When ‘Harry Leon Crawford’, hotel cleaner of Stanmore was arrested and charged with wife murder he was revealed to be in fact Eugenia Falleni (sometimes spelt as Eugeni), a woman and mother, who had been passing as a man since 1899.
In 1913, as ‘Harry Crawford’, Falleni had married the widow Annie Birkett. Four years later, shortly after she announced to a relative that she had found out ‘something amazing about Harry’, Birkett disappeared. Crawford told neighbours that she had run off with a plumber.
In 1919 Birkett’s young son, who had remained in Crawford’s custody, told an aunt of attempts made on his life by his drunken stepfather. The aunt contacted police. A charred body which had been found in Lane Cove in 1917 was belatedly identified as Birkett’s. ‘Crawford’s’ astonished second wife, when finally convinced of Falleni’s true gender remarked, “I always wondered why he was so painfully shy …”
The photograph shown here shows Falleni in male clothing, probably on the day of her arrest. The negative was found in a paper sleeve inscribed ‘Falleni Man/Woman’. It is also possible that Falleni was made to dress in a man’s suit for the photograph.
Source: New South Wales. Police Dept.
City of Shadows at the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney, November 2005-January 2007.