Australia: After 40 years, Chris Dawson was found guilty of murdering his wife

One of Australia’s oldest unsolved cases ended on Tuesday with the conviction of former high school teacher Christopher Dawson for the murder of his wife Lynette in 1982. After a three-month trial, the judge in New South Wales court Supreme Ian Harrison found Dawson, 74. guilty of killing Lynette to fight his 16-year-old mistress.

Dawson has always maintained his innocence, saying his wife left him and their two young children, then aged 2 and 4, first to meet a “need for space” and then join a religious community. He also admitted to talking to her in the weeks after she left. A number of police investigations were conducted. One, in 2003, recommended that the husband be charged with the murder of his wife, but prosecutors refused, due to lack of physical evidence. Lynette’s body was never found.

He quickly married a high school girl

In 2018, on the “Teacher’s Pet” podcast, Australian investigative journalist Hedley Thomas revisited the entire police investigation and pieced together new details, including testimony that Dawson had sex with the student, before lose his wife. Dawson, who had questionable behavior with young women at the high school where he was a sports teacher, and had to answer for at least one court case, began a relationship in 1981 with Joane, who made him to move the family to Bayview because he suffered from a “brutal, aggressive and controlling” alcoholic stepfather.

The 16-year-old girl moved in on January 10, 1982, two days after Lynette’s “voluntary” departure. On January 8, Lynette called her mother, to agree to visit her the next day. Christopher did not report his wife missing until February 18, 1982, six weeks after the last phone call. In 1983 Dawson obtained a divorce and the following year he married young Joane. The marriage lasted until 1991.

Downloaded 30 million times, one podcast prompts authorities to pursue full investigation

Four months after the podcast, the police reopened the investigation. Officially due to new witnesses who came forward, but undoubtedly more than inspired by the success of “Teacher’s Pet”, downloaded about 30 million times.

During the trial, which took place before a judge, several witnesses came forward to claim that they had seen Lynette Dawson in the years after her disappearance. But Judge Harisson dismissed their testimonies against each other, thinking that they could only be mistaken. “I am satisfied that none of the alleged findings were a genuine sighting of Lynette Dawson,” the judge ruled on Tuesday. Also, “I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dawson’s reported telephone conversations with Lynette Dawson after January 1982 were lies,” he said.

Since January 1982 and until the reopening of the investigation, the mother of the family has not used any recordable means of payment, nor her passport, she has never treated herself, nor has she used either which Australian public service. Her husband admitted that he used her bank card, but found no trace of the transaction.

“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the only rational inference permitted by the circumstances that I can draw is that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982, by a conscious and voluntary act performed Mr. Dawson intentionally caused his death,” the judge concluded. The former high school teacher, who attended the sentencing hearing, was jailed.

His lawyer announced outside the Court that he will appeal this verdict, which was given for the first time. “The Teacher’s Pet” and its 17 episodes were made unavailable during the trial, but Dawson’s attorney felt its publication may have influenced Judge Hamilton’s decision.

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