Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who was Anna Philomena Morgan?

Philomena Morgan (left) and artist's sketch of the pyjama girl.
Anna Philomena Morgan was born in 1911, although her mother had lied about her age in Philomena’s age in a court case in which they accused a lodger at their home of having committed carnal knowledge—that is, relations with a girl under the age of consent. The lodger, Robert Seeney was charged, but it later came to light that Philomena was over the age of consent.

Philomena’s father is unknown and she spent time away from her mother while growing up, sometimes living with friends. She went by many names, including Philomena Franki, Anna Morgan, Phillys De Pierre, Ann Manganetti, Philomena Coots, Britz, or Morris. But her mother, apparently, called her Decimah.

Philomena left her mother’s home in 1930. She spent time living in Darlinghurst, but didn’t seem to have an occupation. It’s possible she worked as a prostitute and certainly it seems she was receiving treatment for syphilis. Other witnesses at the trial, friends of hers, said she had married, and was known as a Mrs Callow. Her mother said Philomena was being ‘kept’ by a married man.

Photographs and descriptions of Philomena suggested strong similarities with the appearance of the Pyjama Girl. When Philomena’s mother, Jeanette Routledge applied in the small claims court for her missing daughter’s estate (jewellery and the like) the possibility that Philomena Morgan was the Pyjama Girl became public.

It was here that Dr Benbow got involved, and he adapted his theory about the pyjama girl, slotting Philomena in as the victim.

Ultimately, Dr Benbow’s theories were discounted. This does not mean that Philomena conclusively proved not to be the Pyjama Girl. It is possible that it was her.

To provide further reason for striking Philomena from the list, the NSW police advanced the suggestion that Philomena could not be the Pyjama Girl, found dead in 1934, because she matched the description of another woman found murdered in sleeping attire—Jean Morris in 1932.

Jean Morris doesn't appear in the play--but she is nonetheless a fascinating side note.

Jean Morris
Jean Morris, probably not her real name, was murdered in 1932 in Ayr, Queensland. 

She was found by the electricity man, who had come to read the meter. Jean was found clad in only a nightdress and had been stabbed multiple times (some reports said 32 times). 

Jean Morris was known locally as ‘Stiletto Jean’ because of the small knife she carried. She worked as a prostitute for Vincenzo D’Agostino and Francisco Femio, who were rumoured to run the Northern Queensland ‘Black Hand’—the secret Italian crime organisation, also known as the Camorra.

Her real name was unknown. It was said that she was the daughter of an Italian opera singer. The case was never solved and her murderer never found. 

Jean Morris was a beautiful woman and her description was similar to that of Philomena Morgan—dark hair, attractive features and large blue eyes. Because she was found dead in 1932 and because Philomena disappeared from her mother’s home around 1930 and the police advanced a theory that Philomena Morgan was, in fact, the murdered woman known as Jean Morris. And this of course meant that Philomena could not be the Pyjama Girl. 

However, this theory was based on very tenuous evidence in which an acquaintance of Philomena’s remembered Philomena talking about her intentions to ‘travel up north and work for the cane cutters’. Other friends of Philomena Morgan gave testimony in the Pyjama Girl investigation that they had seen her as late as 1933—after the time Jean Morris was murdered.

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