Daw­son faces trial over wife’s al­leged mur­der 38 years ago

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BRAD NORINGTON DAVID MUR­RAY

Ris­ing from his seat in the front row of a Syd­ney court’s pub­lic gallery, Chris Daw­son nod­ded but re­mained silent as he was com­mit­ted to stand trial for the mur­der of his wife, Lynette.

It was a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in a saga that has ranged across al­most four decades since Lyn van­ished, bring­ing her for­mer star rugby league player hus­band closer to facing a jury.

On Thurs­day, the fourth and fi­nal day of a com­mit­tal hear­ing in the Down­ing Cen­tre Lo­cal Court, mag­is­trate Jac­que­line Trad or­dered Mr Daw­son, 71, to ap­pear in the NSW Supreme Court in April for ar­raign­ment.

There have been many years of in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The NSW Po­lice Force’s un­solved homi­cide squad be­gan rein­ves­ti­gat­ing in 2015, and the case later at­tracted global at­ten­tion through The Aus­tralian’s pod­cast The Teacher’s Pet.

This week’s com­mit­tal hear­ing sets the stage for a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion of what hap­pened when Lyn went miss­ing from the cou­ple’s Bayview home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches in Jan­uary 1982.

Out­side court, Mr Daw­son’s so­lic­i­tor, Greg Walsh, said he ex­pected a trial to go ahead this year.

Mr Walsh said pre-trial applicatio­ns would prob­a­bly last three to four weeks, and a trial was likely to take the same time.

“Hav­ing faced this sit­u­a­tion for some time, I think that he’s look­ing for­ward to clear­ing his name,’’ Mr Walsh said. “He’ll plead not guilty and there will be pre-trial applicatio­ns.’’

It was “too early’’ to say whether Mr Daw­son and his le­gal team would seek a judge-only trial, which is re­garded as a pos­si­bil­ity con­sid­er­ing pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the case.

The fi­nal wit­ness in the com­mit­tal hear­ing on Thurs­day, Mr Daw­son’s brother-in-law, Ross Hutcheon, be­came the fourth per­son dur­ing the week’s pro­ceed­ings to claim Lyn was sighted alive af­ter her dis­ap­pear­ance.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence by vide­olink from Perth, Mr Hutcheon told the hear­ing that he saw Lyn sit­ting at a Syd­ney bus stop about “three to six months’’ af­ter she went miss­ing. Crown prose­cu­tor Craig Ever­son sug­gested to Mr Hutcheon that he told two po­lice of­fi­cers, when in­ter­viewed in 1999, that he had had no con­tact with Lyn since her dis­ap­pear­ance.

Mr Hutcheon replied: “I had vis­ual con­tact with Ms Daw­son, not ver­bal con­tact.’’

He said he had known Lyn “very, very well’’ over the years, which in­cluded a three-month pe­riod when she and Mr Daw­son lived at his house in the 1970s while theirs at Bayview was be­ing built.

Mr Hutcheon said he was alone, driv­ing his work car west along Vic­to­ria Road at Gladesvill­e to­wards Par­ra­matta some­time be­tween 10am and 3pm when he “hap­pened to no­tice a woman stand­ing at the bus stop on the right-hand side’’.

“I im­me­di­ately recog­nised her as Lyn Daw­son. I also noted at the time that to my left was Gladesvill­e Hos­pi­tal. Lyn was a nurse. I put the two to­gether.’’

Mr Hutcheon in­sisted he told two po­lice of­fi­cers about the al­leged sight­ing when they vis­ited his home in Cromer, on the city’s

north­ern beaches, on February 26, 1999.

The of­fi­cers were vis­it­ing to “tie up loose ends’’ in the case, he said.

Mr Hutcheon said for years, the only other per­son he had told was his wife, who was in the fam­ily lounge room with him dur­ing the po­lice in­ter­view in 1999.

He said he even­tu­ally told Mr Daw­son’s brother, Peter, a loyal sup­porter of Mr Daw­son who was sit­ting two seats away from his ac­cused brother dur­ing the ev­i­dence.

Mr Hutcheon said he could not re­mem­ber when or how he told Peter Daw­son.

“It could have been three or four years ago,’’ he told the court.

He said he was aware at the time of the al­leged sight­ing that Lyn was miss­ing.

He said he re­gret­ted not turn­ing his car back im­me­di­ately to speak to the woman he be­lieved was her. He did turn back about three min­utes later, he said, only to find “she had gone’’.

He as­sumed she had caught a bus head­ing to­wards the city.

A 101-year-old woman, Elva McBay, told the court on Tues­day that she had spot­ted a woman she thought was Lyn in Syd­ney’s Mac­quarie Street, more than a year af­ter her dis­ap­pear­ance.

Ms McBay said the woman sud­denly ducked un­der a bar­ri­cade and ran in front of a royal mo­tor­cade dur­ing a visit by Prince Charles and Diana.

How­ever, the in­ci­dent hap­pened so quickly that she could not be sure.

For­mer neigh­bours of the Daw­sons at Bayview, Jill and Peter Breese, claimed in ev­i­dence on Wednesday that they be­lieved they saw Lyn at Rock­cas­tle Hos­pi­tal in Syd­ney’s Curl Curl more than two years af­ter she went miss­ing.

At the time, Mr Breese was re­cov­er­ing from nasal surgery.

The al­leged sight­ings oc­curred out­side his room on sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

The cou­ple did not speak to her, and did not know she was miss­ing at the time.

Chris and Lynette Daw­son in 1974

DAVID SWIFT

Chris Daw­son ar­rives at court on Thurs­day

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