Gangland Godmother made for movies
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.