It was the true crime podcast heard and devotedly followed by a staggering 30 million listeners around the world – and one that has finally brought a killer to justice after 40 years.
The Teacher’s Pet, started in 2018 by Australia’s Hedley Thomas, held the key to justice when Chris Dawson was caught up in the 1982 murder of his wife Lynette.
On Tuesday, Dawson, 74, was found guilty of murder although his wife’s body was never found, with Judge Ian Harrison highlighting the role the podcast had played in the re-inquest.
“I’m sure that has changed this whole case massively,” Lynette’s sister-in-law, Merilyn Simms, said on the podcast on the steps of the Sydney Supreme Court.
Standing next to Lynette’s family, Thomas delivered a compelling statement about the world that existed in Sydney in the 1970s and 80s that allowed Dawson to escape justice.
“Let’s remember that it took 40 years for this to happen,” he said. “Chris Dawson should have been charged 40 years ago.
“He had 40 years of his life to enjoy without being responsible for what happened. That’s shameful.
Teacher’s Pet – created in 2018 by journalist Hedley Thomas (pictured) – was key in the courts finally catching up with Chris Dawson for the murder of his wife Lynette decades earlier
“Chris faces the rest of his life in prison. He is 74 years old. So he’ll no doubt fight – but he’s also had 40 years of freedom.
Thomas said he was pushed to investigate the case because of the apparent injustice.
“Your story seemed so unfair to me at the time, so unfair,” Thomas said. “It’s just such a privilege to have had this opportunity. I feel incredibly lucky.
“I feel like I even met her. Although I never could have known – I was 16 when she disappeared.”
Thomas could now be in line for the $200,000 reward the NSW state government offered in 2014 for new information leading to the killer’s conviction.
The podcast began four years ago and re-investigated 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 review of the police investigation in a 14-part podcast, followed by two more episodes later in 2018 when Dawson was eventually charged, and then a special update episode in 2019.
Due to the upcoming court case, the podcast has been taken offline so as not to interfere with the legal process.
Chris Dawson, 74, was found guilty of murder although his wife’s body was never found, with Judge Ian Harrison highlighting the role the podcast had played
Lynette Dawson disappeared aged 34 while her teacher husband was having an illicit affair with the family’s 16-year-old babysitter
Judge Harrison acknowledged that it was vital to the cold case’s resumption, but admitted that it had a “less than balanced” view of Dawson’s role in his wife’s murder.
But it was paramount for police to restart their investigation into the mystery and Dawson’s conviction for Tuesday’s murder.
Thomas won a Gold Walkley for the podcast series, which judges called “a masterclass in investigative journalism,” but Dawson’s legal team said it was denying her client a fair trial.
“I think it’s true, I’m obsessed with it,” Thomas admitted after the verdict.
“You only get a case like Lynn Dawson’s once in a lifetime. She’s such an incredible woman. She must have been a wonderful mother, extremely devoted.
“We had some incredible challenges along the way. We must acknowledge the incredible work prosecutors have done to finally bring this case home.
“A lot of criticism was leveled at the police investigations early on.
Lynn Dawson disappeared while her husband Chris, a school teacher, 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 was key in Chris Dawson’s conviction
“Lynn Dawson was missing for eight years and was treated only as a runaway mother for that time when circumstances were so extremely suspicious.
“That wouldn’t happen today. If something like that happened today, there would be a StrikeForce that would be deployed today.
“And there would be a very strong focus on the spouse. But that didn’t happen. And I think that’s a reflection of society and how far things have come.’
Thomas now hopes the podcast will be restored so new listeners can hear how the case unfolded.
He added: “No journalist likes to see that – journalism censored, removed. That’s a little above my pay grade, but I hope so…I would push for it.