Man found guilty of murdering wife 40 years ago after Teacher’s Pet podcast revives cold case

Chris Dawson at the Supreme Court of New South Wales - AAP
Chris Dawson at the Supreme Court of New South Wales – AAP

It was an Australian true crime podcast that transfixed a nation and attracted a global audience of millions.

And on Tuesday, the teacher who the series accused of killing his wife more than 40 years ago after forming a relationship with a schoolgirl was found guilty of murder.

The case against Chris Dawson, now aged 74, stemmed from the disappearance of his 33-year-old wife Lyn from their Sydney home in January 1982.

The guilty verdict marks a dramatic conclusion to a cold case that has gripped Australia since the 2018 podcast put pressure on police to revisit their investigation.

When Dawson, a PE teacher, invited a 16-year-old pupil, identified in court as JC, to babysit for the couple’s two daughters, Lyn became suspicious but did not want to destroy her marriage.

In fact, her husband was already involved in a passionate relationship with the schoolgirl.

The podcast, titled The Teacher’s Pet, told how on one occasion Dawson had driven to a Sydney pub where he hoped to find a hitman to kill his wife.

It was the first real hint that Lyn’s life could be in danger.

Chris and Lynette Dawson - NewsPix
Chris and Lynette Dawson – NewsPix
Lyn Dawson disappeared in January 1982
Lyn Dawson disappeared in January 1982

In January 1982 he took his two children to a local swimming bath where he said he planned to meet his wife.

While there he claimed Lyn called him on the telephone at the kiosk to say she had gone away for a few days and “not to worry about her” because she needed to be by herself.

Soon afterwards he moved his teenage lover into the family home where they shared the marital bed, apparently unconcerned that his wife might turn up.

There has been no sighting of Lyn since then, although he later claimed to have spotted his wife in the background of an episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

However, the sighting proved inconclusive.

Although no body was found, inquests into Lyn’s supposed death were eventually held in 2001 and 2003.

Both coroners recommended that Dawson be charged with her murder but the New South Wales director of public prosecutions (DPP) decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

It was not until 2015 that police decided to re-open the case and three years later provided the DPP with a new brief of evidence.

Hedley Thomas, a reporter at The Australian newspaper, had also been making his own extensive enquiries and in April 2018 launched the first of 14 podcasts on the disappearance of Lyn.

Journalist Hedley Thomas - Shutterstock
Journalist Hedley Thomas – Shutterstock
Greg Simms (centre), the brother of Lyn Dawson, along with journalist Hedley Thomas, outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales where Chris Dawson has been found guilty of the murder his wife Lyn - AAP
Greg Simms (centre), the brother of Lyn Dawson, along with journalist Hedley Thomas, outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales where Chris Dawson has been found guilty of the murder his wife Lyn – AAP

Police charged Dawson with Lyn’s murder in 2018, four months after the final episode of The Teacher’s Pet, which criticised the law enforcement response to her disappearance and featured multiple witness interviews.

Suddenly others in the close-knit communities of Sydney’s northern beaches began to discuss their memories.

Subsequent podcast interviews uncovered damning new evidence of sexual misbehaviour that allegedly involved other members of staff at the school where Dawson was employed.

Police also dug up part of the garden at the couple’s former home in the waterside suburb of Bayview, but nothing was found, apart from a pink cardigan which appeared to have been cut by a knife.

While the evidence against Dawson was circumstantial, the judge-only trial in the NSW Supreme Court found that he was motivated to kill his wife in order to have an “unfettered relationship” with their teenage babysitter.

Justice Ian Harrison said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lyn died as a result of a conscious and voluntary act by Dawson with the intention of causing her death.

The judge rejected suggestions by the defence that she was still alive as “false” and “wholly unreliable”.

Outside the court, Lyn’s brother Greg Simms called on Dawson to reveal where his sister’s body was.

“She’s still missing – we still need to bring her home,” he said.

Published by anthonyhayble

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