Merging family and crime together, as The Straits so wonderfully does, The Society Murders surrounded the true story of Matthew Wales who murdered his wealthy socialite mother Margaret Wales-King and his stepfather Paul King in 2002. The killings made headlines across the country, mostly due to money, and exists in a series of infamous Australian crimes. Matthew’s defence to the crimes were that his mother used her wealth to manipulate the family. As a result, Matthew drugged his mother and stepfather to make them drowsy, beating them with further signs of unproved strangulation.
Airing on Channel Ten and rightly making a name of Matthew Le Nevez and giving him a Logie for his performance, The Society Murders was adapted from a book by Melbourne lawyer Hillary Bonney which was written through police and court transcripts and without the presence of the Wales family. The telemovie was adapted by writers Greg Haddrick and Kylie Needham and director Brendan Maher and featured a strong cast including Georgie Parker, Asher Keddie, Heather Mitchell and Nicholas Eadie as the Wales children, Neil Pigot and Alex Dimitriades as police investigators, Daniela Farinacci as Matthew’s wife Maritza.
Australian acting legends and real life-married couple Julia Blake and Terry Norris played the murdered wealthy couple. Given the warm and friendly appearance they both have shown throughout the decades throughout Australian film and television, it was fairly traumatic seeing the two placed in such a horrible crime. Perhaps this casting choice was made to make the parents seem both familiar. Blake picked up a stronger and more firm presence outside of the warm charactes she usually plays.
Part of the mystery that surrounded the case was the lack of investigation that went into the murders. With Matthew confessing his guilt, police shied away from investigating further, leaving anguish and torment to the remaining family members. As both Matthew and Maritza lied in their initial statements to the police, it seems difficult to determine what actually happened. The telemovie portrays what most likely happened, given the information available, like Matthew’s low IQ which would have rendered him unable to mastermind a detailed plan.
The Society Murders telemovie, like the book, continued the conversation that had people talking over water coolers and at the hairdressers. As far as crime films go, The Society Murders is not the finest film, but will keep you entertained for the 90 minute runtime.
The Society Murders premiered on Channel Ten on June 18, 2006.