CANBERRA - Australia has not seen anyone quite like Judy Moran since Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, the flamboyant warring rival crime matriarchs of the mid-20th century.

Unlike the sly-grogging Sydney madam Devine and drug-trafficking Leigh, Moran had until this week never been convicted of a crime or even directly linked to the underworld dealings of her two husbands and two sons, all victims of Melbourne's gangland wars.

Always impeccably dressed and haloed in bouffant blond hair, she gained collateral notoriety while dismissing the description of "crime matriarch" and granting interviews that elevated her to celebrity status.

Moran, 64, now stands accused of assisting in the execution of her brother-in-law Desmond "Tuppence" Moran, who was gunned down in a daylight killing at his favourite cafe in north Melbourne on Monday.

She and Suzanne Kane, 45, the sister-in-law of her dead son Jason, are charged with being accessories after the fact in Desmond's murder.

Kane is the daughter of Les Kane, a member of Melbourne's notorious but now defunct Painters and Dockers' Union, who was shot dead in 1986. Her uncle Brian Kane was also murdered.

Kane's boyfriend, Geoffrey Amour, has been charged with murder, and police have arrested a man alleged to be his accomplice.

Moran and Kane were denied bail at a court hearing yesterday.

Yet late last year Moran was contemplating retirement at Noosa Heads, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, after placing her Mona Vale, Melbourne, home on the market for about A$1 million ($1.3 million).

Channel Nine's A Current Affair interviewed her at a bar in the house, dressed in vivid red and surrounded by pictures of her slain family and the ashes of her late second husband, Lewis Moran, in an urn near the front door.

Moran had just re-released her 2005 autobiography My Story, written after Lewis was shot and killed at a Brunswick pub, and following her signing with celebrity agent Harry M. Miller.

The re-release followed the success of the Underbelly television series, based on the gang wars that killed as many as 30 people and of which the Moran boys were key triggers by shooting arch-rival Carl Williams in the stomach.

Mark Moran was shot dead in 2000. His father was Judy Moran's first husband, Leslie "Johnny" Cole, a Sydney gangster who had been murdered in 1987.

Jason Moran was her son by Lewis, who was killed with friend Pasquale Barbaro as they sat in a car watching Moran's children at a football clinic in 2003. Judy Moran told A Current Affair that this life was past and that she must move on.

Later, at Noosa, she gambolled in the water in a white straw hat and green dress, calling, "Heaven, here I am."

She sipped champagne from an ice bucket as she motored up the Noosa River, waving to locals watching from exclusive balconies.

"I'm Judy Moran from Melbourne and I'm going to be a resident of Noosa Heads. Will you welcome me?"

"Of course," the locals answered.

"I love it here," she said. "This is my retirement, to live the rest of my life up here in tranquillity. I'd die a happy old lady."

Tranquillity has evaded Moran for most of her life.

In My Story she wrote: "I have lived in a world of murder, corruption,bribery, crime and fear. A world with rules for men and where women know their place."

Throughout the gang wars she appeared regularly at funerals, outside court, and in media interviews.

Last year, dressed in lavender, Moran was asked what the gang wars had left her with. She replied: "No family."

Moran gripped Australia two years ago in a radio feud with Roberta Williams, Carl's wife, after the crime boss had admitted killing Jason and Mark.

Roberta reviled Moran for revelling in the publicity surrounding the deaths of her family, and for her call for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

Moran, who in turn attacked the "whining and whinging" of Barbara Williams, Carl's mother, after her son was sentenced to life, later told A Current Affair that Jason and Mark had made one mistake.

"The only thing they failed to do, my boys, was to kill Carl Williams."

On Tuesday night, as Moran sat behind bars, an explosion and fire engulfed her house.

"Fact is stranger than fiction with what we've seen [with the Morans]," Victorian police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland told reporters.

"If you were a scriptwriter and sat down and wrote this stuff you'd probably say, 'Look, no, it's a bit far-fetched. No one will believe it'."