Women in crime, on both sides of the law

Judy Moran: The Made-up Matriarch

Judy was unlucky in love and ultimately unlucky in crime, losing two husbands and two sons to gangland murders.

Her father, Leo Brooks, was a loyal Carlton Football Club man and a prodigious stolen goods mover who had a small army of shoplifters (including Judy, when she worked for Myer as a teenager) working for him.

Decades later, when Judy was being interviewed on television from home, I got a call from a mutual collaborator. “Look behind her,” he said. It was a cupboard full of collectible plates and ornaments. “Everything was stolen to order.”

Des and Judy Moran outside the Melbourne Supreme Court in April 2004. Five years later, Des would be shot on Judy's orders.

Des and Judy Moran outside the Melbourne Supreme Court in April 2004. Five years later, Des would be shot on Judy’s orders.Credit:Craig Abraham

Her first husband, Les Cole, was shot dead in Sydney in 1981, while her second, Lewis Moran, met the same fate in 2004 at the Brunswick Club. Her two sons, Mark and Jason, were killed in Melbourne’s “Underbelly” gang wars in Melbourne. 2000 and 2003 respectively.

Although she and Lewis had split up 10 years before his murder, he continued to support her financially until his death—a practice continued by her brother-in-law Des despite the fact that he despised her.

He gave her $4,000 a month, but when she demanded that he buy her a car, he cut her allowance.

Judy Moran's farewell tour.  On the verge of being found guilty in the Supreme Court of murder.

Judy Moran’s farewell tour. On the verge of being found guilty in the Supreme Court of murder.Credit:Jason South

When Judy learned that Des was planning to change his will to omit her side of the family, it was time to act. On June 15, 2009, a gunman hired by Judy shot Des seven times outside a cafe in Ascot Vale.

True to her form as a terrible actress, she arrived on stage stomping her feet and crying, “It should have been me, not Des.”

When a female employee went to kiss her, she noticed that there were no tears. Judy’s eyes were as cold and calculating as a crocodile’s.

For the police accustomed to dealing with complex gangland murders, this was a piece of cake – after all, the getaway car was found parked in her garage.

Judy Moran was sentenced to a minimum of 21 years, meaning she would be 85 years old at the earliest.

Wendy Peirce: proof that crime doesn’t pay

In underworld terms, Wendy Peirce is both victim and villain.

Her husband Victor was ambushed and shot dead in May 2001 while sitting in his Commodore sedan on Bay Street, Port Melbourne.

Wendy and Victor Peirce at a wedding reception in 1987.

Wendy and Victor Peirce at a wedding reception in 1987.

Thirteen years earlier, Peirce led a gang that used a stolen Commodore to lure two police officers, Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre, to Walsh Street, South Yarra, to be ambushed and murdered.

Wendy Peirce became the prosecution’s key witness, but during the trial she switched sides and refused to testify against him. She was jailed for perjury while Victor walked free.

Four years after her husband’s murder, Wendy Peirce admitted to me that Victor’s armed robbery gang had made a pact that if one of them was killed by the police, they would kill two in revenge.

The day before Walsh Street, Peirce’s sidekick, Graeme Jensen, had been shot dead by detectives in Narre Warren. “Victor was the [Walsh Street] organizer,” she says.

She lived for 30 years in a world where violence was the norm. When her husband and his half-brother, Dennis Allen, murdered and chopped up Anton Kenny, Victor chased Wendy through the house using the victim’s big toe. It was his idea of ​​a joke.

There was no glamor in crime for Wendy Peirce. There was no illicit fortune, no lavish lifestyle, only a life of untimely deaths, senseless violence and personal heartbreak.

Perhaps she would have had a second chance if she had made truthful statements at the Walsh Street trial. But she chose not to take it.

Betty King: Queen of the Court

When Betty King graduated from Melbourne University in 1973, a relative suggested she work as a secretary at a law firm. Instead, she became a criminal defense attorney, prosecutor, Queen’s Counsel, member of the National Crime Authority, County Court and later a Supreme Court judge.

Artist Lana McLean delivers her entry in the Archibald Prize of Justice Betty King.

Artist Lana McLean delivers her entry in the Archibald Prize of Justice Betty King.Credit:Dean Sewell

Because of her background in criminal justice, she was assigned many of the so-called Underbelly gangland murder trials.

One of her first major trials didn’t make the headlines, at least not then. Gangster Carl Williams was found guilty of the 2003 murder of Michael Marshall, but as he faced five more murder charges, the sentence was overturned.

In February 2007, Williams agreed to plead guilty to the murders of Lewis Moran, Jason Moran and Mark Mallia and conspiracy to murder Mario Condello.

She sentenced Williams to a minimum of 35 years and told him, “You are a murderer, and a coward, who employed others to commit the actual murder.”

Williams expected the chance to make a striking statement before being sent down. Instead, King banishes him from her court.

It would have come as no surprise to her when Williams was beaten to death in Barwon Prison in 2010. She’s been around long enough to know how these things usually end.

King forbade the lower abdomen TV series in Victoria, conclude that it can influence a jury. The fact that some real Purana detectives, who would have witnessed in a number of cases, appeared as extras on the show may have influenced her decision.

Though she has a passion for glamorous glasses and shoes, she despises the cult of personality, is baffled by how con artists become cult heroes, and believes that a judge should be seen as part of the system and not the star of the show.

A hardworking and serious judge, she refused to be defined by the role and decided to retire early to travel and enjoy life, always with a bad sense of humor.

Constable Christine Nixon, 19, graduates from the NSW Police Department.

Constable Christine Nixon, 19, graduates from the NSW Police Department.Credit:Mervyn George Bishop

On a social occasion, she said to me, “I have both good news and bad news for you.” I asked for the bad news first.

“I’m a judge in the Ned Kelly [true crime book] awards.”

I asked for the good news.

“You don’t have to bother preparing a speech.”

Christine Nixon: The Outsider

When Christine Nixon was appointed 19th Chief of Police of Victoria in 2001, she was not from the left, but from another planet.

In the insular and banal police world, she was an outsider, a woman from another state and did not have a strong operational background.

But the state government assessed her managerial skills, management style, outsider perspective and reformist agenda and supported her to lead an organization traditionally averse to change.

Behind her natural charm was sometimes hidden a steel-hard character. She soon began to become the higher-ranking police force she found, rightly or wrongly, old-fashioned. She banned alcohol in police stations, tried to tackle gender inequality and tackled corruption.

She was popular with the public and young cops. Some of the elders claimed that her changes had damaged police culture.

Christine Nixon tours the devastated town of Kinglake after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Christine Nixon tours the devastated town of Kinglake after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Credit:Trevor Pinder

Nixon arrived and said she would be a one-time chief and leave after five years. Instead, she stayed in a job that takes its toll.

In her second term, she started making mistakes and was criticized for leaving the disaster room on Black Saturday to go to a pub for dinner.

It was a bad look, but made no difference. She let her Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe, a police officer with much more operational experience, take charge.

Those who pack her don’t tell the whole story. She left Melbourne in the early hours of Sunday and, while the fires were still burning, visited aid workers and crushed survivors. She worked 20-hour days and traveled thousands of miles.

When she left the police force, she ran the Bushfire Reconstruction Recovery Authority, where she used her amazing skills, compassion and understanding to rebuild the state.

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