true crime

Why now? The new evidence that led to Chris Dawson being charged with murder.

On Wednesday morning, 37 years after Lynette Dawson went missing from her Bayview home, Chris Dawson was arrested by police.

Within minutes, the news would become the biggest story in the country.

Dawson, now 70, has been charged with the 1982 murder of his wife – a landmark development in a case which so many Australians feel they have a stake in.

The Teacher’s Pet podcast, created by award-winning journalist Hedley Thomas for The Australian, wasn’t just a success.

In 2018, as Caroline Overington puts it, The Teacher’s Pet went from, “one million downloads, then 10 million, then 27 million, making it the biggest podcast in the world.”

The series covered the “probable murder” of 33-year-old Lyn Dawson. Two separate coronial inquests found that the mother-of-two was likely murdered by her husband, who had been having an affair with his 16-year-old student, Joanne Curtis.

Listen to Mia Freedman’s interview with the creator of The Teacher’s Pet podcast, Hedley Thomas. Post continues…

Despite the recommendations by the coroners to put Chris Dawson on trial, he had never been arrested. The family of Lyn Dawson still had no answers.

And then, a few weeks after the series wrapped up indefinitely, police decided to dig up what was once the Dawson’s family home.

They found nothing.

Was it over, listeners wondered? Is this… it?

Had The Teacher’s Pet just appealed to the prurience within all of us? Can podcasts like this ever truly make a difference? Or was this just an exercise in entertainment and titillation, a sordid tale of secret affairs, that was more about a compelling story than the woman at the centre of it?


And then came the news.

They’d done it. We’d done it.

A crime podcast had inserted itself into the crime – changing its ending.

But the question asked all over the country, following the unexpected news was: Why now?

After 37 years, two coronial inquests, and a viral podcast series, what was it about December 5, 2018, that made police knock on the door of Chris Dawson’s Queensland home, and put him in handcuffs?

You cannot reopen a case without new evidence. And Thomas gave them that.

The babysitter, Bev McNally, who Thomas interviewed early in the series is now paramount to the investigation.

On Wednesday in Southport Magistrates Court, allegations were made that Chris Dawson was physically violent towards Lyn Dawson, a potential detail police were not formerly aware of.

The key witness for the prosecution, will be Chris Dawson’s former school student, and ex-wife, Joanne Curtis.

It has been reported that evidence provided by Curtis was critical to Dawson’s arrest.

A third, unnamed witness, is understood to be a former student at Cromer High where Dawson taught. She kept a diary during her time at school, which will be used as evidence.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said in a press conference on Wednesday that new witnesses had “helped pull pieces of the puzzle together,” adding that “these new statement came about as a result of media coverage.”

Thomas had first been drawn to the case years ago. It was a story that did not leave him.

And on Wednesday morning, before 9am, not long before the rest of the country would find out, Thomas received a phone call from his colleague, crime reporter David Murray.

He was out of breath and brief.

Dawson had been arrested.

And serendipitously, the key to the case might have been sitting in the title of Thomas’ podcast all along.

The Teacher’s Pet.


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