Teacher and football star Chris Dawson has finally been found guilty of the murder of his first wife Lynette Dawson 40 years ago – all so he could continue his sordid affair with his teenage babysitter known as ‘JC’.
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In a dramatic day in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dawson, 74, was found guilty by Justice Ian Harrison just after 3pm – bringing to a close a mystery that has haunted Lynette’s family and Sydney’s northern beaches for four decades.
There were gasps in the courtroom the moment the verdict was handed down – following some 4.5 hours of the judge reading out his reasons – with Dawson shaking his head very slightly and his twin brother Paul muttering ‘bulls***’.
Two prison officers entered the room and handcuffed him. Dawson appeared to limp as he was led away to be taken into custody. He will be locked up in prison as he awaits sentencing.
Paul Dawson could be heard talking about a woman – saying ‘I told her’ – and complaining about never having been called as a witness.
Dawson’s lawyer Greg Walsh said he will appeal the decision.
‘I can confirm that it’s probable of course that he will appeal against his conviction,’ he said outside of court.
‘Mr Dawson has always asserted, and he still does, his absolute innocence of the crime of which he’s been convicted.
‘And he will continue to assert that innocence. And he’ll certainly appeal.’
Chris Dawson arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday to hear the verdict from Justice Harrison on his trial for the murder of his wife Lyn in 1982
In his decision, Justice Harrison said that potentially losing JC in early 1982 was a motive for murder: ‘I am satisfied he resolved to kill his wife’, and that there was also the financial motive of potentially losing his investments.
‘The evidence does not reveal how he killed Lynette Dawson, nor where her body is now,’ he said.
He said that the accused told a series of lies about his wife still being alive after her disappearance and about his missing her afterwards.
Lynette’s brother Greg Simms said his sister had been ‘betrayed by the man she loved’, and plead for her killer to reveal where her body is.
‘This is a milestone in our journey of advocating for Lyn, however the journey is not complete, she is still missing,’ he said outside court after the verdict was handed down.
‘We still need to bring her home, we’d ask Chris Dawson to find it in himself to finally do the decent thing and allow us to bring Lyn home to a peaceful rest, showing her the dignity she deserves.’
‘This is a verdict for Lyn. Today her name has been cleared – she loved her family and never left them of her own accord. Instead her trust was betrayed by the man she loved. The court has found what we have believed to be true for so many years, that Chris Dawson took the life of our beloved Lyn back in 1982.
On behalf of Lyn’s family, heartfelt thanks to all who came forward to speak the truth on Lyn’s behalf, to give her a voice 40 years after she lost her own. Many of those people have been advocating for her for a very long time. And thanks to the media who allowed those voices to speak loudly: missing people need to be heard despite their own voices being silent. Thank you to those Police and Prosecutors who saw the truth of Lyn’s story, and pulled various disjointed facts into a cohesive whole. We’d also like to acknowledge Justice Harrison who made it plain that he was across the evidence put to him.
We acknowledge the difficulty this outcome will cause some: we hope in time that understanding will lead to healing. We also would like to remember those who loved Lyn who are not here to see this judgement, in particular my mum and dad, Helena and Len Simms and brother Phil.
This is a milestone in our journey of advocating for Lyn. However, the journey is not complete. Lyn is still missing; we still need to bring her home. We would ask Chris Dawson to find it in himself to finally do the decent thing, and allow us to bring Lyn home to a peaceful rest, finally showing her the dignity she deserves.’
Lyn’s brother Greg Simms and his wife Merilyn are seen outside court on Tuesday
Mr Simms said his sister had been ‘betrayed by the man she loved’
Dawson has been found guilty of murdering his wife Lyn
Despite finding that he was not satisfied Dawson ’caused any of the bruising on Lynette’ or that he ‘was physically violent towards her’, Justice Harrison found him guilty of murder.
He was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette is dead, that she has not been seen or heard since on or around January 8, 1982 and that she did not leave her home voluntarily.
He was also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Dawson ‘had a possessive infatuation with’ the schoolgirl babysitter, JC.
Justice Harrison had entered court 13A at the Supreme Court in Sydney at 10am on Tuesday, amid tense anticipation from both of the accused’s supporters and Lyn’s siblings.
The 74-year-old accused sat up the front with brother Peter, with twin Paul and other supporters in the back of the court.
In the front row, Lynette’s family sat wearing pink in honour of the mother-of-two’s favourite colour.
Reading through his written reasons for his verdict, Justice Harrison described some of the evidence in Dawson’s defence during the trial as ‘fanciful, absurd and lies’.
‘I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Lynette Dawson never telephoned Christopher Dawson after 8 January 1982 and … that she did not leave her home voluntarily,’ Justice Harrison said.
Dawson was described during a summary of the crown case by His Honour as ‘an unfaithful and violent man’.
January 1982 – Lynette ‘Lyn’ Dawson, 33, disappears from her home at Bayview on Sydney’s northern beaches, leaving behind two young daughters. The family’s babysitter, a schoolgirl who can only be identified as JC, moves into the home within days.
February – Chris Dawson, a teacher and former Newtown Jets rugby league player, reports his wife missing some six weeks after he says she disappeared.
2001 – An inquest recommended a ‘known person’ be charged with Mrs Dawson’s murder, but the Director of Public Prosecutions later says the evidence was not tested because no witnesses were called.
2003 – A second inquest calls witnesses and recommends a known person be charged with murder, referring the matter to the DPP. Again, no charges are laid.
2010 – NSW Police announce a $100,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction.
2014 – The reward is doubled to $200,000.
2015 – Strikeforce Scriven is established and the Dawsons’ entire Bayview block is mapped.
April 2018 – Scriven detectives request the DPP review their brief of evidence.
May – The Australian newspaper releases The Teacher’s Pet podcast about Mrs Dawson’s disappearance. It is eventually downloaded 60 million times worldwide.
July – NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller admits police ‘dropped the ball’ in the 1980s investigation.
September – Police dig up the backyard at the Bayview home the couple shared at the time of Mrs Dawson’s disappearance but don’t find remains or any items of interest.
December 5 – Chris Dawson is arrested on the Gold Coast and spends the night in a watch-house.
December 6 – Dressed in a polo shirt, shorts and thongs, the then 70-year-old is extradited to Sydney, where he’s charged with his first wife’s murder and appears in court via video link. His lawyer, Greg Walsh, says he ‘strenuously asserts his innocence’.
December 17 – Dawson is bailed to live back in his Queensland home.
August 8, 2019 – Magistrate Michael Allen warns that some reporting of the case could affect a fair trial, saying: ‘Someone would have to be living in a cave or be naive in the extreme to perhaps ignore the potential for unfairness to a person who receives this level of media scrutiny.’
February 11-13, 2020 – Magistrate Jacqueline Trad hears evidence before committing Dawson to stand trial for murder.
April 3 – Dawson formally pleads not guilty to murder, with his lawyers flagging an application for a permanent stay of proceedings.
September 25 – Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Fullerton grants Dawson only a nine-month halt to allow the ‘unrestrained and clamorous’ public commentary about his wife’s disappearance to abate before his trial.
June 11, 2021 – The Court of Criminal Appeal refuses a permanent halt to proceedings.
April 8, 2022 – The High Court backs the lower courts’ decisions not to permanently halt proceedings.
May 2 – Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones orders the trial to proceed before a judge alone following an application by Dawson.
May 9-July 11 – The trial is heard by Justice Ian Harrison, with prosecutors alleging Dawson was violent and abusive towards his wife and killed her to have an unfettered relationship with JC. Dawson’s lawyers pointed to various witnesses claiming to have seen Mrs Dawson alive and well after January 1982.
August 30 – Dawson is found guilty of murder.
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Justice Ian Harrison found it was beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson (above with Chris Dawson on her wedding day) did not leave her home in Bayview voluntarily
Countless photographers waited outside the court as the judge handed down his verdict
The judge also said one of Dawson’s relatives, his brother-in-law Ross Hutchins, had falsified an alleged sighting he had made of Lynette at Gladesville, just months after her disappearance, and that the sighting was a ‘fabrication’.
Discounting all other alleged sightings, His Honour said, ‘I am satisfied that none of the sightings were genuine.
‘She was not mentally unstable, she adored her children…she was still hopeful. She was still talking in affectionate terms about her unfaithful husband.
‘That she would step from her husband’s car … and decide to evaporate forever is not a reasonable possibility. The proposition is ludicrous.’
For more than four hours, Dawson sat ramrod straight in court listening to Justice Harrison describe his defence case as full of lies, and ‘ludicrous’ propositions.
Teacher’s Pet podcaster Hedley Thomas said outside the court that he did not think Chris Dawson would acknowledge his guilt for murdering Lynette, but that he hopes he would eventually and lead them to Lyn’s remains.
The journalist made the award-winning podcast about her disappearance
He said prosecutor’s had done ‘an incredible job with what was a wholly circumstantial case.
‘A lot of criticism has been properly made of the police investigation. (Lyn) was treated as a runaway… in conditions that were so suspicious,’ he said.
He said Lyn Dawson vanished today there’d be ‘A strike force and a very strong focus on the spouse’.
He said Chris Dawson would ‘struggle in jail … but he’s had 40 years of freedom.’
Lyn Dawson’s sister-in-law Merilyn and brother Greg Simms arrive in her favourite colour of pink at the court on Tuesday
Lynette Dawson (above with Shanelle) had found it hard to conceive and doted on her two daughters to Chris Dawson, who were four and two when she vanished in 1982
Dawson is seen outside the NSW Supreme Court before he was found guilty of murder
While calmly reading out his judgement, Justice Harrison said he was willing to believe ‘beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson’s evidence he had received a call from Lyn at a swimming pool on the day after his wife’s disappearance was ‘a lie’.
Justice Harrison also found that Dawson’s accounts of purported phone calls from his wife after her disappearance ‘beyond reasonable doubt … are lies’.
‘I do not accept Lynette Dawson … would continue to remain in contact with the very person who was … the reason for her departure,’ Justice Harrison said. ‘The contention … is simply absurd.’
The judge described the evidence of the schoolgirl babysitter JC, with whom Dawson had an affair as mostly reliable, and that her account of being groomed for a sexual relationship as believable.
He said that Dawson’s contention that his sexual relationship with JC did not recommence in 1982 until April of that year ‘cannot be true’.
The accused’s older brother Peter in a scuffle in a media scrum outside the court as he arrives with Chris Dawson and lawyer Greg Walsh on Tuesday
‘She had been swept up … and was confused and conflicted,’ he said and found that JC’s evidence had not been corrupted by her subsequent divorce from him years later.
However Justice Harrison rejected the evidence of JC, and of a former football team mate Robert Silkman, that the accused had conversations with them about hiring ‘a hitman’ to murder Lynette.
Justice Harrison said the crown had established beyond reasonable doubt that Dawson determined he would leave the relationship with his wife and enter a substituted relationship with JC.
‘I am satisfied that Mr Dawson was obsessed with JC and with the fear of losing her. He decided he would end his marriage and move on with JC,’ he said.
‘That does not stand alone to prove that he murdered his wife.’
He described evidence from two women who relayed stories allegedly told to them by Lynette of violence against her by the accused as unreliable.
He said the women had been influenced by the Teacher’s Pet podcast.
However he said he found the account by Lynette’s next door neighbour, Julie Andrew, of seeing Dawson pushing Lyn up against a trampoline and screaming at her shortly before she went missing to be true.
So many media and supporters attended the court verdict, a second court room was opened up to accommodate the crowd.
For the first time in the trial, the accused’s identical twin brother Paul was present at court and in a mass of media outside the court there was a brief scuffle between a cameraman and the twins’ older brother, Peter.
Accused murderer Chris Dawson (above) at his Sunshine Coast home on Sunday before he flew to Sydney to face the judge’s verdict of his guilt or innocence in the murder of his first wife, Lynette
Chris Dawson with his daughter in the 1970s, when he was married to first wife Lyn a few years before her mysterious 1982 disappearance
Chris Dawson had left his Sunshine Coast home in Queensland to fly to Sydney for the verdict, after spending the last seven weeks on bail while Justice Harrison deliberated on his decision.
On Sunday, as his old team Easts Rugby Union played in grand finals at Coogee Oval, Dawson had sported a club shirt and enjoyed a visit from his daughter Shanelle at his home.
Daily Mail Australia understands Dawson is not a club member and hasn’t been to Easts clubhouse since 2009.
Both Dawson and his identical twin brother Paul played for Easts before switching to the Newtown Jets rugby league side in 1972.
Justice Harrison conducted a judge-alone trial.
Chris Dawson’s daughter Shanelle – who was four years old when her mother vanished – showed her support by attending her father’s Sunshine Coast home at the weekend before he flew out to meet his fate
Dawson, according to his defence, suffers from a fractured hip and and a possible brain injury sustained from his years playing rugby.
The verdict is also momentous for the family of Lyn, who have invested so much time and effort in seeking justice for the 33-year-old mother of two young girls who vanished without trace on January 8 or 9, 1982.
Lyn’s sister, Pat Jenkins, her brother, Mr Simms, and the missing woman’s niece Renee Simms and nephew David Jenkins have had their lives on hold for the 10-week trial, the weeks since as Justice Harrison has deliberated and, indeed, the empty decades since Lyn vanished.
Witness tells Chris Dawson trial of seeing missing wife at bus stop
Chris Dawson, 74, (above) pictured on the Sunshine Coast last weekend before returning to Sydney for the verdict on his trial for murder
The trial heard Chris Dawson was ‘besotted ‘ with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who became his second wife and testified at his trial about his controlling behaviour
Dawson’s eldest daughter Shanelle, who was four when her mother disappeared was pictured packing her car as she left his house on Sunday, after publicly revealing she still loves her dad.
Four years ago, Shanelle had broken down on national television, saying ‘It’s not looking good for my father, I will be honest to say’.
Dawson was arrested and charged with Lyn’s murder in late 2018, pleaded not guilty to the charge and has always maintained his innocence.
Lynette’s disappearance from her Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches was the subject of the hit podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, which was played during the lengthy trial.
During the trial, crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC claimed Dawson’s motivation for murdering his first wife and disposing of her body was to have an ‘unfettered relationship’ with a school student, known in court as JC, who became their teenage babysitter.
The family of Lynette Dawson has been asking for years about her disappearance and whatever the verdict on Tuesday, they still hold out hopes of her remains being found
Chris Dawson and Lynette Simms as young sweethearts before their engagement and marriage which would culminate in her disappearance in 1982
The court heard that Dawson, who was twice JC’s age, became utterly infatuated with her and conducted a sexual affair, eventually moving her into the family home after Lyn vanished.
Lynette’s body has never been found and Mr Everson’s circumstantial case included that the accused had disposed of her during a ‘window of quiet seclusion’ sometime before or after meeting Lyn’s mother at the pool, and collecting JC from northern NSW.
The trial heard two separate allegations of Dawson suggesting he hire a hitman to kill Lyn, one by a former Newtown Jets team-mate and one by JC, who became his second wife.
JC told the court repeatedly Dawson had ‘groomed’ her, then ‘installed’ her in the house and the marital bed, where she became ‘a sex slave’, as well as housekeeper and mother to his two daughters.
Lynette Dawson with Chris in the early years of their romance when she had fallen in love with the football star and they planned a life together which would be cut short in 1982
Lynette’s two daughters posed for photographs by a portrait artist who would produce charming drawings of the girls, only to discover that Lyn had vanished and Chris didn’t want them
In the house were all of Lyn’s belongings, including wedding and engagement rings, clothes, eyewear and her nursing badges.
Friends, colleagues, neighbours and an employee of Lynette testified they had seen her with bruises, heard her claim her husband had assaulted her, or witnessed him doing so.
Dawson’s barrister, Pauline David, argued that the young mother had simply up and left and had gone away of her own free will, and was still alive after not contacting her mother or other family since January 1982.
Ms David cited five alleged sightings, including in the Sydney suburb of at Gladesville, working at a hospital, at a hotel near Lake Macquarie and crossing the road during Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ 1983 royal tour.
Ms David surmised Lyn could have ‘created a new life’, met with misadventure and since died, and even committed suicide.
Lyn’s family flagged the fact that despite the conclusion of the trial with Justice Harrison’s verdict, they will not ever give up on finding her remains.
Nephew David Jenkins tweeted last weekend, ‘After 40 years, on Tuesday we’ll find out whether the evidence against Lyn ‘s (accused) murderer was strong enough.
‘Either way, this isn’t over until we have Lyn home.’
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