A woman found her dad 42 years after he and her mum had a fling – thanks to a £99 DNA test.
Kelly Pinkney couldn’t believe it when the kit she had bought to find out about her ancestry also revealed a first cousin.
And after turning detective to track down her relatives, she met up with her dad Saeed Sotoudeh for the first time earlier this year and the pair are now forging a relationship.
“It’s such an amazing feeling knowing who I am for the first time,” Kelly, 41, said.
“When I look in the mirror I look at myself in a different way than I did before. I feel complete. I feel like I belong now.”
Kelly was born in September 1980 and conceived the Christmas before. She describes herself as a “sad” and “unhappy” little girl who always felt she was different.
Initially raised by her single mum, she was taken into care aged four. After that she spent time in a succession of foster homes before being placed with one family for four years.
There she says she was miserable and started to run away, eventually being placed in Danes House Children’s Home in Gainsborough, Lincs, aged nine.
It was there she began questioning her identity, as she was dark-haired and dark-skinned with brown eyes while all her mum’s family were fair.
“It was very unsettling,” Kelly explains. “I got bullied at school because further north there were no black people, no brown people.
“I’m not even that dark, but I was the darkest kid in the school, the only kid that was brown, everyone else was white.”
She moved back in with her mum aged ten and she began asking her about her parentage.
Others would always ask where she was from and question her ethnicity – but it always made her feel uncomfortable as she could never answer them as she had no idea where her dark looks came from.
Her mum told her she had been conceived one night in a hotel in London and she thought her dad was Arabic or Egyptian, but she couldn’t remember his name.
“Mum didn’t know she was pregnant until eight or ten weeks,” Kelly went on.
“She said people said ‘Are you going to get rid of it?’ as there was no father and back in those days it wasn’t the done thing to be having a baby outside marriage.
“She was adamant she loved me and was keeping me.”
Kelly became an ambulance driver and settled in Bedford with her son. Then two years ago, she was chatting to a friend who had done an ancestry test with California-based 23&Me.
Their tests use a saliva sample to assess someone’s genetic heritage. At the time, the test was advertised for £150 and Kelly couldn’t afford it, but a few months later she saw it on offer for £99 and decided to treat herself.
After completing the kit and sending it off, five weeks went by before she received the results – telling her she was 50% Persian, from modern day Iran. But it also told her there was a first cousin also on the site – and connected them.
Taking the plunge, Kelly messaged the man and explained her tale of being fatherless. It turned out that his mum had six brothers – one of whom must be Kelly’s dad.
Two were dead, two lived in the US and others hadn’t been in London in the late 1970s. They chatted on the phone and he said he would explain the situation to his mum.
“I didn’t want to cause any trouble but then again I was so excited about this discovery,” Kelly said. “But he rang me back and instantly his tone had changed.
“He said there was a mistake and his mother and grandmother said it wasn’t possible as the family hadn’t come to the UK until the late 1980s. He thought the company had made a mistake.
“He wished me good luck and then cut me off. But I knew the DNA couldn’t be wrong so I started doing my own research – I was literally like an FBI agent.”
She tracked two of the brothers down on Facebook but they didn’t reply to her messages, so she began talking to their daughters. The women agreed to a DNA test, but it revealed they were cousins.
Another brother in the US agreed to a DNA test but was an uncle. And then, as word spread, Kelly received a message from another of the brothers called Saeed, who still lived in London.
He thought he recognised Kelly’s mum and agreed to do a DNA test, which came back positive – he was Kelly’s dad.
After 41 years Kelly had finally found the father she had been missing all her life – and amazingly his one regret in life was that he had never had kids of his own.
He had remained in north west London after coming over at 15 and said he wanted a relationship with Kelly’s mum – but she disappeared and he was never able to find her again.
A second DNA test confirmed they were father and daughter and they met for the first time a few months ago.
Her own looks began to make sense as she unravelled Saeed’s Iranian ancestry. Kelly said she took a photo of them together and was amazed at how much they looked alike when she saw it.
Last week, they went out for his birthday to a Persian restaurant and are now forging a relationship.
Kelly said: “When I found out I cried uncontrollably for an hour. I couldn’t stop. I thought of all the hurt and pain.
“There was massive relief – I finally knew who I was.
“He never met the right person, got married or had a family of his own and he said he always wanted children. And he was the only brother out of all of them who had no children.
“It was a massive shock for him as he’s never known I was out there whereas I knew he was.”