Book Review: Eugenia by Mark Tedeschi QC
In 1920, Harry Crawford was charged with the murder of his first wife, Annie. The sensational case captured the attention of the Australian press and the public, not just because of the charge, but because Harry had been born a woman but had spent the past 22 years living as a man.
Since her childhood in New Zealand, Eugenia Falleni had felt trapped in a woman’s body. Arriving in Australia in her early twenties, Eugenia assumed the identity of Harry Crawford and began working odd jobs around Sydney. But Harry’s life began to unravel when his first wife, Annie, discovered her husband’s secret.
Years later, a burnt corpse that had been found in Lane Cove was identified as Annie, and the previously unsolved crime was linked to Harry, who had since remarried.
Eugenia’s early life and transformation into Harry has been thoroughly researched and captured in Eugenia by Mark Tedeschi QC, but it is the account of Eugenia’s trial for murder that really captivates.
Tedeschi utilises press coverage, court records and other archive material to reconstruct this remarkable trial. Drawing upon his years of experience as a barrister and Crown Prosecutor, he examines the strategies of both the prosecution and the defence, in particular the deficiencies in the approach adopted by Eugenia’s well-meaning defence counsel.
Tedeschi reveals how crucial oversights led to a miscarriage of justice, and proposes alternative arguments that Eugenia’s barrister could have used.
The book contains many concepts that we encounter in tutorials, but seeing how they are applied (or should have been applied) in this historic case brings these principles to life and illustrates how crucial they are to ensuring a fair trial. The shortcomings of identification evidence, the testimony of the expert witnesses, and police arrest and interviewing procedures are particularly well explained.
The trial commentary is peppered with excerpts from contemporary press coverage, illustrating that a trial by media is sadly not a recent phenomenon.
Eugenia illustrates how Australia’s legal system and attitudes have evolved, and the story also serves as a tragic reminder of how prejudice can lead to injustice. A fascinating read for law students, especially those with an interest in advocacy, criminal procedure and evidence law.
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