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How Hedley Thomas’s Teacher’s Pet podcast brought justice for Lynette Dawson’s murder

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It was the true crime podcast heard with devotion and followed by a staggering 30 million listeners around the world – and one that finally brought a murderer to justice after 40 years.

Founded in 2018 by Hedley Thomas of Australia’s The Australian, The Teacher’s Pet was key to getting right to catch up with Chris Dawson for the 1982 murder of his wife Lynette.

On Tuesday, Dawson, 74, was found guilty of the murder, although his wife’s body has never been found, with Judge Ian Harrison highlighting the role the podcast had played in the re-investigation.

“I’m sure that made a huge difference in this whole thing,” Lynette’s sister-in-law Merilyn Simms said of the podcast on the steps of the Supreme Court in Sydney.

Standing with Lynette’s family, Thomas made a compelling statement about the world that existed in Sydney in the 1970s and 1980s, allowing Dawson to escape justice.

“Let’s not forget it took 40 years for this to happen,” he said. Chris Dawson should have been indicted 40 years ago.

“He’s had 40 years of life that he’s been able to enjoy without taking any responsibility for what happened. That’s disgraceful.

Teacher’s Pet – started in 2018 by journalist Hedley Thomas (pictured) – was key to the courts that finally caught up with Chris Dawson for the murder of his wife Lynette decades earlier

“Chris will spend the rest of his life in prison. He is 74 years old. So no doubt he will struggle – but he’s also had 40 years of freedom.”

Thomas said he was driven to investigate the matter because of the obvious injustice.

“Her story struck me at the time so unjust, so unfair,” Thomas said. “It’s such a privilege to have had that opportunity. I feel incredibly happy.

“I feel like I even got to know them. Although I could never have known – I was 16 when she disappeared.’

Thomas could now qualify for the $200,000 reward that the NSW state government posted in 2014 for new information leading to the killer’s conviction.

The podcast started four years ago and explored the mysterious disappearance of the former Australian rugby league star’s wife in 1982.

Lynette disappeared without a trace at the age of 34 while her husband, a teacher, was having an illegal affair with the family’s 16-year-old babysitter.

Thomas launched a forensic re-examination of the police investigation in a 14-part podcast that was followed by two more cases later in 2018 and then a special update episode in 2019 when Dawson was finally charged.

Due to the pending lawsuit, the podcast has been taken offline to avoid compromising the legal process.

Chris Dawson, 74, was found guilty of the murder, although his wife's body has never been found, with Judge Ian Harrison spotlighting the podcast's role

Chris Dawson, 74, was found guilty of the murder, although his wife’s body has never been found, with Judge Ian Harrison spotlighting the podcast’s role

Lynette Dawson disappeared at age 34 while her teacher husband had an illegal affair with the family's 16-year-old babysitter

Lynette Dawson disappeared at age 34 while her teacher husband had an illegal affair with the family’s 16-year-old babysitter

Justice Harrison acknowledged it was pivotal in reopening the cold case, but admitted it had a “less than balanced” view of Dawson’s role in his wife’s murder.

But it was crucial for the police to relaunch their investigation into the mystery and conviction of Dawson for Tuesday’s murder.

Thomas won a Gold Walkley for the podcast series, with judges calling it “a masterclass in investigative journalism,” but Dawson’s legal team said it would deny their client a fair trial.

“I think it’s true, I’ve become obsessive about it,” Thomas admitted after the verdict.

“You only get a case like Lynn Dawson’s once in your life. She is such an incredible woman. She must have been a wonderful mother, extremely devoted.

“We’ve had some incredible challenges along the way. We must recognize the incredible work the prosecutors have done to finally bring this case home.

“The police investigation has rightly been criticized early on.

Lynn Dawson disappeared while her teacher, husband Chris was having an illicit affair with the family's 16-year-old babysitter (pictured), identified only as JC

Lynn Dawson disappeared while her teacher, husband Chris was having an illicit affair with the family’s 16-year-old babysitter (pictured), identified only as JC

Lynette Dawson's sister-in-law Merilyn Simms said on the steps of the Sydney Supreme Court that the podcast had been key to Chris Dawson's conviction

Lynette Dawson’s sister-in-law Merilyn Simms said on the steps of the Sydney Supreme Court that the podcast had been key to Chris Dawson’s conviction

‘Lynn Dawson was missing for eight years and was treated like a runaway mother for that time when the circumstances were so seriously suspicious.

“It wouldn’t happen today. If something like this happened today, there would be a StrikeForce today.

“And there would be a very strong focus on the husband. But that didn’t happen. And I think that’s a reflection of society, and how far it’s come.’

Thomas now hopes the podcast will be reinstated so new listeners can hear how things unfolded.

He added: “No journalist likes to see that – journalism censored, removed. That’s slightly above my salary, but I hope so…I’d push for it.’

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