Dawson, 74, a former teacher and rugby player, has long maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to his wife’s murder. He was arrested in 2018 – the same year, millions listened to the podcast “The Teacher’s Pet”, which explored the couple’s relationship and the last weeks of the life of 33-year-old Lynette.
The podcast, which made headlines around the world, received a journalistic award for exposing “long-lost statements and new witnesses” in the case and prompting Australian police to search for Lynette’s body. to renew. However, Harrison noted in his verdict on Tuesday that it was likely the series influenced some of the evidence in the case.
Lynette disappeared from her home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in January 1982, leaving behind her daughters, ages 2 and 4. She didn’t seem to have taken any of her belongings. Dawson said his wife had chosen to abandon their family.
After lengthy examination of the evidence, Harrison said he was “without reasonable doubt satisfied that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982, as a result of a conscious and voluntary act committed by Mr. Dawson with intent to cause her death. ”
While the evidence presented was “completely circumstantial,” the evidence “when viewed as a whole is compelling and compelling,” he said. “When their combined strength is taken into account, I leave no doubt.”
Harrison concluded that Lynette “didn’t leave her house voluntarily” and said several “lies” told by Chris Dawson, including that Lynette had called him several times after her disappearance, saying she needed time away from her family, “a guilty conscience”. ”
“The claim that Lynette Dawson, a woman who supposedly desperately wants to end a relationship, would be inclined to give telephone updates on the status of her decision to leave is simply absurd,” Harrison said Tuesday, adding that Chris Dawson’s reports of their conversations, in which she only said “she needed more time” but did not ask about their children, for example, were inconclusive.
Lynette’s friends and relatives had said in the podcast’s first episode that the devoted mother would never have abandoned her children, with whom she shared a special bond.
At trial, prosecutors said Dawson had been in a relationship with a 16-year-old student of his, who was also the family’s babysitter, identified only as “JC” in the trial, at the time of Lynette’s disappearance. JC moved into the family home shortly after Lynette disappeared. Prosecutors alleged that Dawson killed his wife so that he could continue his relationship with JC.
It took Dawson six weeks to report Lynette missing, and her body was never found.
“We hope that one day we will find our sister and put her to rest,” Lynette’s brother Greg Simms said on Tuesday as he spoke outside the court. He summoned Dawson to reveal the location of her remains so that she could finally be laid to rest.
The “The Teacher’s Pet” podcast was made unavailable in Australia in 2019, after Dawson was charged, to ensure he received a fair hearing. The trial also took place without a jury—at Dawson’s request—which was awarded to him due to the high-profile and highly publicized nature of the case.
While true crime podcasts and documentaries have become extremely popular in recent years, with a renewed interest in unsolved murder cases or potentially uncovering new evidence, the Dawson trial has raised questions about the impact such publicity can have on a trial.
Harrison said Tuesday that “The Teacher’s Pet” may have corrupted some of the evidence in the case, “robbing any evidence of its usefulness.”
He also noted that critics had argued that the podcast presented a “less than balanced view” of the matter.
In out-of-court comments after Tuesday’s verdict, the journalist behind the podcast, Hedley Thomas, said his role on the podcast made him feel like he had “taught” Lynette. “Her story seemed so unfair, so unjust, I became obsessive about it,” he told reporters.
While welcoming the verdict and praising prosecutors in the case, Thomas noted that Dawson could have enjoyed 40 years of his life without taking “responsibility” for his actions due to flaws in the system and previous handling of the case. He said Lynette was simply “treated like a runaway mother when the circumstances were so gravely suspicious”, adding that it was “disgraceful”.
Dawson’s attorney Greg Walsh told reporters on Tuesday that his client was “in shock” and “upset” and “certainly” would appeal the conviction.
“Mr. Dawson has always maintained, and continues to maintain, his absolute innocence of the crime for which he was convicted. And he will continue to assert that innocence. And he will certainly appeal.”
Dawson will be sentenced at a later date.