The Australian’s podcast Teacher’s Pet, written by Hedley Thomas, investigates the 1982 disappearance and suspected murder of 33-year-old Sydney mother-of-two Lyn Dawson and details the alleged mishandling of the case by police.
Teacher’s Pet has amassed five million downloads taking it to the top of the Apple iTunes podcast charts in Australia and the U.S.
Coronial inquests in 2001 and 2003 found Lyn’s husband Chris had murdered her, yet no charges have been laid.
Chris, a former first grade rugby league star and physical education teacher at Cromer High School on the Northern beaches, claimed his wife ran off with a “religious cult”. Lyn has not been heard from or seen since 1982.
At the time of Lyn’s disappearance, Chris was having an affair with 16-year-old Joanne Curtis, the family baby sitter and his Year 11 student at Cromer High, who subsequently moved into the family home two days after Lyn vanished.
Hedley, a Walkley award-winning journalist, told D*scribe he was certain Chris was guilty as the evidence he uncovered all pointed to Chris being involved in Lyn’s disappearance.
“I believe that Chris Dawson has got away with murder and that’s an unusual thing for a journalist to say but I think, in this case, there are unusual features and they are that the two coroners came to the same view and they studied all the evidence and I’m simply agreeing with them,” Hedley said.
Teacher’s Pet has interviewed several witnesses who claim Chris was abusive and threatened Lyn’s life before she disappeared.
Chris played for the Newtown Jets in the rugby league national competition along with his identical twin brother Paul, who he had a close relationship with. The brothers were seen as local celebrities on New South Wales’ northern beaches, known for their charisma and handsome looks and were highly regarded by some members of the police force in the area.
“One of the detectives in the homicide squad, who himself was a rugby league tragic who was involved in this investigation early on, told me undoubtedly that kind of celebrity would influence younger junior cops,” Hedley said.
Hedley uncovered a 1982 written statement by Chris that had been lost by police that said he was being advised by a detective sergeant from Manly on procedure following Lyn’s disappearance.
Throughout the Teacher’s Pet series, Hedley has attempted to delve into police corruption and mishandling of the case in the 1980s but said it was a difficult task following the deaths of many police involved, including the Manly detective who Chris mentioned in his statement.
“I do think Lyn Dawson and her family have been let down by police and the justice system and they need to see some justice, it’s been very badly handled by different people over the years,” Hedley said.
Teacher’s Pet has also aired claims of widespread child sexual abuse allegedly committed by 20 teachers, including Chris, against students aged 13 to 17 years in the Northern beaches areas in the 1980s.
New South Wales detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad and Northern Beaches Police have established Strike Force Southwood to investigate these claims.
Hedley was “shocked” by the number of alleged assaults and teachers involved and said, while it wasn’t directly related to Lyn’s “probable murder”, it was important to cover and it suggested there was a culture at the time at the schools that must have made these teachers feel they could get away with anything.
“Until those students started talking to me about what they knew of, it appears to be isolated to a few teachers … but I just didn’t know there would be so much more and I was very surprised and I think it’s larger than what we now believe, in terms of the number of schools up on those northern beaches and the number of people who would have been involved.” Hedley said.
Hedley became interested the case when he first wrote about it in 2001 and hopes by bringing the story of Lyn’s disappearance to life he might be able to make a difference in solving the case.
Chris Dawson has denied having any involvement in his wife’s disappearance.
If you have any information regarding Lyn Dawson’s disappearance you can contact the police or crime stoppers.