Dawson, 74, a former teacher and rugby player, has long maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife. He was arrested in 2018 – the same year millions tuned into ‘The Teacher’s Pet’ podcast, which examined the couple’s relationship and the final weeks of 33-year-old Lynette’s life.
The podcast, which made headlines around the world, received a journalism award for discovering “long-lost statements and new witnessesin the case and prompting Australian police to renew the search for Lynette’s body. However, Harrison noted in his judgment on Tuesday, it was likely the series affected some of the evidence in the case.
Lynette disappeared from her home on Sydney’s northern beaches in January 1982, leaving behind her daughters aged 2 and 4. She doesn’t seem to have taken any of her belongings with her. Dawson said his wife chose to abandon their family.
After a long review of the evidence, Harrison said he was “convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982, as a result of a conscious and willful act by Mr. Dawson with intent to cause her death”.
While the evidence presented was “entirely circumstantial”, the evidence “considered as a whole is persuasive and compelling”, he said. “When you consider their combined strength, I have no doubts.”
Harrison concluded that Lynette “did not leave her home voluntarily” and stated several “lies” told by Chris Dawson, including that Lynette called him several times after he disappeared, saying she needed time away from his family, demonstrates a “bad conscience”.
“The claim that Lynette Dawson, a woman supposedly desperate to leave a relationship, would be willing to provide phone updates regarding the status of her decision to leave, is simply nonsense,” Harrison said. said Tuesday, adding that Chris Dawson’s account of their conversations, in which she just said “she needed more time” but didn’t ask about their children, for example, was unconvincing.
Friends and relatives of Lynette said in the first episode of the podcast that the devoted mother would never have abandoned her children, with whom she shared a special bond.
During the trial, prosecutors said Dawson had a relationship with a 16-year-old student of hers who was also the family’s babysitter, identified only as “JC” during the trial, at the time of Dawson’s disappearance. Lynette. JC moved into the family home shortly after Lynette’s disappearance. Prosecutors alleged that Dawson killed his wife so 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. said tuesday as he spoke outside the court. He asked Dawson to reveal the location of his remains so that it could finally be laid to rest.
“The Teacher’s Pet” podcast was made unavailable in Australia in 2019, after Dawson was charged, to ensure it had a fair audience. The trial too took place without a jury – at Dawson’s request – which was granted to him due to the high-profile and widely publicized nature of the case.
While true-crime podcasts and documentaries have become hugely popular in recent years, with renewed interest in unsolved murder cases or the potential discovery of new evidence, the Dawson trial has raised questions about the impact that such publicity may have on a trial.
Harrisson said tuesday that “The Teacher’s Pet” may have corrupted some of the evidence in the case, “depriving some evidence of its usefulness”.
He also noted that critics had argued that the podcast presented a “less than balanced view” of the case.
In speech outside of court after Tuesday’s verdict, the journalist behind the podcast, Hedley Thomas, said her role on the podcast made her feel like she had “got to know” Lynette. “His story felt so unfair, so unfair that I became obsessed with it,” he told reporters.
While Thomas welcomed the verdict and saluted the prosecutors in the case, he noted that Dawson had been able to enjoy 40 years of his life without facing “accountability” for his actions due to flaws in the system and the 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 ‘shameful’.
Greg Walsh, Dawson’s attorneytold reporters on Tuesday that his client was “shocked” and “upset” and would “definitely” appeal the guilty verdict.
“Mr. Dawson has always said, and he still does, his absolute innocence of the crime of which he was convicted. And he will continue to affirm that innocence. And he will certainly appeal.
Dawson will be sentenced at a later date.