Williams: part-time TV star, full-time crook, now dead
Carl Williams became a household name outside Victoria thanks to the first of the enormously successful TV series Underbelly, which is now in its third season on Channel 9.
Williams, a career criminal, died today as a result of head injuries inflicted in an assault by another inmate at Barwon Prison, where he was serving a minimum of 35 years for three murders.
Williams became something of a grotesque poster boy for Melbourne’s gangland war which came to national attention six years ago as tit-for-tat killings between rival drug gangs became increasingly daring and public. The brazen public murder of Jason Moran - shot dead along with a fellow criminal in a car park after attending a kids’ footy clinic - was something of a watershed moment in the war and it was masterminded by Williams.
The gangland war was a brutal power struggle but Williams’s larger-than-life character - the cheeky, “what, me, a criminal?” smile, his shamelessly bogan fashion sense that contrasted with his enemies sharper looks - that provided the foundation for great television.
You have to wonder whether, without his place in the story, it would ever have progressed beyond fodder for current affairs coverage.
Instead the first Underbelly series was a compelling docu-drama and while much of the narrative focus was on the Moran family, the people everyone loved to talk about after the show were Carl and his then-wife Roberta. They were the characters that got quoted around water-coolers and drove much of the popularity of the show.
They weren’t just people with ties to Melbourne’s criminal underworld - they were celebrities in their own right. There was a period of massive media interest in Roberta and she stripped down to pose for a lads’ mag.
Within hours of his death being announced, Carl Williams’s name was the third-highest trending topic on Twitter.
He was back in the news pages just this morning. He might have been locked up but he was never out of the spotlight.
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