Even Hol­ly­wood is fas­ci­nated by Lynette Daw­son mys­tery

Herald Sun - - NEWS - JANET FIFE-YEOMANS fife-yeo­[email protected]­lytele­

NO ONE out­side the se­crecy of a mar­riage ever re­ally knows what goes on in­side the re­la­tion­ship. Of­ten, not even the two peo­ple in­volved know the truth.

Chris and Lynette Daw­son were one of those en­vi­able cou­ples who ap­peared to have ev­ery­thing.

They were at­trac­tive, had close fam­i­lies, good cir­cles of friends and two beau­ti­ful and healthy daugh­ters, Shanelle and Sher­ryn. The fam­ily lived in a house Chris had built among the bushes and views of Bayview on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches.

There had been prob­lems in their mar­riage, not the least of which was one of Chris’s stu­dents at Cromer High School, 16-year-old Joanne Cur­tis, mov­ing in with them. As well as babysit­ting for the girls, Joanne was hav­ing an af­fair with Chris, in­clud­ing sex in his car.

Like Joanne, Lynette had been just 16 when she started see­ing Daw­son. The dif­fer­ence was, he was about the same age as Lynette.

It was against that back­ground that on Fri­day, Jan­uary 8, 1982, Chris and Lynette Daw­son went to mar­riage coun­selling. They were seen hand-in-hand af­ter­wards at the child­care cen­tre in War­riewood where Lynette, a for­mer reg­is­tered nurse, was work­ing.

Later that evening, Lynette told her mum, He­lena Simms, over the phone that the coun­selling had gone well and she was sure that it was all go­ing to work out be­tween her and Chris.

Mother and daugh­ter would never talk again.

Chris has main­tained that he dropped his wife off at a bus stop in Mona Vale at 7am the next day, Satur­day. She never learned to drive de­spite their Bayview home be­ing rel­a­tively iso­lated. He said he ex­pected to see her that af­ter­noon at North­bridge Baths where he was a life­guard, but she never turned up.

At the age of 33, Lynette Daw­son had van­ished — but she has never been for­got­ten.

Al­most four decades later, her dis­ap­pear­ance cap­tured in­ter­na­tional no­to­ri­ety through The Aus­tralian news­pa­per’s award-win­ning pod­cast, The Teacher’s Pet. It has been down­loaded an amaz­ing 19 mil­lion times world­wide since it be­gan in May this year.

On Thurs­day this week, Chris Daw­son, 70 — by now thrice-mar­ried — was charged with her mur­der. Po­lice have fo­cused on that last night in Jan­uary 1982 as the time of her al­leged death.

Daw­son is charged with mur­der­ing her be­tween 9pm on Jan­uary 8 and 7am on Jan­uary 9.

When he ap­peared be­fore Syd­ney’s Cen­tral Lo­cal Court on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the eyes of the world, or at least those 19 mil­lion pod­cast fans, were on him.

In shorts, thongs and a dark short-sleeve T-shirt with a col­lar and a deep tan, he could not have looked more Aussie, wear­ing the same clothes he had on when he was driven from South­port po­lice sta­tion at 5.15 that morn­ing to Coolan­gatta air­port for a Qan­tas flight to Syd­ney.

With him all the way was NSW homi­cide squad de­tec­tive Daniel Poole, the se­nior con­sta­ble who had put to­gether the vo­lu­mi­nous brief of ev­i­dence that was handed to the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions in April, be­fore The Teacher’s Pet pod­cast be­gan.

Poole worked with Strike Force Sriven, set up in 2015 to rein­ves­ti­gate Lynette’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Daw­son re­mains be­hind bars and will reap­ply for bail next Fri­day.

Out­side court, his lawyer Greg Walsh said his client would be plead­ing not guilty and “stren­u­ously as­serts his in­no­cence”.

Both the po­lice and de­fence are qui­etly curs­ing The

Teacher’s Pet pod­cast. Out­side court, Walsh said he hadn’t lis­tened to it. He was re­cruited to the case late on Wed­nes­day when one of Chris Daw­son’s two older broth­ers, lawyer Pe­ter, 72, asked him to rep­re­sent Chris.

Chris also has a twin, Paul, an­other older brother, Gary, 74, and a 75-year-old sis­ter with the same name as his first wife who van­ished.

Walsh said he was con­cerned about the pub­lic­ity that came from the “ide­o­log­i­cal” view that his client was guilty. Walsh said he had great faith in the jury sys­tem — but there is the pos­si­bil­ity that they may elect for a trial by judge alone be­cause of the me­dia storm sur­round­ing the case.

From the prose­cu­tion side, there is con­cern that many state­ments al­ready taken may be com­pro­mised by what those same wit­nesses have said on the pod­cast. Dur­ing any trial, the de­fence can seize upon dif­fer­ences.

The one key wit­ness who has never spo­ken to the pod­cast is Joanne Cur­tis.

Now 54 and long di­vorced from her teacher lover, Cur­tis is back in Dee Why with daugh­ter Kristin whom she had with Daw­son.

Cur­tis has every rea­son to pro­tect her pri­vacy. As well as the pod­cast, a book has been writ­ten about the case which can’t be re­leased now un­til af­ter any trial. On top of that, Hol­ly­wood has been sniff­ing around the cold-case drama that seems to have ev­ery­thing.

As well as mak­ing five state­ments to po­lice, Cur­tis has twice told her story to the two in­quests into Lynette’s dis­ap­pear­ance, de­tail­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Daw­son, some­times tear­fully.

She was driven into the sport teacher’s arms af­ter com­ing from a bro­ken home and a vi­o­lent step­fa­ther which left her nowhere to live.

At the time in the early 1980s, Cromer High School

was said to be a hot­bed of sex be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents, and a sep­a­rate po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues into those claims.

That Jan­uary week­end in early 1982 when Lynette went miss­ing, Cur­tis was up at South West Rocks on the NSW mid-north coast, camp­ing with her sis­ters and friends. Paul, with whom Chris shared movie-star good looks and a ta­lent for rugby league, was on hol­i­day with his wife, Mar­i­lyn, on the Cen­tral Coast.

On Sun­day, Jan­uary 10, 1982, with his wife miss­ing, Daw­son drove up to South West Rocks to see his teenage lover. Daugh­ters Shanelle, 4, and Sher­ryn, 2, were stay­ing with Lynette’s mother.

Daw­son and Cur­tis drove back to Syd­ney where she moved with him as his part­ner, and the daugh­ters were told to call her “mum”.

In Jan­uary 1984, Cur­tis be­came the se­cond Mrs Daw­son, wear­ing Lynette’s rings which Chris had re­set for her. Daw­son sold the Bayview home and in De­cem­ber that year, the cou­ple moved to Queens­land and a house in the street next to the one that twin Paul lived in with his wife.

The twins not only lived close to each other, they taught at the same school, Coom­babah High.

Chris has made a num­ber of claims of calls from Lynette and said there was ev­i­dence she had used her bank card. He has claimed she moved into a re­li­gious com­mu­nity.

Po­lice will al­lege that her body is in bush­land some­where in Syd­ney’s north.

In 1990, Cur­tis left Daw­son in what was said to be a bit­ter split. He mar­ried again and has been liv­ing at Mount Coolum. When he was ar­rested early on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, it was at the granny flat con­nected to his daugh­ter Sher­ryn’s Gold Coast home, 200km south.

Sher­ryn and Shanelle are both also ca­su­al­ties of their mother’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Shanelle slowly came to the be­lief that her mother would never walk out on her fam­ily. Sher­ryn be­lieves in their dad’s in­no­cence, la­belling the in­ves­ti­ga­tion a “witch hunt”.

To add to the mix of sex, tragedy and in­trigue, Pe­ter Daw­son re­vealed this week that Lynette was not the only mem­ber of the ex­tended Daw­son fam­ily who had gone miss­ing. He said his first wife’s mother, Mar­cia, had left her hus­band and then walked out on her three young chil­dren in about 1960.

Greg Walsh said out­side court on Thurs­day that this showed moth­ers and wives did leave their fam­i­lies and dis­ap­pear: “It does hap­pen.”

The fi­nal truth about Lynette will prob­a­bly be de­cided in a Syd­ney court­room next year. Truth is al­ways stranger than fic­tion. Hol­ly­wood will have to wait.

Chris Daw­son ar­rives at Syd­ney Po­lice Cen­tre (above) on Thurs­day; with Joanne Cur­tis and his chil­dren (be­low); with first wife Lynette in 1974 (left); and po­lice search a prop­erty (far left). Main pic­ture: AAP

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