By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Eugenia: A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage
By Mark Tedeschi QC (Simon & Schuster, $29.99, softcover, 260 pages)
This true crime account of Eugenia Falleni, a woman who in 1920 was charged with the murder of her first ‘wife’ Annie, would have to be one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in global legal history.
Falleni lived life as a man, married twice, gave birth and convinced both wives of his masculinity.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi skillfully traces Eugenia’s history from her early years in an Italian immigrant family in New Zealand, her inhumane treatment when she first tried living as a man and the 22 years she lived in Sydney as Harry Crawford.
The narrative also outlines how Harry was able to persuade two wives that he was a man.
Falleni boldly strode out in adulthood, from a completely misunderstood childhood and adolescence, in an attempt to establish what she saw to be her true self.
She was branded an “outcast, a social misfit and a serious menace to the moral fabric and health of society when everything fell apart and her history of sexual deception became public property, the full weight of the law and public opinion came crashing down upon Eugenia”.
Tedeschi masterfully delves into Falleni’s unlucky life and contentious trial, raising questions about how courts functioned in the 1920s and, through inference, our legal system today. The trial is simply scrutinised—pulling apart arguments used by advocates and throwing light on some of the problems of witness evidence.
Drawing on more than three decades of experience prosecuting some of Australia’s most notorious criminals including Ivan Milat, Kathleen Folbigg and Sef Gonzales, Tedeschi provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of our court process.
The barrister, professor, photographer and author has based his close scrutiny on contemporary public records, press reports, court transcripts and other written accounts.
Importantly, Eugenia highlights the right of all societies to have a fair trial.
Edition 405, 15 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.