true crime

The man behind The Teacher's Pet true crime podcast answers the question all fans are asking.

Update: Chris Dawson was arrested on Wednesday, 5 December, and will be charged with the murder of Lyn Dawson.

In early January 1982, doting mother-of-two Lynette Dawson, 33, suddenly vanished from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Her husband, Rugby League star turned high school P.E. teacher, Chris Dawson, told loved ones that the Bayview woman had run off to join a “religious group”. But within a matter of days, there was someone else in laying in her bed, someone else looking after her young children: Chris’ 16-year-old student, Joanne Curtis.

There has been no sign of Lyn since; no calls, no bank transactions, no sightings, no body.  Yet two coroners have concluded that she was likely murdered by her husband. So what happened? Why have no charges been laid?

Journalist Hedley Thomas’ podcast for The Australian, The Teacher’s Pet, is investigating just that. This week, he spoke to Mia Freedman on Mamamia’s No Filter, and outlined the path to justice for Lyn Dawson’s family.


MIA: So to play this out, what are the steps like? What’s it going to take?

HEDLEY: That’s a really good question. I ask myself, ‘What is it going to take?’ In 2001 and in 2003 when two coroners made the same finding that Chris had murdered Lyn and that the matter should be prosecuted, I think the [Director of Public Prosecutions] made very poor decisions. And it seems to me from their conversations and documentation that I’ve been examining that’s come from Lyn’s side of the family – and they’ve had discussions with the DPP about those findings – it seems to me that the DPP has actually misunderstood some of the key parts of this case that’s led them to be reluctant to prosecute, or contributed to that reluctance.

And I hope that they’re looking at looking at this now with fresh eyes.

MIA: Is that what the jungle drums are telling you is happening?

HEDLEY: No. I’m not getting any feedback at all from the DPP, and I haven’t been working with the police either. And that’s been an interesting experience, in that I contacted the police at the start of the year, in January, and said, ‘Look I’m I’ve been working on this project and I’d be happy to cooperate, and I would really like to interview some senior detectives about it.’ I haven’t had any cooperation at all. They’ve given me nothing, and I figure that they’ve just made a decision that the DPP wouldn’t like that.

Chris and Lynette Dawson on their wedding day. Image via The Australian.

Because at the same time as I've been investigating this, the DPP - according to the feedback that the family has received from the police - has been assessing a new brief of evidence that the police have provided.

So all of these things have been happening simultaneously and it's possible - and I'm trying to give both the police and the DPP the benefit of the doubt - it is possible that what they're trying to do is ensure they assess this without an appearance or a reality of some kind of orchestrated relationship with me when I'm running their lines [of inquiry] through the podcast. Nothing like that has happened, and perhaps that's why there's been no contact from them.


MIA: Would there have to be a third colonial inquiry before the DPP could press charges, or they can just literally do it tomorrow?

HEDLEY: The police could charge Chris tomorrow. And then the DPP would make a decision on whether they were prepared to prosecute him.

MIA: Who decides first the DPP or the police?

HEDLEY: Well in practical terms the police won't run a murder charge unless the DPP says, 'after you've charged we will of course support the prosecution.' So the DPP really controls the sequence of events and the cops won't go early if they don't think the DPP is going to back them up.

For more from Hedley, listen here... (Post continues below.)

Want to hear to more?  Subscribe to No Filter.

MIA: And in parallel to your investigations, is it still a live investigation or is it considered a cold case?

HEDLEY: Well, the police are still calling it a live investigation and there are detectives including Daniel Poole who has taken over from Damian Loone who is on the case for many years - you will have heard his voice a number of times. He's not involved in that case anymore.

Daniel Poole is the cold case detective who's been on this case for some time and I haven't spoken to him, but he is following up some of the leads that are coming out of the podcast, because I've heard from people I've interviewed he's then contacted them and taken statements from them. But I haven't heard anything from him. So it's strange.

MIA: So you're leading the way. You actually are, because if it wasn't for your interest in this case nothing would have changed. None of us would have known about it. There wouldn't have been is public pressure, so on behalf of a lot of people I just wanted to say thank you - not just on behalf of Lyn's family, but on behalf of everybody who's just appalled that this was allowed to happen.

HEDLEY: Thank you Mia; I really appreciate that. I think the system and many people who loved Lyn sadly did let her down and they reflect on that and regret deeply what they failed to do. But the legal system let her down, the police...

MIA:  Absolutely. And I don't mean to sound like I'm being accusatory of any of the people in her life, because that was the culture of the time. And as you say, everybody had one little piece of the puzzle and that's why the police should have brought all these pieces together. That was their job. But for whatever reason they didn't. But you are.

00:00 / ???