Infamous ex-school teacher Chris Dawson has been sentenced to a maximum 24 years in prison for murdering his wife Lynette in 1982. The man is 74 years old, so unless he lives ’til 98, it looks like he’ll die in jail.
Chris Dawson has been in custody since August after the NSW Supreme Court found him guilty in a judge-only trial. The Crown argued Dawson killed Lynette so he could have an “unfettered relationship” with his family’s teenage babysitter, JC. The girl moved into Dawson’s home and he married her after Lynette vanished. Her body was never found.
Justice Ian Harrison said today Lynette was “faultless and underserving of her fate”, per the ABC.
He said Dawson resolved to kill his wife because losing JC “distressed, frustrated and overwhelmed” him. The judge described his need to be with the teenager as an “uncontrollable desire”.
Dawson was sentenced to a maximum 24 years in prison with a non-parole period of 18 years. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2040, when he would be 92 years old.
“Mr Dawson is not old by contemporary standards, but the reality is he will not live to reach the end of his non-parole period, or will alternatively, by reason of his deteriorating cognitive condition and physical capacity, become seriously disabled before then even if he does,” Justice Harrison said.
“I recognise that the unavoidable prospect is that Mr Dawson will probably die in jail.”
Dawson was charged with his wife’s murder in 2018. He pleaded not guilty and has always maintained his innocence.
His legal team argued there was another potential explanation for Lynette’s disappearance: that she found out about his inappropriate feelings toward JC and simply left. The court obviously thought otherwise.
Chris Dawson’s daughter begged him to reveal where her mother’s body was hidden in a powerful victim statement read to her father’s hearing in November earlier this year. It was one of many submissions which Justice Harrison heard to determine how long Dawson should spend behind bars.
Per The Australian, Shanelle Dawson held eye contact with her father as she stood at the stand. He then looked down and stared at his hands as she spoke.
“The night you removed our mother from our lives was the night you destroyed my sense of safety and belonging in this world for many decades to come,” Shanelle told her father.
“Because of your selfish actions, we will never see her again… feel her hold us or hear her laugh.
“There are not enough words in the English language to describe the impact of 41 years of deceit, trauma, being silenced and gaslighted.”
Shanelle was four when her mother disappeared from Sydney’s Northern Beaches in January 1982. Her sister was two.
She told her father about the “massive grief” she has carried following her mother’s murder, and the pain she has experienced growing up without her.
“No mother to cuddle me when I’m hurt or sad. No mother to help or advise me,” she said.
“No mother to be a role model for my own mothering. No weekly home-cooked meals to return to.
“You took that away and so much more and you have no right to. You are not God.”
The court heard about the harrowing moment Shanelle told her young daughter what her grandfather had done.
“I had to explain to my beautiful, innocent daughter why her grandfather killed her grandmother,” she said, per the ABC.
“She kept asking, ‘Why did he do that?’ The same question that’s tortured me for many years.
“Why didn’t you just divorce her? Because of money? For God’s sake.”
As Dawson sat silently in the dock, his daughter asked him one last question.
“Please tell us where she is,” Shanelle said.
“I hope you will finally admit the truth to yourself and give us the closure we need.”