As many of you know, I have a particular interest in early mugshots and I recently came about this mugshot of “Harry Crawford” who turned out to be a woman named Eugenia Falleni. In one of the first well-known transgender cases in history, the New Zealand case was dubbed the “man-woman” murderer in 1913.
Falleni was born Eugenia in Florence, the eldest of 22 children. At a relatively young age, he began to dress in men’s clothing and worked as a cabin boy. He appears to have married a women in Italy. He said later that, after he revealed his birth gender, he was repeatedly raped on the ship by the captain. A pregnancy resulted and Falleni was put ashore in New South Wales and had a daughter.
He then adopted the male identity of Harry Leo Crawford and later married a housekeeper, Annie Birkett. She was not aware that he was transgender when she married him in 1913 and was only told by a friend in 1917. Falleni said that they fought when Birkett said that she was leaving him and he said that she slipped and hit her head on a rock. He then said he burned her body. He told her son and others that she had run off.
He later married Elizabeth King Allison in 1919 under the name of Harry Leo Crawford, mechanical engineer.
When the body was found, it was a highly circumstantial trial where Falleni appeared alternatively as a man and as a woman. He asked to be housed in the female prison.
While originally viewed as a suicide, strange interactions and conversations with Birkett’s son drew suspicion to Falleni. The medical examiner testified that he believed that Birkett was alive when burned though the forensic basis for that claim was dubious.
The jury took only two hours to convict and he was sentenced to death. That sentence was later commuted to life and then he was granted his freedom by the Minister of Justice in 1931. The questions over the circumstantial evidence were raised as a basis for the release as well as his health. After opening a boarding house, he was later struck by a motorcar in 1938 at the age of 63.