About 1.1 million Australians last night tuned into Channel Nine last night to watch an opportunistically-scheduled reheated documentary on the hitman who tasted his own medicine yesterday — 600,000 less viewers than the opening episode of Masterchef.
That Carl Williams: Baby Faced Killer lost the ratings battle — a final insult, surely, on a pretty bad day for the Williams clan — may have something to do with the hysterical and saturated coverage of his death. But given his media infamy in life, the circus over his death was inevitable. Crikey presents the greatest hits of the Carl Williams death orgy:
12:01am yesterday: This story really started when the Herald Sun hit the streets with its front-page scoop: ‘YOU PAY KILLER’S SCHOOL FEES’. As Padraic Murphy wrote: “Taxpayers paid the private school fees for the daughter of multiple murderer, drug dealer and underworld figure Carl Williams.” The Herald Sun is today standing by its story, regardless of any role it may have played in his death.
2:05pm: Just after 2pm AAP has the first reports: a man bashed to death at Barwon Prison, south-west of Melbourne, is believed to be Carl Williams. The report was soon confirmed and the chase for the story began. Williams was declared dead around 1pm.
3:50pm: AAP produced a timeline of Williams’ life: the Broadmeadows West Technical School drop-out who first came to prominence in 1999 when he was shot in the stomach by Jason Moran over a drug debt. Williams was later convicted of shooting dead Moran in June of 2003; he also ordered the hits on underworld figures Lewis Moran, Michael Marshall and Mark Mallia. He was sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2007.
4:00pm: By mid-afternoon there was blanket coverage. Along with its comprehensive reporting — the top four stories on its website — the Herald Sun rolled out a live blog of the unfolding developments, which mainly served as a forum for readers. ‘Sheryl’ noted “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”; a more circumspect ‘so sad’ declared it a “sad sad day for Australia”:
4:04pm: Talkback radio immediately went into overdrive on news of Williams’ death. Derryn Hinch on 3AW in Melbourne fuelled the discussion:
“Carl Williams is dead and believe me the world is better for his passing. It’s one more vote for a cleaner Australia. He was scum and don’t let TV shows like Underbelly ever fool you otherwise.”
6:00pm: As the official underworld killings network, Channel Nine wasn’t about to be beaten in covering its star’s death. The network riffled through its archives for anything it could chop up into something resembling new coverage: after reporting the news and its aftermath, Melbourne anchor Peter Hitchener took us inside Barwon Prison with “unprecedented access” for a “Nine News special”… a report he filmed three years earlier:
6:30pm: Not to be outdone, A Current Affair had its own “exclusive”: the home videos of Carl as family man, playing with his daughter Dakota, delivered and narrated by “Carl’s now grieving widow” Roberta Williams… back in June of 2008:
7:30pm: By mid-evening Twitter was abuzz with Carl Williams chat — mostly jokes in the poorest of taste. As Chas Licciardello tweeted today: “Carl Williams: Now even more underworld.” The Independent reported “Carl Williams” trending eighth globally last night.
8.30 pm: Carl Williams: Baby Faced Killer airs on Channel Nine, originally part of the Nine series Families of Crime.
Overnight: International media latched onto the story, mainly pointing out Williams’ Underbelly stardom. Reuters dubbed him “Australia’s most notorious mobster”, while The Guardian noted with Williams’ “plump face, ruffled hair and open smile, he seemed more like a suburban family man than a ruthless crime boss”. BBC Australian correspondent Nick Bryant told British online readers of the TV series of Williams’ life and noted the attack — “ironically” — was apparently captured on CCTV.
This morning: It’s ‘THE END’ for Williams, ‘Killed by a trusted inmate’, sparking ‘NEW WAR FEAR’. Melbourne’s newspapers lead the charge. The Herald Sun laid claim to the “final interview”, while Keith Moor opined Williams’ death is “no great loss to society”. Paul Williams declared the kingpin was driven by “vengeance, paranoia, avarice and fear”.
In The Age, Paul Austin called for Premier John Brumby to face scrutiny over prison security, long-time underworld reporter John Silvester reckoned the attack was “orchestrated, co-ordinated and perhaps months in the planning”, and that Williams “had it coming”.
8:50am: An “unidentified man” has been charged with the bashing death of Williams. Police Commissioner Simon Overland said there is clear CCTV footage of the attack.
11:35am: Williams won’t be missed — at least according to the readers of the Herald Sun. This morning its poll ‘Will you mourn the death of Carl Williams?’ showed more than 93 percent of Melbourne was saying good riddance. At least 410 people were joining the Williams clan in grief.
11:59am: The Age reports:
The man accused of murdering gangland killer Carl Williams in Barwon Prison yesterday has made a brief appearance via video link in Geelong Magistrates’ Court.
Shaven haired and in a tight orange prison regulation T-shirt, the accused sat handcuffed and fidgeted constantly during this morning’s hearing.
When Magistrate Ron Saines asked the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, if he had anything to say, he simply replied, “nah”.