Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I don't have answers but I do have questions

“I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them. Working backward, seeking only facts, I reconstructed her as a sad little girl and a whore, at best a could-have-been--a tag that might equally apply to me. I wish I could have granted her an anonymous end, relegated her to a few terse words on a homicide dick’s summary report, carbon to the coroner’s office, more paperwork to take her to potter’s field. The only thing wrong with the wish is that she wouldn’t have wanted it that way. As brutal as the facts were, she would have wanted all of them known.”

So begins James Elroy’s novel “The Black Dahlia”, describing itself as a novel based on Hollywood’s most notorious murder case.

The two cases of course, have some things in common--attractive young women, found dead, brutally battered. It’s interesting to note that the Pyjama Girl murder took place in 1934, well ahead of the 1947 Black Dahlia murder--although this is certainly one thing we wouldn’t want to claim as a first.

It’s no an exaggeration to say that the Pyjama Girl is Albury’s most notorious murder case, if not Australia’s.

But with other cases before and since--mysteries with the same elements of the salacious, the gruesome, the tragic--why has this particular murder mystery endured?

That’s what I’m here to find out.

In 1932, in Ayr in Far North Queensland, a man from the electrical company was checking the meter on a house when he made a gruesome discovery within. Clad only in her nightgown, the body of the beautiful Jean Morris was pooled in the blood resulting from a reported 35 stab wounds. It’s certain that Morris wasn’t her real name, so the intrigue of alternate identities is something this case has in common with the Pyjama Girl mystery.

And there’s another important thing in common--a potential victim. Anna Philomena Morgan was considered a possible match for the dead girl found just outside Albury. 

Much of this was due to the efforts of a Dr Palmer Benbow, who fancied himself a detective. Eventually, much of his evidence was dismissed. 

And Anna Philomena Morgan was crossed off the long list of names as it was believed ‘She was identical with Jean Morris’. This is an idea that since seems to have been dismissed as the ugly duckling photograph of a young Philomena hardly suggested that she could turn into the beautiful Stiletto Jean.

Tonight, I meet with the Albury and District Historical Society, where I'm looking forward to hearing more stories, connections, and contradictions.

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