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Florence Linda Platt
12 September 1905
|Died||27 August 1934 (aged 28)|
Florence Linda Agostini (née Platt; 12 September 1905 – 27 August 1934), known posthumously as the "Pyjama Girl", was an English Australian homicide victim found on a stretch of road in Albury, New South Wales, Australia, in September 1934.
Linda Agostini was born Florence Linda Platt in Forest Hill, a suburb of South East 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 movie 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 (1903-1969) 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
Agostini disappeared from friends and family in late August 1934, around a week before the unidentified Pyjama Girl was found in Splitter's Creek, near Albury, 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 and noticed a strong smell of kerosene. Slightly concealed and badly burnt, the body would not have been visible to anybody driving by.
The victim's head was wrapped in a towel. She had been shot and badly beaten. In a detail that came to define the case, she was wearing yellow silk pyjamas with a Chinese dragon motif – in Depression-era Australia, such clothing was luxurious, youthful and bohemian.
It soon became apparent that the body was of a petite woman in her twenties, 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 her body 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.
In his 2004 book The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies, historian Richard Evans suggests that Agostini was murdered around the same time as the Albury victim, and most likely in the confines of the couple's Melbourne townhouse, but that she was not the Pyjama Girl.
Reopening of the case
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 had known him before the war when he 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. 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. He was acquitted but was 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 Richard Evans, a Melbourne historian, casts doubt on its conclusion. In his 2004 book The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies, Evans points out discrepancies with the evidence, calling Antonio Agostini's conviction the result of "police corruption and a miscarriage of justice". The Pyjama Girl had brown eyes; Agostini's were blue. The victim had a different bust size to that of Linda Agostini and Agostini had a different shaped nose.
Evans points out that 125 women were originally on the police's list of possible identities, but that these other leads remained "uneliminated and untraced".
A film entitled La ragazza dal pigiama giallo (The Pyjama Girl Case), directed by Italian Flavio Mogherini, was produced in 1977. A book written by Hugh Geddes, based on the film and bearing the same title, appeared in 1978.
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.
- Pennay, Bruce, "Agostini, Linda (1905 - 1934)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 2007-05-02
- Australia Today – The Pyjama Girl Murder Case (Motion Picture). Australian Screen Online. 1939.
- 'Pyjama girl' murderer sentenced. Australia Through Time (7th ed.). Random House Australia. 1999. ISBN 978-0091838157.
- "The Pyjama Girl murder". The Daily Telegraph. 5 November 2015. (Subscription required (help)).
- Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra (30 July 2014). "The Unknown Soldier of the War Against Women". Overland.
- Evans, Richard (2004). The Pyjama Girl Mystery (1st ed.). Scribe Publications Pty Ltd. ISBN 978-1920769369
- "La ragazza dal pigiama giallo". Internet Movie Database.
- Geddes, Hugh, The Pyjama Girl Case, Sun Books Pty., Ltd., ISBN 0-7251-0299-3, Melbourne, 1978
- "Commissions". HotHouse Theatre. Retrieved 14 January 2016.