Glimpse of Rivkin cafe society

Glimpse of Rivkin cafe Society - 24th March 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

A photograph that once adorned the walls of Joe's Cafe in Kings Cross, shows a group of friends whose paths have ceased to cross. Kate McClymont reports.

The photograph is one of a dozen which, a decade ago, used to adorn the walls of Joe's Cafe in Victoria Street, Kings Cross.

But the paths of the participants have ceased to cross.

On the left, cigar in hand and a ring on his smallest finger, is the disgraced stockbroker Rene Rivkin, who is serving weekend detention for insider trading.

Next to him, with tattoos to the wrist and wearing a gold Rolex, which he told friends was a gift from Rivkin, is Gary Redding, revealed by the Herald on Saturday to be the second man police want to question over his knowledge of the murder of the model Caroline Byrne.

With his back to the camera is another employee and former business partner of Rivkin's, George Freris, who has recently departed for Tasmania.

Freris and Redding ran a tattoo shop, Skins and Needles, in the early 1990s. Rivkin went guarantor on the lease.

And the man smiling to the camera is none other than the controversial businessman Jim Byrnes, a twice-bankrupt former property developer who currently runs the auction house Cromwells.

Rivkin's generosity to his young friends from the cafe was extraordinary, and included gifts of a Ferrari, a Harley- Davidson, Rolex watches and overseas trips.

On Saturday, the Herald revealed that each week, until Redding's disappearance four years ago, Rivkin paid him a "huge wad of cash" which was handed over at the corner table of Joe's Cafe.

Jim Byrnes told the Herald yesterday that Rivkin also used to "set up trading accounts for them all ... and he used to trade in all their names. And he stood to have some of the profit".

Rivkin and Byrnes no longer speak, having fallen out over a commission Byrnes claims Rivkin owes him on a car, a 1957 Californian custom-built Chrysler Imperial Royale.

According to Byrnes, the man who took the photograph was his former flatmate, Rafael Budzynski, who is known round Kings Cross as "the Watch Man". Budzynski, an Austrian, would pull up outside the cafe in a World War II jeep, with a pile of Rolexes for sale to its habitues at the bargain price of $15,000 or $20,000. Rivkin bought many.

In 1998 Business Review Weekly quoted Budzynski saying of his relationship with Rivkin: "He collects watches, I collect watches. We click on that level. Basically I was trying to educate him that older watches are better investments than modern watches.

"When you buy an old Rolex the value increases almost every year."

Police are keen to talk to Redding about his knowledge of the murder of Caroline Byrne, who was thrown from The Gap in June 1995.

A brief has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions urging that Gordon Wood, a former chauffeur to Rivkin, be charged with Ms Byrne's murder.

Redding is not mentioned in the brief. Police have also stressed that Rivkin is not suspected of any involvement in Caroline Byrne's death.

As to Redding, Byrnes said he was a "nutter" who was on medication. "He had a bit of a swinging, angry personality," said Byrnes.

"I had Gary crying his eyes out in my car for an hour and half because he needed his medication . . . and was super stressed out and went off his head.

" I had to - ahem - severely speak to him, so to speak.

"After that I got on well with him because I was one of the only ones who wasn't scared of him."

When asked what Redding did for a living, Byrnes said: "Like a lot of people, from day to day. He was one of those sort of guys, one of the bottom-dwellers."

But Redding was a complete "red herring" in the Caroline Byrne murder investigation, said Byrnes.

"The fact of the matter is, he didn't like Gordon Wood."


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