true crime

Chris Dawson's lawyer says new diary evidence is 'critical' to helping him beat murder charge.

Alleged killer Chris Dawson, who is charged with murdering his wife in the 80s, made his long-awaited first court appearance on Thursday since his arrest and bail hearing in December.

The 70-year-old former rugby league player’s involvement in his wife Lynette’s disappearance in 1982 was reignited by Hedley Thomas’ true crime podcast The Teacher’s Pet last year.

Hedley Thomas joins Mia Freedman on No Filter to discuss his podcast The Teacher’s Pet.

But while Thomas’ investigative journalism was pivotal to his arrest and the case against Dawson – uncovering material which will provide a large chunk of the evidence in court – Dawson’s lawyer has hinted that it may have in fact jeopardised the case, The Australian reports.

Greg Walsh says the witness interviews within the podcast released in May last year may have resulted in “contamination”, and suggested their reliability may no longer uphold in court.

Chris Dawson (left) and brother Peter Dawson leave the Downing Centre court on Thursday. Image: AAP.

“He (Thomas) has played an essential role in the circumstances in which Christopher Dawson was charged. He well knew that police were reinvestigating this very serious matter and interviewed witnesses with the full knowledge that they had previously been witnesses at the inquest and he knew the risk of contaminating and affecting the reliability of the evidence," he said outside the court.

“As a very experienced journalist that was the forensic judgement he undertook in this case.

“What he has done in my understanding has been to impact upon the reliability of witnesses … when you discuss what a particular witness’s memory is and then do it on multiple occasions, and then give them access to what other witnesses are saying in the very same case … I think the risk of contamination (of the case) is a very real one.”

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Asked if, ultimately, the case had been jeopardised by the podcast, Walsh said: "Not only the accused's case but the prosecution case."

Walsh also said lawyers for Mr Dawson had been "provided for the first time with handwritten copies" of diaries belonging to Lynette Dawson's mother, diaries which formed part of The Teacher's Pet podcast.

teachers pet podcast
Lyn and Chris Dawson, with their daughter. Image supplied.

"That type of evidence is critical in a historical case such as this," Mr Walsh said. "It helps my client significantly."

Dawson was said to be "overwhelmed and apprehensive" by the sheer amount of material against him, according to Walsh.

"It’s a very daunting thing to know you’ve got a huge team of investigators, prosecutors and solicitors against you."

“There’s a lot of work to be done … I have a strong belief of his innocence,” he added.

Lynette Dawson was 33 when she went missing in January 1982, leaving behind two young daughters.

Detectives from the NSW homicide squad began reinvestigating her suspected murder in 2015 and sent a brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions in April last year.

Dawson, a Newtown rugby league player in the early 1970s, has long been a suspect in the case but denies any involvement in his wife’s disappearance.

Despite the fact Ms Dawson’s body has not been found, investigators are confident of the strength of their case.

The Crown will serve its brief of evidence on May 9.

Dawson, who lives in Queensland with his third wife, remains on bail after posting an amount of $1.5 million in December.

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