HID­DEN TRUTHS

The truth sur­round­ing Lynette Daw­son’s dis­ap­pear­ance 36 years ago will likely be de­cided in a Syd­ney court­room next year,

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - writes Janet Fife-Yeomans

It’s been al­most 37 years since Lynette Daw­son dis­ap­peared. This week, po­lice Strike Force Sriven struck and Chris Daw­son, for­mer hus­band of the beau­ti­ful, smil­ing mother of two was charged with her mur­der. Thanks to the award-win­ning Teacher’s Pet pod­cast, his trial will be fol­lowed by mil­lions. Janet Fife-Yeomans re­ports

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 re­laxed 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, Lyn had been just 16 when she started see­ing Daw­son. The dif­fer­ence was that he was about the same age.

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

Later that evening, Lyn told her mum, He­lena Simms, over the phone that the coun­selling had gone well and she was sure 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, Lyn 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 which has been down­loaded an amaz­ing 19 mil­lion times since it be­gan in May this year.

Then on Thurs­day al­most four decades af­ter his wife dis­ap­peared, Chris Daw­son, 70, by now thrice-mar­ried, was charged with her mur­der. Po­lice have fo­cused in 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, hav­ing been ex­tra­dited from Queens­land, where he has been liv­ing on the Gold Coast, 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

Truth is al­ways stranger than fic­tion. Hol­ly­wood will have to wait

col­lar and a deep tan, he could not have looked more Aus­tralian, 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, which was set up in 2015 to rein­ves­ti­gate Lyn Daw­son’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Or­der­ing his ex­tra­di­tion to NSW, South­port Lo­cal Court mag­is­trate Den­nis Kin­sella said the po­lice case would hinge on al­le­ga­tions of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, Daw­son’s af­fair and the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of his re­la­tion­ship with Lyn.

“His de­sire was to leave the re­la­tion­ship and there were out­stand­ing prop­erty is­sues,” Mr Kin­sella said.

Daw­son re­mains be­hind bars and will ap­ply for bail on 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 had not lis­tened to it. He was re­cruited to the case late on Wed­nes­day when one of Chris Daw­son’s two broth­ers, lawyer Pe­ter, 72, asked him to rep­re­sent Chris.

Chris also has a twin, Paul, an­other older brother Gary, 74, and a sis­ter with the same name as his wife, Lynette, 75.

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 j alone be­cause of the me­dia storm sur­round­ing the case.

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

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

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

Cur­tis has every rea­son to pro­tect her pri­vacy. As well as the pod­cast, a book has been writ­ten about the case which now can’t be re­leased un­til af­ter any trial.

On top of that, Hol­ly­wood has been sniff­ing around the cold case drama that ap­pears to have ev­ery­thing.

As well as mak­ing five state­ments to po­lice, Cur­tis has twice told her story to the two in­quests into Lyn’s dis­ap­pear­ance, de­tail­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Daw­son, some­times tear­fully. She was driven into the sport teacher’s arms af­ter a bro­ken home and a vi­o­lent step­fa­ther 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 is on­go­ing into those claims.

That Jan­uary week­end in early 1982 when Lyn 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 play­ing rugby, was on hol­i­day with his wife Mar­i­lyn on the NSW 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, four, and Sher­ryn, two, were stay­ing with Lyn’s mother.

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

In Jan­uary 1984, Cur­tis be­came the se­cond Mrs Daw­son, wear­ing Lyn’s rings which Chris had re­set.

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 his 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 Lyn and said there was ev­i­dence she had used her bankcard. He has claimed she moved into a re­li­gious com­mu­nity.

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.

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”.

Lyn’s brother, Greg Simms, said the fam­ily had had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Sher­ryn since her grand­mother’s fu­neral in 2001, but they hoped for some rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

To add to the mix of sex, tragedy and in­trigue, Pe­ter Daw­son re­vealed this week that Lyn Daw­son 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. His for­mer wife, dev­as­tated at never hear­ing from her mother since, dis­cov­ered ear­lier this year when do­ing her fam­ily tree that her mother had moved to New Zealand and died in 2002.

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

The fi­nal truth will prob­a­bly be de­cided in the spot­light of a Syd­ney court­room pos­si­bly next year.

Truth is al­ways stranger than fic­tion. Hol­ly­wood will have to wait.

TROU­BLED LIFE: (clock­wise from far left) Chris and Lyn Daw­son in their youth; a po­lice im­age show­ing a dig at the Bayview home; Daw­son at the po­lice sta­tion on Thurs­day; Shanelle Daw­son with a pic­ture of Lyn; the Daw­sons in an ABC TV show about twins; and Shanelle, Joanne Cur­tiswith baby Kristin, and Sher­ryn in 1985.

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