A Bridge Too Far – The Teacher’s Pet – The Crown Case in Summary, and Why It is Doomed to Fail

It is the Crown case that Lynette Dawson was murdered by the applicant, either alone or with the assistance of another person, some time after she was last seen at the Warriewood child care centre by Annette Leary on the afternoon of Friday 8 January 1982 and after she was last spoken to by her mother, Helena Simms, by telephone on the evening of 8 January 1982.

While the Crown is unable to appoint the time of Lynette Dawson’s death, it is the Crown case that she was not alive on the afternoon of 9 January 1982. 

It is the Crown case that the applicant disposed of his wife’s body, possibly with the assistance of another person or people, at an unknown location after he killed her.


The prosecution say that Chris Dawson murdered his wife Lyn on the 8th of January 1982, at sometime between after she last spoke to her mother, which was in a phone call that ended around 8.45pm, and 12.00pm the next day.

They have no idea where he killed her, how did it, or where and how he disposed of her body, but they suspect that someone else – no name, unidentified – is likely to have assisted in the murder.


Why the second person has been brought into the equation when the prosecution cannot name him or her has me baffled. They have a hard enough task to prove that Dawson did it, let alone anyone else.

Not being able to point to a means of murder is a major problem too, for that creates doubt of and in itself.

How did he kill her? Did he shoot her, stab her, drug her, drown her, burn her, suffocate her, throw her in front of a car, set a pack of wolves on her, force her into a bathtub full of piranhas, call a goon squad of mean looking aliens to come over, pick Lyn up and fly her away to Mars?

Any of these possibilities and more can be true under the hypothesis that the Crown expect the judge to accept beyond a reasonable doubt, just as the means of disposal are.

How did Dawson get rid of the body? Did he bury it, burn it, hide it under a tree, leave it in the bush for dingoes to eat, send it out to sea in a speedboat with the steering set to Vanuatu, feed it to crocodiles or sharks, dissolve it in acid, cut it up into small pieces and flush it down the toilet, boil it and eat it, put it in a rocket and send it the moon, call dial a Mafia undertaker to take it away, wrap it up in Xmas paper and put it under Hannibal Lecter’s tree, wave a magic wand and say abracadabra and make it disappear?

The Crown say we don’t need to know that sort of detail. All the judge needs to know is that Lyn Dawson is dead, her husband killed her overnight, and that he vanished her lifeless body.

It’s a very hard thing to prove beyond a reasonable doubt when you have absolutely zero eye witnesses to the alleged murder, no body, no bloodstains, and no bloody idea how it all happened or where the corpse went.

The claimed time of the murder – between 8.45pm and 12.00pm – is a real problem too. Dawson had two young children aged 4 and 2 at the time who were home during the entire period that the crown say their father killed their mum. How did they not hear Dawson killing her? What did he do with the kids when he was disposing of the body? Did he leave them home alone? Did he call someone to babysit them while he went out to get rid of Lyn’s body? If so, who did he call?

There are so many questions, and almost no answers, and the Crown doesn’t intend to provide them. Again its just a case of Dawson doing it, and doing it between 8.45pm on the 8th of January and 12.00pm the next day.

Pinning themselves down to such a specific time frame is another major mistake for the Crown, for many reasons. Here are just two.

Chris Dawson was at work at the pool the next day and started about 8.00am, which narrows the timeframe for the murder and disposal of the body down to less than 12 hours. And how does one prove that Lynne Dawson was murdered within quite precise 12 hour window, without a body, confession or eyewitness?

I cannot see how on earth they are going to  do it. It was always going to be a difficult ask, but after what we have seen and heard so far in the trial I suspect that it may be impossible.

The Crown acknowledges that in order to make that case it is obliged to exclude any reasonable hypothesis consistent with the applicant’s innocence, inclusive of the hypothesis that is inherent in the applicant’s account to various people after 9 January 1982, including to investigating police in May 1991, that he spoke to his wife after her “disappearance”, ultimately accepting her unilateral decision to leave him and their children and thereafter to assume a false identity to conceal her whereabouts from them and from her friends and family.


In order to make its case the crown must prove that there is no chance whatsoever that that Lyn Dawson did leave her husband and family while she was alive, or that she committed suicide. In other words, they must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Dawson killed her.

The Crown also accepts the obligation of discounting any reasonable possibility that the various reported sightings of Lynette Dawson after 8 January 1982 are reliable and, in the case of a reported sighting by the applicant’s brother-in-law, Ross Hutcheon, around three to six months after Lynette Dawson’s “disappearance”, proving his claim to be deliberately false.


The prosecution must prove that there is no chance that any of the reported sightings of Lyn Dawson post 8 January 1982 are reliable.

It must specifically prove that the claim by Lyn Dawson’s brother in law Ross Hutcheon- who was married to Chris Dawson’s sister – that he saw Lyn some 3-6 months after the date she disappeared is an invention by him, and that he has lied about seeing her.


The evidence of  Dawson’s brother-in-law looks a bit shaky from what we have seen, but that given by former neighbours Jill and Peter Breese is going to be a whole lot harder for the prosecution to knock out, and it didn’t appear that they did the world’s best job of it while the Breese’s were on the stand.

That is not surprising, because the Breese’s have a lot going for them as credible witnesses. Here are the main points.

  • Mr Breese is a professional, a chartered accountant, so he would be expected to have an eye for detail.
  • Neither Breese has any connection to Chris Dawson other than that they were neighbours, on big lots where there wouldn’t be too much talking over the fence.
  • The couple have no skin in the game and can’t be chasing a reward, because their evidence leads to an acquittal not a conviction.
  • Mrs Breese went to police at the first available opportunity once she became aware that the police were interested in information about Lyn Dawson’s disappearance (this was about 2 1/2 years after she disappeared)
  • The couple’s explanation for not going to be police immediately when they sighted her in 1992 is inherently plausible. It’s simply because they didn’t know that she was a missing person.
  • Their sighting of Lyn Dawson was at a hospital, which is the setting in which the missing woman used to work for many years as a nurse.
  • Mr and Mrs Breese had seen Mrs Dawson just a month or two before her husband is alleged to have killed her, and the second (and relevant) post-death sighting was made just 8 months later.
  • Both of the couple had seen her in the hospital, but separately and a day apart, so the fact that they are married must be disregarded, for one corroborates the other but on different facts.
  • Their evidence is steadfast and they claim with certainty that the sighting did occur.

How does the Crown overcome this? It’s a huge mountain to climb to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Breese’s recollections are wrong, and if that cannot be proven by the Crown then the whole show is over.

It is the Crown case that the arpplicant’s claim to both his mother-in-law, Mrs Simms, and a family friend, Phillip Day, who had attended the Baths that day at the applicant’s invitation, that he received a phone call at the kiosk from his wife and that she would not be attending the Baths as arranged because she was with friends on the Central Coast is the first of a series of deliberate lies told by the applicant as part of a campaign of disinformation to attempt to innocently account for the sudden “disappearance” of his wife and to conceal the fact that he had killed her.

It is the Crown case that the telephone call to the Northbridge Baths (if the call was in fact received as the applicant claims) was either opportunistically seized upon by the applicant as a ruse to conceal his wife’s death or the call was deliberately placed by a third person to allow the lie to be told.


The prosecution say that Dawson either:

(a) did get a telephone call at work on the 9th of January when his mother was at the pool with him, his daughters and a family friend and then lied about whoever called him, claiming falsely that it was Lyn. This means of course that the crown must prove that it was not Lyn who called on that day; or

(b) that there was no phone call and he simply invented it to cover up the fact that Lyn was dead, killed by him (and perhaps another person).


It is a very wide bow that the prosecution are drawing, for there is quite a gulf between their two explanations, and they do not intend to prove which is right and which is wrong. They obviously can’t both be true: he either did or didn’t get a call.

It’s a very poor way to structure a murder case theory too, for it immediately creates doubt in a case where they are trying to prove that there is none.

Proving that Lyn Dawson didn’t make the call is also very tough. They have no body to show she was/is dead; there are no phone records to go back over and check; and there is no witness who can give definitive evidence that (a) Dawson didn’t receive a call, and (b) that it wasn’t Lyn who called.

So how are they going to prove it? It’s beyond me.

It is the Crown case that the primary motive for murder was the applicant’s desire to maintain a sexual relationship with JC, a schoolgirl he met in 1980 while teaching at Cromer High School, and to marry her. 

A secondary motive is alleged to be the applicant’s desire to secure the interest in the property at Bayview, valued at $250,000 in December 1981, and to secure custody of his children. 


Chris Dawson knocked off his wife so that he could shack up with the then very attractive Teacher’s Pet, who had a penchant for getting around the place topless or in the nude.

He also wanted the house and the kids, the easy way.


The desire to maintain a sexual relationship with Joanne Curtis is a very sound motive for murder, and given that this is exactly what happened the prosecution clearly hold the cards in this respect.

Securing the house is a plausible motive too, and that happened as well.

Wanting to get custody of the kids is a bit more problematic. It wasn’t something a lot of men did or were interested in doing back in 1982, when it was far more common – by a ration of about 9 to 1 – for women to have custody of the children in cases of marriage breakdown.

So why would Chris Dawson – who worked full-time as a teacher and had a second job as a lifeguard – want to have full custody of the kids? The evidence of the Pet herself is that she didn’t want his children, so if he was so keen on shacking up with her why would he go so far as to murder his wife so that he could foist their care on her? Like I said, it’s a rather problematic theory, and one with holes in it like Swiss Cheese.

The other issue is that if he had planned to murder Lyn and get the lot, why wouldn’t he have made sure that her life was insured? It would seem to make sense that he would have if he was cold-blooded enough to kill her.

It is the Crown’s case that Chris Dawson engaged a real estate agent to value the family home for sale just weeks before the alleged date of his wife’s disappearance, and that he did so without her knowledge. 


The bastard planned the whole thing, at least 3 weeks in advance.


Is it really that unusual that a husband who all the evidence says managed the household’s finances and wore the pants in the family (except when the Pet was around with her kit off) would take control of the dealings with the Real Estate agent? I would have thought it was something quite common, and have done it myself when we were buying and selling houses.

It is nonsensical really this aspect of the Crown’s case, as it means nothing.

It is also the Crown case that the applicant sought legal advice from his brother, Peter Dawson, about the financial implications of a separation and, ultimately, a divorce from his wife and that he was told he would lose a significant proportion of the matrimonial property should he be the person to leave to marriage.


Dawson was planning a divorce, and got legal advice from his brother on the sneak.


Maybe Dawson was planning to divorce Lyn. Given how the state of the marriage appears to have been, and the fact that he was keener on the Pet, would that be any real surprise to anyone? It appears to be quite the natural thing for Dawson to be considering, and he would have been one of more than 50 000 who decide to call it quits on their marriage each year. It would hardly make him a rarity.

And would it not be the natural thing to get free advice on such matters from your brother when he is a qualified and professional lawyer? Who else would you ask, especially during the Xmas period when all the lawyers offices are shut? There is nothing that points to any person being a murderer for doing that.

The bigger problem however is that Peter Dawson, a well respected lawyer with an abiding duty to the court, says he was not asked by his brother for legal advice on such a matter, and in the absence of any request he did not provide any such advice.

Who can possibly refute his evidence? There are no receipts because it was a freebie or did not happen, and the only parties allegedly involved were he and his brother, so they would be the only people who would know. Which means that the Crown case in this respect hinges on proving that an upright and honest lawyer of 50 years standing is lying to the very court that he has taken a vow of fidelity to, and is perjuring himself. In the absence of any evidence at all to prove that, how can the Crown do it? I would say they can’t.

Despite the applicant’s alleged musing about contracting a person to kill his wife being given considerable prominence in the podcast, it is not the Crown case that the applicant in fact contracted a person to kill his wife or that she was murdered under contract. The evidence of the applicant speaking about contracting a person to kill his wife is to be adduced at the applicant’s trial as tendency evidence. 


The prosecution is not saying that Dawson hired a hit man to knock off his wife, but rather that he had her murder on his mind, and that this proves it. 


This is where we move into Wonderland style theory.

Firstly, the only two people who are saying this with claimed first-hand knowledge of Dawson’s approaches to hit men are the Pet, who quite obviously has a very hostile attitude toward the accused after their acrimonious break up, and was not actually a witness to any such conversation that Dawson had with any hitman; and a shadowy witness named Robert Silkman, a convicted fraudster and crook that many – this author included – is merely after a slice of the $200 000 reward.

You will learn more about Silkman when he takes the stand for the day tomorrow, and not much of it will be very good. I have grave doubts that much of his evidence will be either, but let’s set that aside and see what comes.

There is a huge problem before he even starts, that being that Silkman says that Paul Dawson approached him about procuring a hit man in 1975. At this time the later Teacher’s Pet was about 10 years old, and was at least 5 years away from meeting Chris Dawson, or he her.

That presents us with a clearly polarised conflict between the Crown running a case based on the Teacher wanting to be with the Pet and killing to do so, and their use of Silkman’s claims as evidence of tendency when the primary motive being put forward for Dawson’s alleged crime is to get rid of A (his wife) so he could have B (the girl).

If there is no girl on the scene then why would he want to kill his wife? It doesn’t make sense at all, and I am certain that it is London to a brick on that Silkman is lying. I also don’t think that the Crown prosecution have though this one through properly. It might have been an emotive hook that might have helped them get a conviction over the line if Silkman’s evidence held up (fat chance), but the judge sitting alone will see straight through it, and the whole thing is going to do them a lot more harm than good in my view.

This prosecution is flawed in so many ways, and its seems right now that there is nothing that Crown have in their arsenal that can fix it. It’s too far gone.

It was before it started.

Here’s the betting market.

Guilty – $20.00

No case to answer (case struck out without having to be decided) – $1.80

Not guilty – $1.10 and firming.

Get on at the shorts while the price is still there.

It’s better than bank interest.


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