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Chris Dawson claims wife abandoned children knowing they’ll be cared for

Lynette Dawson abandoned her two children safe in the knowledge that they would be looked after by her husband, Chris Dawson’s defence has told a court.

Mr Dawson’s Supreme Court murder trial has entered its closing stages, with his barrister Pauline David using her closing submissions to attack allegations that the former teacher murdered Ms Dawson in January 1982.

The ex-rugby league player has pleaded not guilty to murder, arguing his wife walked out on him and their two young children after the decline of their marriage brought about by Mr Dawson’s infidelity.

The court was told that Mr Dawson cheated on her with a student and babysitter, JC, and the pair ran off to start a new life in Queensland just before Christmas 1981.

However, the teenager asked Mr Dawson to turn the car around and several weeks later Ms Dawson disappeared from their Bayview home on Sydney’s northern beaches, never to speak to her friends or family again.

CHRIS DAWSON
Camera IconChris Dawson is standing trial for the alleged murder of his wife Lynette 40 years ago. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA News Wire / Gaye Gerard.

The Crown prosecution alleges that Mr Dawson hatched four “plans” to leave Ms Dawson because he was infatuated with JC and wanted “unfettered access” to her.

However, Crown prosecutor Craig Everson told the court that they all ultimately failed or were abandoned and he then turned to murder.

The court has heard from Ms Dawson’s workmates and friends who described her as a devoted and doting mother, with the prosecution arguing that she would not have abandoned her two young children.

During his closing address to Justice Ian Harrison, Mr Everson said it was an “inherently improbable position” that Ms Dawson had walked out on her children, who were four and two at the time.

“It’s not as if a woman is abandoning her two children to a terrible life,” Ms David said.

“She knew they had a loving father, a good home, there was financial security and surrounded by a very loving family on both sides, the Dawsons and the Simms.

“It is very different to just being neglectful.”

Chris and Lynette Dawson in 1966. Supplied
Camera IconChris and Lynette Dawson in 1966. Supplied Credit: Supplied
Photos of Lynette Dawson’s two children tendered during Chris Dawson’s Supreme Court trial. Supplied
Camera IconPhotos of Lynette Dawson’s two children tendered during Chris Dawson’s Supreme Court trial. Supplied Credit: Supplied

When JC moved into the Dawsons’ Gilwinga Drive home in January 1982, Ms Dawson’s clothes and jewellery were found still in the closet.

However, Ms David argued that had Mr Dawson killed his wife and faked her disappearance, he would have had ample opportunity to also dispose of her belongings.

She described him as an “open and honest man” who left her things exactly as Ms Dawson left them.

“If he had the capacity to not only by himself, or with someone else, dispose of the body, over a very short period of time, it seems nonsensical that one would leave all her clothes intact,” Ms David said.

“To have the capacity to dispose of a body … to not pack a suitcase of clothing to look like she left, it’s quite extraordinary, it’s against his interests.

“He had much opportunity later to create a scenario consistent with his innocence that she walked out the door.”

JC on the day she and Chris Dawson left for Queensland to start a new life. Mr Dawson’s car can be seen in the background. Supplied.
Camera IconJC on the day she and Chris Dawson left for Queensland to start a new life. Mr Dawson’s car can be seen in the background. Supplied. Credit: Supplied

Ms David argued that it was not known what happened to Ms Dawson after January 9, 1982.

She said Ms Dawson could have started a new life somewhere else, arguing she could be living in “the outback”.

“At some point in time, she potentially created a new life, she has subsequently passed away, met with misadventure by some other way or even the deeply unpleasant possibility of her having taken her life at some point,” Ms David said.

She raised the example of former prime minister Harold Holt, who disappeared while swimming in rough seas in 1967.

“It’s entirely unknown, Harold Holt went missing, nobody knows where he went,” Ms David said.

undated copypic of Chris Dawson with his future wife / girlfriend Lynnette (Lynette) Joy (nee Simms ??) - Lynnette went missing in 1982 she was 34 - an inquest pointed to Chris as a murder suspect. crime qld profile
Camera IconLynette Dawson, who was last seen in January 1982, and Chris Dawson. Supplied. Credit: News Corp Australia

Police who investigated the reopened case into Ms Dawson’s disappearance in the 1990s and 2000s told the court that they had conducted “proof of life” checks to determine if there was any trace of her still being alive.

Former detective Damian Loone told the court that a member of the NSW Police missing persons unit checked bank records in several states, births, deaths and marriage registries, the immigration department and tax records.

However, Ms David said they were not exhaustive and did not exclude the possibility that Ms Dawson had assumed another name.

She argued that searches were only done for anyone with her name and date of birth and she could have changed her identity.

Ms David also said some searches were done using an incorrect date of birth.

“The defence’s position in relation to the signs of life is that they can support, to some limited extent, that there was no one with the name Lynette Dawson with that date of birth,” Ms David said.

“We do not accept that they support or prove she is not alive or was not alive after that time.”

The defence has relied on five claimed sightings of Ms Dawson after she went missing – the last of which was in mid-1984.

The Dawsons’ former neighbour Peter Breese told the court that he saw Ms Dawson working as a nurse at Rock Castle Private Hospital – now South Pacific Private Hospital – at Curl Curl following a nose operation.

But Justice Harrison questioned why, if Ms Dawson were trying to disappear, she would work at a hospital just 17km from Bayview and risk being seen by someone known to her.

The trial continues.

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