Julia Wallace was bludgeoned to death in her home in Wolverton Street, Anfield (below) on 20th January 1931, leading to her husband William being found guilty of her murder only for the verdict to be overturned on appeal. The case remains a classic 'whodunnit'
The night before the killing William Wallace, an insurance agent, received a telephone message at the City Cafe in North John Street where he played chess. The caller, who had spoken to club captain Samuel Beattie, identified himself as Mr Qualtrough and asked Wallace to call at 25 Menlove Gardens East at 7.30pm on the 20th.
The next night Wallace set off at about 6.45 pm (according to his statement to police). It is known he boarded a tram at 7.10pm some three miles away in Lodge Lane, regularly reminding the conductor of his destination. After getting off the tram at Menlove Gardens West, he went on a fruitless search of Mr Qualtrough's address, which it turned out did not exist. During this search he called at a newsagents, to 25 Menlove Gardens West (pictured below) and also asked a policeman, making a point of verifying the exact time.
Giving up the search, Wallace returned to his home at 29 Wolverton Street at 8.45pm to find the battered corpse of Julia in the parlour, with some money missing. There was no sign of any forced entry into the house and police suspicion immediately centred on Wallace. Two weeks later he was arrested and charged with murder, having been staying with his sister in Aigburth. He was taken to Anfield Police Station (pictured below, now a housing office)
At the trial, the prosecution alleged that Wallace had made the Qualtrough call himself before he went to the chess club, then made a point of drawing attention to himself while looking for Menlove Gardens East to establish an alibi. To explain the lack of blood on Wallace's clothing, it was claimed he may have committed the murder in the nude.
Wallace's counsel staged a good defence. A witness claimed to have seen Julia alive at 6.45pm, making it inconceivable that Wallace could have committed the crime, cleaned himself up and been at Lodge Lane just 25 minutes later. There was no sign of a bath having been taken in the house, nor of any damp towels or bloodstains outside the parlour. Despite this evidence and the prosecution failing to provide a motive or produce a murder weapon, the jury returned a verdict of guilty after only an hours deliberation.
History was made on appeal. For the first time ever, the verdict was overturned on the grounds that it had been made against the weight of evidence. Wallace returned to his job but found the gossip didn't stop and after just a few days he was given an office job instead of door to door collection. He moved to Bebington on the Wirral and died of renal cancer just two years later.
The killer of Julia Wallace has never been caught and the police did not continue the investigation after the appeal. One person who has been named as a suspect is Gordon Parry. He was a frequent visitor to the household, having worked with Wallace in insurance. His name had been given to police as somebody who Julia may have let into the house, but they were satisfied with his alibi. Living in London, Parry was visited by crime writers Jonathan Goodman and Richard Whittington-Egan in the 1960s. He refused to allow the men into his home but seemed to know everything about everyone involved in the murder investigation. He also described Wallace as 'sexually odd'.
In 1980 Radio City presenter Roger Wilkes researched the case for a feature. A new witness, ex-mechanic John Parkes had come forward to say that he had hosed down a car for Parry on the night of the murder. He had found a blood stained glove while cleaning the interior which was quickly snatched away, Parry muttering that it might hang him. Fearing Parry's violent temper, Parkes had kept quiet about the incident. Just weeks before Wilkes could question him on these developments, Parry died in North Wales.
The case was featured in a film, The Man From The Pru, starring Jonathan Pryce and Anna Massey in 1991 and has been the subject of many books.