Historical Murders presented by Paul Stickler


Julia Wallace Murder

aka the chess club conspiracy

20 January 1931

Headshot for the Julia Wallace Murder
Headshot for the Julia Wallace Murder

At 6.45pm on 20 January 1931, William Wallace left his home at 29 Wolverton Street, Liverpool.

He had just eaten dinner with his wife, Julia, and was heading for a meeting with a client in the Menlove Gardens area of the city, just over 4 miles away. He was a Prudential insurance agent and was used to walking the city’s streets selling policies and collecting premiums. However, he was unfamiliar with the Menlove Gardens area and as he travelled by tram, he asked people for directions. Upon arrival he realised that the address he had been given was false and returned home arriving around 8.40pm.

“I was horrified to see my wife lying across the rug in front of the fireplace. Her head ………. was horribly battered”

Upon arrival at the house, he found his wife bludgeoned to death in their front parlour; she had received a series of blows to the head.

The police were called who were dubious of Wallace’s alibi claim. Wallace elaborated and said that the only reason he had gone to the Menlove Gardens area was because the night before he had a received a message at his chess club from a man called Qualtrough who had earlier telephoned asking him to visit the following evening. There then followed a detailed examination of Wallace’s movements, not only on the night of the murder but also the evening before. A theory was developing that Wallace had made the telephone call himself, fabricated the name Qualtrough and set up a false alibi for the following evening. The theory suggested that Wallace murdered his wife before he left home, travelled to the Menlove Gardens area knowing the address did not exist, made sure he was seen in the area, and then returned to ‘discover’ Julia in the parlour.

Wallace was charged with the killing, convicted, but later acquitted on appeal. Other theories would later emerge, but it remains shrouded in mystery as to who brought the murder weapon down on Julia Wallace’s head.

The victim...
Victim Image
Julia Wallace

Julia Wallace was born on 26 April 1861 in North Yorkshire and was the second child of seven children. Her passions seem to have been French, music and painting. It is not clear why, but there is some suspicion that in 1911, she falsified her details on the census return to state that she was eighteen years younger than she was. This deception was carried across when she married William Wallace in Harrogate in 1914 (though now only 16 years younger), but whether Wallace knew of the false claim is unknown. Whether this was to play a part in her eventual killing is similarly not known. They moved to Liverpool in 1915 and eventually settled in Wolverton Street the same year. There is little known about her time in Liverpool before her eventual death in 1931 and seemed to have settled into a quiet life of domesticity.

Another pile of photos from The Julia Wallace Murder
  • Was the murder weapon ever found?

    In truth, we are not sure. Something blunt was obviously used and an iron poker was seemingly missing from the premises. There is a suggestion that years later it had been found, but there is no tangible evidence of that.

  • If Wallace had been the murderer, surely he would have been covered in blood? Yet, he was not.

    The killer almost certainly would have had some blood on their clothing. It is true that there is no evidence of any blood being found on any of Wallace’s clothes but there are theories – and no more than that – that he dealt with that by either wearing a raincoat and leaving it at the scene (making it look like the real killer had worn it) or he had removed his clothing before the attack and dressed afterwards. There is no evidence to support either of these theories.

  • Is it true that other suspects emerged during the investigation?

    Yes, two in particular, Richard Parry and Joseph Marsden. Based on the material available, it is not clear the extent to which these people were properly investigated but it is equally clear that there is little evidence to connect them to the actual killing or being responsible for the ‘Qualtrough’ call.

  • What was the basis for Wallace’s eventual acquittal at the appeal court?

    The court ruled that the evidence presented to the jury could not justify the jury’s guilty verdict and quashed the conviction under S.4 Criminal Appeal Act 1907.

  • What happened to William Wallace after his acquittal?

    His acquittal did not stop tongues wagging and many people still considered him responsible for his wife’s death. He eventually moved house as a result, but he died on 26 February 1933, just over two years since his wife had been killed. He protested his innocence to the end.

Further reading...
Cover of Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery

Checkmate: The Wallace Murder Mystery

Mark Russell


Cover of Move to Murder

Move to Murder

Antony M Brown


Cover of The Killing of Julia Wallace

The Killing of Julia Wallace

Jonathan Goodman



The Julia Wallace Murder case is available as a presentation. Whether delivered on world-wide cruise ships or in a local village hall, it's absorbing, informative, and entertaining. Contact Paul Stickler for more information...

Paul Stickler presenting on stage on a cruise ship