Monday, October 21, 2013

Who was Jeannette Routledge?

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.

Jeanette Routledge was the mother of Philomena Morgan. Philomena was born when she was just 19, and the father was unknown. 

Jeanette Routledge was married a number of times, and lived under many names. In 1919 she married Audra de la Pierre and then married bigamously to Benjamin Nagel in 1923. When she was caught, she was already living with Ronald Routledge. Jeanette’s own mother had been married multiple times and lived under many names, and so too did Philomena.

While staying in Canberra with a friend, Jeanette was supposed to have screamed in in a drunken hysteric that she had killed her daughter. However, this is hearsay only. It does seem she was a disaffected mother. But she did say that the reason for her split from her daughter was that Philomena being kept as the mistress by a married man, and she didn’t think it right. This is ironic, for a woman who had committed the act of bigamy herself.

Jeanette admitted in court to having previously committed perjury, including lying about her daughter’s age in a carnal knowledge case against a lodger, Robert Seeney. She had also given an incorrect description of Philomena to the police when first approached in 1934. In 1937, she viewed the body of the Pyjama Girl at the Sydney University and was adamant it was not her daughter. But in 1944 she changed her mind at the Pyjama Girl inquest.

This may well have been as a result of the influence on her by Dr Benbow. We'll meet him next.

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