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Grief, greed, image, murder: Judy's oxy-Moranic life

The Age

Saturday March 26, 2011


FIRST, yet another confession. Your correspondent (who should know better) has been hugely entertained over the years by the activities of some people who are rightly seen by polite company as somewhat notorious.Mick Gatto can be charming, Chopper Read funny, while colourful barrister Zarah Garde-Wilson had an interesting snake (which is why, of course, she was known as the hyphen with the python).And then there is Judy Moran. Some people say she is a self-promoting, vindictive, disingenuous fraud. And some people would be right.In fairness it should be pointed out that Judy is no fan of this columnist, believing he has not always presented her family of gunmen and drug dealers in a favourable light."Sometimes I feel am at war with Silvester, that I am a soldier in the trenches with my bayonet fixed," she wrote in the first edition of her autobiography, My Story.Sadly for her publisher it had to be pulped during the publicity tour. Judy was quite cross when informed she could no longer order fisherman's baskets via hotel room service and was returning to Melbourne.But every cloud has a silver lining (or in Judy's case a Glomesh one). The book was quickly reworked and she was paid $110,00 for her literary efforts.Judy is a complex character. Intelligent, deluded and dangerous, she worked hard to promote a public image of a woman innocently sucked into the underworld through her love for a man from the wrong side of the tracks.It was a love story in the genre of Jaws.Earlier this month, when a Supreme Court jury pronounced her guilty of organising the murder of her brother-in-law Desmond "Tuppence" Moran, she lowered her head for a moment to compose herself before lifting her gaze, refusing to show any signs of emotion.But back in the Dame Phyllis Frost prison, which has been her home since she was arrested for Tuppence's murder in June 2009, she was near collapse. According to prison sources, she finally had to confront the awful truth. At 66 and in poor health, she is likely to die in prison.Judy is one of a growing list of older inmates in our jails, something increasingly concerning senior officials in the correctional system. So much so that there has been serious consideration about building a geriatric jail within a prison to deal with the aged who require special health and dietary needs.For many, their bleak future is hard time on soft food. Which means Judy will not only be doing porridge, she'll be eating it.Over the decades she has had much practice at hiding her inner feelings from public scrutiny.At the funerals of her former husband Lewis Moran and sons Mark and Jason, she appeared controlled to the point of coldness. If her plans were to appear aloof and powerful, they failed as at times she looked more maitre d than matriarch.Her outfits, accessories and moves were carefully planned for such harrowing public performances. In her book she acknowledges her image makers. "Lena, thank you for all the hairstyles you created for me for the funerals of all my family," she writes, and thanks also those who helped her select her outfits, including her "lovely shoes".She goes on to thank her agent Harry M. Miller but not the Purana Taskforce detectives, whose investigations led to charges being laid against those who murdered her husband and sons.No one should trivialise her grief and there is a genuine sadness to her. Behind the public mask, Judy Moran remains devastated by the murders of her family. The most telling image is not of her in power clothes, or performing a royal wave as she enters court in an electric wheelchair, but slumped and crying near the van where her son Jason was killed in Essendon North in June, 2003.A real woman shedding real tears.She was the victim of savage beatings at the hands of her de facto husband Lewis. They separated and barely spoke for years, although she maintained that before his 2004 murder they had become friends."The stronger I became, the more Lewis respected me, to the point that we gradually grew close as two people can be without being in love. Towards the end of Lewis's life, I did love him, but I was no longer in love with him. . . . Up until his death he was still hoping we could be reconciled." If this was Lewis Moran's hope he certainly kept it close to his chest because his mates maintain to this day that he saw her as a greedy loudmouth.Just before he was released from prison in 2003, he told a fellow inmate: "The moll gets the house and that's all she'll get." Hardly the words of a man bitten twice by the love bug.It is baffling that a woman who suffered so much, forced to endure repeated bashings and the deaths of her two former husbands (the first, Les Cole, was killed in Sydney in 1982), two sons and many friends, would herself conspire to kill. Perhaps it had just become a way of life. Or perhaps she started to believe her own publicity that she was a player rather than a passenger in the underworld.It is now a matter of public record that she mortgaged the house in Ormond Road for $400,000 to pay the hit team she recruited to kill Des Moran the brother-in-law she detested.All three, Suzie Kane, Michael Farrugia and Geoffrey "Nuts" Armour, have pleaded guilty to charges over the murder. Armour, who was the shooter, was given a brand new Land Rover worth $72,000 by Judy as payment. How he won the moniker "Nuts" remains a matter of furious debate.Some say he has the word tattooed on the back of his head, now covered by hair regrowth. Others say it is due to an unfortunate side effect of the use of steroids that results in certain parts of the body growing while others shrink.Armour was yesterday unavailable for comment on the origins of his nickname and we have seen no physical evidence to support either theory.Nuts shot Des Moran seven times outside the Ascot Pasta and Deli Cafe in Union Road on June 15, 2009. Judy was the getaway driver.Nuts failed in a March attempt when he fired a shot through the windscreen of Des's Mercedes, lodging a bullet in the steering wheel and narrowly missing Moran's mate, Mick Linsdell.Des Moran complained to his luxury car dealer that the windscreen should have stopped the projectile. He seemed unaware that Mercedes gave up installing bulletproof glass in sedans around 1945.The question most asked since Judy was found guilty is, why did she do it?Greed. Not so pure and not so simple.Des lived in a Langs Road, Ascot Vale house he and Lewis inherited from their parents. After Lewis was killed he was posthumously convicted of drug trafficking and fined $599,000, with the money to be collected from the sale of the house after Des's death. The property has been valued at about $2 million.Des, who never married, left his estate to Lewis's grandchildren although he was considering changing his will to leave his assets to charity.Police believe that Judy sought legal advice and was told she had a strong case to contest the will. She had a sound argument as she could establish that her needs were great and that, as a close relative, she was entitled to most, if not all, of the proceeds from the house.If she had started legal action over the ownership of the house while Des was alive she would have been liable for her legal costs but if she contested the will after her brother-in-law's death, the costs would be paid from the estate. For Judy it was like a free ticket in Tattslotto; she was convinced her numbers would come up.And they will, but not the ones she expected. They will be the number of years Justice Lex Lasry orders her to serve when he sentences her for murder in the not-too-distant future.And the betting is around 16 minimum.

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