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The Teacher's Pet podcast creator takes the stand: The latest from Chris Dawson's trial.

Warning: This post details alleged abuse and may be triggering for some readers.

Four decades after his wife's disappearance, Chris Dawson is currently standing trial for the murder of mother-of-two Lynette Dawson.

The 73-year-old former teacher and rugby league player has pleaded not guilty to his wife's murder. However, the Crown alleges he killed Lynette and disposed of her body to be in a relationship with his former student, known during court proceedings as JC. She cannot be identified for legal reasons. 

33-year-old Lynette vanished from the couple's Bayview home in Sydney in January 1982. 

The judge-alone trial has continued for over a month, with the NSW Supreme Court hearing from Dawson's former student and brother-in-law, among other witnesses. 

Here's the latest from the trial:

The Teacher's Pet podcast creator denies enticing Dawson witnesses.

Investigative journalist Hedley Thomas has rejected allegations he influenced potential witnesses in Dawson's murder trial by discussing potential movies or miniseries about the case.

Giving evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, Thomas, who produced The Teacher's Pet podcast on Lynette's disappearance, said talk of witnesses playing a role in an upcoming production was merely banter during interviews with them.

"When you held out those deals to them… you appreciated that that would be attractive to them?" asked Dawson's barrister Pauline David.

"Possibly to some, but it might have been very unattractive to others who were introverted or didn't want to be involved," he said.

He told the court he had no roles to offer anyone, explaining that his interviews for the podcast occurred in the years before a deal had been struck with Blumhouse Television for a miniseries in September 2018.

David suggested Thomas had corrupted and poisoned the recollections of potential witnesses by discussing his own negative perceptions of Dawson with them, before some had even given a statement to the police. The Walkley award winning journalist denied these allegations.

"These were intelligent people with their own independent minds," he told Justice Ian Harrison.

The journalist said he had offered multiple chances for Dawson to come on the podcast for a completely unedited interview. 

When these opportunities were rejected, Thomas talked to an anonymous Queensland District Court judge and Ivan Milat's former lawyer about any weaknesses in a murder case that could be brought against Dawson. 

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A statement from the judge was then given its own complete episode in the podcast, the court heard.

"You included it for balance?" Justice Harrison asked.

"Yes, Your Honour," Thomas replied.

Lead investigator questioned. 

The police officer currently tasked with investigating Lynette Dawson's disappearance was questioned by crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC about how he took over the case in 2015. 

Detective Senior Constable Daniel Poole is part of the unsolved homicide team and heads the third police investigation into the disappearance. Homicide detectives examined the case in the early 1990s before it was dropped due to reports she had been seen alive and well after January 1982. 

Det Poole said his team had followed up on alleged sightings of Lynette alive, including at a bridal shop before she disappeared, but said these leads did not go anywhere.

A claimed sighting by her brother-in-law Ross Hutcheon who said he had seen her across the road from Gladesville Hospital months after January 1982 was also a dead end, the court heard. Employment records from the local health district showed no one had worked there under that name, Det Poole said.

Other leads went nowhere as well, Det Poole said, including ground searches and excavations conducted at the Dawsons' family home in Bayview, Sydney. After five pieces of cardigan were found in the ground near the swimming pool, DNA analysis failed to show a link to either Chris or Lynette Dawson.

Det Poole and his team sniffed out blood in the Bayview home using a police dog, but this too was inconclusive.

Searches conducted of databases of unidentified human remains across Australia also failed to turn up anything.

He will return to give evidence on Wednesday. 

Dawson asked his teammate if he knew someone who could "get rid of his wife", the court heard. 

Dawson asked one of his fellow rugby league players whether he knew someone who could get rid of his wife during a crowded flight from the Gold Coast in 1975, the court has heard.

Giving evidence at the trial, Robert Charles Silkman said the conversation occurred after the Newtown Jets team had been on a short holiday to the Gold Coast.

"I was sitting there, and it was Chris that came along and kneeled down to my level where I was sitting and [he] asked me did I know anyone who could get rid of his wife," he told the NSW Supreme Court.

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After Dawson allegedly confirmed he meant getting rid of Lynette Dawson "for good", Silkman said the pair would talk when they arrived in Sydney. The topic was not brought up again, he said.

Dawson's barrister Pauline David raised questions about the credibility of Silkman's evidence. Not only had Silkman used many aliases during his life, but he had been convicted for arson in 1993 and petty theft multiple times during the 1970s, the court heard.

Silkman denied burning down the home for insurance fraud, saying he had done it because his friend who owned the property owed him money.

The convicted criminal had a "loose relationship with the truth," David said.

"If you see a dollar in it, you will tell a lie," she put to Silkman.

"That's not correct," he said.

Silkman is the second Crown witness to claim Dawson wanted to get rid of his wife before her disappearance. Last month, JC gave evidence of a car ride in 1980 or 1981 where Dawson allegedly tried to hire a hit-man but changed his mind.

Bruising and an alleged poolside attack.

The court was told Dawson attacked his wife beside the pool at their Sydney home and wrestled her in the mud before she disappeared. 

Anna Grantham said she had spoken to co-worker Lynette Dawson about her husband after seeing him angry, agitated and aggressive towards her at a market in 1980 or 1981.

In that alleged conversation, Lynette described how her husband had grabbed her hair and held her face in the mud next to their swimming pool until she was gasping for breath.

"I said, 'Oh my God, he could have killed you'," Grantham told the NSW Supreme Court.

"[Lynette] said, 'Yes, he could easily have killed me'."

The court was played a clip of another co-worker, Annette Leary, recounting the poolside incident in an interview with journalist Hedley Thomas.

"Chris attacked Lyn by the swimming pool... He'd wrestled her to the ground and had her face in the mud," Leary said.

Leary, who worked with Lynette and Grantham at the Warriewood Children's Centre, said she had been informed of the alleged assault by one of the Dawsons' Bayview neighbours.

After a counselling session to resolve marriage difficulties, Dawson grabbed his wife by the throat and said he would get rid of her, Leary said.

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She said she saw the bruises on a Friday in January 1982 and that Lynette did not come to work the following Monday.

Warriewood Children's Centre manager, Barbara Cruise, said Lynette had failed to turn up at work on Monday, January 11, 1982.

She said Dawson called her to say that his wife had gone away, and that he did not know when she was coming back.

Grantham told the court, Lynette had once caught a taxi home during the school holidays and returned to the childcare centre shaken after seeing her husband's swimming trunks and JC's bikini bottom hanging up together on the washing line.

Dawson's barrister, Pauline David, suggested that Grantham's statements regarding the Dawsons had been contaminated over the years as she discussed the disappearance over and over.

"I'm suggesting to you that you have embellished an event to support your view that Mr Dawson is a terrible man," David said.

Grantham denied the accusation.

Leary also called Dawson a horrible person for pursuing a schoolgirl and moving her into his marital home in her interview with Thomas, saying she knew in her heart that he had killed his wife. She said he had hoodwinked the police by lying "as hard as he could go".

After Lynette's disappearance, Leary said she had bumped into Dawson at a shopping mall with JC and his two children. At the time, he said he received a letter from his wife that she was in Queensland, the court was told.

Lynette reportedly saw the babysitter naked in the family pool and put Dawson on a pedestal. 

Another Warriewood childcare worker, Susan Strath, told the court that Lynette loved her husband and children dearly, and was excited about her eldest child starting school.

While Lynette was worried about her husband's decision to move JC into the family home in late 1981, recounting how she had once found the teenager naked in the family pool, she eventually relented because she trusted Dawson, the court was told.

"She said, 'Nothing would happen. My Chris would never do anything that was wrong'... He was always on a pedestal for her," Strath said.

She said Lynette and her husband had returned from marriage counselling looking happy and hopeful about the future, and that she had not noticed any bruising on Lynette's throat at the time.

After that day, Strath says she never saw Lynette again.

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Dawson allegedly called his student "beautiful bub" and left her secret love letters.

The court heard Dawson would call his former student "petal" and "beautiful bub", and left secret love letters in her schoolbag. 

The woman, known only as JC, said Dawson wanted to teach her after spotting her in the playground. 

"He told me that he had seen me in the playground the year before when I was 15 and decided that he would like to get to know me better because I was attractive to him," she said.

The court was also told Dawson pursued JC through the final years of high school, leaving notes of love and affection in her schoolbag in 1980 and 1981.

In one Christmas card, referring to JC as "petal", Dawson wrote of his love towards his student before signing off as "God". 

JC said this was Dawson's self-appointed nickname to disguise who he was because she was only 16 at the time. 

Another card sent by Dawson on JC's birthday in 1981 referred to her as his "lovely beautiful bub".

She said this attention from Dawson, who she felt could be trusted as her teacher, was different from her life at home where her parents would drink heavily and her stepfather was controlling, violent and abusive towards her mother.

Dawson accused of making his wife fall asleep by giving her alcohol.

JC said she would spend the night at Dawson's home while she was hired to babysit his children and would swim topless in his pool, and that he kissed her for the first time while giving her a driving lesson.

The court heard Dawson made his wife sleep by giving her alcohol so he could have sex with JC in the final months of 1981.

At the time, she says she stayed with the Dawsons to study for the HSC away from domestic violence occurring at home.

Dawson's former brother-in-law believes he is guilty.

Dawson's former brother-in-law, Greg Simms, told the court he believed the former rugby league player was guilty of murdering his wife.

"You have taken the view, haven't you, that Mr Dawson is guilty?" Dawson's barrister, Pauline David, asked.

"I believe so, yes," Simms replied.

The barrister suggested Simms had painted her client in an unfair light because he was desperate to get closure about Lynette's disappearance.

Simms said his attitude towards Dawson and his beliefs about what happened to his sister shifted after a discussion in early 1990 when JC said Dawson had wanted to hire a hitman to get rid of his wife.

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Simms' wife, Merilyn Simms, also took the stand, saying the last time she spoke to Lynette was in October 1981. 

At the time, Lynette was very upset, saying her husband was angry and evasive, and that their sexual relations had broken down.

She described a phone call from Dawson in September 1982, almost 10 months after Lynette's disappearance, when his two children were visiting their family farm. At the time, Dawson accused the Simms family of abducting the children and secretly taking them to see his wife.

"He was very angry and agitated, and he said that he wanted Lyn to come back, he wanted to see her walk in the door, and that he missed her," she said.

Dawson's ex-student said he groomed her. 

A former student accused Dawson of grooming and abusing her in high school before the pair entered into a relationship.

Giving evidence under cross-examination, JC denied she had fallen in love with Dawson, now 73, as her high school teacher in 1980. She said his behaviour towards her was inappropriate because she was only a child at the time.

"He groomed me and abused me and insisted that I marry him," she told the court. 

Dawson's barrister, Pauline David, suggested JC had been the one who first approached her client in high school to discuss her troubled home life.

David also suggested JC had lied about Dawson arranging for her to be in his class because he thought she was attractive and said the teacher's behaviour towards JC in 1980 was entirely appropriate.

"You ... went out of your way to find time with Mr Dawson," David said.

"No," JC replied.

Dawson allegedly sought a hitman to 'get rid of his wife'.

The prosecution alleged that Dawson sought out a hitman to kill his wife Lynette in the early 1980s.

Giving evidence in the NSW Supreme Court, Toni Melrose-Mikeska said Dawson's second wife, JC, confided in her about her husband after the pair broke up in 1990. Melrose-Mikeska was working at the Dreamworld theme park as Coo-ee The Gumnut Fairy when she met JC in 1987.

JC said that if she didn't make it to the police, Melrose-Mikeska was to tell them about an alleged visit to a pub in the early 1980s where Dawson handed over an envelope to a man a few days before Lynette disappeared.

"[JC] said, 'I think he murdered his first wife'," Melrose-Mikeska told the court.

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Melrose-Mikeska's testimony was slightly different from JC. In prior evidence, JC said she had driven to a building on the south side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Upon returning to the car, Dawson allegedly told JC he had gone inside to hire a hitman but had changed his mind because innocent people could be killed or hurt.

In a police statement by JC in May 1990, she then said Dawson had only told her he had attempted to hire a hitman a few weeks after the car ride.

A witness said JC's marriage to Dawson involved "mental abuse".

Melrose-Mikeska also spoke of an incident in 1989 when JC had applied to play indoor cricket with her while living on the Gold Coast. At the time, she said Dawson scouted out the venue before giving her permission to play.

Dawson's barrister, Pauline David, suggested that because her client was a physical education teacher, it would not have been unusual for him to check out the indoor cricket ground because of his love of sports.

Melrose-Mikeska said she had never heard JC speak positively about her husband. She said JC had never talked to her about any physical violence from Dawson, but had mentioned instances of mental abuse.

An acquaintance of JC's, Karen Cook, also gave evidence, saying JC had limited funds to run the house. Her husband controlled the cash, giving her "housekeeping money", the court heard.

Cook said when she asked about Mrs Dawson, JC simply said she had left her husband and two daughters without making contact afterwards.

"We thought that was very strange," she said.

The judge-alone hearing continues.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men’s Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.

This article was originally published on May 19, 2022, updated on June 29, 2022. 

- With AAP. 

Feature Image: AAP.