Meet Eugenia Falleni (AKA Harry Crawford) — Murderer (1913)

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.

10 thoughts on “Meet Eugenia Falleni (AKA Harry Crawford) — Murderer (1913)”

  1. Referendum question # 3 should be very interesting in Massachusetts this Tuesday. Boys may not always be boys.

  2. How did his first wife not find out he was really a woman until 4 years after they married??? Never noticed anything missing?

    I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, or how you identify. If you kill someone who is trying to leave you, you’re a murderer. She accidentally slipped and fell, died, and he thought it’d be a grand idea to burn the body and lie about her whereabouts to her son. That’s his story. Right then.

    Did his second wife at any point realize that he was a woman?

    On a side note, some women dressed as men and put to sea for the money. This was well known in the 1700s and 1800s. During that time, if a ship in the Royal Navy captured an enemy vessel, they made her a prize, and the money was divided up among the officers and the crew, according to rank. Posing as a man could be profitable, if she could avoid being detected. If she was found out, women were not paid or on the muster rolls.

    “For instance Hanna Snell, the daughter of a dyer from Worcester, enlisted in the army in 1745, deserted, and then enlisted in the marines – who were shipboard soldiers (later to become the Royal Marines) who helped keep discipline onboard ship. Hanna saw action in this capacity, and was eventually badly wounded in both thighs. Despite this, her true sex was never identified, and she recovered from her wounds. In 1750 she revealed her true identity, became a celebrity and starred on the stage.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/women_nelson_navy_01.shtml

  3. Fascinating. I seem to recall a PBS drama years ago with a similsr story. Anyone remember it? I believe it was a true story, but set in the
    1800’s.

  4. There are recorded cases of women serving as soldiers, as men, which would make them legal murderers. I am just not sure how you marry two women and they do not get suspicious.

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