Lynette Dawson: Australian police dig for remains of missing woman in ‘Teacher’s Pet’ case
Police in Australia on Wednesday started to dig for the remains of Lynette Dawson after her mysterious disappearance 36 years ago was examined by a popular podcast.
Ms Dawson, a nurse and mother of two, disappeared in 1982 aged 33, two days before her husband, Chris Dawson, a sports teacher, moved his schoolgirl lover into his home.
Mr Dawson did not report his wife missing for six weeks and said he thought she might have run away to join a religious cult.
Police reportedly launched a fresh dig at the couple’s former home due to the public interest in the case after it was made the subject of a podcast, The Teacher’s Pet.
This follows a series of cases that have been freshly investigated or retried due to true crime series such as the podcast Serial and the television shows Making a Murderer and The Jinx, in which an American real estate heir appeared to accidentally “confess” to murder.
Announcing that the dig was underway in Sydney, police said they had begun a five-day search of the home in the affluent waterside suburb of Bayview and indicated they may wish to speak to Mr Dawson again even if the search finds nothing.
The search will cover four spots and involve digging by hand. "This is all about getting justice for Lyn," said Detective Superintendent Scott Cook.
"It is a complex block because it’s mostly rock. We’ll go to the bottom of the pool. At the end of the day, it’ll be a hand dig."
Asked if the renewed investigation was likely to lead to charges, he said: “Absolutely”.
Two coroners’ inquests into the case in 2001 and 2003 recommended that a "known person" be charged with murder.
Mr Dawson, a former professional rugby league player, has always insisted he was innocent.
His 16-year-old lover Joanne Curtis moved into the house after his wife’s disappearance and apparently wore Ms Dawson’s jewellery and clothes.
Mr Dawson and Ms Curtis were later married for six years and had a daughter before divorcing. Ms Curtis is not a suspect but has assisted with previous police inquiries.
She claimed to detective sergeant Damian Loone in a formal police interview in 1997 that she left Mr Dawson because he was allegedly violent.
During a police search of the house in 2000, Ms Curtis suggested to police to search around the swimming pool, where they found a cardigan of Ms Dawson’s that had cuts consistent with a stabbing.
Mr Dawson previously claimed his missing wife appeared in the audience on a 2006 episode of BBC programme Antiques Roadshow, pointing to the woman as proof that his former spouse was still alive.
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Her family disputed the claims the woman was Ms Dawson. Bob Gibbs, a former detective sergeant involved in the search that found the cardigan, said in the podcast that the discovery should have led to further digging but this had not been allowed because it would have involved a costly excavation.
“The holes in the cardigan are very consistent with knife marks,” he said.
Police began a fresh investigation of the case in 2015 before the launch of the podcast, which has been downloaded more than 18 million times.
In April, police sent a new brief of evidence to prosecutors and have indicated they were close to “finally solving this crime”.
“We’re still, with some passion, chasing the offender for this crime, and we sincerely hope that this year the matter will come to hopefully an end, a rather positive one,” New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told ABC Television. "We won’t give up."