Chris Dawson: the footy player, babysitter and missing wife

Inside the months leading up to Lynette Dawson’s disappearance and what we have been told in court after two weeks of Chris Dawson’s murder trial.

In 1981, in the hallways and grounds of the Sydney northern beaches school where Chris Dawson taught, the rumours, innuendo and taunts began to fly.

More than 40 years on, the NSW Supreme Court has heard that Mr Dawson – a former star rugby league player-turned-physical education teacher – had in the year preceding grown close to a female student.

The teenager – who can only be known as JC – would go on to become a babysitter for Mr Dawson and his wife Lynette.

The court also heard she would later move into his Bayview home as a live-in babysitter, before ultimately moving into the Gilwinga Drive house as his lover following Lynette’s disappearance in January 1982.

Mr Dawson is on trial for allegedly murdering his wife Lynette, accused of killing her and dumping her body, motivated by his desire to have “unfettered access” to the young girl.

The 73-year-old has pleaded not guilty.

Through his lawyers, he has argued he had no reason to want to kill his wife and that there had been several sightings of her since she vanished.

He has said that on January 9, 1982, he drove her to the Mona Vale bus stop so she could go shopping, however she failed to meet him at the Northbridge Baths as planned.

This is what we have seen in court following the second week of trial.

THE POLICE

JC’s sister has told the court that in 1981, she was taunted in the schoolyard by other students.

They would sing to her lyrics from the song Don’t Stand So Close to Me by The Police.

“It made me cringe,” JC’s sister told the court, adding she knew they were referring to JC and Mr Dawson.

“Young teacher, the subject of schoolgirl fantasy, she wants him so badly, knows what she wants to be,” Sting sings in the song.

JC has told the court that when she was living with the Dawsons as their live-in babysitter in 1981, Chris would mix an alcoholic drink for Lynette, wait for her to fall asleep after which she would have sex with him.

The court has also heard that JC would swim topless in their backyard and walk around the pool area in only a G-string.

“INSTALLED”

Justice Ian Harrison, who is presiding over the judge-alone trial, has heard that JC had a troubled home life, due to, according to evidence she gave in court, an alcoholic and violent mother and stepfather.

That led to her taking up Mr Dawson’s offer to live at Bayview while she completed her HSC.

“I think I had nowhere else to go, and he said ‘I will take care of you and someone to take care of me’,” JC told the court explaining her state of mind to Christmas 1981 when she and Mr Dawson set out for Queensland to start a new life.

However shortly into the journey, JC has said, she asked for Mr Dawson to turn the car around and return to Sydney because she missed her family.

In the new year, she holidayed with friends and family at a South West Rocks caravan park.

She said that around January 10 or 11, Mr Dawson drove up to the NSW Mid North Coast to collect her.

It’s alleged that Ms Dawson was murdered on or about January 8.

Mr Dawson’s lawyers dispute the timing, arguing Mr Dawson traveled up to South West Rocks several days later.

JC has said she was driven back to Sydney where she was “installed” in his home to cook, clean and look after his two young children.

She went on to marry Mr Dawson in 1984 before later splitting in acrimonious circumstances in 1990.

During the course of her evidence to the NSW Supreme Court, JC said that during her marriage she was the victim of domestic violence including one incident in which Mr Dawson ripped off a G-string she was “parading” for him.

JC said that Mr Dawson had become angry when he told her to only wear the underwear in front of him.

“There was an incident with a G-string that involved Mr Dawson pulling it from the back in the context of you mucking around,” Mr Dawson’s barrister Pauline David said.

“No,” JC replied.

“There was no violence associated with any G-string incident,” Ms David said.

“There was, I was there,” JC said.

MUD

A series of witnesses have also testified that they either witnessed, or were told of incidents of Mr Dawson being aggressive or violent towards Lynette before her disappearance.

Mr Dawson’s lawyers have disputed those allegations.

Anne Grantham, who worked with Lynette at the Warriewood Children’s Centre, said that on one occasion she saw Mr Dawson acting “aggressive” towards his wife.

“I said to her that Chris appeared to be aggressive and I was surprised because she said to me ‘he can be very aggressive towards me’,” Ms Grantham said.

“She said he grabbed her by the back of her hair and he pressed her on the floor, on the mud, with her face.”

She added: “Lyn said she couldn’t breathe, she was gasping for breath.”

Ms David suggested that the incident has been told to her by someone else or she had created it in her mind – a suggestion rejected by Ms Grantham.

THE TENNIS CLUB

Roslyn McLoughlin, who regularly played tennis with Lynette alongside a group of friends in Bayview, said she last saw Ms Dawson during a social game in the week leading up to Christmas 1981.

Ms McLoughlin said that on that occasion, Ms Dawson appeared “quite distressed” and was begging her to come to her house for coffee.

“She was really wanting me to go back to her place for a coffee after tennis,” Ms McLoughlin said.

Ms McLoughlin said she declined Ms Dawson’s repeated invitations because it was the week before Christmas and she had family duties to attend to.

She said Ms Dawson “was begging me” to come to her place and at the same time noted several bruises on Lynette’s upper arms and thighs.

“She had shorts on the bottom and that showed some bruising,” Ms McLoughlin said.

“She had probably a large grapefruit-sized bruise on her thigh. And I do not know whether it was both her upper arms or just one of her, but she had some bruises on her arms.”

Under cross examination from Ms David, she admitted Ms Dawson did not say how she came to be bruised.

“LIKE A RAG DOLL”

A then-teenager, who can only be known as BM, was a student at the school where Mr Dawson taught.

She also babysat for the Dawsons – prior to JC becoming their babysitter – for several years while she completed high school.

BM told the court that she witnessed one incident in which she saw Mr Dawson grab Ms Dawson by the arm and swing her into a frame.

“I saw Chris Dawson grabbing Lynette by the top of her arm and basically swinging her into the bedroom in an angry, forceful act,” BM said.

“Lynette was almost like a rag doll because he was a lot bigger. As he grabbed her and swung her, she actually collected her door frame with her shoulder and possibly her head.”

Ms David suggested that BM was exaggerating the stories to make herself “relevant” and claimed that she was influenced by the Teacher’s Pet podcast.

BM also told the court of a separate incident in early 1980 when she said Mr Dawson reduced his wife to tears by flicking her with a tea towel after he was angered by a dirty glass.

“I kind of put my arm over her shoulder and realized she was crying,” BM said.

The trial will continue on Monday.

Originally published as Inside the months leading up to Lynette Dawson’s disappearance

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