The Murder Of Lynette Dawson

Lynette Dawson was a nurse and mother to two daughters when she went missing back in 1982. Everyone who knew her thought it was strange that no investigation was conducted, in fact, police didn’t go and look at the property she shared with her husband until 10 years after the fact.

There were two separate inquests into her death, in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Both times the coroner said that she died in January 1982. What was more important is that in both of these inquiries said she had been murdered by someone known to her. Two experienced magistrates went a step further and recommended that the Director of Public Prosecution put Chris on trial. The recommendation wasn’t followed up and Lynette was seen to be forgotten again until a podcast dropped its first episode.

Back in 2018 a true crime podcast started and captivated Australia and the world. It was about the disappearance of Lynette Dawson. The host, Hedley Thomas, and the production crew were just putting the finishing touches on the final episode when news of the case broke. Her husband, Chris Dawson had been arrested for murder in Queensland, he was quickly extradited to NSW where he was formally charged and refused bail. Though it is disputed whether the podcast had any real influence or not over the investigation, what can’t be denied is that the podcast brought a whole new set of eyes and interest to the case.

The podcast did however shine a light on allegations that were unknown until now. It was revealed that Chris Dawson, who at the time was a Physical Education teacher began an affair with Joanne Curtis who was a Year 11 student at the time. She was underage and he was 33 years old. The podcast investigations found out that in fact there were numerous allegations levelled at teachers who taught at two separate schools

Investigative journalist Hedley Thomas has rejected suggestions by lawyers for Chris Dawson that he influenced potential witnesses in Dawson’s murder trial by discussing potential movies or miniseries about the case.

The Guardian
The Teacher’s Pet podcast

With respect to the legal system of Australia, the producers took The Teacher’s Pet podcast down once he had been formally charged, as they wanted to let the wheels of justice take over. The reason that it took 4 years to get to the trial is partly due to the podcast. The prosecution for Chris filed a motion for the whole murder trial to be dismissed, this was based on the fact that the podcast, its content and everything associated with it – he believed he would be unable to get a fair trial. This argument was appealed right through to the High Court of Australia. Lawyers also said that the disappearance of documents, the conduct of police and the fact that it had been nearly 40 years were reasons enough to dismiss the trial. All of them failed and thus he was committed to trial. This was going to be a circumstantial case. This means that although there is no physical evidence if you take all the factors of the case and put them together – then you can have reason enough to believe that the crime did take place.

Chris’ lawyer then tried a media ban on all reporting of the case. Suppression of everything, even the verdict. The order was rejected saying that because of the publicity the case had already had – running the case in secret would be moot.

Chris Dawson pled ‘not guilty’ and was given a judge-only trial. The trial began on 16 May 2022 and concluded on 15 July 2022.

On the opening day of the trial, Australia learnt that Chris Dawson had approached a man with criminal connections on a flight back to 1975. Chris asked whether he knew of anybody that could murder his wife. As the answer was no, the matter went no further.

It was also established on or about 21 December 1981, Chris had a real estate agent value the family home, without consulting Lynette. The following day Chris left Lynette and his two daughters and flew to Queensland with his girlfriend, Joanne Curtis – who he intended to start a new life with. However, after Joanne became ill and wanted to be closer to her family, they came back to NSW. Arriving on Christmas Day 1981 Joanne expressed to Chis that she wanted to end the relationship. Chris of course did not want this to happen. On or about 8 January 1982 Lynette was murdered by Chris and/or unknown people. He then either on his own or with the assistance of others got rid of her body. Telling Joanne that Lynette had run away, he moved her into the family house just 2 days later.

It was just a few days ago, 30 August, that we learned that Ian Harrison found Chris Dawson, the husband, guilty of murder. Lynette lost her life, but she wasn’t the sole victim of this story. Joanne, the daughters and the family will feel the consequences of what happened 40 years ago way into the future.

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