‘False leads’ at heart of Teacher’s Pet case
New allegations that Chris Dawson created a string of false leads to convince friends and family his wife had walked out on him will be at the heart of the prosecution case against the former Sydney schoolteacher, senior sources close to the investigation claim.
The decision to charge the former rugby league player with murder this week follows an exhaustive process by NSW coldcase homicide detectives investigating many alleged inconsistencies in Mr Dawson’s claim his first wife was still alive after she left him.
In order for the prosecution to establish its case it needs to “close off all the holes and systematically dismantle this story that Lyn just walked out of his life,” one senior source said.
In the first week of Lyn’s disappearance in 1982, Mr Dawson told friends and family his wife had called him three times, telling him at first she was staying with friends on the NSW central coast.
In the same month, Mr Dawson claimed his wife had used her Bankcard account twice, though no statements to substantiate it have ever been uncovered.
There were also a series of unconfirmed “sightings” of Lyn, including a claim by Mr Dawson that he thought he recognised his wife on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, decades after she went missing. It was filmed in Padstow, Cornwall, in 2006.
Mr Dawson has repeatedly claimed that Lyn left their two daughters, aged four and two at the time, abandoning their Bayview family home on Sydney’s northern beaches to join a religious cult. The case has been the subject of The Australian’s award-winning podcast, The Teacher’s Pet.
Just two days after Lyn vanished, his lover — the couple’s 16year-old babysitter — Joanne Curtis, moved into the family home.
Ms Curtis, who later married Mr Dawson, is expected to be the star witness at the murder trial.
Mr Dawson, 70, who was arrested on Wednesday, was flown from the Gold Coast to Sydney yesterday and charged with his wife’s murder. He will remain in custody until a bail hearing set for next Friday after his lawyer Greg Walsh asked for time to study the police brief against his client.
Mr Walsh said Mr Dawson would plead not guilty.
Mr Walsh said outside the court yesterday his client had always maintained his innocence and there was strong evidence to back the defence case.
He said there was evidence Lyn “was observed by a number of people” after her 1982 disappearance.
“Unfortunately two of those people are deceased,” he said. “One of the witnesses who died, her daughter gave evidence at the second inquest, and she said that ‘my mother told me (and) if she was here today, she’d say she saw Lyn Dawson after her disappearance’. Another witness also gave evidence to that effect.”
Mr Walsh said the defence would also rely on “two very important Bankcard transactions on Lyn’s bank account in the weeks after her disappearance.
He said they were never investigated by police and they “should have conducted a proper
investigation at the time”. Mr Dawson’s insistence that his wife had left him was enough to deter police from launching a full investigation into Lyn’s disappearance until 1998 after a formal complaint was laid by her family.
Mr Walsh also revealed that, by “bizarre coincidence”, the first wife of Peter Dawson, Chris’s elder brother, had a mother who had disappeared for 60 years.
“It wasn’t until 2002 when the mother died, having remarried in New Zealand, that the family discovered she had been alive all along,” Mr Walsh said yesterday.
“It’s amazing, but it just demonstrates that it does happen.”
Homicide detectives have two new witnesses who came forward for the first time following the launch of The Teacher’s Pet.
One of the new witnesses, a woman, refused to be interviewed in the podcast but has provided NSW homicide detectives with what police will allege is critical “corroborative” evidence.
Senior sources say the woman, a former northern beaches schoolgirl, had a close relationship with Chris Dawson, his twin brother, Paul, and Ms Curtis, and kept diaries about her school days
The second new witnesses is another former babysitter for the Dawsons, who was interviewed in the podcast.
The first babysitters for Chris and Lyn Dawson, and who were overlooked by police for decades, have also come forward to The Australian.
The last time the women heard from police in relation to Lyn’s disappearance was 25 years ago when they were becoming mothers.
Both recall being phoned out of the blue by a detective from Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches in late 1993. They say the conversations had been brief and they were not asked to provide statements.
“They asked me if I knew anything about the whereabouts of Lyn, which I didn’t,” said one of the women.
“They didn’t ask me how well did I know Chris, had I had anything to do with Chris.”
Chris Dawson on the plane back to Sydney yesterday