(Florence) Linda Platt Agostini
|Born||Florence Linda Platt
12 September 1905
Forest Hill, London, England
|Died||27 August 1934
Linda Agostini was born Florence Linda Platt in Forest Hill, a suburb of London, on 12 September 1905. As a teenager, Platt worked at a confectionery store in Surrey before travelling to New Zealand at the age of 19 after what was rumoured to be a broken romance. Platt remained in New Zealand until 1927 when she moved to Australia to live in Sydney. There she worked at a picture theatre in the city and lived in a boarding house on Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross where accounts tell she entertained young, attractive men. Platt was a heavy drinker and a Jazz Age party-goer who had difficulty adjusting to stability. Her marriage to Italian-born Antonio Agostini in a Sydney registry office during 1930 was the beginning of an unhappy marriage that would see the couple leave for Melbourne to remove Linda from the influence of her Sydney friends.
Discovery and initial investigation
Mrs Agostini disappeared from friends and family in late August 1934, around a week before the unidentified Pyjama Girl was found in Albury near Splitter's Creek on the New South Wales side of the border with Victoria.
The victim's body was discovered by a local man named Tom Griffith. Griffith had been leading a prize bull along the side of Howlong Road near Albury when he saw the body in a culvert running under the road. Slightly concealed and badly burnt, the body would not have been visible to anybody driving by.
It soon became apparent that the body was of a petite woman in her 20s, but her identity could not be established. After the initial investigation failed to identify her, the body was taken to Sydney where it was put on public exhibition. She was preserved in a bath of formalin for this purpose, at the Sydney University Medical School until 1942, when it was transferred to police headquarters where it remained until 1944.
Several names were suggested for the identity of the dead woman, among them Anna Philomena Morgan and Linda Agostini. Both women were missing, both bore a likeness to the Pyjama Girl and both were of the right age. However, New South Wales police satisfied themselves that neither of the missing women was the Pyjama Girl and she remained unidentified.
Contemporary belief is that Agostini was murdered around the same time as the Albury victim, and most likely in the confines of the couple’s Melbourne townhouse.
Reopening of the case
In 1944, ten years after the body had been discovered, the forensic evidence was re-examined and the dental analysis of the victim was matched to Linda Agostini.
Tony Agostini had recently returned to Sydney after being held in internment camps at Orange, Hay and Loveday from 1940 to 1944. The police commissioner, William MacKay, who knew Agostini's husband before the war from when Tony had worked as a waiter at the restaurant that MacKay frequented, interviewed him. Noticing that Agostini seemed to be in a nervous state, MacKay asked him what had come over him. Tony Agostini then confessed to killing his wife.
In his statement, Agostini admitted that he had accidentally shot and killed his wife when they were living in Melbourne. Worried that he might be accused of murder, he had driven the body over the state border to Albury and had dumped it in the culvert. He had poured petrol over the body and set fire to it, to destroy the evidence.
The identification came just as public confidence in the New South Wales Police Force began to wane at their failure to catch the decade's most prolific killer and the circumstances under which Antonio Agostini "confessed" to killing his wife in their Melbourne townhouse are still very dubious today.
The arrest of Agostini was a sensation, as it meant that the Pyjama Girl had been identified. He was charged with murder and was extradited to Melbourne, where he was tried for murder. Surprisingly, he was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter instead, and was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He was released in 1948 and deported to Italy, where he died in 1969.
The case might have been left there, but new evidence recently uncovered by Richard Evans, a Melbourne historian, casts doubt on the conclusion of the case. As detailed in his book The Pyjama Girl Mystery, Evans has pointed out discrepancies with the evidence. The pyjama girl had a different bust size to that of Linda Agostini and Agostini had a different shaped nose.
A short film by Canberra film maker, Huck Tyrrell, entitled "Roadside" was produced in 1998 and inspired by the murder. In the film the victim returns as a hitch-hiker who tells her story to the unsuspecting driver and eventually leads him to her remains.
A play, titled "The Pyjama Girl" was written by Canberra playwright Emma Gibson and performed in Albury/Wodonga at Hothouse Theatre in 2013.
- Pennay, Bruce, "Agostini, Linda (1905 - 1934)", Australian Dictionary of Biography (Australian National University), retrieved 2007-05-02
- "'Pyjama girl' murderer sentenced", Australia Through Time (7ed).
- Evans, Richard (2004). The Pyjama Girl Mystery (1st ed.). Scribe Publications Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-920769-36-6
- Geddes, Hugh, The Pyjama Girl Case, Sun Books Pty., Ltd., ISBN 0-7251-0299-3, Melbourne, 1978