Five reasons Chris Dawson was found guilty of murder, according to the judgment

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/mqci51ZsxHJU2BkAs0gS7g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3NjtjZj13ZWJw/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/M.iSYrAJNLj.fT1I.KMg3Q–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/eb63d80082ba3b57edafe59a179beee1&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP
Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Chris Dawson has been found guilty of murdering his wife, Lynette Dawson, on or about 8 January 1982. Here are five of the reasons that Justice Ian Harrison said helped him reach that verdict.

1. Dawson’s infatuation with JC

Harrison agreed with the prosecution’s case that Dawson had become infatuated with JC – a teenage student from Cromer high school where he was a teacher.

They were in a relationship and JC was also a live-in babysitter for the Dawsons’ two girls, two and four. But in late 1981, the relationship between Dawson and JC started to become strained: Lynette told JC she knew the girl had been “taking liberties” with her husband, and JC and Dawson attempted to start a new life together in Queensland, which failed when the teenager said she wished to return home.

JC subsequently said she wanted to leave Dawson. JC and Dawson spent Christmas Day together – the first time Dawson had not spent it with his family – and New Year’s Eve, but on either New Year’s Day or 2 January 1982, JC travelled to South West Rocks to camp with family and friends.

Harrison said he agreed with the prosecution that Dawson had a “possessive infatuation” with JC who he had proposed to on a number of occasions.

Harrison said that JC’s camping trip put her outside his “physical reach and … emotional control”. This occurred in the context of her spending time on the trip with people her own age, including boys, at a time when the relationship was in flux, Harrison said.

“I am satisfied that the prospect that he would lose [JC] so distressed, frustrated and ultimately overwhelmed him that, tortured by her absence up north, Mr Dawson resolved to kill his wife,” Harrison said.

Harrison found that, as the prosecution had put it, Dawson decided at this time that it was “out with the old and in with the new”.

2. Lynette Dawson would not have left home voluntarily

Harrison said the prosecution had provided multiple reasons why it was unlikely Lynette Dawson would have left the house voluntarily and he found them “strongly persuasive” when considered together.

These included that she adored her children, was mentally stable, had not taken any clothing or personal belongings with her, had made plans for the future and remained hopeful of reconciling her marriage with Dawson, despite his affair with JC.

Harrison said that to accept submissions made by lawyers for Dawson that his wife had left the Bayview home of her own accord would be to replace reasonable possibility with “frail speculation”.

Dawson claimed he had dropped his wife at a shopping strip in Mona Vale on 9 January 1982.

3. Phone calls from Lynette Dawson and sightings didn’t happen

Dawson said his wife had called him multiple times after she disappeared, including on 9, 10 and 15 January. Nobody else has ever reported receiving a call from Lynette Dawson, Harrison said, and all the calls Dawson reported occurred when he was out of earshot of anyone else.

Harrison found Dawson’s account of the calls was a lie.

He said it was “simply absurd” and defied “common sense” that the only person Lynette Dawson would remain in contact with after leaving the house would be the very person “who was the reason for her departure”.

Harrison also found that multiple reported sightings of Lynette Dawson which occurred after 8 January 1982 – the date on which police alleged she was killed – had not occurred.

Some of the reported sightings had not been made until decades later, he found.

4. Chris Dawson repeatedly lied

Harrison said his findings had been “fortified” by the lies he found Dawson told after his wife was murdered, which he grouped into four categories: those Dawson told JC and others about their relationship; claims he wanted to continue his marriage with Lynette Dawson; lies he told which suggested she was still alive; and those which suggested she may have left their home of her own accord.

The lies were designed “to deflect all or any attention away” from Dawson’s involvement in the death, Harrison found. They were given during a 1991 police interview, and in other accounts before the court, but Dawson himself did not give evidence during the trial.

The material, Harrison found, “contained lies and omissions that were intended to create by themselves, but also in combination, an impression that … was inconsistent with him having anything to do with the disappearance of his wife”.

5. Judge did not accept Dawson abused his wife – but didn’t have to

Harrison appeared to be heading towards a guilty verdict during the lengthy reading of his decisions on Tuesday until this moment gave pause for thought – he said he could not find, despite evidence led by the prosecution, that Dawson subjected Lynette Dawson to physical or non-physical family violence prior to her disappearance.

But Harrison ultimately found it did not matter that he could not accept tendency evidence as it related to Dawson’s behaviour towards his wife in order to find he had killed her.

He described the evidence – which included claims people had witnessed violence, injuries and verbal abuse – as “extremely limited”, adding that “its weight is so small that it does not satisfy me that Mr Dawson has the tendency the crown contends.”

While he was satisfied that Dawson’s behaviour towards Lynette Dawson changed in the context of his “blossoming” relationship with JC, he was not satisfied this meant he was physically violent towards her.

On the contrary, Harrison accepted that Dawson was a person of prior good character for the purposes of the trial.

He said the prosecution had failed to establish that Dawson had a tendency to have three overlapping states of mind – an animosity towards his wife, contemplation of hiring a hitman to kill her, and a desire for JC to be his wife and mother to his children.

“My opinion about whether the crown has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Dawson murdered his wife is … not assisted by the evidence upon which the crown [relied] to suggest that Mr Dawson had a particular tendency,” the judge said.

Published by anthonyhayble

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