It was January of 1982 when 33-year-old Lynette or Lyn Dawson went missing in Sydney, Australia. Lyn was described as a beautiful, warm, funny person. The story of her disappearance didn’t make headlines at that time since she wasn’t initially reported missing. Lyn’s husband, Chris Dawson, worked as a PE teacher at Cromer High School. He was a fantastic athlete & was part of the Newtown Jets, a rugby league, where he played alongside his twin brother, Paul, who also happened to teach at the same school. The Dawson brothers were very well known & liked by students who felt they were the coolest, most charming & handsome teachers. Both men started in the modeling industry before moving on to play rugby.
On the morning of Friday, January 8, 1982, Lyn spoke with her mom, Helena & they planned to meet the next day, January 9th, at Northbridge Baths, a local beach on Sydney’s North Shore. They then planned to meet up with the rest of the Dawson family the following day. According to his eventual police statement, Chris said he dropped Lyn off at the Mona Vale shopping center on the morning of January 9th. When Helena arrived, expecting to see Lyn, she was nowhere to be found. Chris called Helena & told her that Lyn hadn’t shown up since she ‘needed some time on her own’ & instead, had gone away by herself for a few days. Lyn didn’t end up being reported missing for more than a month.
Lyn & Chris began dating in 1965 when Lyn was a student at Sydney Girls High while Chris attended Sydney Boys High; they met at a school event when they were 16-years-old. They got married five years later on March 26, 1970 when they were each 21 & in 1975, they purchased land & built their family home in Bayview. In July of 1977, they welcomed their first baby girl, Shanelle into the family & their second girl, Sherryn was born in July of 1979. This is the same year that Chris started working as a PE teacher at a Sydney high school.
A year later, in 1980, Chris began teaching a year 11 student named Joanne Curtis that he first noticed when she was in year 10. It was later revealed that he altered the class assignments so that he was her teacher. Throughout the year, Chris acted as a friend & confidant as JC shared with him the issues she was having at home & eventually JC became the Dawson’s babysitter. He was 32-years-old when he began having a sexual relationship with his 16-year-old student.
In 1981 Lyn started working part-time as a nurse for a childcare center in Warriewood; it was there that she confided in a co-worker, Anna Grantham, that Chris had become physical with her, at one point, pulling her hair & shoving her into mud near their pool. Meanwhile, in October, JC moved into the Dawson’s home because her family life had become very tumultuous. Lyn didn’t feel right about having this young girl move into the home, knowing her own marriage was unstable though JC later said that despite this, Lyn always treated her well & made her feel welcome. The couple got into an argument around that time, arguing in the yard loud enough that the neighbor looked over the fence & saw Lyn clutching one of her daughters as Chris was shaking Lyn by the shoulders. She could hear that they were arguing about JC moving in.
Soon after, Chris had a surgery on his nose & was admitted to the hospital between November 2-6 & told Lyn not to come & visit him though her mom, Helena stopped by. When she entered Chris’ hospital room, she saw JC sitting by his bedside . The next month, in November, Lyn suspected that JC & Chris were having an affair, sneaking off to have sex while Lyn was in the shower or sleeping. She confronted JC & told her she needed to move out & JC moved a few doors down, into the home of Chris’ twin brother, Paul, his wife Marilyn & their three daughters. In December, Chris put a $500 deposit down on an apartment he planned to share with JC. He picked JC up & they drove to a pub; Chris called his brother Peter who was a lawyer & discussed that he intended to file for divorce from Lyn & move in with JC. Peter told Chris that he would be financially penalized for this.
A week before Christmas of 1981, Lyn’s friend, Roslyn noticed that the last time she had seen Lyn, her friend seemed unhappy & she’d also noticed bruising on her arm & thigh. On December 23rd, Lyn finished her shift at work & waited for Chris to pick her up. When he didn’t show, she took a taxi home & found a note from Chris saying he had left. He wrote, asking her not to ‘paint too black a picture of him to their children.’ She told her sister that he’d taken his clothes & pillow & she was upset, not sure if he would be coming back. She told her daughters that their daddy had gone away on vacation & gave them a kiss, telling them it was from him. For Christmas, Lyn’s siblings invited her to their house but she told them she wanted to stay home to see if Chris would come back. Little did Lyn know that Chris & JC had packed up & set out to drive over 1,000 miles from Sydney to Queensland. After arriving in Murwillumbah, 500 miles up the coast from Sydney, they stopped because JC said she wasn’t feeling well; she had changed her mind about the move.
They returned to Sydney, arriving Christmas morning, & spent the day with Paul & his wife Marilyn, but they kept the news quiet from Lyn. Chris & JC slept in the gym at Forest High School where he taught & two days later, Chris went back to Bayview & JC went back to her mom’s house where she stayed until she had a violent altercation with her stepfather. Chris brought JC to her sister’s house in Neutral Bay & she stayed there for a week, Chris visiting her most days.
On New Year’s Eve, Chris contacted Lyn & told her he was going to attend a party on a yacht in Pittwater & Lyn suggested that they go as a family but Chris refused. It was later revealed that Chris never went to the party & instead, spent the night with JC in his car.
On New Year’s Day of 1982, Lyn & her two daughters made the trip to Clovelly to stay with her parents for a couple of nights. The next day, JC went on a camping trip with family & friends to celebrate the end of year 12 & Chris begged her to call him every day that she was gone. Lyn came back to Bayview on January 3rd & when Lyn went back to work, she told her co-workers that she & Chris planned to go to marriage counseling. Her co-workers noticed more bruising on her body.
On January 8th, Lyn & Chris went to marriage counseling & after, Lyn spoke with her mom. Helena claimed that when she initially called the house, Chris seemed reluctant to put Lyn on the phone. This would be the last time any family member or friend spoke with Lyn. She told her mom that the counseling session went well & that Chris had made her “a lovely drink” & she felt hopeful that everything was going to work out.
Chris claimed that the next day, January 9th, Lyn woke up early to do laundry & make lunch for her two & four-year-old daughters. He said that she was upset the previous night but apologized that morning for her breakdown & was much calmer. He said he drove Lyn to a Mona Vale bus stop so she could go shopping & he headed off to Northbridge Baths so that their daughters could go swimming. Lyn was supposed to meet him there that afternoon before meeting her mom but she never arrived. Helena remembers that when she arrived, Chris appeared agitated & asked if Lyn had contacted her. He later said that Lyn called him & told him that she needed some time away. He had his friend drive Helena & his two daughters to Helena’s home in Sydney.
The next day Chris went to South West Rocks where JC was vacationing with friends. JC later claimed that Chris was agitated during that time & when they returned to Sydney, he asked her to move in with him & help him with the kids. Chris claimed that Lyn called again & told him she needed more time; he contacted her work & told them she would be off for a week since she was sick.
Three days after Lyn was last seen, on January 12th, a purchase was registered on Lyn’s bank card for Katies Narrabeen & on January 27th, there was a purchase from Just Jeans Narrabeen. Chris ended up saying that the last contact he had with his wife was on the phone on January 16th. Around that time, JC moved into the home & began sleeping in the Dawson’s marital bed.
Six weeks after Lyn went missing, Chris finally filed a missing person’s report at the Mona Vale police station on February 18th after Helena begged him to do so. He told the police that she left on her own accord, he had no concern for her welfare & that he’d last seen her on January 9th when he dropped her off at the bus stop though had spoken to her multiple times on the phone.
On March 27th, Chris placed an ad in The Daily Telegraph saying, “Lyn I love you, we all miss you. Please ring. We want you home. Chris.”
During April, there were alleged sightings of Lyn but no evidence of the validity. In August of 1982, Chris submitted an “antecedent report” to police & put in for a court order for the dissolution of his marriage on the basis of abandonment. He told the police that his marriage to Lyn was strained due to Lyn’s frivolous spending. Two months later, this request was granted & Chris was awarded all marital assets including the home & the children. In October, Chris removed all of Lyn’s belongings from the house & brought them to Helena’s house in ten garbage bags.
In 1983, Chris spoke to his friend, Jeff, for advice about filing for divorce & also made a formal affidavit for application of property settlement, claiming that Lyn had abandoned their family home. When family & friends of Chris & Lyn came to visit Chris, they noticed that JC was wearing Lyn’s rings.
Two years after Lyn went missing, Chris & JC got married on January 15, 1984 at the Bayview home with Paul & Marilyn as witnesses; JC was 19 & Chris was 35. They moved to the Gold Coast later that year & had Lyn’s rings resized to fit JC. Throughout 1984, Chris had all of Lyn’s assets transferred to his name & sold their house. In January of 1985, Chris & JC had a house built near Chris’ brother Paul & his wife Marilyn & JC gave birth to their daughter. Chris began working at Keebra Park High School & later transferred to Coombabah where his brother worked. Around this time, Lyn’s friend Sue Strath wrote to the NSW Ombudsman’s office & asked the watchdog to step in, claiming that police had not taken enough action in investigating Lyn’s disappearance. Senior police claimed that there was nothing to indicate suspicion of foul play.
Between 1985 and 1990, JC claimed that her marriage began to deteriorate & it had started after their daughter was born. She said that Chris was very controlling & allowed her little freedom, saying she hadn’t realized their arrangement was off until she began speaking with other mothers. She said when they first got married, life was very difficult; she was only 19 & had to learn to be a mother, a wife, to care for a house & to cook. She said she felt like a sex slave & after their daughter was born, she began to fear for her life, Chris becoming more violent.
Sometime around 1987 & 1988, the new owner’s of Chris & Lyn’s Bayview home, visited Chris’ friend & solicitor, Jeff Linder & during their conversation, he told Jeff that Chris had recently visited the home & asked where they planned on digging in the yard. Jeff later said that he found this conversation chilling though never reported it to police.
In 1990 JC & Chris separated & she moved to Sydney with their daughter & contacted Lyn’s family about their marriage. Police conducted a survey of Chris & Lyn’s Bayview home, using ground-penetrating radar but no digging was done. Ground penetrating radar was used in 1990, 1991, 1999 & 2016. They focused on the area around the pool but found nothing. On May 17, 1990, JC made a police report about several serious allegations; she also contacted Lyn’s family via social worker & described how she was groomed by Chris while she was attending high school & that they’d had sex together while Lyn slept upstairs. She indicated that Lyn wasn’t much of a drinker of alcohol but Chris would make her drinks with the goal of her passing out so he could have sex with JC. She said that Chris would chip away at Lyn’s self confidence, telling her he didn’t care about her & that she was physically unattractive. She claimed that a month before Lyn disappeared, Chris talked about hiring a hitman to “get rid of her.” She said she was never comfortable with the relationship & tried to leave on several occasions but it was difficult since she was just a kid & he convinced her to trust him. It wasn’t until January 15, 1991 that Chris was interviewed by police at Beenleigh station in Queensland after Lyn’s file was reopened. Senior police officer Paule Hulme was encouraged to look into the case by his wife’s friend, who was also friends with Lyn; he contacted the Ombudsman and found that Lyn’s case file was almost empty.
In 1998, police officially reopened the investigation into Lyn’s disappearance & Detective Sergeant Damian Loone was in charge of the case. The next year, in 1999, Chris & Paul’s phones were tapped but they never said anything incriminating. Paul & Marilyn were questioned by police & Paul said that he & his family were away on vacation at the time that Lyn went missing. He speculated that Lyn could have run off with a religious group. Paul told police that he wasn’t sure if Chris & JC were together at the time that Lyn went missing & Marilyn spoke up saying that they were because they stayed with them during that time of Christmas of 1981. Marilyn confessed that she never told Lyn that JC stayed with them & felt that Lyn didn’t fight for her marriage & gave Chris & JC ample opportunity to be together. Chris declined to be interviewed at that time.
In January of 2000, police conducted a limited excavation in a small area around the pool at the Bayview house & a pink cardigan & a popper container with 1981 expiration date were found. The item appeared to contain slash marks & was said to be Lyn’s favorite cardigan. By this time, the new owners had added an addition to the house over what was previously described as soft loose soil; some family & friends are convinced that Lyn is buried here.. The next year, in February of 2001, the first coronial inquest (a formal hearing about the death or suspected death of a person) was held & it was speculated that Lyn was killed by someone she knew & recommended that charges be filed but this was denied. In February of 2003 it was denied a second time & in August of 2003, the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to prosecute on the basis of a lack of evidence. During the full hearing in February of 2003, over the course of five days, numerous witnesses came forward & alleged that Chris was a serial groomer of young girls which he also shared with his brother Paul, including JC when she was 16.
In 2013 police offered a $100,000 reward for any information & in 2014 it’s doubled to $200,000. In 2015 a third police investigation was started with Detective Senior Constable Daniel Poole in charge. In 2015 the entire block where the home sat was mapped out & cadaver dogs were brought in; a second dig was done on the property in 2016. The house has had several owners since Lyn’s disappearance & at one point was sold for as much as $2.4 million.
In May of 2018 The Teacher’s Pet podcast by journalist Hedley Thomas was started about this case, running 16 episodes, concluding with Chris’ arrest in 2018; it got more than 60,000 downloads. The podcast highlighted police’s missteps & portrayed Chris as a man who got away with murder. The podcast made Lyn a household name, brought forward new evidence & put her case back in the spotlight. In September of 2018, police conducted a dig in the backyard of Chris & Lyn’s home but nothing was found. On December 5, 2018, Chris Dawson was arrested & charged with murder. A now 74-year-old Chris pleaded not guilty & maintained his innocence with the story that his wife had walked out of their lives. Barbara Cruise, the owner of the childcare center where Lyn worked as a nurse, feels that because Chris was seen as a celebrity in the area, because of his athletic ability & the fact that he was a teacher & seen on TV ads, allowed police to believe that he was innocent.
The prosecution’s case was that Chris killed Lyn so that he could move forward in his relationship with JC & retain ownership of all their assets. They believed there were three motives for murder: the animosity he had for Lyn which led to physical & verbal abuse, his infatuation with JC & his desire to avoid the financial consequences of divorce. Two instances were brought up during the trial; a babysitter once saw Chris flick Lyn with a dishtowel & the neighbor who saw Lyn & Chris arguing in the backyard. Neither of these were considered since an argument between spouses isn’t indicative of murder. Witnesses came forward; one alleging that Chris spoke with him on a flight, asking if he knew someone who could get rid of his wife. Another said that they saw Lyn in a pub in 1982 & she gave the impression that she left home with nothing so police would think her husband murdered her. Another said they saw her working as a nurse though the judge believed that none of these sightings actually happened. The fact that Lyn had been making upcoming plans, including a surprise birthday party for her mom’s 66th birthday & arranging an artist to draw portraits of her daughters, the fact that she adored her girls, was mentally stable, had not taken any personal belongings with her & that she’d remained hopeful that her marriage could be saved, all pointed to the fact that Lyn would never have up & left her life.
The defense argued that witnesses’ negative perceptions of Chris were falsely driven by the Teacher’s Pet podcast. They also argued that Lyn’s disappearance would have only caused problems between Chris & JC since JC did not want to raise their daughters & any financial gain would be eliminated by the cost of becoming a single parent. On Friday, December 2, 2022, 40 years after Lyn went missing, New South Wales supreme court Justice Ian Harrison was convinced that despite the lack of evidence or finding Lyn’s body, that Chris was guilty of Lyn’s murder & he was sentenced to 24 years in prison. It’s suspected that Lyn was killed some time between January 8th & 9th of 1982. Because Lyn’s body was never found, the sentence carries a no-parole period of 18 years, a new “no body, no parole” state law which means that as long as her body remains missing, he won’t be eligible for early release. During the sentencing, the judge talked about the brutality of the crime & the selfishness of Chris, the fact that he disposed of his wife & mother of his children so he could replace her with his teenage lover. Chris claimed that Lyn had called him several times, the judge finding this unlikely; the fact that she didn’t contact her mom who she was exceptionally close with & instead, chose to call the person who essentially drove her out of her home.
Police theorize that Lyn’s body may be somewhere in the Central Coast region, north of Sydney, believing that he traveled to this location on Saturday, January 9, 1982, having plenty of time since his kids were staying with a friend during that time. The area is over 200 square miles & too vast an area to search. Family feel they will never know the truth of what really happened to Lyn & where her body is, unable to put her to rest, believing that Chris has likely so thoroughly convinced himself that he didn’t murder his wife, that they will never find her body. Lyn’s sister Pat feels she can never forgive Chris for the cruel way he treated her grieving mother; she never stopped searching for Lyn, often taking a train to the Central Coast since that’s where Chris said she was calling from. He would string Helena along, telling her that Lyn was planning to call on a certain day so she would sit by the phone all day, waiting for a call that would never come. Helena passed away in 2001 & her ashes were scattered in the ocean at Clovelly where she swam daily
Lyn’s brother, Greg Simms, felt that the sentencing was a momentous moment of freedom that was four decades in the making. He says that Lyn will always be remembered by the family as a happy, loving, gentle sister, aunt, niece & friend. Moving forward, they want her to be remembered as Lynette Joy Simms. “Chris Dawson had forty years of freedom, now it’s our turn.”
- Daily Mail: Inside the 40-year fight to bring Chris Dawson to justice as the murder trial that captivated the world ends in a guilty verdict
- The Guardian: Chris Dawson’s verdict took five hours to be delivered, ending in a 40-year wait for justice
- Chris Dawson sentenced to 24 years for killing his wife 40 years ago
- Mulholland Books: The Disappearance of Lynette Dawson
- Daily Mail: Heartbreaking final photo of Lynette Dawson taken just weeks before she mysteriously vanished emerges at murder trial – as court hears how she ‘cowered’ to her husband Chris
- News.com.au: Police believe they know where Lynette Dawson’s body is buried – but there is a huge catch
- Sky News: ‘Lyn was brutally murdered’: Teacher’s Pet host Hedley Thomas blasts claims Chris Dawson is ‘taunted, called names’ in jail as former teacher is locked up for 24 years
- Daily Mail: Is this where Lyn Dawson is buried? Inside the $2.4 million property when a football star married his schoolgirl lover & made her mother to his daughters after his wife’s mysterious disappearance
- ABC: Lyn Dawson’s family says they will ‘never forgive’ former husband Chris Dawson over lies, murder
- News.com.au: Former babysitter reveals harrowing details of marriage to Chris Dawson
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