The gruesome nature of certain crimes has the power to resonate deeply with every individual who comes across them. Netflix’s ‘Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire‘ is a chilling account that goes beyond the pain and suffering experienced by those directly affected even today, unveiling hidden truths that were concealed from the public for years. The perpetrators responsible for the crime not only caused the tragic deaths in the fire but also revealed a disturbing pattern of illegal and corrupt behavior. At the center of this malevolent web was Abe Saffron, the orchestrator of the crime. The series delves into Saffron’s role, exploring the extent of his responsibility and the stakes involved in this heinous act.
The Rise of “Sin of Sydney”
At the age of 15, Abe Saffron began his business career with his family’s enterprise in the diaper industry. Born in Annandale, New South Wales, in 1919, he later enlisted in the Australian Army and attained the rank of corporal before his discharge in January 1944. His early experiences in the family business laid the groundwork for a career that was nothing short of notorious. His involvement with the Sydney nightclub, The Roosevelt Club, marked the beginning of his connections in the underworld.
Soon after, Saffron evolved into a businessman exclusively dealing in illicit trades, including drugs, prostitution, illegal licensing, bribery, and adult entertainment establishments. With a string of clubs and pubs under his ownership in downtown Sydney, he garnered nicknames such as the “Sin of Sydney” due to the nature of his activities. Australian police later claimed that he had close business ties with Chicago mobster Joseph Dan Testa. Saffron became linked to one of the most infamous incidents, the alleged murder of newspaper publisher and anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen in 1975.
Abe Saffron managed to elude conviction for the numerous crimes he committed. In 1987, he faced a guilty verdict for tax evasion but served only 27 months in jail before securing his release. His ability to evade law enforcement was attributed to his influential connections with high-ranking police, government officials, and political figures. Notably, individuals like Neville Wran, the NSW premier, Bill Allen, the Deputy Commissioner, and Lionel Murphy, the High Court judge, were among those who allegedly assisted him not only in evading tax charges but also in avoiding repercussions for the Luna Park tragedy. Saffron’s ability to navigate legal consequences underscored the pervasive influence he held within various spheres of power.
Abe Saffron Never Paid for His Crimes
The 1979 Luna Park fire initially had no apparent connection to Saffron. It wasn’t until May 2007, when The Sydney Morning Herald published an article suggesting Saffron’s reputed involvement. Anne Buckingham, Saffron’s niece, linked him to the fire, mentioning that her uncle “liked to collect things” and expressed his intention to purchase Luna Park. The ABC documentary ‘Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire’ in 2021 finally connected the dots, revealing that Saffron had allegedly ordered the arson with the motive of using the land for personal profit.
Abe Saffron’s influence extended even after the Luna Park fire. His cousins Hal and Col Goldstein, along with his nephew Sam Cowper, assumed control of the company that gained dominance over Luna Park following the tragic incident. Saffron personally owned 100 game machines that were installed in Luna Park. Investigations brought to light not only his alleged involvement in orchestrating the fire to facilitate the park’s closure but also his interference in the subsequent investigation and the government’s tender process to determine the new custodianship of the park.
After his retirement, Abe Saffron resided in Potts Point, Sydney. He passed away at the age of 86 in 2006 due to old age, while at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In July 2008, his son Alan Saffron published a memoir titled ‘Gentle Satan: Abe Saffron, My Father.’ The memoir delves into previously undisclosed crimes, including money laundering, shedding light on the illicit activities that had largely escaped public scrutiny. Today, Abe Saffron finds his resting place beside his wife, Doreen, at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.