Chris Dawson murder trial: Lynette Dawson’s niece recalls moment he was found guilty
Lynette Dawson’s niece has recalled the bittersweet moment her aunt’s husband was found guilty of her murder but admits the family felt no joy watching him escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Chris Dawson, 74, has spent his first night behind bars, after he was found guilty of the murder of his first wife 40 years ago.
The verdict handed down by NSW Supreme Court judge Justice Ian Harrison on Tuesday following a 10-week trial ends a mystery that has haunted Lynette’s family and Sydney’s northern beaches for four decades.
Lynette’s niece Renee Simms sat metres away right behind Dawson during the five-hour judgement on an intense and emotionally charged day.
She and her parents, Greg and Merilyn nervously arrived at court, not knowing what would happen and only got an idea of what way the decision could go in the final 15 minutes of the judgement.
‘I had my dad on one side, and he just gripped my knee and was just kind of holding quite tight,’ Ms Simms told the Today show.
‘There was a big collective sigh when guilty was read out. You could possibly feel it was going that way, but until those words were said, you just don’t know.’
Renee Simms never got the chance to meet her aunt Lynette Dawson (pictured with husband Chris Dawson before her disappearance in 1982)
Her father, Greg, is still in disbelief over the verdict after a 40-year battle for answers over what happened to his sister Lynette.
‘It will take a little while for this news to sink in. He was quite overwhelmed. There were quite a few tears. He was breathing quite heavily next to me,’ Ms Simms said.
‘Watching Chris be walked off in handcuffs, that’s a confronting sight for anyone and not something we took any joy in.’
‘Anyone who has some sort of human kindness to them would not enjoy seeing that.’
The quest for justice continues as Lynette’s body has never been found.
‘Our reason to go through the court process to find out what happened to Lyn. We wanted the truth about her to come out,’ her niece said.
‘I guess an arrest or conviction was possible, but I think the reality of seeing that in-person is still quite confronting.’
Renee Simms got no joy out of watching her aunt’s killer escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs
Chris Dawson has spent his first night behind bars after he was found guilty of murdering his first wife Lynette
Ms Simms also recalled how Dawson reacted as the guilty verdict was read out.
‘Through the court case, he was various shades of red, I could only see him from behind,’ she said.
‘You could see he was quite agitated by certain things and was shaking his head at a lot of points the judge was saying.
‘He stood up, and he was quite, I guess, resigned that he was going to jail. He didn’t resist and put his hands out and was cuffed and walked off.’
‘Given the fact that we have sat in court with them during the ten-week trial, it is not pleasant, but it is something we have become used to.’
Lynette Dawson’s brother Greg Simms (left) has spent the last 40 years fighting for justice.
Lynette Dawson’s brother Greg Simms (left) has spent the last 40 years fighting for justice
She has no feelings or sympathy towards the man who killed her aunt, whom she never met.
‘To me, it was all about justification for Lyn, having that justification what we knew happened, actually happened.
‘It’s now been confirmed she didn’t leave her house or her kids of her own volition. It’s quite gratifying.
Ms Simms says there’s some relief but conceded her family might never find out what happened to Lynette.
They expect Dawson to appeal the verdict.
‘I would like to say it’s important, but I think the reality of the situation is I don’t think that we will ever find out,’ she said.
‘I feel like he’s convinced himself that he didn’t do it. So I’m not holding my breath for that answer.’
The family of Lynette Dawson (pictured together) will take some time to let the verdict sink in
Ms Simms later told Newcastle’s Hit106.9 it will take some time for the verdict to sink in.
‘It’s not really a celebration, because I don’t think that any of us can enjoy in seeing Chris Dawson taken off in handcuffs,’ she said.
‘There’s no real winners here. It’s the end of the chapter but not the end of the book.’
She also paid tribute to Hedley Thomas, whose Teacher’s Pet podcast in 2018 shed new light on Lynette’s disappearance.
‘We’ve spent quite a bit of time with Hedley since, he’s become an honouree family member of ours,’ Ms Simms said.
‘He was definitely with us last night.’
Read the THREE reasons why Chris Dawson is a killer according to the Supreme Court justice who brought the four decade mystery to a close
By Tita Smith and Candace Sutton for Daily Mail Australia
A NSW Supreme Court judge has found Chris Dawson had three reasons for killing his wife Lynette in 1982: his strong hostility towards his spouse, a desire to be in a relationship with their teenage babysitter, and as an easy way of avoiding a costly divorce.
Dawson, 74, was found guilty by Justice Ian Harrison just after 3pm on Tuesday – bringing to a close a mystery that has haunted Lynette’s family and Sydney’s northern beaches for four decades.
In his decision, Justice Harrison agreed with the Crown’s argument that Dawson was motivated to kill his wife to gain ‘unfettered’ access to his teenage girlfriend JC.
He also ruled Dawson held a deep animosity towards Lynette and wanted to escape the financial and custodial implications of a divorce.
‘I am satisfied he resolved to kill his wife’, and that there was also the financial motive of potentially losing his investments,’ Justice Harrison said.
Justice Harrison said that potentially losing JC in early 1982 may have also been a motive for the murder.
Chris Dawson (centre) arrives at the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Sydney, on Tuesday
Justice Ian Harrison found it was beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson (above with Chris Dawson on her wedding day) did not leave her home in Bayview voluntarily
Justice Harrison said the evidence did not reveal just how Dawson killed Lynette, and where her body is now.
There were gasps in the courtroom the moment Dawson was found guilty – following some 4.5 hours of the judge reading out his reasons – with Dawson shaking his head very slightly and his twin brother Paul muttering ‘bulls***’.
Two prison officers entered the room and handcuffed him. Dawson appeared to limp as he was led away to be taken into custody. He will be locked up at Silverwater Correctional Centre as he awaits sentencing.
CHRIS DAWSON’S THREE MOTIVES
According to Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison:
*Dawson had deep animosity to his wife
*He wanted unfettered access to the babysitter JC
*He was determined to avoid costly divorce and losing custody of his daughters
Paul Dawson could be heard talking about a woman – saying ‘I told her’ – and complained about never having been called as a witness.
He said that the accused told a series of lies about his wife being still alive after her disappearance and about his missing her afterwards.
After waiting for 40 years to find out what happened to 33-year-old Lynette Joy Dawson who vanished with out a trace, it took just over four-and-a-half hours for the mother-of-two’s family to get the answer they had waited so long for.
Despite finding that he was not satisfied Dawson ’caused any of the bruising on Lynette’ or that he ‘was physically violent towards her’, Justice Ian Harrison found him guilty of murder.
He was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson is dead, that she has not been seen or heard since on or around January 8, 1982 and that she did not leave her home voluntarily.
He was also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Dawson ‘had a possessive infatuation with’ the schoolgirl babysitter, JC.
Dawson will appeal the decision.
At 10am on Tuesday morning, NSW Supreme Court judge Ian Harrison SC had entered court 13A at Queens Square in Sydney amid tense anticipation from both the accused’s supporters and Lyn Dawson’s siblings.
The 74-year-old accused sat up the front with brother Peter, with twin Paul and other supporters in the back of the court.
In the front row, Lynette Dawson’s family sat wearing pink in honour of the mother-of-two.
Lynette Dawson (above with Shanelle) had found it hard to conceive and doted on her two daughters to Chris Dawson, who were four and two when she vanished in 1982
The trial heard Chris Dawson was ‘besotted ‘ with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who became his second wife and testified at his trial about his controlling behaviour
Justice Harrison said Dawson was motivated to kill his wife to have unfettered access to JC
Reading through his written reasons for his verdict, Justice Harrison described some of the evidence in Chris Dawson’s defence during the trial as ‘fanciful, absurd and lies’.
‘I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Lynette Dawson never telephoned Christopher Dawson after 8 January 1982 and … that she did not leave her home voluntarily,’ Justice Harrison said.
Dawson was described during a summary of the crown case by His Honour as ‘an unfaithful and violent man’.
The judge also said one of Chris Dawson’s relatives, his brother-in-law Ross Hutchins, had falsified an alleged sighting he had made of Lynette Dawson at Gladesville, just months after her disappearance, and that the sighting was a ‘fabrication’.
Discounting all other alleged sightings, His Honour said, ‘I am satisfied that none of the sightings were genuine.
‘I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson is dead and that she died on or about 8 January 1982 and that she did not voluntarily leave her home,’ he said.
‘She was not mentally unstable, she adored her children…she was still hopeful. She was still talking in affectionate terms about her unfaithful husband.
‘That she would step from her husband’s car … and decide to evaporate forever is not a reasonable possibility. The proposition is ludicrous.’
Chris Dawson with his daughter in the 1970s, when he was married to first wife Lyn a few years before her mysterious 1982 disappearance
For more than four hours, Chris Dawson sat ramrod straight in court listening to Justice Harrison describe his defence case as full of lies, and ‘ludicrous’ propositions.
While calmly reading out his judgement, Justice Harrison said he was willing to believe ‘beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson’s evidence he had received a call from Lyn at a swimming pool on the day after his wife’s disappearance was ‘a lie’.
Justice Harrison also found that Chris Dawson’s accounts of purported phone calls from his wife after her disappearance ‘beyond reasonable doubt … are lies’.
‘I do not accept Lynette Dawson … would continue to remain in contact with the very person who was … the reason for her departure,’ Justice Harrison said. ‘The contention … is simply absurd.’
The judge described the evidence of the schoolgirl babysitter JC, with whom Chris Dawson had an affair as mostly reliable, and that her account of being groomed for a sexual relationship as believable.
He said that Dawson’s contention that his sexual relationship with JC did not recommence in 1982 until April of that year ‘cannot be true’.
‘She had been swept up … and was confused and conflicted,’ he said and found that JC’s evidence had not been corrupted by her subsequent divorce from him years later.
However Justice Harrison rejected the evidence of JC, and of a former football team mate Robert Silkman, that the accused had conversations with them about hiring ‘a hitman’ to murder Lynette Dawson.
Chris Dawson, 74, (above) pictured on the Sunshine Coast last weekend before returning to Sydney for the verdict on his trial for murder
Justice Harrison said the crown had established beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson determined he would leave the relationship with his wife and enter a substituted relationship with JC.
‘I am satisfied that Mr Dawson was obsessed with JC and with the fear of losing her. He decided he would end his marriage and move on with JC,’ he said.
‘That does not stand alone to prove that he murdered his wife.’
He described evidence from two women who related stories allegedly told to them by Lynette Dawson of violence against her by the accused as unreliable.
He said the women had been influenced by the Teacher’s Pet podcast.
However he said the account by Lynette Dawson’s next door neighbour, Julie Andrew, of seeing Chris Dawson pushing Lyn up against a trampoline and screaming at her shortly before she went missing he found to be true.
The family of Lynette Dawson has been asking for years about her disappearance and whatever the verdict on Tuesday, they still hold out hopes of her remains being found
Chris Dawson and Lynette Simms as young sweethearts before their engagement and marriage which would culminate in her disappearance in 1982
Chris Dawson had left his Sunshine Coast home in Queensland to fly to Sydney for the verdict, after spending the last seven weeks on bail while Justice Harrison deliberated on his decision.
For the first time in the trial, the accused’s identical twin brother Paul was present at court and in a mass of media outside the court there was a brief scuffle between a cameraman and the twins’ older brother, Peter.
The verdict is also momentous for the family of Lyn Dawson, who have invested so much time and effort in seeking justice for the 33-year-old mother of two young girls who vanished without trace on January 8 or 9, 1982.
Lyn’s sister, Pat Jenkins, her brother, Greg Simms, and the missing woman’s niece Renee Simms and nephew David Jenkins have had their lives on hold for the 10-week trial, the weeks since as Justice Harrison has deliberated and, indeed, the empty decades since Lyn vanished.
Mr Dawson’s eldest daughter Shanelle, who was four when her mother disappeared was pictured packing her car as she left his house on Sunday, after publicly revealing she still loves her dad.
Lynette Dawson with Chris in the early years of their romance when she had fallen in love with the football star and they planned a life together which would be cut short in 1982
Lynette’s two daughters posed for photographs by a portrait artist who would produce charming drawings of the girls, only to discover that Lyn had vanished and Chris didn’t want them
Four years ago, Shanelle had broken down on national television, saying ‘It’s not looking good for my father, I will be honest to say’.
Chris Dawson was arrested and charged with Lyn Dawson’s murder in late 2018, pleaded not guilty to the charge and has always maintained his innocence.
Lynette Dawson’s disappearance from her Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches was the subject of the hit podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, which was played during the lengthy trial.
Lynette Dawson’s body has never been found and Mr Everson’s circumstantial case included that the accused had disposed of her during a ‘window of quiet seclusion’ sometime before or after meeting Lyn’s mother at the pool, and collecting JC from northern NSW.
Lyn Dawson’s family flagged the fact that despite the conclusion of the trial with Justice Harrison’s verdict, they will not ever give up on finding her remains.
Nephew David Jenkins tweeted last weekend, ‘After 40 years, on Tuesday we’ll find out whether the evidence against Lyn ‘s (accused) murderer was strong enough.
‘Either way, this isn’t over until we have Lyn home.’
TIMELINE OF EVENTS FOLLOWING LYN DAWSON’S DISAPPEARANCE:
January 1982 – Lynette ‘Lyn’ Dawson, 33, disappears from her home at Bayview on Sydney’s northern beaches, leaving behind two young daughters. The family’s babysitter, a schoolgirl who can only be identified as JC, moves into the home within days.
February – Chris Dawson, a teacher and former Newtown Jets rugby league player, reports his wife missing some six weeks after he says she disappeared.
2001 – An inquest recommended a ‘known person’ be charged with Mrs Dawson’s murder, but the Director of Public Prosecutions later says the evidence was not tested because no witnesses were called.
2003 – A second inquest calls witnesses and recommends a known person be charged with murder, referring the matter to the DPP. Again, no charges are laid.
2010 – NSW Police announce a $100,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction.
2014 – The reward is doubled to $200,000.
2015 – Strikeforce Scriven is established and the Dawsons’ entire Bayview block is mapped.
April 2018 – Scriven detectives request the DPP review their brief of evidence.
May – The Australian newspaper releases The Teacher’s Pet podcast about Mrs Dawson’s disappearance. It is eventually downloaded 60 million times worldwide.
July – NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller admits police ‘dropped the ball’ in the 1980s investigation.
September – Police dig up the backyard at the Bayview home the couple shared at the time of Mrs Dawson’s disappearance but don’t find remains or any items of interest.
December 5 – Chris Dawson is arrested on the Gold Coast and spends the night in a watch-house.
December 6 – Dressed in a polo shirt, shorts and thongs, the then 70-year-old is extradited to Sydney, where he’s charged with his first wife’s murder and appears in court via video link. His lawyer, Greg Walsh, says he ‘strenuously asserts his innocence’.
December 17 – Dawson is bailed to live back in his Queensland home.
August 8, 2019 – Magistrate Michael Allen warns that some reporting of the case could affect a fair trial, saying: ‘Someone would have to be living in a cave or be naive in the extreme to perhaps ignore the potential for unfairness to a person who receives this level of media scrutiny.’
February 11-13, 2020 – Magistrate Jacqueline Trad hears evidence before committing Dawson to stand trial for murder.
April 3 – Dawson formally pleads not guilty to murder, with his lawyers flagging an application for a permanent stay of proceedings.
September 25 – Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Fullerton grants Dawson only a nine-month halt to allow the ‘unrestrained and clamorous’ public commentary about his wife’s disappearance to abate before his trial.
June 11, 2021 – The Court of Criminal Appeal refuses a permanent halt to proceedings.
April 8, 2022 – The High Court backs the lower courts’ decisions not to permanently halt proceedings.
May 2 – Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones orders the trial to proceed before a judge alone following an application by Dawson.
May 9-July 11 – The trial is heard by Justice Ian Harrison, with prosecutors alleging Dawson was violent and abusive towards his wife and killed her to have an unfettered relationship with JC. Dawson’s lawyers pointed to various witnesses claiming to have seen Mrs Dawson alive and well after January 1982.
August 30 – Dawson is found guilty of murder.
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By Australian Associated Press