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Mr Sin's long lost son

Adam Brand spent more than 30 years wondering who his father was. He was stunned to learn that it was "Mr Sin" - Abe Saffron. Kate McClymont reveals his story.

Adam Brand spent more than 30 years wondering who his father was. He was stunned to learn that it was "Mr Sin" - Abe Saffron. Kate McClymont reveals his story.

FOR more than three decades notorious underworld figure Abe Saffron treasured a card posted in 1974 from Adelaide.

"Happy Father's Day Remember the good old days?" reads the card. The letters are emblazoned over a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

"Dearest Abe," reads the letter inside the card. "Just a few lines to let you know where I am and that all is well." The baby was already 6? weeks old, said the writer, and everyone "down here" says he is a beautiful baby and that "he looks so much like Abe". The writer is sure "he is going to have a gap in his teeth like you."

The writer goes on to talk about starting back at "the club" and ends asking Abe to ring her. "There are a few things I want to talk to you about."

"Our love as always, Christine and Adam."

For most of his life Adam Brand tried to figure out who he was and where he came from. Now 37, Brand was only 13 months old when he was given up for adoption. Social workers had deemed his mother, Christine Elliot, a 22-year-old Kings Cross stripper, "unfit".

Years of fruitless searching kept gnawing at Brand. Christine Elliot appeared to have vanished. "I kept worrying about it. It wasn't holding me back, but it was occupying my mind," said the chef, who has worked at some of Sydney's top restaurants including The Pier at Rose Bay and Coast at Darling Harbour.

Eighteen months ago he was astounded when he learnt the truth. His mother's sister Debbie tracked him down and then put him in touch with his birth mother who had married, had two other children and had been living in the US for the past 30 years.

After a tearful initial conversation, mother and son spoke further. It was during the third or fourth call Brand broached the subject of his father.

According to family folklore, his father was Hawaiian, hence his dark complexion. His nonplussed mother, who thought her son knew his parentage, corrected him.

"Adam, your father is Abe Saffron," she said matter-of-factly.

"I was like, 'Whoa! Hang on a minute ... Oh shit, wow Abe Saffron!' It was completely out of left field. For 35 years you think you are someone else, from somewhere else ... and all of a sudden you find out you are completely different. I was a little bit shocked."

After he hung up Adam sat down, stunned. "I mean I knew who he was ... He's a pretty serious dude," he said laughing.

Saffron, who died in 2006 aged 86, was Australia's most notorious underworld figure. Nicknamed "Mr Sin", Saffron controlled the vice trade in most states, including illegal gambling and prostitution. He also bribed politicians and police to ensure his empire was protected.

Brand finally met his mother in May when he, his partner Maree and their one-year-old son Oliver travelled to her home in Hartford, Connecticut.

She explained that she had worked at Saffon's strip clubs in Sydney, and then in Adelaide after she had the baby. She had been in contact with Saffron until a few years before he died and that he had often asked about his son.

Brand returned home with a single memento from his early years: a small, polaroid shot of his mother, her long dark hair clipped back, eyes heavily made up, smiling as she held baby Adam in his christening gown.

In August, some eight months after he first contacted her via Facebook, Teri Tkaczyk agreed to meet Brand.

Referred to in Saffron's will as "my dear friend and companion," Tkaczyk, 63, inherited the bulk of Saffron's $20 million estate along with Melissa Hagenfelds, his daughter by an earlier mistress.

Eyebrows were raised back in 1983 when it was Tkaczyk, then 35, not his wife Doreen, who escorted Saffron, 64, to the Glebe Coroner's Court to give evidence at the inquest into the suspected murder of heiress Juanita Nielsen.

Fast forward to the casino in Cairns in August, this year. Tkaczyk, who had flown from Sydney, and Brand, who lives at Kurrimine Beach, 1 hours south of Cairns, met at the bar. The first thing she said to Brand was: "What you read about your father is not true. He was nice and he was charming. People focus on his bad points. I just want to let you know he is not that person."

After about 10 minutes she opened her handbag and pulled out an old envelope addressed to Mr A.G.Saffron, at Lodge 44, his business headquarters at Edgecliff. She handed it to Brand.

"I don't know why I kept this," she said, explaining that she found it among Saffron's belongings when he died and that he must have kept it for a reason all these years.

Inside was the Father's Day card, the letter from "Christine and Adam" and a small photo taken on August 18, 1974.

"Oh, my God!" Brand said, staring at the old polaroid picture. He then pulled out the old cracked one his mother had given him. The photos are taken on the same day, at the same place. But in the christening photo sent to Saffron, Christine is flanked by the baby's godparents Peter Fairweather, who was Saffron's Adelaide accountant, and a woman believed to be Shirley Pope.

"For me that was the definitive piece of evidence," said Brand.

I tell him that his half-brother Alan has taken action in the NSW Supreme Court, trying to get more money out of his late father's estate.

Brand doesn't seem interested in money. He just wants some photos of his father and to meet his half siblings Alan and Melissa. "After all, they are blood," he says.

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