Teacher’s Pet: Shock new witness
CHRIS Dawson returns to Sydney today for the start of what will become of Australia's most sensational court cases.
The 70-year-old former Newtown Jets rugby league player is expected to be charged with the murder of his wife Lyn, who vanished from the family home on Sydney's northern beaches in January 1982.
Mr Dawson was in a relationship with one of his students Joanne Curtis, 16, at the time Lyn, then aged 33, disappeared. Ms Curtis moved into the family home two days after Lyn went missing.
He has always denied any involvement with his wife's death and his family said in a statement they expected him to be found not guilty.
But his arrest yesterday on the Gold Coast was a sudden development of case that has never been far from the headlines during the 37 years that have passed since Lyn's disappearance.
In recent months it has captivated the world after The Australian's investigative podcast series The Teacher's Pet, for which reporter Hedley Thomas and producer Slade Gibson won the Gold Walkley, Australian journalism's highest honour.
Teacher's Pet, which topped download charts around the world, uncovered two new witness statements police have indicated would be part of their brief of evidence.
The Australian today revealed key witnesses that form part of the police case include Ms Curtis and a former northern beaches schoolgirl who kept diaries from the time she knew Ms Curtis and Mr Dawson.
The unnamed woman reportedly met with detectives in recent weeks.
Ms Curtis has given new information to investigators that led directly to Mr Dawson's arrest, The Daily Telegraph reported.
It also emerged last night the former babysitter for Chris and Lyn Dawson was a new witness who may be called to give evidence.
Bev McNally told The Manly Daily the arrest "feels surreal".
"It is a happy day and a sad one. People have to remember that as well."
The couple's older daughter Shanelle had tried to brace herself and was "coping".
"She was trying to prepare herself but nothing prepares you for this," Ms McNally said.
The daughter of Mr Dawson and Ms Curtis, Kristen Dawson, told the Daily Mail "It's a really hard time for us at the moment" but would not comment further.
Her body has never been found and two coronial inquests, between 2001-2003, found Ms Dawson was murdered by her husband. But he was not charged, with the NSW DPP ruling there was insufficient evidence.
Mr Dawson showed no emotion when he appeared in Southport Magistrates Court after being arrested at Biggera Waters on the northern Gold Coast.
Barefoot and wearing a crumpled khaki T-shirt and green shorts, he sat quietly in the dock with his head bowed, only occasionally looking up at Magistrate Dennis Kinsella.
He had his head in his hands as the magistrate read out the police case, including allegations of domestic violence against his wife.
Mr Dawson would be charged with murder by NSW police, and bail was opposed by Queensland police because of the seriousness of the alleged offence, the court heard.
Through his duty lawyer, Mr Dawson tried to obtain bail so he could voluntarily go to New South Wales today to face court.
He insisted he wasn't a flight risk and understood the allegations were serious - but the magistrate ruled in favour of police, and Mr Dawson spent last night at Southport Watchhouse awaiting his extradition to NSW.
A number of airlines said they were reluctant to carry Mr Dawson due to his high profile and the potential of it becoming a security risk.
Police are reportedly looking into chartering their own flight to get Mr Dawson back to NSW.
"The essence of the case against him is a circumstantial case in which his wife is unable to be located," Mr Kinsella said, adding it was basically a "cold case murder".
Police will allege Mr Dawson wanted to leave his wife, was having an affair, and that there were "outstanding property issues".
The magistrate said the crown alleged domestic violence allegations against Mr Dawson would be raised in evidence, as well as evidence from the woman involved in the affair - Mr Dawson's former student Joanne Curtis.
In April NSW Police asked the Director of Public Prosecutions if there was enough evidence to charge Dawson. Since then homicide squad detectives had gathered new evidence and it is thought the police case will in part rely on two witness statements uncovered by Teachers Pet.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the brief of evidence would rely mostly on information discovered by police, but confirmed media interest in the case had resulted in new evidence.
"It is my understanding two additional statements were the work of the media," he said.
That evidence came in the form of two additional witness statements described as "corroborative, not crucial" by the head of the Homicide Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook.
Det Supt Cook said Mr Dawson was "calm and little bit taken aback" as he was arrested, but went with officers quietly.
Mr Cook told reporters detectives were "confident" about their case against Mr Dawson despite not knowing where Lyn's body was.
"There are other examples in policing history and history of the courts where people have been convicted of murder without a body," he said.
"That may or may not be accepted in this particular case. It is a matter for the court in due course. We have solved homicide before without identifying the body.
"Ideally in this case we will not give up on trying to identify the whereabouts of Lynette Dawson, but from our perspective, it is not crucial to finalising the matter.
He then added: "We haven't given up hope in terms of finding Lynette Dawson's body."
Mr Dawson's family released a statement yesterday, insisting he would be found not guilty.
"We are disappointed at the decision of the DPP as there is clear and uncontested evidence that Lyn Dawson was alive long after she left Chris and their daughters," the statement, from Chris' twin brother Peter said.
"We have no doubt whatsoever that Chris will be found not guilty as he is innocent."
'WE WERE HOPEFUL THIS TIME AND WE'VE GOT THERE'
Lyn's family reacted with shock and relief.
"I'm shaking," her nephew David Jenkins wrote on Twitter .
"There is a long road in front of us in bringing Lyn home, but this is a big step."
Lyn's brother Gregg Simms said he was "quite emotional" when he heard of Mr Dawson's arrest this morning.
"We've had a cry, we've cuddled, we're just completely over the moon that something has finally happened," he told The Australian.
Speaking to A Current Affair last night, Mr Simms said he was "stunned" by today's development but was staying hopeful.
"If you look back over the years, you might say we've been kicked in the guts a few times but we were hopeful this time and we've got there," he said.