In 2007, Rebecca Hazel had coffee with JC. It led to her trying to uncover the truth about Chris Dawson.

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

Before the Teacher's Pet podcast and its investigative journalist Hedley Thomas, there was someone else equally determined to uncover the truth about what happened to Lynette Dawson. 

Her name was Rebecca Hazel, a lawyer, author and former colleague and confidant of Chris Dawson's second wife, known legally as JC.

"Years ago I had contacted Hedley because he had written a very good article about one of the coronial inquests into Lyn's disappearance, and suspected murder. Fast forward to 2017 and I received a call from him out of the blue," Hazel tells Mamamia

"He said he was making a podcast about what happened to Lyn, and I was the first person he called to talk about it. Hedley felt there was information I had that he needed. And he was right."


It was 2007. 25 years since Lynette Dawson had disappeared from her home on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

With a background in family law, Hazel still vividly remembers the first case she took on, a pro-bono matter related to domestic violence. In 2007 she was working at a women's refuge in the Northern Beaches alongside her colleague, JC. 

Some time into working together, JC opened up to Hazel about her past while the pair were having coffee. She spoke about her ex-husband, a man whom she met while she was a student at high school, and he was her teacher. 


Hazel pressed JC on the topic a bit more.

JC said: "I married a man whose first wife had gone missing. I moved into the house not long after. We got married a few years later. She's never been heard from since. The police think that he killed her."

JC explained that she was 17 when Dawson's wife went missing in 1982, and that within a few days of Lynette's disappearance, Dawson had moved JC into his house with the Dawson's two small children. Later, he and JC married and had a daughter of their own. 

Then, after almost 10 years, JC left Dawson, taking only the little girl they'd had together. 

The story resonated with Hazel. She wanted to know more. For JC's sake, and also for Lynette. 


Around five years after JC told Hazel about Dawson, Hazel decided to put her full energy into uncovering what happened. 

"It was an unbelievable miscarriage of justice and the inability to hold someone accountable for murder was just devastating," says Hazel.

"I think it stuck with me particularly given it was domestic violence in its most extreme form, and had also left a young woman completely traumatised, and impacted Lyn's children too."

Hazel went ahead and began researching the case, keen to write a book. She had JC's full blessing as well, who said: "It's the right thing to do". 


"I had very young children at the time when I met JC, so waiting until 2012 felt right. And it was a synchronicity of time as well. JC felt then was the right time for me to try and bring the case to the forefront, now that JC's own daughter was a mature woman by then. JC felt she had moved on sufficiently that she felt ready to tell her story."

Watch: Chris Dawson's daughter Shanelle Dawson tells her story. Post continues below.

Video via 60 Minutes.

She was surprised as well with how willing people were to speak about the case. Hazel formed strong working relationships with coroners, former detectives and journalists - all keen to see progress after 30 years.

"A lot of people felt this was the last chance to shine a light on this murder - time was running out. Plus they were all nearing the ends of their careers or retired - you're less likely to worry about going out on a limb at that stage," says Hazel.


"With those experts who I contacted, their willingness to talk was surprising. No one asked me, 'Why are you doing this, who are you?' Instead they said, 'Of course, come to my home and have a chat'."

Hazel worked closely with Lynette's loved ones too. She initially got to know Lynette's brother and his wife. They then introduced Hazel to Lynette's sister as well. 

"I think they saw me as someone who could potentially advance the cause if my book was published. We ended up becoming very close throughout that journey. Really great people."

It was these personal connections that Hazel later passed on to journalist Hedley Thomas. 

"Hedley and I became really good friends, and we marvel at that. The unlikelihood of us working together and then becoming so close," Hazel tells Mamamia. "It was a really profound thing to see the podcast and research come to life, and to see the justice system run the full course."

In May 2018, Thomas launched the Teacher's Pet podcast. 

In December 2018, Dawson was charged with Lynette's murder. In August 2022, he was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In 2023, he was convicted and sentenced for the historical sex offence of carnal knowledge with one of his students four decades ago.

Hazel still vividly remembers the moment she found out Dawson had been charged for killing his wife in 1982. It was surreal.


Rebecca Hazel. Image: Supplied.

"I was walking home from an early morning walk. Then my phone just started pinging, pinging and pinging. I went home, looked at my phone, turned on the television and it was everywhere. It was done."

Now with a conviction secured, Hazel has released her book, The Schoolgirl, Her Teacher and his Wife. It was a 10-year passion project, Hazel determined to centre the stories of Lynette and JC.


"It's really misogyny and the disempowerment of women that allowed Lynette's murder not to be solved sooner.

"Police at the time didn't take the missing person's report seriously. And they accepted what Dawson said about his 'missing' wife. And no one else seemingly blew the whistle about the young school girl involved with the teacher."

Ultimately, we know many of the facts and figures about this story.

What Hazel wants us to know now is the humanity behind the case - and the wide-ranging impact violence against women has. 

The Schoolgirl, Her Teacher and his Wife is now available for purchase here.

If this has raised 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.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature Image: Supplied/AAP.