Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who was Antonio Agostini?

Antonio Agostini's tomb in Sardinia
While there are fictional elements in this dramatization of the Pyjama Girl mystery, it is based on true events, facts, and people.

I’ve put together these biographies from a variety of sources, including research by Richard Evans, Bruce Pennay, Alec Morgan, and Robert Coleman, as well as interviews, old newspaper articles and court documents.

Photos of Tony can be viewed here. Here's one of him on the beach with his wife Linda.

Antonio Agostini was born in Altivole, Northern Italy in 1903. He moved to Australia in 1927 and met Linda, who was to become his wife, the following year. He is remembered as a waiter, as that was his occupation when he confessed to murdering his wife, but in reality he was far more ambitious than that.

Tony worked as a journalist and started an Italian language paper in Australia. He was a well-regarded member of the Italian community.

He was also a loyal member of the Italian Fascist party and because of this, in June 1940, he was one of 172 Italians arrested in accordance with the detailed plan prepared by NSW Police Commissioner Mackay. Tony was interred at camps in regional NSW for 3 years and 8 months.

Tony had a girlfriend who he wrote to, but it seems they never saw each other again after he got out of the camps, because his freedom was brief. He got a job working at the exclusive Romano’s restaurant after his release, where he was previously worked as a cloakroom attendant. There, he came into contact again with a regular client—MacKay. The way the story goes, MacKay noticed that Agostini didn’t seem the cheerful man he had met some 10 years earlier, and on asking Agostini why he seemed changed, Agostini confessed to killing his wife.

Agostini was charged with manslaughter, not murder, which at the time, carried a hanging penalty. He served 3 years and 8 months in prison. He was apparently a model prisoner, described as a quiet, gentle man, and worked in the Pentridge Prison Library. On his release, he was smuggled out in the middle of the night and put on a cruise liner to extradite him out of the country on the orders of the immigration minister, Arthur Calwell.

Agostini first returned to Northern Italy, where he had grown up, before settling in Cagliari, the capital city of the island of Sardinia. Perhaps this appealed to Agostini, where it was unlikely he would have acquaintances who knew about his life in Australia. He opened two clothing stores and married a widow Giuseppina Gasoni. He died in 1969.

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