Julia Wallace: England's most infamous whodunit
Did William Wallace kill his wife Julia?
This week, I will tell you about one of England’s most baffling cold cases. Although it happened nearly 100 years ago, it hasn’t stopped people from researching the case. For this story, we must go back to 1931 in Liverpool, England. If you’re not familiar with Liverpool, it’s where the legendary Beatles started their musical careers.
By 1931, William and Julia Wallace had experienced 18 years of wedded bliss. They were both talented musicians. William played the violin while Julia played the piano. The couple often performed together. William sold insurance for Prudential and also loved playing chess. He played in the Liverpool Chess Club on Mondays.
On July 19, 1931, William arrived at his chess club. After his arrival, he received a phone message from a potential customer named “R.M. Qualtrough.” Wallace didn’t know the man, but Qualtrough wanted to meet Wallace about purchasing an insurance policy for his daughter. The man asked Wallace to stop by his home at 25 Menlove Gardens East on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Since Wallace regularly met with clients, he knew Liverpool. However, he didn’t recognize the Menlove Gardens East address. On Tuesday, Wallace arrived at home at 6 p.m. He prepared for his meeting and then left home shortly after 7 p.m. to catch a streetcar.
The fake address
Wallace got off the streetcar and searched for the address. He had to stop and ask people on the street if they could direct him to Menlove Gardens East. He soon realized it didn’t exist. He even visited 25 Menlove Gardens West. The resident said no one named Qualtrough lived at the home.
Although dejected about not finding Qualtrough’s address, Wallace returned home shortly before 9 p.m. He stood outside his door trying to get in. A neighbor and his wife saw him and asked if he needed help. Wallace said his key didn’t work. This part of the story has different accounts. One is Wallace opened the door in front of the neighbor and another account is the neighbor opened the door. Regardless, Wallace asked his neighbors to wait around while he checked the inside of his home. Wallace entered his home and found Julia lying on the ground. Someone had brutally murdered her.
Wallace didn’t see his fire poker. He assumed someone used it to kill Julia. Authorities found a raincoat underneath her body. The case rocked Liverpool and became a media sensation. Unfortunately, the media and public rushed to judgment and labeled Wallace a wife killer. Authorities arrested him and charged him with killing Julia. The four-day trial began in April 1931. The prosecution didn’t have any evidence to prove Wallace’s guilt. For instance, his suit should have contained bloodstains if he killed Julia; authorities found no blood on Wallace’s suit.
Also, a milkman had collected payment from Julia between 6:30 p.m. and 6: 45 p.m. on the night she died. The streetcar conductor testified that Wallace rode on the streetcar shortly after 7 p.m. A policeman also testified that he spoke to Wallace at 7:45 p.m.
Death sentence overturned
Based on the prosecution’s theory, Wallace killed Julia at 6:45 p.m., cleaned up the scene, and made it to the streetcar by 7 p.m. The prosecutor claimed William killed Julia while wearing a rain suit. Supposedly, this explained why he had no blood on his clothing. He then allegedly stuffed the raincoat underneath his wife’s body.
The police also traced the phone call made by the mysterious “R.M. Qualtrough.” Someone made the call from a phone booth near the Wallace home. However, the person who took the message from Qualtrough said it wasn’t Wallace’s voice. The police focused on Wallace and no one else. It didn’t help that nearly everyone in Liverpool believed Wallace killed Julia.
It only took an hour for the jury to convict Wallace. He received a death sentence. In a shocking move, the Court of Criminal Appeal overruled the decision in May 1931. The court didn’t believe the prosecution presented enough evidence to prove Wallace guilty. Wallace walked away a free man. However, he became ill and died on February 26, 1933.
There have been books and many articles released about this troubling case. I question Wallace’s alleged guilt. He wasn’t a philanderer or known to abuse his wife. He sold insurance, played the violin and loved chess. He appeared mild mannered and didn’t have a motive to kill Julia. Wallace always claimed his innocence. Authorities ruled out sexual assault and robbery, so why would anyone kill a woman with no known enemies?
Today, the Julia Wallace homicide remains unsolved and is one of England’s oldest mysteries. Did William Wallace get away with killing his wife? No one knows.