Chris Dawson: Inside courtroom as daughter Shanelle delivers powerful speech


Convicted wife killer Chris Dawson kept his head bowed and refused to look at his daughter Shanelle as she tearfully told a court about having a father who had murdered her mother: ‘You had no right. You are not God.’ 

Shanelle – the oldest of two girls Dawson had with wife Lynette before he murdered her in 1982 – delivered her emotional victim impact statement in the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday morning. 

Addressing him directly from the witness box, just a few metres from where Dawson was in the dock in his prison greens, Shanelle asked her father a series of anguished questions.

‘Once I came to realise it was you … my whole world shattered,’ Shanelle said. 

‘I had to tell my beautiful innocent daughter why her grandfather killed her grandmother.

‘Why didn’t you just divorce her? 

‘Because of money? For God sake – the way you made her invisible.’

Wife killer Chris Dawson, depicted in a court sketch in prison greens after his conviction, will likely die in jail. He faced a sentencing hearing on Thursday

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

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

Shanelle spoke of how her own father had ‘silenced’ and ‘gaslighted’ her and subjected her to years of ’emotional and psychological abuse’.

‘The fact my father that I loved … was capable of such a heartless act (and that) you can coldly dispose of her. I’ve lost my father too. 

‘How a father is capable of such an act of violence against a woman he supposedly loved.’ 

She questioned how her father could be ‘capable of such a heart wrenching brutal selfish act’ and concluded by begging her father, ‘Please tell us where she is’. 

The court subsequently heard the reasons from prosecutor Craig Everson SC why Dawson should be given a lengthy sentence which would men he would die in jail. 

Shanelle Dawson directly addressed her father Chris Dawson in court about murdering her mother but he refused to look at her during the emotional victim statement

Shanelle Dawson directly addressed her father Chris Dawson in court about murdering her mother but he refused to look at her during the emotional victim statement

Dawson was led into the court just after midday, the 74-year-old inmate limping into the court room wearing prison greens to the dock where he spoke briefly with his lawyer Greg Walsh.  

Lynette Dawson’s brother Greg Simms, his wife Merilyn and one of the chief detectives who investigated Lyn’s murder, Damian Loone, attended the hearing wearing pink ribbons in honour of the slain woman. 

Dawson kept his head slightly bowed, refusing to look at the witness box as Mr Simm’s victim witness statement was read out.

In his statement, Mr Simms called his former brother-in-law a ‘conniving monster’ who had cruelly lied to betrayed Lynette’s family.

‘You were accepted into our family unconditionally when you married Lyn, the statement said

‘We trusted you. You repaid us by giving us the ultimate betrayal.

‘You betrayed out trust , left a huge hole which cannot be replaced.’

Mr Simms’ statement said that there had been ‘constant heartache and tears’ since ‘you carried out your foul deed’.

Chris Dawson in his suit on verdict day in August before he was convicted of the 1982 murder of Lynette Dawson and taken away to prison

Chris Dawson in his suit on verdict day in August before he was convicted of the 1982 murder of Lynette Dawson and taken away to prison 

He said that members of his family have ‘cursed and despised you for what you did’ and ‘your lies and deceit had a profound effect on my father, mother and brother.’ 

A statement by Lyn Dawson’s older sister Pat Jenkins, she described Dawson as ‘this man who must have what he wanted at all costs’.

‘How do you describe the impact of over 40 years without your sister? Lyn’s loss was a black cloud hanging over me.’

She said she had ‘jumped in the air’ when he was charged with murder in 2018, 36 years after she had lost her sister. 

Dawson appeared in the same court on Thursday that he had for the verdict on August 30 when he was pronounced guilty of murder after a judge-alone trial.  

Mr Everson SC said five factors contributed to the serious amount of jail time Dawson should get, including the fact it was ‘a deliberate and conscious act to kill’ Lyn and ‘the extent of the planning’ Dawson had made.

The other reasons were that Lyn Dawson had been ‘killed in her own home’ the ‘concealment of the body’ which enhanced the murder’s seriousness and ‘the substantial harm caused to others’.

He described Dawson as suffering from a ‘depressive illness and mild cognitive impairment … not so significant’.  

Following his client’s conviction in August, his lawyer Greg Walsh said that Dawson maintained his innocence and would be appealing the guilty verdict.

Detectives who investigated the Lynette Dawson murder case have said the most likely spot where the murdered 33-year-old is buried is somewhere on the NSW Central Coast.

Dawson's lawyer Greg Walsh said Dawson has received serious death threats from a number of inmates at Silverwater jail before he was moved to a prison near Wellington in central western NSW

Dawson’s lawyer Greg Walsh said Dawson has received serious death threats from a number of inmates at Silverwater jail before he was moved to a prison near Wellington in central western NSW

Investigators working the case have established two solid theories – the first was that Lynette was buried in the backyard of the family home the couple shared with their young daughters on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Police excavations of the yard over the years and ground penetrating technology failed to provide any significant clues, except for a pink cardigan with what appeared to be knife marks that experts were unable to link to Lynette.

‘There was the (other) theory that he travelled to the Central Coast on January 9,’ a police source told The Daily Telegraph. 

‘The challenge with that is that there is no physical evidence to point in any direction… there is a lot of regional bush area… there is no possible way to search it, it’s so vast.’

Prosecutors in the trial argued Dawson gave the couple’s two daughters to a friend to look after on January 9 to give him the opportunity to hide the body.

Justice Harrison said no evidence had been presented at trial to show Dawson’s whereabouts on that night.  

The trial heard Chris Dawson's motive for murdering Lynette was the fact he was 'besotted' with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who became his second wife and testified at his trial about his controlling behaviour

The trial heard Chris Dawson’s motive for murdering Lynette was the fact he was ‘besotted’ with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who became his second wife and testified at his trial about his controlling behaviour

Chris Dawson was initially taken to Silverwater prison (above, arriving ten weeks ago) but was transferred to another jail after receiving death threats from inmates

Chris Dawson was initially taken to Silverwater prison (above, arriving ten weeks ago) but was transferred to another jail after receiving death threats from inmates

Judge’s reasons for finding Dawson guilty 

In August, Justice Harrison found Dawson guilty after reading a four-and-a-half hour judgment, bringing to a close a mystery that has haunted Lynette’s family and Sydney’s northern beaches for four decades.

His Honour said Dawson was motivated by his obsessive infatuation with schoolgirl babysitter JC, with the fear of losing her and clearing the impediment that his wife Lyn represented, as well as not losing hold of his assets as would happen in a divorce.

There were gasps in the courtroom the moment the verdict was handed down, with Dawson shaking his head very slightly and his twin brother Paul muttering ‘bulls***’.

Paul stormed out of the court as two prison officers entered the room and handcuffed his identical twin brother.

Dawson appeared to limp as he was led away, arms stretched awkwardly in front of him, to be taken into custody. 

He spent the night in the cells at Sydney’s Surry Hills police centre before being taken to Silverwater prison in western Sydney on Wednesday. 

As his twin was led away, Paul Dawson could be heard talking about a woman – saying ‘I told her’ – and complaining about not being able to testify about some aspect of his brother’s case.

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 after the verdict that 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.

‘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.’

The family of Lynette Dawson still wants to know where her body is and since the August 30 guilty verdict of Chris Dawson, they still hold out hopes of her remains being found

The family of Lynette Dawson still wants to know where her body is and since the August 30 guilty verdict of Chris Dawson, they still hold out hopes of her remains being found

Lyn's brother Greg Simms and his wife Merilyn address the crowd after Chris Dawson's guilty verdict, saying they want him to tell them where her body is

Lyn’s brother Greg Simms and his wife Merilyn address the crowd after Chris Dawson’s guilty verdict, saying they want him to tell them where her body is 

Christopher Dawson (above with the wife he murdered) is being sentenced for killing Lynette Dawson in 1982

Christopher Dawson (above with the wife he murdered) is being sentenced for killing Lynette Dawson in 1982

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. 

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’.  

TIMELINE OF EVENTS FOLLOWING LYN DAWSON’S DISAPPEARANCE: 

 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.

November 10 – Sentencing submission for Dawson begin. 

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

By Australian Associated Press 

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

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

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 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

 

 

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