I was thinking this morning that a decision either way in the ‘Teacher’s Pet’ trial of Chris Dawson for killing his wife Lynette in 1982 would be surprising. As it happens, in a NSW Supreme Court finale brought on by Hedley Thomas’s now famous podcast, Justice Ian Harrison (sans jury) today found Dawson guilty of murder exclusively on the weight of circumstantial evidence. After 40 years – and without a body, forensics, documentary records (even bank statements) or eye-witnesses to the purported crime – yes, that is surprising. On the other hand, as many “gasps” would have been heard in the courtroom as were reported this afternoon had the former Newtown Jets journeyman and teacher, 73, been acquitted. That’s because he is very obviously a disreputable and mendacious sleazeball whose usurious ‘affair’ with a student and cruelty to a defenceless wife make his pleas of innocence hard to believe. The record will nevertheless show that justice has been done and Lyn’s loved ones have been given a very small measure of comfort knowing that the life of their mother and sister matters; that it was then, and is now, sacred.
“Christopher Michael Dawson, on the charge that, on or about 8 January, 1982, at Bayview or elsewhere in the state of NSW, you did murder Lynette Dawson. I find you guilty.”
Still, I am left with a few misgivings. I don’t believe the public’s appetite for a reckoning was of any interest to Justice Harrison but, in the absence of corporeal evidence in court, I wonder how many of the millions who followed this case like a mini-series are satisfied Dawson got what he deserved merely for being loathsome. Schadenfreude is an old human frailty but a very dangerous one when evinced by a mob and sold as either entertainment or revenge. Even if reservations are assuaged in this case by the tautness of the prosecution’s net and by Thomas’s acclaimed mastery, the Pell and #MeToo travesties prove that not all journalists, prosecutors or even judges are endowed with the intellect and ethical acumen to be fullbacks for the public interest in the game of life and crime. A free press that sometimes saves the day is vital but I remain suspicious of Perry Mason podcasting. ‘The Teacher’s Pet’ was very profitable for News Corp. That explains the lavishness of the spin-offs, Shandee’s Story and The War. Nine has Million Dollar Murders. Other media outfits have sought their own slice of true crime pie. For a while there, they were poring over old numbers for a smash hit like Jimmy Barnes. And it seems nothing is off limits. Instinct tells me goodness has won here but an exception to the rule must not obviate the rule.
So having the corpse is not required anymore? Are people not concerned that this sets a precedent? Circumstantial evidence is enough now?
It says more about Australia’s moronic worship of sportsmen than anything else. If he was treated like the average Joe Blow then the police would have looked into it at the time with great interest.
I always feel disquiet over trial by media.
And having seen Henley Thomas at work in media conferences, even more disquiet.
I make no assertion about the verdict but one thing is certain from this tawdry episode, that the child sex royal commission should be revisited to include public schools.
At the lower end of the scale, commercial evening news these days is like an episode of Rollerball – high speed smashes, stadium collapses, etc., of no news value whatever, but only on screen because these things are now caught on camera.
The Judge’s decsio0n took him over 5 hours. I think we can be confident he di his job.
It took five hours because judges are required to explain decisions in full in judge-only trials.
Recommended reading, in your local library, the Daniel Morcombe abduction and murder. Mum and Dad should be AOTY every year. The cops identified the likely killer very early on and set up an elaborate sting over an extended period. So the cops can if they try.
It also took him over 5 hours so the grounds for appeal would be very limited
A woman provided an alibi for Daniel Morcombe’s killer from memory. Seriously stuffed up the investigation early on.
Strange adults “educating” officially children about rooting , is the sickest sickness in this society. In 1000 years nations will talk about this sick shit, that it was state sanctioned, parent sanctioned, society sanctioned, like we talk about the degenerate ancient romans.
The “sexual revolution” was just boomers cover for them to use the apparatus of the state and consumer culture that they seized and occupied to groom then molest children and teens on an industrial scale. The late 1960’s – early 1980’s were the most evil period of time in modern anglo history.
Entropy – I agree. Heard H Thomas on ABC radio this morning with P Karvelas. L Milligan praised him on twitter after the interview.
Yep, Buccaneer and twostix. The industrial -scale abuse of students that Hedley Thomas exposed at Cromer and Beacon Hill high schools, and the revelations pouring out of the Tasmanian government inquiry into state institutions) just go to show what a corrupt leftist political scam Gillard’s hand-picked royal commission was. How much time did McClellan and co spend on hearings on state schools? Not one tenth of one second.
Did you see, by the way, that an ageing lezzo has just been convicted of abusing a student at Beacon Hill in the same period? By some miracle, even the SMH reported this – but of course not the ABC.
All the worst abusers were intentionally left out of the royal commission, ask any copper about which communities have the worst problem.
None of the copious analysis of the Dawson case has included any serious socio-cultural discussion of who the Dawson brothers really were. Sure, they’re misogynistic monsters now but back in the 70s they were exemplars of a new swinging, go-your-own-way morality that emerged from the 1960s. Everywhere at that time, ‘progressives’ were pushing for the removal of all sexual boundaries – including ages of consent.
Judgment by Harrison J https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/182ce1b4f92b95e18df67cb0