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Julia And William: An Old Unsolved Mystery

Liverpool in 1931 was a far cry from the city today. The city is synonymous with the Beatles and is remembered for the Albert Dock and the Liver building. Nonetheless, in 1931 Liverpool was encountering exponential population evolution, in part caused by the Housing Act of 1919 which flooded the region with new houses. The 1931 census records the community as being the biggest in its history, fifty percent huger than in 2011.

The city was also blighted by union strikes and race unrest which were fuelled by its outstanding transport links. Even though crime, in the region was high, this case still managed to stun and surprise its residents.

Julia And William

Julia Wallace: England's most infamous whodunit | Criminal
Pic: Vocal

William Wallace, in 1931, was a 52-year-old sickly insurance salesman wedded (some say unhappily) to a sheltered and suspicious 60-year-old Julia White (N.B. I have stated Julia’s age as 60, as this is what has been documented in numerous articles, nonetheless, in 2001 James Murphy discovered her actual birth certificate where it documented that she was seventeen years older than William).

Inhabitants believe that the wedding was ‘strained’ and not one that was filled with affection. The two met in Harrogate (Yorkshire) and were wedded in March 1914. In 1915 they shifted to Anfield in Liverpool. They were realized to enjoy music and William was a keen botanist and chess player.

William And Strange Call

On Monday 19th January 1931 William was playing chess, at Liverpool Central Chess Club on North John Street, where he was given a message that had come through before that evening. It was also the initial time that William had attended the club in some months. The message was from someone named R M Qualtrough and inquired that William meets him the next evening, at 7.30 pm in 25 Menlove Gardens East, as he was interested in talking about some insurance (it would later be established, by investigating the switchboard log, that the bizarre call was made from a telephone box 400 meters from William’s home).

The next evening, on the 20th, William duly embarked upon the journey to greet the mysterious Mr. Qualtough. At 7.06 pm he caught a tram from Anfield to Menlove Gardens. During the journey, he talked to numerous passengers and conductors enquiring as to which stop would be best to get off at. One inspector recalls that he said that he “was a total outsider in this area” and regaled the tale of how he was attempting to meet an unidentified man who had left a message on the prior evening.

On departing the tram, he toured numerous newsagents and stopped some patrolling policemen to verify the way he should be going in. It transpires that there was no such Menlove Gardens East. There was a West, North, and South but no East. Nonetheless, he did visit 25 Menlove Gardens West where he was notified that no such R M Qualtrough inhabited there. Upon learning this he made his way back to his own home (29 Wolverton Street) where he was noticed at the front of his estate, at 8.45 pm by his neighbors John and Florence Johnston.


Seeing that William was having difficulty entering his home he notified the pair that the locks would not budge on the front or back door. They told that he looked “out of sorts “to them and he finally gained entrance by going through the back door (despite William telling the lock wouldn’t budge, the Johnston’s saw no problem with William unlocking the door). It was in the living room that the three of them discovered the corpse of Julia Wallace who had been violently beaten to death. The Johnston’s, who was later questioned, said the room was one of horror. Blood splattered up the walls and her clothes were burnt by the nearby gas fire. William, watching his wife’s bloody body said, “They’ve finished her, look at her brains”.

The police inquiry was a bungled one, in part due to the aforementioned strikes, and having underqualified people investigate. Apart from the unrest encircling the attack- the property, barring a locked kitchen cabinet including some money being broken into, was left unharmed. Julia’s handbag was undisturbed, and no other possessions or property seemed to be missing. Police investigated the work of known burglars in the region but could discover nothing, at the spectacle, that matched any known mo.

Crime Scene

Forensic specialist John Mac fall, from the University of Liverpool, was called to document the crime spectacle and established, due to rigor Mortis, that Julia perished around 8 pm. This correlated with observers telling they had noticed Julia between 6.30 pm and 6.45 pm. This would have meant that William would have had fifteen minutes to murder Julia, clean up and still make his team at 7.06. Also, an examination of the sinks and pipes, in the house, discovered that they had not been used on the night of the killing.

However, William was charged on suspicion of his wife’s killing and found guilty in his prosecution in April 1931. He was convicted to death by hanging and this was scheduled to take place the next month. Nonetheless, an appeal saw the case thrown out, due to the absence of evidence, and once again William was a free man. Two years later William perished, of his recurring kidney problems, and to this day the case of his wife’s killing stays unsolved.

So, did the police get this right, and did William killing his wife? I would say that rigor Mortis is an erroneous science and as such, I do not place much bearing on it. Nonetheless, the observers and William’s alibi do imply that the window of opportunity, for him to commit the killing, is a minor one. I look forward to your comments and ideas.

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