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Harry Crawford: Cross-Dressed to Kill

Harry Crawford had it out for his wife after she discovered his big secret.


Annie Birkett didn’t have much luck with love.

Her first husband died, leaving her with a young son. Her second husband, Harry Crawford, concealed a secret so enormous, he might have even killed to keep it hidden

This secret lived in a large leather suitcase, inscribed with Harry’s initials. It was nestled in a pouch, underneath his nicest set of tailored trousers. And it took the shape of a certain piece of male anatomy.

As it turned out, Harry’s legal name was Eugenia Falleni, and he was actually born a she. He started dressing like a man – and calling himself Eugene – as a teen in New Zealand. But being that it was the early 1900s, his family disapproved of his lifestyle, so he ran away from home and found a job as a cabin boy on a ship. After the crew dropped him off a couple years later in Australia, he cemented his identity as Harry Leo Crawford.

But poor Annie didn’t know all these details when she decided to marry Harry in 1913. They lived together for about four years, until a neighbor decided to enlighten Annie about her husband’s true identity. After acting strangely for a couple weeks, Annie disappeared. Harry told Annie’s son – also named Harry – that his mother had run off with another man. But a couple years later, when the boy visited his aunt, he learned about his stepfather’s backstory, and started to get suspicious.

Around the time Annie supposedly ran away, her son remembered that the remains of a woman had been found burned in the same area where they lived. He went to the police with his story, and they showed him the evidence from the Jane Doe case – jewelry, fake teeth, shoes – and he identified them as belonging to his mom, practically sealing Harry Crawford’s fate.

During the murder trial, Harry insisted he was innocent and looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown when questioned. Then the real story came out: After Annie found out Harry had been born a woman, she invited him out to a picnic. She told him she was going to leave him, and they started arguing. During the fight, she fell, hit her head on a rock, and died almost immediately. Terrified of being accused of murder, Harry soaked her body with kerosene and tried to burn the evidence of her death. He then thought about taking Annie’s son out to kill him as well, but couldn’t go through with it at the last minute.

The jury took two hours to come back with the verdict: guilty. Although they originally wanted to give him the death penalty, Harry’s sentence was eventually changed to life in prison, and then he ended up getting out eleven years later. He started living his life as Eugenia again, and got killed by stepping in front of a car several years later.

[via The Daily Telegraph; The Sydney Morning Herald]

eugenia falleni mugshot

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons