FROM the front door of her home, the little blonde girl would be transfixed by the lights of aeroplanes as they took off from Edinburgh airport.
Perhaps it was watching them every day from the old lodge house of the Foxhall estate on the edge of Kirkliston which gave Anne Tennant the urge to get away from the sleepy village where she grew up.
Perhaps it was because she was the adopted daughter of a gardener and a maid, living in the grounds of the mansion, that ignited a desire to make money – no matter the cost.
Whatever the reasons, the girl who attended Kirkliston Primary and Queensferry High certainly seems to have made a fortune – by changing her name to Anna Gristina and allegedly running an elite prostitution ring in Manhattan, for which she is now on trial.
With her spectacles, brassy blonde hair and matronly clothes, it’s hard to believe the 44-year-old “hockey mom” with four children could be the brains behind a 15-year reign as New York’s top madame, allegedly supplying girls for rich clients in politics, the police, law, banking and entertainment.
Yet she cuts a different figure on social media sites, where she boasts of “building an empire”, claims she is a chief executive officer and posts glossy near-naked photographs of herself and her third husband showing off their lavish Las Vegas wedding.
Her lifestyle in the States in a sprawling family ranch house in Monroe, Orange County, New York state – which she also shares with many animals – is far removed from her old life in Kirkliston, where yesterday nobody on Main Street recognised her name or her picture.
Born in 1967, she was adopted at just five months old by gardener John Tennant and his wife, Annie, a maid who had five children. She had the run of the grounds of the Foxhall estate and, when she had to attend primary school, it was at the then brand new Kirkliston Primary.
Yet by the time she was a teenager at Queensferry High, a restless streak had surfaced. One person who knew her as a child and asked not to be named said: “I seem to recall she fell in with a bad crowd as a teenager, but I don’t think there was any real trouble, you just knew she wouldn’t hang around for long as soon as she was old enough to leave.
“Her two sisters are also in America, and two of her brothers have passed away, as have her parents, a long time ago.
“I remember her as a small girl – she was very normal, nothing different to any other child of her age. There was a big age gap, though, between her and her brothers and sisters because she was adopted quite a long time after her parents had had their own family.
“And in a place like Kirkliston, even though they had been here for a long time, they were still considered to be ‘outsiders’. Living where they did, right on the edge of the village didn’t help with that either.”
According to a relative in Edinburgh, Anne struggled to cope with the knowledge she was adopted and actively disliked her adoptive mother, it has been reported.
In 1983, when she was 15, she was left bereft by the death of her adoptive father at the age of 57 from lung cancer. A “rebellious” child, she ran away from her mother and some years later abandoned Scotland for the US without a word to her family.
The relative, who did not want to be named, reportedly said Anne had been “quite a mixed-up child, often very secretive” who “wouldn’t toe the line or do as she was told”.
They added: “She wasn’t particularly glamorous as a teenager, though she was quite a good looking girl – but she was no beauty queen.
“During her childhood she was incredibly close to her adoptive father, but his death was a traumatic blow to her. She was lost after he died. She felt pretty much on her own.
“She didn’t have a very good relationship with her adopted mother. There was a clash of personalities, you could say.
“She left home when she was about 16 and spent some time in Edinburgh and Glasgow and then upped and left to start a new life in the States.”
Her one living brother, retired painter John Tennant, who is in his early 60s, has been in the headlines himself for twice rescuing people from fires and winning a police bravery award. He was unavailable to talk about his youngest sister. He and his wife Gwen, who live in Craigentinny, have no contact with her.
Indeed, on hearing of the charges, Gwen has said: “I’m not surprised to hear she is involved in this. We really have nothing to do with her anymore. She moved away and never bothered.”
Apparently Anne, who changed her name to Anna, moved abroad in her late teens after meeting a man of Chinese origin, Fernando Pak.
They later married in the US but, by the age of 24, she was divorced with two daughters, Suzanna and Noelanie.
Her second husband was Dario Gristina, a recently divorced Italian engineer who moved to America as a teenager and settled in New York.
The pair had one son, Stefano, but the marriage fell apart within a few years.
Their divorce was finalised in 1998 – the same year Dario was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Manhattan.
He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but is since remarried and is now a Republican candidate for the New York state assembly.
As to the charges his ex-wife is facing, he has said: “We divorced a long time ago. I am surprised.”
However, Anna didn’t remain single. She met Kelvin Gorr – seven years her junior – while out dancing, and apparently swept him off his feet. “It was a rushed marriage,” one of Gorr’s friends has said. “Everyone was like, ‘Who is this old lady?’”
They married in Las Vegas – in a hotel with replicas of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower – and they now have a son, who is nine. Pictures of her two daughters and youngest son are also posted on a school reunion website, where she boasted to old friends of “building an empire”, as well as photos of her pug dogs dressed in bizarre costumes, and her pet pot- bellied pigs.
It seems that while she was allegedly running a prostitution ring she found time to help out at a pig rescue centre in Philadelphia.
“She was a volunteer,” said Susan Magidson, who runs the farm. “She’s done a tremendously good job, and every time I’ve asked her to do something, she was right there with me.
“She is one of the most generous people I know with her time and her commitment.”
As well as the ranch, Anna Gristina – who also apparently goes by the name Anna Scotland – owns property in Montreal, Canada. It’s been claimed she fled there when Kristen Davis, a New York madame who supplied prostitutes to the city’s former governor Eliot Spitzer, was arrested in 2008. The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged Gristina after a five-year corruption investigation that amassed 50 to 100 hours of audio and video recordings, including some in which she allegedly claims to have made millions over 15 years of being a madame from a building on the Upper East Side of New York.
It has also been alleged that she hasn’t reported any income to the government for a number of years and she’s facing tax evasion charges. Gristina has pleaded not guilty to the charges and her lawyer has said she’s struggling for money.
Her husband, who works in property, has said he is “heartbroken”. “We are just a great family . . . and my wife means everything to me,” he said.
But a fear that she might flee thanks to her Canada home, her British passport, and powerful friends, has led to a $2 million bail bond being levied on her while she waits in the notorious Riker’s Island jail for her trial to begin on May 3.
From there she will be able to watch the lights of the planes as they take off from LaGuardia airport.