For close to 40 years, the family of Lynette Dawson were asked to believe what they knew was untrue.
That their beloved mother, sister and daughter had voluntarily made the decision to abandon her home and leave her two young girls without their mum.
All without taking so much as her contact lenses or a spare pair of underwear with her.
It was a ludicrous proposition, and one which after decades of heartache, was on Tuesday finally exposed as a despicable lie told by the man who had promised to love her.
The guilty verdict against Lynette’s husband Chris Dawson, after a 10-week murder trial will hopefully bring some closure and solace to her family.
Speaking outside the courtroom after the verdict, Lynette’s brother Greg Simms thanked reporter Hedley Thomas, whose Gold Walkley-winning podcast The Teacher’s Pet brought Lynette’s story to millions of people across the globe.
While the story of Lynette’s death is one of violence and heartache, it is also a story about the immense power of journalism to right wrongs and hold the guilty to account.
Two separate coronial inquests in 2001 and 2003 found Lynette had likely been murdered and recommended charges be laid.
But it wasn’t until Thomas’ podcast — which received more than 60 million downloads — brought the story to the attention of the world that Chris Dawson was finally arrested for his wife’s murder.
Without Thomas’ brave and unflinching work, it is likely Dawson would have lived the remainder of his life a free man, without ever being brought to justice.
After the verdict, Thomas said Lynette’s case — and the callous indifference her disappearance was treated by investigators at the time — showed how far Australia had come in dealing with violence against women.
“Lynette Dawson was missing for eight years and just treated as a runaway mother for that time when the circumstances were so gravely suspicious,” he said.
“It wouldn’t happen today. There would be a strike force set up today . . . and there would be a very strong focus on the spouse but that didn’t happen and I think that’s a reflection on society and how far things have come.
“Chris Dawson should have been charged 40 years ago. He has had 40 years of his life he has been able to enjoy without any accountability for what happened. That’s disgraceful and that’s on the system as it existed in the early 1980s.”
While The Teacher’s Pet podcast is a dramatic illustration of the power of journalism to change lives for the better, quieter examples are playing out every day in newsrooms all across the country and the world.
Occasionally, the reporters behind these stories are recognised by their peers with awards or accolades. But mostly, they’re not. These stories might not make a ripple outside their local communities or see a guilty man finally forced to answer for a decades-old crime, but they hold the power to change lives.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie