Chris Dawson verdict: Australian found guilty of murdering wife Lynette, ending 40-year mystery

Brisbane, Australia

One of Australia’s longest-running cases documented on the popular ‘Teacher’s Pet’ podcast ended with the conviction of Chris Dawson for the murder of his wife Lynette.

Dawson, 74, was arrested in 2018 after police re-examined evidence and investigated new allegations made on the podcast that the high school teacher was having an affair with a 16-year-old student when his wife disappeared in January 1982.

Dawson has long denied any involvement in the disappearance of his wife, who was 33 when her husband officially reported her missing in February of that year.

He claimed she had abandoned him and their two young children and pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

On Tuesday, Judge Ian Harrison dismissed sightings of her over the following years as erroneous or fabricated, and said that while the verdict was not supported by direct evidence, circumstantial evidence pointed to Dawson’s guilt. .

“All of the circumstantial evidence satisfies me that Lynette Dawson is deceased, that she died on or about January 8, 1982, and that she did not voluntarily abandon her home,” Harrison said.

“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the only rational inference that the circumstances permit me to draw is that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982 as a result of a conscious and willful act committed by Mr. Dawson with the intention of killing him.”

The couple had known each other since adolescence, then got married and had two children. Dawson told police his wife had abandoned the family and claimed he spoke to her in the weeks after she disappeared.

Those requests were denied by the judge, who said it ‘defies common sense’ that a woman ‘supposedly desperate to leave her marriage’ would phone him to provide updates on ‘the status of his marriage’. decision to leave.

“I am convinced beyond an unreasonable doubt that Mr. Dawson’s reported telephone conversations with Lynette Dawson after January 1982 are lies,” Harrison said.

Harrison also discovered that claims that Lynette Dawson used her credit card shortly after her disappearance were fabricated, and that sightings of her in subsequent years were wrong or false.

“I am satisfied that none of the alleged sightings were genuine Lynette Dawson sightings,” Harrison said.

The Crown presented extensive research evidence involving interviews and public records which showed that Dawson had not used his passport or accessed Australian health, tax or any other public system since 1982.

He said he also reached this conclusion based on the fact that no one had come forward with information regarding his disappearance despite intense publicity about the case, including the “Teacher’s Pet” podcast, investigations by the coroner in 2001 and 2003 and several television programs.

Judge recapped the relationship between Dawson and Joanne Curtis, his former student who later became his wife.

The court heard that she was a student in her physical education class at Cromer High School in Sydney. By the time she left school they were in a sexual relationship and he had become romantically involved with her, the court heard.

Harrison said he found Curtis’ evidence “truthful and reliable.”

The court heard that Curtis’ family life was difficult; she lived at home with a “violent, aggressive and controlling” stepfather in a cramped apartment where there was heavy drinking. She had turned to her teacher for support and guidance, Harrison said.

“Miss Curtis was naturally drawn to any relief she could get from a less than perfect domestic situation,” Harrison said in the ruling.

In 1980, Curtis began babysitting for the Dawson family, the court heard. Dawson also gave her driving lessons, and one day while they were in the car, he confessed his love to her and kissed her.

They had sex about a week later, when she was 16.

After that, they would regularly have sex in his car, Harrison said, recounting Curtis’ testimony.

On these occasions, Dawson would tell his wife that he was studying at the library.

That same year, the violence in Curtis’s home became intolerable, and she moved into the Dawson family home. Curtis said Dawson would sing “cruel songs” to his wife and they would have sex when Lynette was in the shower or fell asleep.

The Crown alleged that Dawson was obsessed with Curtis and days after his wife disappeared on January 8, he brought his former student home. The Crown’s evidence argued that he was ‘not prepared to waste time before moving her into his home’.

Harrison said: “At the time the relationship turned into a sexual relationship, Mr. Dawson was faced with the harsh reality that he could not stay married, while maintaining his ever-increasing relationship with Joanne Curtis.”

Harrison delivered his verdict over several hours on Tuesday, offering a detailed analysis of evidence submitted by several witnesses during the three-month trial.

Harrison pointed out that a number of witnesses had died in the decades between Lynette’s disappearance and the start of the trial in May. However, he said a review of the testimony of these witnesses suggests that their testimony was not critical to his outcome.

Harrison said he wasn’t convinced Dawson was abusive towards Lynette Dawson, but there was no doubt the marriage was in trouble. “The circumstances cogently point to a finding that Mr. Dawson has decided to end his marriage and move on with Joanne,” Harrison said.

The marriage between Curtis and Dawson ended in 1991, and Dawson disputed some of her testimony as the words of an aggrieved ex-wife. Harrison discovered that Curtis had gotten herself drawn into a situation over which she had little control.

Curtis testified to Dawson’s controlling behavior, saying he watched where she went, the friends she made, and the clothes she wore.

This obsession with Curtis was enough to motivate him to kill Lynette, Harrison found.

We still don’t know what happened to Lynette Dawson.

Harrison said the evidence did not reveal how Dawson killed her, whether he did it with the help of others or by himself.

“It does not reveal where or when he did it, or where Lynette Dawson’s body is now. The murder charge in this trial is not supported by direct evidence,” he said. .

Still, he said he found the evidence presented by the Crown “compelling and compelling.”

The judge ordered that Dawson, who was sitting in court to hear the verdict, be taken into custody.

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