true crime

Bronwyn Winfield left the husband she was 'scared of'. Weeks later, she disappeared.

Hedley Thomas was deep in his investigation into the disappearance of Lynette Dawson in late 2017, when he heard the name Bronwyn Winfield for the first time.

She was mentioned in passing, her story used as an example to reiterate that cases like that of missing Sydney mother Lynette, were not uncommon. 

The similarities between the two women's lives were remarkable. Both mothers to two little girls, both struggling in their marriages, and both vanishing one day out of nowhere — with their husbands claiming they'd left to have a break and just never returned. 

All manner of excuses were used to explain away their absences; but those who knew them were adamant, they'd never willingly abandon their little girls.

Listen to Hedley Thomas talk about Bronwyn on True Crime Conversations. 

As Thomas' The Teacher's Pet podcast started to make waves in 2018, more and more people started to contact him about Bronwyn. 

Had he heard about her? Her case was so similar! Like Lynette Dawson, she was in her early 30s, and was a doting mother and friend. Like Lynette she had been missing for decades. 

Would he help them find her, too?

Six years later, with Lynette's former husband Chris Dawson behind bars for her murder, Thomas finally has the capacity to do just that. 

Bronwyn Winfeld, 31, was last seen on Sunday May 16, 1993 at her Sandstone Crescent home in Lennox Head, NSW.


She'd recently divorced her husband Jon and moved into a nearby rental with her two daughters Crystal, 10, and Lauren, five. But her part-time wage at a local takeaway shop wasn't going far, and as winter approached, their new home was getting cold. 

Jon, a bricklayer, had taken work in Sydney, and Bronwyn — emboldened by her lawyer's insistence that the family home was half hers too - moved her kids back in while he was away. 

Bronwyn Winfield, Jon Winfield and their daughter Lauren. Image: The Australian.


She was still unpacking when Jon turned up on the doorstep on Sunday evening. The kids were put to bed and they had an argument, during which Jon says Bronwyn made a call and a car came to pick her up and take her away. He said she told him she needed to take a break for a little while. 

Later that night he woke up the kids, transferred them to the car and drove them all the way to Sydney. As Thomas told True Crime Conversatons, "[Jon] says he got fuel at 11:06pm, and he kept the receipt for that fuel for years and years in his wallet."  

It would be two whole weeks before Jon would report his ex-wife missing, and the 1993 police investigation was over before it even started. Before the internet you would call a 0055 number to check all manner for things, and at 2:13pm on the Sunday Bronwyn made a call to check the Lotto results. 

"However the police misinterpreted the call being made at 2:30am the next day," said Hedley. 

"The police had evidence from Jon that he was on the road to Sydney with a receipt for fuel being purchased at 11:06pm. So the conclusion that the police drew in their internal reports, was that Bronwyn had become aware that her husband had left the house with the children, returned to the house, rang the number [for the Lotto] and then left again."

"It's preposterous. Just unbelievable that you could screw up something so fundamental, so badly," he added.


But the town of Lennox Head never forgot about Bronwyn. They'd heard her lament about a relationship marred by financial abuse, coercive control and isolation. 

Thomas says "[Jon] really scared her," and she even told one of her friends that one day, "he had put his hands around her throat and was acting in a really threatening way."

Some of her friends would regularly call the local police pushing for updates in the years after she vanished. They didn't think enough was being done to find her.

In 1998 police finally began a more serious investigation into Bronwyn's disappearance, and an inquest in 2002 ruled that Bronwyn was dead, recommending her ex-husband Jon be prosecuted over her alleged murder. 

But the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions declined to do so.

"I don't believe that we should see that as a final word," said Hedley. 

"The same office of the DPP repeatedly refused to prosecute wife killer Chris Dawson. The first time Dawson was prosecuted —  after the podcast and a renewed investigation by New South Wales police — a judge acting alone said 'I have no doubt about his guilt.' So I think there's a lesson here...DPPs don't get everything right."

Hedley's big breakthrough.

So far Thomas's podcast Bronwyn has painted the picture of a flawed police investigation and a community living alongside a man they believe murdered one of their own. 

One local told Thomas their nickname for the 69-year-old tradie and keen surfer who mainly keeps to himself in the small town is 'JTM', short for 'Jon The Murderer.' 


Jon denies any involvement in his wife's disappearance and it must be clear, has not been charged with any offence in connection to it. But the whispers in the small town have never stopped. 

Bronwyn's friends and neighbours remember a devoted mother and a beautiful friend who was determined to carve out a new life for herself and her girls. She even had her eye on a new love interest when she went missing — a far cry from the woman Jon painted as "crazy" and having a history of mental illness. 

World's away from a woman who would run from it all and start again; never touching her bank accounts or anything in her name again. 

Bronwyn Winfield went missing aged 31. Image: The Australian.


In early June 2024, Thomas received a phone call from a former Lennox Head resident that changed everything.

"Judy lived very close to Bronwyn and she was up late at night sitting on a balcony that overlooks a street. She says she saw the Winfield family sedan go very slowly along the street... in the back seat there was what looked like a body wrapped in a sheet. She's described it as looking like a mummy." 

Judy Singh says an internal light was on in the car and that Jon looked up at her as he slowly drove past. 

It's not the first time she has told the story. She tried to tell the police too but, "they didn't take a statement from her. She says they couldn't have been less interested," said Thomas.

This time however, police are taking her seriously. Within two hours of Thomas's podcast going live with the revelation, his team was fielding a call from a NSW police media representative.

NSW Police assistant commissioner and commander of State Crime Command, Michael Fitzgerald, emailed him directly minutes later requesting Judy's contact details.

They say they've been re-investigating the circumstances of Bronwyn's disappearance since 2022 under Strike Force Chelmsbrook and have a $100,000 reward out for information. 


Thomas is hopeful that with the extra renewed focus, Bronwyn's family might finally get some answers — but he's not making promises. 

"I don't feel like I'm putting pressure on myself. But I hope that if the evidence puts pressure on those who should be reviewing a case that was always deeply suspicious, then that's a good thing. I can't force an outcome, I can only be the messenger in showing things that have happened [and] evidence that was not properly considered." 

He also knows that there are so many more women out there deserving of the attention he's given Lynette and Bronwyn. So many more stalled police investigations from the past that seem to try and explain away the suspect and apparent 'vanishing' of dedicated mothers and friends. 

"I don't believe that mothers just willfully, without any extreme events in their lives, walk out without any warning on their young children," he told True Crime Conversations.

"I don't believe that happens unless there's some intervening event. I just think we have to go back to common sense and our understanding of the incredible bonds that mothers have with their children and ask ourselves, does this pass the smell test? Does this seem plausible?"

You can find Hedley Thomas's full investigation here.

Feature image: The Australian.