The Case of R.M. Qualtrough
"If the police got that, they would hang me!"
On the evening of January 19, 1931, a caller left a message for insurance salesman Herbert Wallace at his local Liverpool chess club, requesting he come to an address at 25 Menlove Gardens East the following evening to discuss insurance. When given the message, Wallace saw that the caller identified himself as R.M. Qualtrough, and next evening he left his home in Anfield, saying farewell to his wife Julia, and began his journey to find the strangers address. He travelled by tramcar to the south of the city at the requested time, only to find that Menlove Gardens East did not exist. He made several inquiries, and asked a policeman for directions before giving up and heading home. When he arrived he found the house locked and no answer to his persistent knocking. His neighbours encountered Wallace outside his back alleyway and when he finally managed to gain entry, he discovered his wife had been brutally beaten to death in their sitting room. The police immediately became convinced of his guilt and he was arrested and charged with murder. Detectives suspected that Wallace and the mysterious “R.M. Qualtrough” were one and the same, and he had been setting his alibi in place to cover his tracks. At his trial Wallace continued to protest his innocence, but despite the circumstantial evidence against him, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Wallace was eventually freed after his sentence was quashed by the Court of Appeal, however many suspected he had gotten away with murder, and the case is considered by amateur sleuths and professional criminologists to be an example of the classic British murder mystery.
William Herbert Wallace can best be described as a nondescript, unexciting man who lived a boring and painfully ordinary life. He was however a thrifty, hard-working and mild-mannered husband who was considered by his associates and friends as a little snobbish but utterly respectable. The 52-year-old Wallace had married his wife Julia, twelve years his senior, in March 1914, and the couple had set-up home at 29 Wolverton Street in Anfield. Mr. Wallace worked as a collections agent with the Prudential Assurance Company in Liverpool, a job which earned him an annual salary of £250, and his employer considered him dependable and completely trustworthy. Herbert had a bank savings account of £152, while Julia had her own modest savings of £90, and the childless couple lived quietly within their means.