Lance didn't know much about the father who abandoned him when he was just 18 months old.
Lance didn't know much about the father who abandoned him when he was just 18 months old.

Son rocked by dad’s family secret

LANCE  Innes was just a baby when his father vanished in 1959, leaving behind a devastated and cash-strapped mother with two young children, never to return.

As a child, the picture in his mind of his absent dad was pretty light on detail - a charismatic chap with an American accent, a career in broadcast and a failed business venture before he abruptly left.

But as it would later turn out, Alan Wayne Gorcey - just one of his many aliases - had three other secret families who were just as confused about his mysterious life.

And that was just the start of it.

Mr Innes set off on an extraordinary journey to find out more, all captured in this week's episode of the hit SBS series Every Family Has A Secret. He gets more than he bargained for.

There are photographs of Gorcey's life before Australia, from his time as a radio broadcaster in the Philippines, schmoozing with the country's elite, including its president.

Mr Innes also finds out more about that business venture, which collapsed due to his father's embezzlement, and discovers that the bespectacled New Yorker was under ASIO surveillance.

"You can't make this stuff up, that's for sure," Mr Innes told news.com.au.

Alan Wayne Gorcey during his time as a radio broadcaster in the Philippines.
Alan Wayne Gorcey during his time as a radio broadcaster in the Philippines.

 

Lance, pictured as a baby with his father, didn't know much about the man who abandoned him when he was just 18 months old.
Lance, pictured as a baby with his father, didn't know much about the man who abandoned him when he was just 18 months old.

 

A life of curiosity about the man who walked away from his family led to the first serious search for answers when Mr Innes was 20.

Knowing his father was American, he went to the US Embassy to apply for dual citizenship.

Officials were puzzled, with no record of an Alan Wayne Gorcey and the need to request further information from Washington.

As it turned out, his dad was born Samuel Schnitzer, but that's about all he learnt from the file that came back from the State Department.

"Almost all of it was redacted," Mr Innes recalled. "We still don't know what was in that."

 

Lance Innes discovered his father had three other families and a whole host of other bizarre secrets.
Lance Innes discovered his father had three other families and a whole host of other bizarre secrets.

 

In recent years, declassified FBI files have shed some light on what his dad got up to in America after leaving his family behind in Australia.

He had contact with Cuban officials while the crisis between the Caribbean nation and the United States was brewing.

He was under surveillance by US authorities as a result of those various meetings.

At one point, he booked tickets for his abandoned Australian wife and two children to fly to Havana, but they were cancelled when he didn't pay.

Mr Innes discovers in the show that ASIO was also keeping an eye on Gorcey when he was here, thanks to his visits to the Soviet Embassy in Canberra and contact with the KGB's top man in Australia.

"I have no idea what to make of it all," Mr Innes said.

"I don't know what his motivations were. I can only suggest they were personal motivations with perhaps a bit of monetary gain. Maybe he wanted to be a player. Who knows?"

 

This is a declassified ASIO surveillance photo taken of Alan Wayne Gorcey in Canberra.
This is a declassified ASIO surveillance photo taken of Alan Wayne Gorcey in Canberra.

 

Over the years, he uncovered bits and pieces of significant information, including the presence of two separate families in the Philippines and another in Puerto Rico.

"Mum is the only surviving wife out of the four," he said.

Another bizarre revelation to come from filming surrounds his father's death in 1975 at the age of 47. By then he was likely living under the alias of Jose de los Reyes.

"He was living in Puerto Rico with his wife and two kids and he travelled back to Pittsburg, apparently for business, whatever business that was," he said. "That's where he died.

"His body was repatriated back to San Juan in Puerto Rico and was buried there. A week after he was buried, his body was exhumed by FBI agents for an identity check and his family weren't told until after it was completed and he was reburied.

"That's pretty bizarre. It raises a lot of questions. Why did they do that? Who was he working for? Was he taken out? Was he a threat or a pest and they just wanted to make sure it was really him and he was definitely gone? Who knows."

 

Lance Innes meeting his half-siblings in the US.
Lance Innes meeting his half-siblings in the US.

 

As part of the show, Mr Innes travelled to America and met for the first time his surviving half-siblings and a whole host of extended family.

"What you see in the show is the first time any of us had seen each other in the flesh. It was extraordinary," Mr Innes said.

"There were a lot of parallels. It was really interesting. I'm a mortgage broker and my brother Cliff was a mortgage broker. Two of the sisters shared the same favourite perfume. Another two arrived dressed virtually identically.

"On the one hand, it was like meeting brand new people. On the other, it was like there was something familiar underlying it all. We were united somehow but not just by genetics."

 

Exactly what Alan Wayne Gorcey was up to remains unclear.
Exactly what Alan Wayne Gorcey was up to remains unclear.

 

The experience of Every Family Has A Secret has provided a lot of new information and a chronology of his father's movements.

"Am I clearer about things? Yes and no. It opened up a lot of new questions. It answered a lot too, but there's so much we still don't know.

"There are still 100 pages of classified FBI documents waiting to be declassified and released. Who knows what's in there.

"The producers put in a freedom of information request for those files. They were told that they won't be available until 2020. When they come through, I'll be very curious to see what's in there."

Every Family Has A Secret airs Tuesday at 7.30pm on SBS