From a quiet life to harsh spot­light

The Australian - - THE NATION - EAN HIG­GINS AD­DI­TIONAL RE­PORT­ING: SAM BUCK­ING­HAM-JONES, REMYVARGA

He was a rugby league player, a pop­u­lar teacher, and now he’s the most fa­mous al­leged mur­derer in the coun­try.

But yes­ter­day Chris Daw­son had to wait his turn to sit on a plas­tic chair in a tiny fea­ture­less room in a po­lice lockup to have his first day in a NSW court, by re­mote.

Daw­son, who was yes­ter­day charged with the mur­der of his wife Lyn, ap­peared by video link from the Surry Hills po­lice sta­tion in Syd­ney, while a mag­is­trate, a few lawyers and a huge posse of jour­nal­ists packed into the old­style wood-pan­elled Court­room 1 of the sand­stone Cen­tral Lo­cal Court in the city.

See­ing the press pack as the court re­opened at 2pm, Mag­is­trate Robert Wil­liams looked at the jour­nal­ists and said, while there were a lot of peo­ple wait­ing for the Daw­son mat­ter, “I can’t pro­ceed un­til I get court pa­pers.”

So, while wait­ing, the court dealt with a young woman ac­cused of driv­ing while un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs who ap­peared from the video cu­bi­cle at the Surry Hills po­lice sta­tion, look­ing rather like a deer caught in head­lights.

She was re­leased on bail with con­di­tions, and pretty soon af­ter that, Daw­son ap­peared on the video mon­i­tor, walk­ing into the cu­bi­cle in a dark grey T-shirt, light blue shorts, and thongs — the same out­fit he’d worn as he was ex­tra­dited by plane from Queens­land in the morn­ing.

Daw­son’s de­meanour didn’t look that much bet­ter than the young woman who had been in the creaky plas­tic chair be­fore him.

Daw­son looked anx­ious and stressed, and kept his arms crossed most of the time, oc­ca­sion­ally look­ing down.

He only spoke at the start when the mag­is­trate asked him if he were Christo­pher Daw­son, say­ing “Yes, yes I am, Sir” and at the end, say­ing “thank you” when told he could leave the room.

While the young woman who had ap­peared be­fore him got out from be­hind bars yes­ter­day, Daw­son didn’t. His lawyer Greg Walsh said he had only got the brief at 6pm on Wed­nes­day and had not had suf­fi­cient time to de­velop a full ar­gu­ment to seek bail.

The mat­ter was ad­journed to Fri­day next week, with bail for­mally de­nied in the mean­time.

Out­side the court, Mr Walsh said his client would plead not guilty and vig­or­ously de­fend his in­no­cence, and told of an ex­tra- or­di­nary story which went to a pos­si­ble line of ar­gu­ment that, since no body had been found and there had been sight­ings of her since she dis­ap­peared in Jan­uary, 1982, Lyn might still be alive.

“I am aware of an­other case where a woman dis­ap­peared for 60 years and her daugh­ter only found out she’d gone to New Zealand, mar­ried, and had a fam­ily, af­ter she died in 2002,” Mr Walsh said. “It does hap­pen.”

Chat­ting to jour­nal­ists af­ter the press con­fer­ence, the lawyer pro­vided a re­minder of his client’s sport­ing prow­ess. It turned out Mr Walsh had played for Syd­ney rugby union team Wests in the same era Daw­son and his twin brother Paul played rugby for Easts, be­fore they shifted to play first-grade rugby league for the New­town Jets.

“I was 17, 18, I would’ve prob­a­bly played against the Daw­sons,” Mr Walsh said.

“They had blonde hair, they were pretty good play­ers,” he said. “It’s a small world, isn’t it?” There was also a hint at the court of how, over the years as a sports teacher, Daw­son dis­played a cer­tain charisma which earned re­spect from stu­dents and pro­duced last­ing loy­al­ties.

A for­mer stu­dent who was taught by Daw­son be­tween Year eight and Year 12 in a Queens­land school came to court to sup­port him. She did not want to be iden­ti­fied and sat in the back of the court watch­ing.

“He was an amaz­ing teacher, that’s what I know,” she said.

“He’s in­no­cent, there’s no ev­i­dence against him.”

By the time Daw­son ap­peared in court yes­ter­day it had been an ex­traor­di­nary 30 hours for the 70year-old since he was ar­rested at his prop­erty at Big­gera Wa­ters, on the Gold Coast, at 8am on Wed­nes­day, nearly 37 years since Lyn went miss­ing. He had spent his first night in cus­tody in South­port watch-house on Wed­nes­day night, be­fore de­tec­tives yes­ter­day morn­ing drove him di­rectly on to the tar­mac at Gold Coast air­port.

Daw­son spent his ex­tra­di­tion flight to Syd­ney star­ing out the win­dow. Seated in row 30, the last row of seats on the plane, Daw­son oc­ca­sion­ally spoke to po­lice and had break­fast on the 90-minute flight. De­tec­tives were seated be­side and in front of him. “Most of the flight he spent look­ing out the win­dow. It was like a last taste of free­dom,” a pas­sen­ger said.

AAP

Chris Daw­son in a po­lice car af­ter re­turn­ing to Syd­ney

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