New information has emerged that raises more questions over Chris Dawson’s role in the disappearance of his wife, Lynette, more than 36 years ago. It also alleges he considered hiring a hitman to kill her.
The Teacher’s Pet true-crime podcast, which investigates the cold case, has uncovered an old police interview given by Chris’ second wife, Joanne Curtis, in the 1990s. Joanne, a former Cromer High student—who at the time of Lyn’s disappearance was just 16 and having an illicit affair with Chris, her former sports teacher— recounted how he assured her that his wife was gone for good. “All I know was, she’d gone, he had said right from the word go, ‘She’s not coming back. Lyn’s gone, she’s not coming back.’
That’s just what he said, so I believed him,” she told police. In the 2003 coronial inquest into the case, Joanne further explained how former footy star Chris had looked into hiring someone to murder his wife. “He came back to me and said: ‘I went inside to get a hitman to kill Lyn, but I decided I couldn’t do it because innocent people would be killed,’ ” Joanne said.
This latest twist comes as Nine Network’s A Current Affair confronted Chris near his Sunshine Coast home about the allegations he murdered his wife. Chris, who was filmed alongside his identical twin, Paul, told reporter Chris Allen, “I have nothing to hide” and that he was “very pleased” police had passed the case back to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the segment, ACA repeated the claim made to police by Joanne that she’d had sex with both brothers at the same time, in a bid to strengthen her relationship with Chris. The alleged affair between Joanne and Chris had begun when she was 16 years old and in Year 11. At the time, Paul was a sports teacher at Forest High School, and it’s alleged in the podcast that he also had sexual relations with his students, although he’s always denied this.
Interest in the disappearance of 33-year-old Lyn has magnified in the past few months due to the popularity of The Teacher’s Pet podcast, which has surpassed 14 million downloads. The podcast claims that up to 20 Sydney high school teachers groomed students for sex during the 1980s. Lyn, a photogenic northern beaches housewife and mother of two, was last seen in January 1982 before vanishing without a trace. There have been no confirmed sightings of her since.
Days after Lyn went missing, Joanne moved into the couple’s Bayview house and, having already been their babysitter, now took up a
de facto role as the children’s stepmother. Chris, meanwhile, waited six weeks to report his wife missing. He explained Lyn’s absence by suggesting she may have joined a religious cult. However, he did admit that they had been having difficulties in their 12-year marriage and on one occasion, just weeks before Lynette’s disappearance, had seen a counsellor.
According to friends who were interviewed for the podcast, Lyn had become suspicious of her husband’s relationship with Joanne, whom he went on to marry in January 1984. The teenager had lived with them after being evicted from her family home, although at the time of Lyn’s disappearance she had moved out again.
Friends and family also say they suspected Chris of using coercive control and violence against his wife and report seeing bruises on her body. After Joanne left Chris in the early 1990s, she told police Chris was manipulative and violent towards her and urged them to search the Bayview home’s garden for Lyn’s body.
No remains were found and despite coronial investigations in 2001 and 2003 finding it likely Lyn was murdered by a “known person” and recommending Chris be charged, police have always cited a lack of evidence. Lyn’s family insist the childcare worker would never have willingly or purposefully left her two girls—the then 4-year-old Shanelle and 2-year-old Sherryn.
In 2014, Detective Sergeant Damian Loone, who led the case, confirmed, “We think it’s highly unlikely that Lyn staged her own disappearance. She had so much to live for.” At that time, however, despite a public plea for answers from Lyn’s brother, Greg Simms, chief suspect Chris refused to talk to police about the case.
With more evidence being revealed in the 14-part podcast, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has apologised for police having “dropped the ball” in the past. He confirmed in the podcast’s final episode, released on Aug. 17, that an investigation team will conduct a new dig for Lyn’s remains at her former Bayview home. If needed, he has pledged the team will use radar technology and cadaver dogs.
In July, as a result of other evidence uncovered in the podcast, an investigation was announced. A sex crimes taskforce was set up to investigate the allegations against the teachers.