‘False leads’ at heart of Teacher’s Pet case

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - DEB­O­RAH CORN­WALL DAVID MUR­RAY

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.”

LYN­DON MECHIELSEN

Chris Daw­son on the plane back to Syd­ney yes­ter­day

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