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EUGENIA

A true story of adversity, tragedy, crime and courage

by

MARK TEDESCHI QC

SUMMARY

This is the true story of the life and trial of Eugenia Falleni, a woman who in 1920 was charged with the murder of her wife – yes wife! Eugenia lived for twenty-two years as a man, Harry Crawford, and during that time officially married twice.

This story includes: a tragic main character who believed she was a man trapped in the body of a woman, sexual deception in the dark, an allegation of murder, an over-exuberant police investigation, an erudite judge, a determined prosecutor, an overwhelmed defender, the Press gone feral, the public clamouring for blood – a mix that unsurprisingly led to a miscarriage of justice.

This is a clearly and easily read account of one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in legal history anywhere in the world. In October 1920, when Eugenia Falleni, a.k.a. Harry Crawford, first appeared in court charged with the murder of her first ‘wife’. The full weight of the law and public opinion came crashing down on her, branding her as a complete outcast and a serious menace to the moral fabric of society. The Crown Prosecutor at the trial was William Coyle KC, the very first Senior Crown Prosecutor for New South Wales and an experienced and accomplished advocate. Eugenia Falleni was represented by Archibald McDonell, a very pedestrian defence counsel who was clearly out of his depth. During the trial, Coyle easily outmanoeuvred McDonell, who made many egregious mistakes. In the context of the hatred and fear that had been whipped up by a voracious press, Eugenia’s chances of receiving a fair trial were very slight.

The trial of Eugenia Falleni is extensively described and analysed in an easily understandable way by present day Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC – one of Australia’s foremost criminal law barristers, with experience both as a prosecutor and a defender. With a lengthy and distinguished career presenting criminal cases to juries, Mark Tedeschi has turned his storytelling abilities into this true-crime book, published by Simon & Schuster.

For more information about "Eugenia", including additional photographs and a video 'Eugenia tour' go to:
www.EugeniaFalleni.com.au

Annie Birkett c 1910
Archibald McDonell c 1910
Coyle & Gonsalves 1920
Eugenia Falleni 1928
Eugenia Falleni on the day of arrest 1920 C
Eugenia Falleni October 1920 women's reformatory
Falleni family about 1910
Harry Bell Birkett Jnr c 1910
William Coyle KC c.1920
Annie Birkett c 1910

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Images from NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive, Justice & Police Museum, Historic Houses Trust. - Click here

'Eugenia' has been well reviewed in the media. It has been in the top 10 Sydney Morning Herald ‘Readers Picks’ for many months.

Examples of reviewers’ or readers’ comments

“A detailed and fascinating true crime account” - Jane Howard, Sunday Telegraph

“Clear, compelling prose and a depth of compassion that has sadly been lacking in past accounts” - Troy Lennon, Daily Telegraph

“Tedeschi's handling of it takes it into the true crime mainstream” - Janet Fife-Yeomans, Daily Telegraph.

“Despite its scarcely believable details, Eugenia ultimately proves a sobering tale, thoughtfully told. It is a story of its time and an examination of outdated notions of sexuality and the fallibility of the criminal justice system, but most of all, it is a human tragedy” – Daniel Herborn, Sydney Morning Herald

“Meticulous, compassionate examination of a case of sexual deception and murder” - Sunday Mail (Adelaide).

“This is one true-crime story that is compelling, interesting and challenging to the closing chapter” - Jane Fynes-Clinton, Courier Mail (Brisbane).

“True crime at its finest and with one of our leading criminal barristers at the helm, Eugenia is a gripping look into the extraordinary life and trial of Eugenia Falleni” – Cover2Cover (Newslink)

“It is not a book only for lawyers. Tedeschi QC has gone to great lengths to treat the reader as you would think he probably approaches any given jury. It is an approach that works well; it also does greater justice to the story itself” - Fiona Roughley, Bar News.

“Tedeschi brings insight, a wealth of legal knowledge and meticulous research to recreating this story of Eugenia. I enjoyed the compelling examination of the trial and the evidence. Tedeschi writes with a deep compassion and an informed view on gender identity disorder and makes us all consider how fear, prejudice and ignorance can affect lives, even today” - Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)

“’Eugenia Falleni’ is at first glance an exceedingly well-researched "true crime" story of seedy Sydney in the 1920s, but underneath sits a searing, tragic narrative of gender, prejudice, and the simple desire to be loved. The author peppers an unbelievable true story with patient explanations of the judicial process and the rules of evidence, coloured with a vivid portrait of working-class Sydney in the years before the Great Depression. This book elevates Falleni into Australia's rich pantheon of misunderstood heroes/villains, a place where she deservedly belongs” - Bryan Gaensler, Goodreads

“I found the book very easy to read, most enjoyable, gripping and at times sad. While intriguing as a story, as a legal studies teacher the parallels of the criminal justice system in the 1920s and today became apparent in the excellent storytelling” – Wayne Gleeson, Legal Studies Association Newsletter

“Your book kept me awake till early hours of the morning for three days straight. I literally could not put it down!” Ashleigh S

“I started your book on a flight up to Coffs on Wednesday – I finished it on the flight home. I just wanted to say how much I loved it. It was a great story, sensitively told and beautifully written.” Belinda C

“Love, love, love this book and compassion for his condition throughout. Great work!” – Melissa B

“I was given your book as a Christmas present - it turned out to be a most enjoyable and enthraling present. Thank you for the entertainment and gained knowledge” – Jen C.

“Best crime story I have read” - Dawn (Mackay, QLD) on Booktopia

“I was absolutely enthralled by the book” – Mike C (Canberra) on Booktopia.

Interviews

ABC 702

Radio National – Late night Live with Phillip Adams

Radio NZ

Booktopia’s 10 Terrifying questions

ABC Classic FM