The Wallace Murder - "The chess player they couldn't checkmate".
In the small town of Basfield, the evenings are always brightened by two things. Firstly, the cheer and joy from cricket games where almost everyone in the town enjoys watching. And secondly, soothing and uplifting music from the house of the Wallace couple. William Wallace is an elderly man as well as a loving husband. Having married to a Julia - a piano major, Wallace picked up violin lessons so that they can have musical evenings together.
But personally, Wallace is a lover of chess games. He is a chess player, a remarkable and devoted chess player. Since 12 Wallace practised stoicism so that no one will be able to read his mind, to further give him an edge over his chess games. Throughout the years he drilled himself in iron control and prided himself in never displaying any emotion outwardly in public.
Wallace may be a strange man but he has led a happy life with his wife for about 40 years. The peaceful life of this man was broken by a tragedy and it began on one evening where Wallace was as usual having a regular match in a chess club. In the midst of the game, Wallace was passed a note by one of the club member which reads :
Meet me at Sombre East at 7.30pm tomorrow. A business to discuss.
- Qual-Trough -
The following evening, Wallace left home at about 6.40pm, caught a tramcar at about 7.06 and headed for Sombre East. However, there was no such place. There was a Sombre North, West and South - but there was not Sombre East. After asking around and further search about 30 minutes, Wallace returned home. Both front and back doors were unusually locked and he got no reply from Julia. On trying the backdoor again, it opened. Roaming into the house from the gloomy hallway up to the sitting room, he found Julia's body. She was brutally beaten to death with an iron bar. £4 was removed from Wallace's cash-box.
An immediate search of lodging houses, cafes, and the surrounding area revealed that no one might be the murderer. Evidence showing no forced entry suggests two things - either Julia was taken wholly by surprise or that Julia knew the murderer. The police hence are left with two suspects.
The first was Gordon Parry - a former colleague and friend to Wallace. He knows the layout of Wallace's house. He even knows where Wallace kept his cash-box. Further, he had records for theft and petty crimes. But on the case at hand is a murder. Can records of previous petty crimes lead to a murder? He does fit the criteria to be a suspect nevertheless. However, he has an alibi. His girlfriend testified that he was with her the whole day in which the tragedy took place.
On the other hand, the police have Wallace himself as the second suspect. There were rumours that the relationship between the Wallace couple was far from happy. Wallace denied. There were no true motive for the murder. However, Wallace was abnormally calm. Even with the death of his wife and he himself being a suspect, he can handle all questionings from the police calmly. On one observation by the police, Wallace was casually leaning over Julia's body to flick cigarette ash into an ash tray. This stoic behaviour of Wallace certainly aroused suspicion among the police. Are they in fact having a cold-blooded murderer right in front of their eyes?
But wait. Wallace had an alibi as well, didn't he? He was not home. He was out, searching for Qual-Trough. And he had several witnesses for this when he asked around for the non-existing Sombre East. There was no reliable assessment for the time of Julia's death. One pathologist put it at about 6pm; another about 8pm. Well, if it was 8, then it couldn't be Wallace, he just got home. But if it was 6, then it might be him. he left home somewhere about 6.40pm. This may be possible. Through some investigations, the phone call made to the chess club a day before the murder was traced to be from a phone booth about 400 yards from Wallace's house. He could have made the call before leaving for his regular chess game.
Still, another concern is that no blood was found on Wallace after such an aggressive murder. The police formed a hypothesis that Wallace was wearing a mackintosh, which was found partially burnt under Julia's body, to commit the killing. There were traces of blood found in the bathroom. The murderer must have washed it before leaving the house. But is the elderly Wallace able to commit the brutal killing, wash himself up, rushed to the end of the street to catch a tramcar for Sombre East? But again, Wallace shows no expressions. And having trained himself of stoicism for over 40 years, could it be that he had lost his emotions as well? Then it is possible that he had planned the murder of his wife calmly as how he devised a strategy in any of his chess games.
Wallace was charged with murder a few days after these hypotheses were formed. Throughout the trial, Wallace was very calm and listen without any expressions even to the attacks from the side of prosecution. His sense of detachment from the courtroom probably did little to gain sympathy to the jury. For the jury, the case before them is a brutal murder where the accused is the husband of the victim. Yet, the husband is so calm. Well, how do you think you will react if your wife was murdered so ferociously and the next thing you know is that you are charged for that murder? Angry? Confused with layers of emotions? Calm must be the last thing for a man in such a position.
The jury convicted Wallace.
However, on appeal, the conviction was quashed on the basis of insufficient evidence. For criminal trials, cases must be proven beyond reasonable doubt - it is very unlikely for the result to be otherwise. But on the present case, everything was based on assumptions and hypotheses from the police. The time of death itself was uncertain. Whether Wallace was fit to do the killing and wash himself before leaving for Sombre East was unsure. Even the mackintosh was a mere speculation from the police. Everything can be doubted. These are only circumstantial evidences. No doubt that they point equally to Wallace's guilt and innocence but this does not mean that he is the murderer. As such, Wallace walks free.
Until today, the murder was not resolved. Although there were speculations that the alibi of Gordon could be false, there was no evidence to that. There is no answer to the murder yet, not till this date.
Do you think Wallace is the murderer?
***Reproduction of a true story although modified***