The last words Chris Dawson heard from his daughter.

In 1982, Shanelle Dawson lost her mother, Lynette. It wasn't until 40 years later that justice was served - Chris Dawson found guilty of murdering his wife. For Shanelle, it's been a heartbreaking journey. She has no memories of her mother, considering Shanelle was just four years old when her world was turned upside down.

Before Shanelle's father was sentenced last year to life in prison, she read aloud a 12-minute long victim impact statement in court - looking him in the eyes, determined he hear her words.

Reflecting on this moment, Shanelle told No Filter it was one of the most traumatic things she has ever done. But it was also a crucial opportunity for her to speak to him. He would have to listen. He couldn't walk away.

Shanelle had the option for her statement to be read out on her behalf, by the judge. She deliberately chose to read it herself in a bid to call back her own power, but to also honour her mother Lyn.

Shanelle has chosen to include this victim impact statement in her new book, My Mother's Eyes, determined for the world to know what her father did. She has given permission for it to be shared below.


The night you removed our Mother from our lives, was the night you destroyed my sense of safety and belonging in this world for many decades to come.

Almost all of the love, nurturing and kindness vanished from my life. Because of your selfish actions, we will never see her again, we will never hear her tell us she loves us, feel her hold us or hear her laugh.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the impact of forty-one years of deceit, trauma, being silenced and gas-lighted, the absence of a loving Mother/Grandmother, abusive/unloving replacements, emotional and psychological abuse.


The fact that the father I love and trusted is capable of such a heart wrenchingly selfish, brutal and misogynist act – she’s no longer any use to you, a hinderance with no value, you can coldly dispose of her in such utter disrespect ... this has affected my trust in men and subconsciously, every relationship I’ve had.

Watch: Chris Dawson verdict. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

For many years I worked through abandonment issues, believing that our beautiful Mother left of her own accord and had I believed what you said, because she didn’t love us anymore. Most, if not every day, I feel the absence of her from our lives.

I have, what I believe are glimpses of memories from that nightmare night. Unfortunately, as a result of the trauma experienced, my defence mechanisms have erased all happy memories of my Mother as well. 

All of these years, there were always parts of me looking for her, in communes, consulting psychics, registering with The Salvation Army. Haunted by regular thoughts of, ‘Why did she leave, where is she, if/when she’ll return ...?!’ Until the day I realised she wasn’t going to. 


The massive grief of that, on every level. No Mother to cuddle me when I’m hurt or sad. No Mother to love, help or advise me. No Mother to be a role model for my own Mothering. No weekly home-cooked meals to return home to, no family gatherings, birthdays, Christmas to look forward to.

You took that away and so much more and you had NO RIGHT to. YOU ARE NOT GOD.

There is NO replacement for a loving Mother, especially one who was ill-equipped and not wanting to take on such a role, who rejected us harshly and didn’t nurture and love us as we needed and deserved ... the absence of these basic human needs has affected my development, attachment, growth and stability. 

The rejection we suffered by multiple Mothers (seemingly), affected my self-esteem for many years.

Once I came into the remembrance that it was you who removed her from our lives, my whole world shattered. I wasn’t able to complete basic tasks such as grocery shopping, feeding myself properly or socialising. I was working full time at the time, but haven’t been able to since, nor have I been able to complete the two university degrees I have begun, despite getting excellent grades. 

Yes, I made my choices in this, but I now understand the effect this trauma has had on so many aspects of my life.

I didn’t confront you right away and the burdens lay heavily on my shoulders. I knew I would be losing my family, my sister in particular, and I didn’t think that was fair that I was suffering so much for what YOU’D done. 


I didn’t do anything wrong and yet I was losing so much. Every time I saw you, I was thrown into a trauma response and became extremely emotional and dysfunctional for days afterward. I kept trying to figure out how I would approach the situation, trying to choose the gentlest way for myself and all involved. I didn’t want to be the one to bring a tidal wave to the family. 

I was diagnosed with PTSD and these symptoms include anxiety and depression, as well as being in a fairly regular state of fight, flight or freeze, of hyper-vigilance and chronic stress.

My nervous system is depleted and this affects my general wellbeing, health, energy-levels, happiness, joy and ability to function often at basic tasks, work and relationships at every level. 

I also developed adult asthma as a result of chronic stress, caused by you. All of this has affected my mothering and ability to be truly present and joyous for my child. She’s seen me cry a lot.

Our lives always on hold – at first, always wondering. Secondly, mass media attention, arrest, court dates, appeals and delays ... life on hold, hard to relate or focus on much else of any significance (other than my child, obviously). Nine weeks of intense trial days, more life consumed by grief and anger ... again life, mothering, friendships on hold. Precious time wasted in conversations I don’t want to have. Tired of sadness.

The stress of having to hear more and more lies. The grief of losing trust in people who I once believed and now see through their lies, because of your actions.

Waiting, waiting for the verdict. Life on hold again, stress levels and grief heightened.


I went to great lengths to keep your act a secret from my daughter, waiting until she was older to tell her the horrible reality. Unfortunately, her friend told her and I had to explain to my beautiful, innocent daughter why her grandfather killed her Grandmother. 

She had many questions and anger, confusion, grief. She kept asking me, ‘But WHY did he do that?!’ The same question that’s tortured me over and over now for many years.

Why didn’t you just divorce her, let those who love and needed her keep her?!!!! Because of money, for God’s sake?!!!! The way you made her invisible, didn’t keep her memory alive for her children, rarely spoke of her and when you did, it was with disdain or disrespect ... we had no photos out, no mention of her birthday or what she was like, beautiful moments of her loving us, of her caring & giving heart, her beautiful free spirit ... this has been a massive, gaping lacking hole in my world. Partly filled in by others, but not by you.

As a direct result of your actions, I’ve lost not only my adoring, kind, wonderful and beautiful Mother, but I’ve lost my father too. I’ve lost the sense of protection you were supposed to provide, I’ve lost at times, the belief that there are good men in the world. 

It has had a significant impact on my psychological and emotional wellbeing and trying to integrate how on earth the father I love and trusted is capable of such a horrific act of violence against a woman he once supposedly loved, the Mother of his children.

I’ve also lost my sister, other siblings, cousins and my beautiful nieces.


I lost any remnants of belonging to that immediate family since I came into the remembering that it was you who murdered my Mother.

My daughter doesn’t have her loving Grandmother in her life to care for, support and guide her. She’s also lost aunties, uncles, cousins ... and you, her grandfather.

I have happy memories of your parents ... of our Friday family dinners, their attendance at netball games and sports carnivals, occasional babysitting, of cousin holidays with them. You’ve taken that away from your grandchildren.

Listen to No Filter, In this conversation Shanelle speaks to Mia about what it was like growing up in that house, her relationship with her family now, the chilling things multiple psychics told her and her powerful victim impact statement. Post continues below.

I don’t have the loving presence of a Grandmother for my child, her practical and emotional support and reprieve from the constant demands of single Mothering. This has taken a massive toll on my health and wellbeing. I’ve wasted countless and precious hours in counselling and therapy, when I’d rather be playing with my daughter and enjoying life.

As a result of YOUR actions, my wonderful Nanna Simms, while overjoyed to see us, always felt simultaneously deep sorrow when she saw us (or likely often) and I felt somehow responsible for that. 

I wanted to make it all okay that her beautiful daughter wasn’t with us anymore. We would pray, rub Buddha’s belly and cry together for her return. As a result of YOUR actions, my Mother’s parents chose not to leave her share of inheritance to us (for fear you’d get it, I’m assuming) ... I’ve also lost your and my Mother’s share of your/her home.


Your lies messed me up. The crazy, warped haze inside my brain of trying to make sense of what’s right and wrong. Of wanting to believe what I’m told, while the truth screamed at me from the inner knowing of my body, my hidden memories. 

When I’m being lied to and manipulated by others, it’s a familiar and subconsciously sought feeling called trauma bonding.

When that’s the foundation that’s been laid, it affects your whole life until it can be re-programmed and healed. I moved interstate, because the anxiety of potentially running into you on the Sunshine Coast was giving me panic attacks.

It hurts me deeply to think of you in jail, for the rest of your life. But I also choose not to carry your burdens anymore. I need my life back. My daughter needs me back and not overwhelmed by grief anymore. 

This is how I will honour my beautiful Mother. The torture of not knowing what happened, or what you did with her body, please tell us where she is. I hope you will finally admit the truth to yourself and give us the last bit of closure we need, to make at least partial peace with this horrible tragedy.

This is an edited extract of Shanelle's book My Mother's Eyes. You can purchase a copy 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.