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Gangland Godmother made for movies

Nick Bryant | 04:09 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

When it comes to The Sopranos-meets-Ramsey Street world of Melbourne's gangland, fact can often be way more outlandish than fiction; and hot on the heels of the critically-acclaimed film Animal Kingdom comes the made-for-the-movies trial of Judy Moran, the city's most infamous crime matriarch.

For the uninitiated, Judy Moran is a 66-year old grandmother, instantly recognisable for her designer sunglasses and blow-dried blonde hair, who has lost two husbands and two sons to gangland killings.

In June 2009, she was arrested in connection with the murder of her brother-in-law, Des "Tuppence" Moran, who was shot seven times in the head and upper body inside a café in Melbourne in broad daylight. The prosecution did not allege that Moran had pulled the trigger, but argued she had driven the gunmen, Geoffrey Armour, to and from the scene of the murder. The court heard that she had congratulated the gunman and patted him on the back when he confirmed that Tuppence Moran was dead, and ordered that he remove clothing and other items, including the murder weapon, so that she could dispose of them.

In what has the feel of a cinematic flourish, they were discovered later that evening by police in a safe hidden behind a bookshelf in her home. Moran was arrested as she walked back after dumping the getaway car, after a police surveillance team had watched her do it. The jury rejected her claim that she had been visiting the grave of her slain son, Mark, at the time of the murder. It was the anniversary of his death, which she presumably hoped would be a humanising detail that would help sway the jury.

Moran apparently commemorates her dead relatives with potted roses in her garden, and sometimes speaks to them over a cup of coffee. With her story almost certain to be dramatised, the scene almost writes itself.

Indeed, there are shades of Judy Moran in the character of Smurf in Animal Kingdom, who the Oscar-nominated Australian actress Jacki Weaver played with such chilling perfection.

Perhaps mindful of the media needs of the moment, Moran waved to cameramen as she was taken from the court in her electric wheelchair.

There's a good piece here about how the Melbourne underworld has provided Australia's second city with its main cultural export in recent years. Both Australia's best film of recent years, Animal Kingdom, and one of the more critically-acclaimed television dramas, Channel Nine's Underbelly, were based on real-life gangland wars.

The extent to which the crime culture in Melbourne and Sydney overlaps with the tabloid-driven celebrity culture is also another interesting area to explore.

Certainly, Judy Moran was the country's most infamous female criminal celebrity, but no doubt someone will soon come along to fill her designer stilettos.


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  • 1. At 06:13am on 09 Mar 2011, TheMoz wrote:


    Where is that?

    TheMoz, a true blue SydneyCider.

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  • 2. At 08:19am on 09 Mar 2011, DuneRader wrote:

    Strange how those who think them selves to be above the law all ways find out the hard way that they are not.

    Unfortunately there is always another ready to step into their place thinking they are smarter and it will not happen to them only to go down the same path.

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  • 3. At 10:09am on 09 Mar 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Have just seen that she has been found guilty.
    This kind of criminal behaviour cannot be tolerated.
    But the real question is...why cannot the police root out these dregs of society?
    Do the police need more funding or better intelligence resources?
    Whatever is required "gangland" must not be allowed to exist in "ourland".

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  • 4. At 12:58pm on 09 Mar 2011, Euloroo wrote:

    For a brief second i thought you were going to blog about NSW Premier Kristina Keneally...

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  • 5. At 2:58pm on 09 Mar 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    @ 4 Euloroo

    LMAO - classic.

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  • 6. At 9:13pm on 09 Mar 2011, Camo wrote:

    "Smurf" was Kath Pettingill...

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  • 7. At 9:44pm on 09 Mar 2011, tinytrev wrote:

    The review on the Guardian website which this blog post links to contains the following gem of detail: (Production) "country - rest of the world". Nice to know that The Gruaniad don't think the Australian film industry worthy of its own entry in the list of film making countries!

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  • 8. At 7:34pm on 10 Mar 2011, Odicean wrote:

    Is Australia beginning to sound interesting? Enough to justify suffering a 22 hour flight from London? Errr....

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  • 9. At 00:05am on 11 Mar 2011, Diana wrote:

    I am looking forward to the next installment of Underbelly when we go back to 1920's. It will be interesting to compare this version to Frank Hardy's novel, Power without Glory, about the life of John Wren which I remember reading as a teenager and thinking it was a rollicking, if true, great yarn!

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  • 10. At 05:54am on 11 Mar 2011, Nedk wrote:

    It's time we stopped providing oxygen to gangsters' molls like Moran and Pettingill. The only reporting of their activities should be when they appear in court and are put away for long periods.

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  • 11. At 4:12pm on 11 Mar 2011, pandatank wrote:

    2. DuneRader wrote:
    "Strange how those who think them selves to be above the law all ways find out the hard way that they are not."

    I'm still waiting for Rupert Murdoch's revelation

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