The husband who murdered his wife to cover up the fact that he was a SHE and other haunting police mugshots from 1920s Australia

Wearing top hats and waistcoats and staring fixedly back at the camera, these men could have been posing for a family snapshot.

But these amazing images from the 1910s to 1930s are actually police mugshots taken of convicted criminals arrested in Australia.

The collection of black and white pictures are from a series of around 2,500 ‘special photographs’ taken by the New South Wales Police Department photographers.

NSW police forensic photography archive justice police museum historic houses turst of NSW

Leading a double life: Harry Crawford – real name Eugenia Falleni – originally of Stanmore, was arrested and charged with murdering ‘his’ wife after passing herself off as a man since 1899. Falleni had married Annie Birkett in 1914, but three years later, after announcing she had found out ‘something amazing about Harry’, she disappeared.


Brazen: William Stanley Moore is pictured on May 1, 1925, with a cigarette in hand. He was described as an opium dealer who operated with large quantities of fake opium and cocaine. He also had associations with waterfront thieves and drug traders.


Strike a pose: William Cahill stands with a far away look in his eyes and a hint of a smirk in this photograph on July 30, 1923. Details of his crime are unknown.


You talking to me? Guiseppe Fiori, alias, Pemontto, stands for the camera in a hat and coat. He was described as a safebreaker.


Tough guy: Sidney Keller was arrested several times and featured in Australian newspapers in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He was charged with shooting, assault and running an illegal baccarat game in Sydney in the 1940s.


‘Pretty Sid’: Sidney Grant appeared on May 2, 1923, in this image captioned ‘confidence man (notes for gold)’. David Maurer, in his book The Big Con (1940) describes a con trick being carried out in Europe by ‘such masters of their profession as Pretty Sid, Snowy T, Kangaroo John, Melbourne Murray, Devil’s Island Eddie, Slab B[rennan]’. It was not unusual then for the most accomplished Australian con artists to seek fresh fields in Britain, Europe (especially France) and North America, where their skills were held in high regard by fellow professionals.


Slick: Harold Price was a thief and gunman. This photograph was taken after he was was arrested and charged with committing robbery under arms at a house in Randwick, Sydney, for which he was sentenced to two years’ hard labour.

They were taken in the cells at the Central Police Station in Sydney and were of ‘men and women recently plucked from the street, often still animated by the dramas surrounding their apprehension’, according to Historic Houses Trust curator Peter Doyle.

But unlike normal police mugshots in which sullen criminals glower at the camera, these convicts seem to have been invited to strike a pose.

Mr Doyle told ‘The subjects of the Special Photographs seem to have been allowed – perhaps invited – to position and compose themselves for the camera as they liked.

‘Their photographic identity thus seems constructed out of a potent alchemy of inborn disposition, personal history, learned habits and idiosyncrasies, chosen personal style and physical characteristics.’


No remorse: Albert Stewart Warnkin was charged with attempting to carnally know a girl aged just eight in November 1920. Right, no entry was found for Adolf Gustave Beutler, but ‘willful and indecent exposure’ is inscribed on the picture.


Got any hairspray? Harry Williams, who has a passing resemblance to Cheers bartender Ted Danson, was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour in 1929 for breaking, entering and stealing.


Can’t see me: Thomas Bede, pictured in November 1928, refused to open his eyes during his picture. Right, Herbert Ellis was found in numerous police records of the 1910s, 20s and 30s. He was listed as a house breaker, shop breaker, safe breaker, a receiver of stolen goods and a suspected person. He appears again in 1934 and his convictions include ‘goods in custody, indecent language, stealing, receiving and throwing a missile’.


Mob mentality: All four of these men, pictured in 1921, are wearing sharp suits and carrying hats for their mugshot.


Wise guy eh? Gilbert Burleigh, left, and Joseph Delaney were labelled ‘hotel barbers’ in this 1920 picture. That refers to someone who checks into a hotel and robs fellow patrons.


Bad company: Kong Lee makes numerous appearances as a ‘safe blower’ and ‘thief’ and was known to travel with ‘card sharpers’.


Ernest by name, but not by nature: Ernest Joseph Coffey pictured on June 2, 1922.


No eye contact: Masterman Thomas Scoringe pictured on November 29, 1922.


Alter ego: Alfred John West, sometimes known as Francis on April 7, 1922.


Rugged: Walter Smith is listed in the NSW Police Gazette, 24 December 1924, as ‘charged with breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Edward Mulligan and stealing blinds with a value 20 pounds (part recovered)’, and with ‘stealing clothing, a value of 26 pounds (recovered) in the dwelling house of Ernest Leslie Mortimer’. He was sentenced to six months’ hard labour.

During the late 18th and 19th centuries, the British government sent more than 165,000 convicted criminals to Australia to relieve overcrowding in prisons.

Many of those sent to Australia were sentenced to hard labour building infrastructure to cope with increasing numbers of immigrants.


Unknown crimes: John Walter Ford and Oswald Clive Nash in June 1921.


Triple trouble: ‘Silent Tom’ Richards and T Ross, alias Walton and an unknown man appear in this photo on April 12, 1920.


Partners in crime: A handwritten note reads ‘Frederick Edward Davies stealing in picture shows and theatres Dets Surridge Clark and Breen Central 14-7-21?. Police held sneak thieves in particularly low regard, which may account for the decision to photograph Davies in front of the police station’s toilet stalls. Right De Gracy and Edward Dalton pictured around 1920 – their crime is unknown.


Strength in numbers? This image was taken after a raid led by Chief Bill Mackay – later Commissioner of Police – on a house in ‘Lower Darlinghurst’ on January 25, 1928. Fifteen men and women were arrested and faced numerous charges, including (L to R) Thomas Craig, Raymond Neil (aka ‘Gaffney the Gunman’), William Thompson and FW Wilson.


Not so sorry: Patrick Riley was convicted in October 1924 of making counterfeit coins and possessing a mould. He was sentenced to two years’ hard labour.


Dapper: Sydney Skukerman, alias Cecil Landan, ‘obtained goods from warehousemen by falsely representing he was in business’.


Admitted his crime: Carpenter George Whitehall handed himself into Newtown police after hacking his common-law wife Ida to death at their home in 1922.


Con man: Walter Keogh was identified as a pickpocket and a ‘go-getter’ – someone who sells building blocks at inflated prices claiming they would soon be sold on with a big profit.


Crimes unknown: Ah Low, pictured in May 1928, looks scruffy in a long coat and hat.


Fresh faced: Joseph Messenger was arrested in 1921 for breaking into an army warehouse and stealing boots and overcoats, valued at 29 pounds and three shillings. When this photograph was taken, he was charged with Valerie Lowe (not pictured) with stealing a saddle and bridle from Roseberry Racecourse. As an adult, Messenger was active in the inner-Sydney underworld through the 1920s, and he appears in the NSW Criminal Register as a seasoned criminal and gang affiliate.