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John Hemmes' unacknowledged son Edward Cameron sues for millions

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A son born of out of wedlock to the late hospitality magnate John Hemmes is suing for $4.1 million, claiming his father refused to know him and once threatened to take out an apprehended violence order.

Edward Cameron, 27, never saw or spoke directly to Mr Hemmes, who died of cancer in 2015 aged 83, the NSW Supreme Court heard on Thursday.

Edward Cameron never saw or spoke directly with John Hemmes before his death in 2015.
Edward Cameron never saw or spoke directly with John Hemmes before his death in 2015.  Photo: Nick Moir

The relationship fell apart in late 1989 and Mr Cameron was born the following June.

Fiona Cameron, mother of Edward Cameron, who is challenging the estate of John Hemmes.
Fiona Cameron, mother of Edward Cameron, who is challenging the estate of John Hemmes. Photo: Nick Moir

In the mid-1990s, Ms Cameron took her former lover to court seeking child support payments and after a series of refusals by Mr Hemmes, a DNA test found he was 99.6 per cent certain to be the father.

The Family Court declared he was and ordered him to pay support.

Merivale and John Hemmes in 2007.
Merivale and John Hemmes in 2007.  Photo: Jenny Evans

"The plaintiff is irrebuttably presumed to be the son of Mr Hemmes," the executor's barrister Noel Hutley, SC, said.

But throughout his life, including the 13 years he paid child support, Mr Hemmes refused to acknowledge paternity.

His son, Mr Cameron, grew up, went to high school on the Gold Coast, moved to Germany for a time and became a graphic designer.

As an adult, he sent photographs of himself to his father and wrote letters. In response, he received emails from Mr Hemmes' general manager of administration, Kerrie Boylett.

Ms Boylett told him his father was sick and if Mr Cameron wanted to meet Mr Hemmes' before he died, he would need to submit to more paternity testing.

After originally agreeing, Mr Cameron decided not to undergo tests.

He tried once to visit his father's home but had the wrong address.

When Mr Hemmes found out about the attempted visit, he told his son through Ms Boylett that he would take out an apprehended violence order if it happened again, the court heard.

Mr Hemmes died in March 2015 after a long fight against multiple myeloma.

In the days before his death, $5.7 million was transferred from a Swiss bank account in his name to his children Bettina and Justin.

Mr Hemmes' actual estate was judged to be worth less than nothing, according to written submissions.

But lawyers for Mr Cameron and Mr Hemmes' executor agreed that money in a $4.1 million fund would be contestable.

David Mead, the estate's executor as well as the chief financial officer of Merivale, said at the time of Mr Hemmes' death he had a superannuation fund containing that amount, the same fund he had used to pay child support.

Mr Cameron did not give evidence in court on Thursday.

Acting on his behalf, Lindsay Ellison, SC, said $4.1 million was a reasonable amount of money to set him up in life.

Against that, Mr Hutley said if any money were to be awarded it should be much less than $1 million.

He said the judge should resist granting a "wish list", which included money to buy a home and establish businesses.

While there were no competing claims for the money in the $4.1 million fund, any money not awarded to Mr Cameron would cede to Mr Hemmes' widow, Merivale, the court heard.

Justice Geoff Lindsay said the lack of contact between father and son was "tragic" for both sides and there had been "an anxiety on the part of the boy to be accepted".

"I've not had a case quite like this," Justice Lindsay said.

Easy categories such as "estranged" or "no relationship" did not apply, he found, reserving delivery of his judgment.

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