On Tuesday, Judge Ian Harrison found Dawson, 74, guilty after a three-month trial that heard evidence collected over four decades by police investigating Lynette’s disappearance.
Dawson had long denied any allegations of wrongdoing, saying his wife abandoned him and their two young children when they were just two and four.
But suspicion stalked Dawson for many years and allegations of his role in his wife’s disappearance found a new audience with the 2018 release of Australian investigative journalist Hedley Thomas’ ‘Teacher’s Pet’ podcast.
The podcast examined the police investigation and gathered new evidence, including testimony that Dawson had sex with the student, known as JC, when his wife went missing.
During the judges-only trial, several witnesses claimed to have seen Lynette Dawson in the years after 1982, but one by one the judge dismissed these sightings as erroneous or untrue.
Harrison said that while the verdict was not supported by direct evidence, he was satisfied with the Crown’s argument that Dawson had become romantically involved with JC, as he saw no other way out. to be with her than to kill Lynette.
“All of the circumstantial evidence satisfies me that Lynette Dawson is deceased, that she died on or about January 8, 1982, and that she did not voluntarily abandon her home,” Harrison said.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the only rational inference that the circumstances allow me to draw is that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982 as a result of a conscious and willful act committed by Mr. Dawson with the intention of killing him.”
“Lynette Dawson is dead”
The Dawsons had known each other since they were teenagers and later married and had two children. Dawson had a long time maintained that his wife had abandoned the family and that he had spoken to her in the weeks following his disappearance.
Those requests were denied by the judge, who said it ‘defied common sense’ that a woman ‘supposedly desperate to leave her marriage’ should phone him to provide updates on ‘the status of his marriage’. decision to leave.
“I am convinced beyond an unreasonable doubt that Mr. Dawson’s reported telephone conversations with Lynette Dawson after January 1982 are lies,” Harrison said.
Harrison also discovered that claims that Lynette Dawson used her credit card shortly after her disappearance were fabricated, and that sightings of her in subsequent years were wrong or false.
“I am satisfied that none of the alleged sightings were genuine Lynette Dawson sightings,” Harrison said.
The Crown presented extensive research evidence involving interviews and public records which showed that Dawson had not used his passport or accessed Australian health, tax or any other public system since 1982.
He said he also came to this conclusion based on the fact that no one had come forward with information regarding his disappearance despite intense publicity about the case, including the “Teacher’s Pet” podcast, inquiries from the coroner in 2001 and 2003 and several television programs.
Judge recapped Dawson’s relationship with JC, his former student who later became his wife.
The court heard that she was a student in her physical education class at Cromer High School in Sydney. By the time she left school they were in a sexual relationship and he had become romantically involved with her, the court heard.
Harrison said he found JC’s evidence “true and reliable”.
The court heard that JC’s family life was difficult; she lived at home with a “violent, aggressive and controlling” stepfather in a cramped apartment where there was excessive drinking. She had turned to her teacher for support and guidance, Harrison said.
“(JC) was understandably drawn to any relief she might get from a less than perfect domestic situation,” Harrison said in the ruling.
In 1980, JC began babysitting for the Dawson family, the court heard. Dawson also gave her driving lessons, and one day while they were in the car, he confessed his love to her and kissed her.
They had sex about a week later, when she was 16.
After that, they would regularly have sex in his car, Harrison said, recounting JC’s testimony.
On these occasions, Dawson would tell his wife that he was studying at the library.
That same year, the violence at JC’s home became intolerable, and she moved into the Dawson family home. JC said Dawson would sing “cruel songs” to his wife, and they would have sex when Lynette was in the shower or fell asleep.
The Crown alleged that Dawson was obsessed with JC and days after his wife disappeared on January 8, he took his former student home. Crown’s case maintained that he was ‘not ready to waste time before he moved into his home’.
Harrison said: “At the time the relationship turned into a sexual relationship, Mr. Dawson was faced with the harsh reality that he could not stay married, while maintaining his increasingly intense relationship with (JC).”
Escape to a new life
Harrison delivered his verdict over several hours on Tuesday, offering a detailed analysis of evidence submitted by several witnesses during the three-month trial.
Harrison pointed out that a number of witnesses had died in the decades between Lynette’s disappearance and the start of the trial in May. However, he said a review of the testimony of these witnesses suggests that their testimony was not critical to his outcome.
Harrison said he wasn’t convinced Dawson was abusive towards Lynette Dawson, but there was no doubt the marriage was in trouble. “The circumstances are a compelling indication that Mr. Dawson has decided to end his marriage and move on with Joanne,” Harrison said.
The marriage between JC and Dawson ended in 1991, and Dawson disputed some of her testimony as the words of an aggrieved ex-wife. Harrison discovered that JC had gotten herself dragged into a situation over which she had little control.
JC testified to Dawson’s controlling behavior, saying he watched where she went, the friends she made, and the clothes she wore.
This obsession with JC was enough to motivate him to kill Lynette, Harrison found.
We still don’t know what happened to Lynette Dawson.
Harrison said the evidence did not reveal how Dawson killed her, whether he did it with the help of others or by himself.
“It does not reveal where or when he did it, or where Lynette Dawson’s body is currently located. The murder charge in this trial is not supported by direct evidence,” he said. .
Still, he said he found the evidence presented by the Crown “compelling and compelling.”
The judge ordered that Dawson, who was sitting in court to hear the verdict, be taken into custody.
This story has been updated