How a Podcast Delivered Justice to Lynette Dawson
After forty years, two coronial inquests, an application for permanent stay of proceedings and a nine-week trial, Justice Ian Harrison confirmed what Lyn Dawson’s family always knew, that Lyn Dawson died on, or about January 8, 1982 by a deliberate act of her husband Christopher Michael Dawson. Despite two coronial inquests which had recommended that Chris Dawson should face criminal prosecution for the murder of Lyn Dawson, the ODPP had refused the recommendation citing a lack of evidence.
Enter Hedly Thomas, Walkley award winning journalist and internationally renowned podcaster. Thomas, long consumed by a sense of injustice at Lyn’s disappearance in highly suspicious circumstances, coupled with an inadequate police investigation, created podcast ‘Teacher’s Pet’ in 2018. The ‘Teacher’s Pet’ podcast became internationally successful receiving 60 million downloads and reaching number one in several countries including Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand. The podcast won a Gold Walkley award, journalism’s highest honour.
Lyn Dawson disappeared in circumstances where her husband, Chris Dawson, a retired first grade rugby league player, part time model and high school PE teacher, was having an affair with one of his 16-year-old students. The 16-year-old student, known in court documents as JC due to her age at the time of Lyn’s disappearance, was moved into the family home by Chris Dawson. Lyn disappeared after confronting JC with the affair and asking her to move out, leaving JC to rethink her relationship with Dawson. Chris Dawson lived for the next forty years with no accountability for Lyn’s disappearance and murder.
The renewed interest in Lyn Dawson’s disappearance, created by the hugely successful podcast, culminated in Chris Dawson being charged with murder in 2018. The podcast resulted in new witnesses coming forward who had never spoken to police. However, Chris Dawson and his legal team applied for a permanent stay of proceedings, because as they argued, Dawson would never receive a fair trial in the wake of publicity surrounding the successful podcast. Despite going all the way to the High Court, Dawson was granted a temporary stay of proceedings and faced court in 2022. A permanent stay is where a trial is terminated permanently, whereas a temporary stay is where proceedings are halted temporarily. Christopher Dawson was also granted a judge alone, instead of a jury trial, to combat the potential influence of the podcast on proceedings.
That Judge, Justice Ian Harrison, found Chris Dawson guilty of Lynette’s murder on August 30, 2022. Chris Dawson was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence meaning that there are no witnesses to the murder, no body, and no weapon. Justice Harrison said in his judgment that on holistic assessment of the evidence, the only reasonable explanation is Chris Dawson murdered Lyn Dawson in January 1982. Dawson’s solicitor, Greg Walshe, has flagged an appeal.
We here at Rep-Revive Criminal & Employment lawyers have helped many people avoid historical criminal convictions. So if you, or someone you know, have any legal matters, contact Rep-Revive Criminal & Employment Lawyers® for a free initial consultation on (02) 9198 1997 or visit www.rpr5.sydney for further information on how we listen, we fight, and you win! We are always in your corner!