The popularity of The Australian’s podcast Teacher’s Pet by Hedley Thomas, about the 1982 disappearance and suspected murder of 33 -year-old Sydney mother-of-two Lyn Dawson, has given her family hope her body may be found.
Teacher’s Pet has reached 10 million downloads and is currently number 1 on Apple’s iTunes podcast charts in Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
An award winning journalist, Thomas first wrote about the case in 2001 and has spent the past six months researching and investigating the case. He says all of the evidence points to Lyn’s husband Chris being involved in her “probable murder”.
Chris vehemently denies any involvement in Lyn’s disappearance.
David Jenkins, the eldest son of Lyn’s sister Pat Jenkins, told Dscribe the popularity of the podcast had been “incredible”, but said the family was “cautiously hopeful” that the case would be resolved and Lyn’s body would be found, despite the disappointments of the coronial inquests.
“It would be nice to think we could find Lyn, she has been missing a long time now and it would be nice to have it back and have her laid to rest properly.
It would be the ultimate demonstration that she didn’t leave,” David said.
Chris, a former first-grade rugby player for the Newtown Jets and Physical Education teacher at Cromer High, was allegedly having an affair with year 11 student, 16-year-old Joanne Curtis at the time of Lyn’s disappearance.
The podcast highlights that early police investigations appeared lacklustre and David said the apparent mishandling of the case was “frustrating” because police “empathised more with the abandoned husband than the missing wife”.
“We didn’t know what to do, when someone goes missing in your family that’s something that most people don’t have to deal with but we thought the police did,” he said.
Teacher’s Pet uncovered Chris’s missing 1982 police statement, where he says he is being advised on procedure by a detective sergeant at Manly Police.
At the time of Lyn’s disappearance, Chris and his brother Paul were considered sporting celebrities on the Northern beaches, known for their good looks and charisma and had friends in the police force who they had played rugby with.
Listening to parts of the podcast has made David’s “blood boil” at times, he says, particularly hearing the 1975 audio from the ABC show Checkerview, where Chris and his identical twin brother Paul, along with his wife Marilyn and Lyn talk about the brothers’ relationship as twins.
“There is a film of them all eating a meal together and you look at that and think Lyn was betrayed by the other people sitting around the table, these were the people that she trusted and had a life with,” David said.
Only nine-years-old when his aunty went missing, David recalls her as a kind, happy, warm, caring person with a “sparkle in her eye” and says it has never made sense that she would leave her children.
“I have a memory of her at her family house where I thought I had damaged a window, I must have been 6 or 7-years-old and I remember she came over and she was really comforting and gave me a big hug and said ‘don’t worry about it, we can fix it’.”
Often the Jenkins would go on a holiday over the Christmas period, but when Chris told the family in early January 1982 that Lyn had left to head North they stayed put hoping she would walk through their door.
When Joanne, Chris’ former high school lover-turned-wife and mother to his child, left him and in the early 1990s and contacted Lyn’s family they began to become suspicious that Chris was involved in Lyn’s disappearance.
The family maintained a relationship with Lyn’s two children Shanelle and Sherryn after their mum’s disappearance, seeing them most Christmas’ but Chris kept his distance, particularly from Lyn’s parents.
David credits Thomas with bringing Lyn “back to life” in Teacher’s Pet, through speaking with her friends and family, “giving her substance so that she is more than just a victim or a name, she is a person who has had this done to her”.
The podcast has also revealed widespread accusations of teachers sexually assaulting students in the 1980s on the Northern beaches of Sydney, which has resulted in the development of ‘Strike force Southwood’ to investigate the claims.
It is suggested throughout the podcast that Lyn’s body could be buried under the “soft soil” at the Bayview house that Lyn and Chris lived in at the time of her disappearance.
Australia currently has 2000 long-term missing people and 500 remains of people who have not been identified.
If you have any information regarding Lyn Dawson’s disappearance you can contact the police or crime stoppers 1800 333 000.