Dramatic scenes played out in the NSW Supreme Court as former football star Chris Dawson was found guilty for his wife’s 1982 murder, and the motive was his affair with his teenage babysitter lover, JC.
Just after 3pm on Tuesday, Justice Ian Harrison found Dawson, 74, guilty of murdering his wife, bringing to a close a mystery that has haunted Lynette’s family for four decades.
There were gasps in the courtroom the moment Dawson was found guilty – after some 4.5 hours of the judge reading out his reasons – with Dawson shaking his head very slightly and his twin brother Paul muttering ‘bulls***’.
Two prison officers entered the room and handcuffed him. Dawson appeared to limp as he was led away to be taken into custody. He will be locked up at Silverwater Correctional Centre as he awaits sentencing.
Paul Dawson could be heard talking about a woman – saying ‘I tiold her’ – and complained about never having been called as a witness.
In his decision, Justice Ian 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 being still alive after her disappearance and about his missing her afterwards.
As Dawson was pronounced
After waiting for 40 years to find out what happened to 33-year-old Lynette Joy Dawson who vanished with out a trace, it took just over four-and-a-half hours for the mother-of-two’s family to get the answer they had waited so long for.
Despite finding that he was not satisfied Dawson ’caused any of the bruising on Lynette’ or that he ‘was physically violent towards her’, Justice Ian Harrison found him guilty of murder.
He was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson 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.
At 10am on Tuesday morning, NSW Supreme Court judge Ian Harrison SC had entered court 13A at Queens Square in Sydney amid tense anticipation from both the accused’s supporters and Lyn Dawson’s siblings.
The 74-year-old accused sat up the front with brother Peter, with twin Paul and other supporters in the back of the court.
In the front row, Lynette Dawson’s family sat wearing pink,
Reading through his written reasons for his verdict, Justice Harrison described some of the evidence in Chris 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’.
Chris Dawson arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday to hear the verdict from Justice Harrison on his trial for the murder of his wife Lyn in 1982
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
The judge also said one of Chris Dawson’s relatives, his brother-in-law Ross Hutchins, had falsified an alleged sighting he had made of Lynette Dawson at Gladesville, just months after her disappearance, and that the sighting was a ‘fabrication’.
Discounting all other alleged sightings, His Honour said, ‘I am satisfied that none of the sightings were genuine.
‘I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson is dead and that she died on or about 8 January 1982 and that she did not voluntarily leave her home,’ he said.
‘She was not mentally unstable, she adored her children…she was still hopeful. She was still talking in affectionate terms about her unfaithful husband.
‘That she would step from her husband’s car … and decide to evaporate forever is not a reasonable possibility. The proposition is ludicrous.’
For more than four hours, Chris Dawson sat ramrod straight in court listening to Justice Harrison describe his defence case as full of lies, and ‘ludicrous’ propositions.
Lyn Dawson’s sister-in-law Merilyn and brother Greg Simms arrive in her favourite colour of pink at the court on Tuesday
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
While calmly reading out his judgement, Justice Harrison said he was willing to believe ‘beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson’s evidence he had received a call from Lyn at a swimming pool on the day after his wife’s disappearance was ‘a lie’.
Justice Harrison also found that Chris Dawson’s accounts of purported phone calls from his wife after her disappearance ‘beyond reasonable doubt … are lies’.
‘I do not accept Lynette Dawson … would continue to remain in contact with the very person who was … the reason for her departure,’ Justice Harrison said. ‘The contention … is simply absurd.’
The judge described the evidence of the schoolgirl babysitter JC, with whom Chris Dawson had an affair as mostly reliable, and that her account of being groomed for a sexual relationship as believable.
He said that Dawson’s contention that his sexual relationship with JC did not recommence in 1982 until April of that year ‘cannot be true’.
The accused’s older brother Peter in a scuffle in a media scrum outside the court as he arrives with Chris Dawson and lawyer Greg Walsh on Tuesday
‘She had been swept up … and was confused and conflicted,’ he said and found that JC’s evidence had not been corrupted by her subsequent divorce from him years later.
However Justice Harrison rejected the evidence of JC, and of a former football team mate Robert Silkman, that the accused had conversations with them about hiring ‘a hitman’ to murder Lynette Dawson.
Justice Harrison said the crown had established beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson determined he would leave the relationship with his wife and enter a substituted relationship with JC.
‘I am satisfied that Mr Dawson was obsessed with JC and with the fear of losing her. He decided he would end his marriage and move on with JC,’ he said.
‘That does not stand alone to prove that he murdered his wife.’
He described evidence from two women who related stories allegedly told to them by Lynette Dawson of violence against her by the accused as unreliable.
He said the women had been influenced by the Teacher’s Pet podcast.
However he said the account by Lynette Dawson’s next door neighbour, Julie Andrew, of seeing Chris Dawson pushing Lyn up against a trampoline and screaming at her shortly before she went missing he found to be true.
So many media and supporters attended the court verdict, a second court room was opened up to accommodate the crowd.
For the first time in the trial, the accused’s identical twin brother Paul was present at court and in a mass of media outside the court there was a brief scuffle between a cameraman and the twins’ older brother, Peter.
Accused murderer Chris Dawson (above) at his Sunshine Coast home on Sunday before he flew to Sydney to face the judge’s verdict of his guilt or innocence in the murder of his first wife, Lynette
Chris Dawson with his daughter in the 1970s, when he was married to first wife Lyn a few years before her mysterious 1982 disappearance
Chris Dawson had left his Sunshine Coast home in Queensland to fly to Sydney for the verdict, after spending the last seven weeks on bail while Justice Harrison deliberated on his decision.
On Sunday, as his old team Easts Rugby Union played in grand finals at Coogee Oval, Dawson had sported a club shirt and enjoyed a visit from his daughter Shanelle at his home.
Both Dawson and his identical twin brother Paul played for Easts before switching to the Newtown Jets rugby league side in 1972.
Justice Harrison conducted a judge-alone trial and is due to give a lengthy summary of the reasons for his decision.
Chris Dawson’s daughter Shanelle – who was four years old when her mother vanished – showed her support by attending her father’s Sunshine Coast home at the weekend before he flew out to meet his fate
Mr Dawson, according to his defence, suffers from a fractured hip and and a possible brain injury sustained from his years playing rugby.
The verdict is also momentous for the family of Lyn Dawson, who have invested so much time and effort in seeking justice for the 33-year-old mother of two young girls who vanished without trace on January 8 or 9, 1982.
Lyn’s sister, Pat Jenkins, her brother, Greg Simms, and the missing woman’s niece Renee Simms and nephew David Jenkins have had their lives on hold for the 10-week trial, the weeks since as Justice Harrison has deliberated and, indeed, the empty decades since Lyn vanished.
His Easts supporter polo shirt is several years old, and the weekend’s results were not a conclusive portent for what was to come.
Easts beat Sydney University in third grade, levelled with old rival Randwick in an 13-all draw in the same division, and won 21-17 against Randwick in the first grade Colts.
Daily Mail Australia understands Dawson is not a club member and hasn’t been to Easts clubhouse since 2009.
Chris Dawson, 74, (above) pictured on the Sunshine Coast last weekend before returning to Sydney for the verdict on his trial for murder
Chris and Lynette Dawson were together for 17 years and married for twelve when she vanished seemingly off the face of the earth in January 1982 after his affair with a schoolgirl
The trial heard Chris Dawson was ‘besotted ‘ with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who became his second wife and testified at his trial about his controlling behaviour
Mr Dawson’s eldest daughter Shanelle, who was four when her mother disappeared was pictured packing her car as she left his house on Sunday, after publicly revealing she still loves her dad.
Four years ago, Shanelle had broken down on national television, saying ‘It’s not looking good for my father, I will be honest to say’.
Chris Dawson was arrested and charged with Lyn Dawson’s murder in late 2018, pleaded not guilty to the charge and has always maintained his innocence.
Lynette Dawson’s disappearance from her Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches was the subject of the hit podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, which was played during the lengthy trial.
During the trial, crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC claimed Mr Dawson’s motivation for murdering his first wife and disposing of her body was to have an ‘unfettered relationship’ with a school student, known in court as JC, who became their teenage babysitter.
The family of Lynette Dawson has been asking for years about her disappearance and whatever the verdict on Tuesday, they still hold out hopes of her remains being found
Chris Dawson and Lynette Simms as young sweethearts before their engagement and marriage which would culminate in her disappearance in 1982
The court heard that Mr Dawson, who was twice JC’s age, became utterly infatuated with her and conducted a sexual affair, eventually moving her into the family home after Lyn vanished.
Lynette Dawson’s body has never been found and Mr Everson’s circumstantial case included that the accused had disposed of her during a ‘window of quiet seclusion’ sometime before or after meeting Lyn’s mother at the pool, and collecting JC from northern NSW.
The trial heard two separate allegations of Mr Dawson suggesting he hire a hitman to kill Lyn, one by a former Newtown Jets team-mate and one by JC, who became his second wife.
JC told the court repeatedly Mr Dawson had ‘groomed’ her, then ‘installed’ her in the house and the marital bed, where she became ‘a sex slave’, as well as housekeeper and mother to his two daughters.
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’s two daughters posed for photographs by a portrait artist who would produce charming drawings of the girls, only to discover that Lyn had vanished and Chris didn’t want them
In the house were all of Lyn’s belongings, including wedding and engagement rings, clothes, eyewear and her nursing badges.
Friends, colleagues, neighbours and an employee of Lynette Dawson testified they had seen her with bruises, heard her claim her husband had assaulted her, or witnessed him doing so.
Mr Dawson’s barrister, Pauline David, argued that the young mother had simply up and left and had gone away of her own free will, and was still alive after not contacting her mother or other family since January 1982.
Ms David cited five alleged sightings, including in the Sydney suburb of at Gladesville, working at a hospital, at a hotel near Lake Macquarie and crossing the road during Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ 1983 royal tour.
Ms David surmised Lyn Dawson could have ‘created a new life’, met with misadventure and since died, and even committed suicide.
Lyn Dawson’s family flagged the fact that despite the conclusion of the trial with Justice Harrison’s verdict, they will not ever give up on finding her remains.
Nephew David Jenkins tweeted last weekend, ‘After 40 years, on Tuesday we’ll find out whether the evidence against Lyn ‘s (accused) murderer was strong enough.
‘Either way, this isn’t over until we have Lyn home.’