Life After Trial Murder and William Herbert Wallace Part 1

About William Herbert Wallace, the prime suspect when his wife was found murdered despite a lack of evidence, account of the crime and trial.


Before: It was the perfect murder mystery, with the emphasis equally divided among "perfect," "murder," and "mystery." For it yielded no clues, no motive, no murder weapon, and no murderer. At the heart of the puzzle was a respectable, middle-aged couple, married nearly 18 years, William Herbert Wallace and his wife, Julia. William, an agent for the Prudential Assurance Company, was a mild-mannered man one of whose avocations was playing chess. Gentle Julia was a meticulous homemaker who shared her husband's interest in music. They lived in a quiet house on a quiet street in Liverpool and led a quiet, uneventful life right up until the night that Julia was bludgeoned to death. The prime suspect was her husband, whose alibi became the subject of intensive-and inconclusive-investigation.

On Jan. 1931, the eve of the murder, a Mr. Qualtrough left a telephone message at Wallace's chess club, setting up a meeting at 25 Menlove Gardens East for 7:30 the following night. When Wallace arrived at the club, he said that he had never heard of Qualtrough or, for that matter, of Menlove Gardens East. However, he duly set out to meet this new business prospect at the appointed hour. The address proved to be fictitious, and wearily Wallace returned to 29 Wolverton Street, to a blood-splattered parlor and a murdered wife.

The time of death was set by forensic expert Professor MacFall at approximately 6:00 P.M., although he agreed, under cross-examination, that it could have occurred an hour later. According to Wallace, he had eaten that night soon after 6:00 and had left on his quest for Qualtrough at 6:45. The boy who delivered the milk testified that he had seen Mrs. Wallace at 6:30; earlier, he had told the police that he had spoken to her at 6:45. An apparently inept police force seemed unable or unwilling to track down other suspects. Qualtrough's identity and where-abouts remained an enigma, so Wallace, still protesting his innocence, was brought to trial on Apr. 22, 1931.

In his address to the jury, Judge Justice Wright remarked: "This murder, I should imagine, must be almost unexampled in the annals of crime . . . murder so devised and arranged that nothing remains which will point to anyone as the murderer." He made it abundantly clear that the case against Wallace was circumstantial; yet the jury brought in a Guilty verdict, and Wallace was condemned to death. Less than four weeks later, the conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal. Wallace was free, but for the remaining two years of his life he was to pay the painful price of being free.

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