Teacher’s Pet case: Podcast subject Chris Dawson sentenced to 24 years for murder of wife

Case against Australian was reopened after the 2018 hit podcast examined 1982 death of his wife Lynette Dawson

An Australian former high schoolteacher who was the subject of a hit podcast was sentenced on Friday to 24 years in jail for murdering his wife 40 years ago.

The cold case against Christopher Dawson was reopened after the 2018 The Teacher’s Pet podcast put pressure on the police to revisit their investigation of the death of his wife, Lynette.

The 74-year-old, in failing health, was told by the judge he will “probably die in jail”. He will be 92 when he is first eligible for parole after 18 years in prison, in August 2040.

His sentencing comes after a decades-long campaign for justice.


Dawson was found guilty in August this year of murdering his wife in 1982 in order that he might have an unfettered relationship with a high school student who was also his babysitter, anonymised before the court as JC.

His wife, Lynette, went missing from the couple’s marital home on Sydney’s northern beaches in January 1982. Her body has never been found despite extensive police searches.

Her family has pleaded with Dawson to reveal where her body is.

Lynette’s disappearance was the subject of the globally successful podcast The Teacher’s Pet, which was downloaded more than 28 million times around the world and was seen as critical in reanimating stalled police investigations and bringing pressure to bear on authorities to lay charges.

Dawson, also a former rugby league player, argued the widespread notoriety brought by the podcast meant he could not receive a fair trial.

On Friday in the New South Wales supreme court, Dawson heard his sentence in silence, sitting alone in the dock, wearing a green prison-issue tracksuit.

Justice Ian Harrison told the court Dawson killed his wife for the “selfish and cynical purpose” of allowing him an unfettered relationship with JC.

“Lynette Dawson was faultless and undeserving of her fate ... she was also completely unsuspecting. Lynette Dawson was treated by her husband ... as completely dispensable.”

The judge said he could not say how Lynette Dawson died but said he was satisfied her husband killed her in their home. He described Dawson’s crime as premeditated and planned, a “self-indulgent brutality”.

In handing down his sentence, the judge said he took into account Dawson’s age and failing health.

“Mr Dawson is not old by contemporary standards but the reality is that he will not live to reach the end of his non-parole period. I recognise that the unavoidable prospect is that Mr Dawson will probably die in jail.”

Over four decades, three separate police investigations were opened into Lynette’s disappearance and murder. Two inquests recommended charges be laid, one recommending charges against Chris Dawson. It was not until 2018 that he was finally charged with murdering his wife, however.

Outside the court, Lynette’s brother Greg Simms condemned the man who murdered his sister, and rejected his name.

“Chris Dawson discarded her, the Dawsons disregarded her. From today, we would like her to be remembered as Lynette Joy Simms.”

Mr Simms said no sentence could ever be long enough for deliberately taking another person’s life, “but we hope Chris Dawson lives a long life in order to serve that sentence”.

“We really didn’t believe this day would ever come. What we need now is to find Lyn and put her to rest.”

Mr Simms said he did not expect Dawson to ever reveal the location of his sister’s body, saying she would only be discovered “if someone comes across a grave or human remains”.

Dawson has filed an appeal against his conviction, expected to be heard next year. – Guardian