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Eugenia Falleni (1875–1938)

Eugenia Falleni, police photograph, 1928

Eugenia Falleni, police photograph, 1928

Justice & Police Museum, 35369

An elderly woman, who had been struck by a motor car in Oxford Street, Paddington, on Thursday, died in Sydney Hospital on Friday.

On Saturday morning she was identified by her fingerprints as Eugene Falleni who, after masquerading as a man for about 20 years, was convicted in 1920 of the murder of a woman with whom she had gone through the form of marriage seven years prieviously.

The trial was one of the most sensational in the history of crime in New South Wales. One of the police officers engaged on the murder case, Detective-Sergeant Watkins, took the dead woman’s fingerprints in the hospital on Saturday morning.

Born in Florence Italy, 63 years ago Eugene Falleni ran away from home in early life, and shipped as a cabin boy on board a Norwegian barque. In Newcastle she left the vessel and still masquerading as a man under the name of Harry Leon Crawford obtained the position of coachman to a North Shore doctor. It was while carrying out these duties that she "married" the doctor's housekeeper, a Mrs Annie Birkett in 1913. The couple went to Drummoyne to live. Falleni kept a shop there and also worked in one of the local factories.

On Eight-Hour Day, 1917, the supposed Mr and Mrs Crawford left their home and Mrs Birkett was never again seen alive. A few days later, her charred body was accidentally found in the remains of a fire in the bush near Mowbray Road Lane Cove.

Then began a long and difficult hunt for the murderer. Falleni, who in the meantime had worked as a man in various situations and had 'married' another woman, was arrested and charged with the crime in 1920.

Ex-inspector (then Detective-Sergeant) Stuart Robson was in charge of the investigations and his junior was the present senior reception officer at the C.I.B. Sergeant Watkins.

Falleni was found guilty of murder at the Central Criminal Court on October 6, 1920, and sentenced to death. The sentence was subsequently commuted to imprisonment for life. She served 11 years, and was released in February, 1931. At the trial she declared her innocence. For some time past she had conducted a residential in Paddington. She sold this just before the accident which caused her death, and when she was taken to Sydney Hospital £100 which she received was in her handbag.

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Citation details

'Falleni, Eugenia (1875–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Eugenia Falleni, police photograph, 1928

Eugenia Falleni, police photograph, 1928

Justice & Police Museum, 35369

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ford, Jean
  • Crawford, Harry Leo

Florence, Tuscany, Italy


10 June, 1938 (aged ~ 63)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

pedestrian accident

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.