Qualtrough-Murder-Case

Articles from the United Kingdom

The Qualtrough Murder Case, by Stephen Qualtrough of Liverpool 25th May 2012.

Stephen is the grandson of John Qualtrough (1884-1954) and Alice Howarth
(See Chart 10)

Julia-Wallace

Image provided by John Gannon

When I was about 10, I remember seeing a British murder mystery on TV. The baddie went into a public phone box and dialed through to someone, pretending to be another person.

In this scenario he transferred the blame for his crime on to an innocent person. All was corrected in the last reel when he made some mistake and was arrested.

There was a review of the TV show in our local Liverpool Echo, and I, being a good reader, read the critic's column at the bottom of the TV listing with interest. Imagine my surprise when the idea I thought was so clever, was not just a script-writer's plot devise; but that the whole scenario had actually happened, in what the critic referred to as "the Qualtrough Murder Case".

Shocked by this I asked Mum if there had been a murderer in the family. Mother laughed. She said that a Mr. Wallace had committed the murder and that he had phoned out family name through.

Relieved that no one with our name was a murderer, I was also puzzled, why Qualtrough?

How had a murderer got hold of our surname, a name that even as a child when our name was heard it was met with puzzlement and invariably invoked the comment "how do you spell that?"

Mum also said that the police had been around to visit my late grandfather John Qualtrough and interviewed him as a suspect. Fortunately on the night of the murder he had been visiting the greyhound racing track with friends who could back up my Grand-father’s story.

Greatly relieved I put the story away at the back of my mind.

My Great Grandfather who had lived in the next street from where we lived, (we were at Number 4 Hunt Street); had owned a carpenter's shop. He had lived in the next street to us, Fowler Street; and the family had been in that area since the turn of the century, spanning 50 years.

Gradually the story emerged that the Qualtrough name was on the workshop wall and that anyone walking past could make a note of it. The shop was in nearby Windemere Street. The actual murder scene had been in nearby Wolverton Street.

I had passed by this street regularly as it was near to a children's playground which I used to go to. I used to enjoy playing on the swings and it was also near to the local library, and as a "bookworm", I visited it frequently.

Every so often a film or documentary would appear on TV concerning the case, such as "The Man from Pru" starring Jonathan Pryce, and I learned that that Wallace had received a phone call at his Chess Club where he was competing in a tournament with a Mr. McCartney.

The phone call had come through shortly before Mr. Wallace's arrival and the message was passed on. It said that a Mr. Qualtrough of Menlove Gardens East wanted to have an interview with Mr. Wallace on the following night; and he was interested in giving him (Wallace) a lucrative commission.

The following evening Mr. Wallace took the long journey to Menlove Gardens by public transport. When he arrived there, he found that Menlove Gardens only had a North, South and West, and that Menlove Gardens East was a fictitious address.

When he arrived home he found that his wife had been brutally murdered in the front room of the terrace house, and that his insurance collector’s strongbox had been rifled through for the "Man from Pru's" door-to-door collection takings.

The resultant murder case, with Mr. Wallace as chief suspect led to conflicting views about Mr. Wallace’s innocence or guilt. He was condemned to death by a Liverpool jury, and after an appeal this verdict was overturned through lack of evidence. This court action was unprecedented. The debate has gone on ever since as to whether Wallace got away with murder, or not.

John Gannon's new book "The Killing of Julia Wallace" goes a long way to answering some of my earliest childhood questions.

There is a seven-page chapter called "The Qualtrough Connection" dealing with the shop sign theory. It also details some surprising connections between the Break Road family of Qualtroughs  (my Grandfather John also went to the Methodist Church mentioned), and the alleged murderers, mentioned by Mr. Wallace in his police statement.

It also introduces a new Qualtrough into the mix, a Richard James Qualtrough of Northumberland Terrace, (See Chart 10 and more on Richard ) who was my Grandfather's eldest brother. Not only of interest to Qualtroughs, but to anyone who enjoys a baffling Agatha Christie style murder puzzle. The book was is a very informative read and sheds new light on the 1931 case.

But be warned, unlike that British murder plot story I watched all those years ago there are no simple solutions that ties every thing neatly together before the end credits.

Author of the book John Gannon has kindly provided the following police interviews taken from the Qualtrough family at the time.

Richard James: This interview is quoted in the book.

Henry Trehearn: Henry Trehearn Qualtrough, 6 Heyes St. Telephone operator, supervisor. Left home at about 7.30 pm 19th to go on duty at Xchange, St John’s St. Does not know Wallace.

William: William Qualtrough, 146 Molyneux Rd and Shop at 74 Windemere St (around the corner from Stephen's Great  Grandfather's house in Hunt St.) at home and Olympia (a cinema at the time.) Builder and Jointer. Can give no information.

John: John Qualtrough, 4 Hunt St, joiner by occupation, with wife on the night of the 20th January 1931, visited Breck Greyhound Track. Left home at 7.20 pm and returned 10 pm. Does not know Wallace. Insured with Prudential agent Mr. Botts 92 Woolton Road. (Wavetree) Relation to 3 of the other Qualtroughs already interviewed.

Details on the book by John Gannon at www.beatlesliverpoolandmore.com/the-killing-of-julia-wallace-the-devil-in-the-detail.html

Stephen Qualtrough 
Liverpool
May 2012

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