The niece of Lynette Dawson and The Teacher’s Pet podcast host Hedley Thomas have both spoken publicly about Chris Dawson‘s guilty verdict over the murder of Lynette in 1982.
Renee Simms spoke with Hit106.9 Newcastle’s breakfast team on Wednesday morning about the massive court appearance on Tuesday. She said it still feels surreal that a verdict was finally handed down about her aunt’s murder.
“Quite a few members of my family were there [in the court] and all of my immediate family were there,” she said.
“It was an incredibly tense five hours and I think we’re all going to be a bit sore today from holding ourselves so tightly. It was like a rollercoaster — sometimes it felt like it was going well, other times we definitely thought he was going to get off.
“It was really only in the last 15 minutes in the judgement that we realised how everything was going to go.”
Renee said her family has spent quite a bit of time with Hedley Thomas over the last few years as he researched and built The Teacher’s Pet. So much so that he had essentially become part of the family.
“He’s an honourary family member of ours so he was definitely with us last night when we had a toast to Lyn’s life,” she said.
“It’s kind of strange it’s not really a celebration because I don’t think any of us took any joy in seeing Chris Dawson taken off in handcuffs. That’s not something that is enjoyable for us to have seen.
“There’s no real winners here. It was more just a toast to Lyn’s life and to the fact that what we believed happened to her has been agreed upon.”
Renee revealed that she and the family listened to the The Teacher’s Pet podcast to learn new details about the disappearance of Lynette, which happened before Renee was even born.
“We didn’t know week to week what was going to be in the podcast,” she said.
“Hedley was literally discovering new things each week and we would listen and have no idea what was coming up. So we were learning things along with everyone else.”
Hedley Thomas spoke to Today to share his reaction to the verdict and how it felt to see his years of research and investigative journalism bring justice to Lynette’s death.
“Oh, look, it was an extraordinary day,” he said.
“It started very early because I couldn’t sleep, and, you know, I’m sure Lyn’s family were absolutely on tenterhooks waiting for the judgment.
“I felt enormous relief, and almost a sense that, for Lyn’s family and friends, really good friends on the Northern Beaches, her brother, Greg, and sister Pat, and all the other extended family members who’d been campaigning and trying for so long, they could start to get on with their lives.”
Thomas said watching Chris Dawson get walked away in handcuffs was a “brutal experience” after so many years of researching and detailing Lynette’s disappearance.
“It’s sorrowful when you see someone — even a cold-blooded killer like Chris Lawson who’s lied for four decades — when you see him handcuffed just a couple of metres away from where you’re sitting and led off and down into the cells,” he said.
“You know, it’s quite a brutal experience, not physically brutal, but it is powerful.”
Chris Dawson is expected to appeal his conviction at his yet-to-be-announced sentence hearing, where he is also expected to apply for bail.