a death sentence. William is sent to prison and his defense team prepares an appeal. On May 18th, 1931, at the Court of Criminal Appeal in London, three judges reverse the verdict and William walks free.
Shunned by his neighbors, William moves away. His kidney problems follow him to the Wirral Peninsula in Northwest England. Six months after the appeal decision, William checks into a hospital for an emergency operation. He dies a few months later.
In the years following Julia’s death, Richard Gordon Parry’s criminal record grows and his former girlfriend Lilly Lloyd offers a sworn affidavit to a member of William’s former defense team revealing that she lied whens she confirmed Richard’s alibi.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter and Wenndy note that Richard frequented the Cottle’s City Café for his drama club, meaning he had access to the chess club’s match schedule. One theory suggests that Richard had staked out the Wallace house and called the chess club from a nearby phone booth when he saw William leave the house. Pretending to be a man named R.M. Qualtrough and giving a fake address may have been a ploy to get William out of the house for long enough that Richard could get in.
Wenndy thinks it’s plausible that Julia and Richard were having an affair and blackmail or a lover’s quarrel between them resulted in her death. Another theory is that Richard killed Julia out of vengeance for her husband’s role in getting him fired from the insurance company they worked at together. It’s also possible William hired Richard to kill Julia, but neither host thinks William was directly or indirectly involved in her murder.
Carter and Wenndy then present the intriguing theory that John and Florence Johnston plotted the whole R.M. Qualtrough ordeal to rob the Wallaces and murdered Julia when she caught them in the act. After all, they had access to a spare key.
But what do you think? Weigh into the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.