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Australian Man Convicted In Wife's 1982 Murder After 'Teacher's Pet' Podcast Shined New Light
Justice Ian Harrison ruled Tuesday that Christopher Dawson had killed his wife Lynette in 1982 because he didn’t want to lose his teenage lover, a former student and his kids' babysitter.
An Australian man has been convicted of his wife’s murder more than 40 years after she mysteriously disappeared in a case that garnered new attention after it was featured in a popular podcast.
Justice Ian Harrison found Christopher Dawson, 74, guilty in a New South Wales state Supreme Court on Tuesday, ruling that Dawson had killed his wife Lynette Dawson, then-33, because he didn’t want to lose his 16-year-old lover, according to the Australian Associated Press. Christopher Dawson, a former professional rugby player, was 33 at the time.
The verdict was met by cheers and applause from some in the courtroom.
“I am left in no doubt," Harrison said while handing down the verdict. "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the only rational inference (is that) Lynette Dawson died on or about 8 Jan. 1982 as a result of conscious or voluntary act committed by Christopher Dawson."
Dawson had applied for a trial by judge rather than a jury due to the tremendous popularity of the 2018 podcast “Teacher’s Pet” about the case, which drew more than 60 million listeners after its release.
Christopher Dawson has long contended that his wife willingly left the family in 1982, and, just days later, he moved his teenage lover and the children's babysitter — referred in court as “JC” — into the family’s Bayview, Sydney home, telling her "Lyn’s gone, she’s not coming back, come back to Sydney and help look after the kids and live with me,” according to The Guardian.
Harrison dismissed the possibility that Lynette Dawson simply left her family as “ludicrous.”
He cited Lynette’s devotion to her family — including the couple’s two young daughters — her limited funds and the fact that she had taken no belongings or clothing with her as reasons why he didn’t believe the young mom had just chosen to abandon the family, the Associated Press reports. Lynette Dawson also hadn't used her passport or accessed the health, tax or any other Australian public system since 1982, according to CNN.
He also dismissed Dawson’s claims that he had heard from his wife in telephone calls after her disappearance as “lies,” saying it was “simply absurd” that the only person she would have reached out in the years that have passed would have been the person “who was the reason for her departure,” the Guardian reports.
The judge also noted that Lynette Dawson had confronted J.C. in late 1981, telling the teen that she knew the girl had been "taking liberties with her husband,” the British paper reported, but that she planned to save her marriage.
He concluded that Dawson, a former rugby player turned teacher, had been “so distressed, frustrated and ultimately overwhelmed” that his former student and teenage love interest might leave him due to his family entanglements that he killed his wife to be free to continue the relationship.
J.C. and Christopher Dawson actually left Lynette and the kids in Sydney on Dec. 22, 1981 to start fresh in Queensland, but soon returned after J.C. got sick and said she missed her family, the Guardian reported. After they returned, she attempted to end the relationship, but the two still spent Christmas and New Year's together.
She then went camping with her sister and some friends in South West Rocks — a coastal town about 280 miles north of Sydney — to celebrate the new year but called Dawson collect every day, the Guardian reported.
Dawson, who the judge ruled killed his wife on Jan. 8, drove to pick J.C. up just two days later, telling her that Lyn was never coming back.
Dawson and JC got married in 1984 before the couple split up in 1990.
After the verdict Tuesday, Lynette Dawson’s brother, Greg Simms, said the verdict had been justice for his sister.
“Today her name has been cleared — she loved her family and would have never left them of her own accord,” he said. “Instead, her trust was betrayed by the man she loved.”
Simms said his family is still hopeful that her body will be found and implored Dawson to reveal what he knows.
“The journey is not complete. She is still missing,” he said, according to The Independent. “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.”
Christopher Dawson’s two brothers, who had been in court to support him, declined to speak with the media.
Dawson’s attorney Greg Walsh did address the crowd, however, and said his client plans to appeal the conviction.
“Mr. Dawson has always asserted, and he still does, his absolute innocence of the crime of which he’s been convicted,” he said outside the courtroom, per The Guardian. “He’ll continue to assert that innocence and he’ll certainly appeal.”
Walsh said incarceration could be difficult for Dawson, who was recently diagnosed with dementia. His lawyers suggested it might be related to his rugby career.
Hedley Thomas, the journalist behind the popular podcast which took a fresh look at the circumstantial case, calling upon new witnesses and questioning the initial police investigation, told reporters he was drawn to the case because it had been “so unjust, so unfair at the time,” The Australian Associated Press reports.
He said Tuesday that if there hadn’t been so many missteps made by investigators years ago, justice for Lynette Dawson may have been achieved much sooner.
“He’s had 40 years of his life that he has been able to enjoy without any accountability,” he said. “That’s disgraceful.”