Chris Dawson, who was arrested in 2018 after the true-crime podcast “The Teacher’s Pet” shed new light on the disappearance of his wife in 1982, was found guilty of her murder on Tuesday in an Australian court.
Mr. Dawson, 74, has denied killing Lynette Dawson, his high school sweetheart and the mother of their two daughters. She disappeared from a suburb in Sydney, Australia, but her body was never found. New evidence emerged after the podcast topped international charts, and Justice Ian Harrison of the New South Wales Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday after a three-month trial.
“None of the circumstances considered alone can establish Mr. Dawson’s guilt,” the judge said, according to The Guardian. “But when regard is had to their combined force, I am left in no doubt.”
Mr. Dawson’s lawyer, Greg Walsh, told reporters that he planned to appeal the conviction, according to Reuters.
The verdict ended a 40-year-old cold case that had long been a source of fascination and speculation in Australia. Mr. Dawson, a professional rugby player in the 1970s before he became a high school teacher, had said that his wife had abandoned her family.
Just days after Ms. Dawson’s disappearance, Mr. Dawson invited the couple’s 16-year-old babysitter, whom he met at the high school, to move into the family’s home, fueling speculation that he had murdered his wife to be with his young girlfriend. “The Teacher’s Pet,” produced by the journalist Hedley Thomas, went into deep detail about their relationships, casting further doubt on his innocence.
Investigators had long focused on Mr. Dawson. In 2001, a coroner’s inquest found that a “known” person had killed Ms. Dawson, and another inquest in 2003 recommended that Mr. Dawson be charged in her death. Officials declined to prosecute him, however, citing a lack of evidence.
The police opened another investigation in 2015, with officials submitting new evidence. In September 2018, officials excavated the Dawsons’ home in search of her body, which they did not find.
The release of the podcast in 2018 — topping charts in Australia, the United States and Canada with more than 28 million downloads that year — was not “crucial” to the investigation but helped uncover new evidence, the police said.
It did, however, cause the trial to be delayed, with defense lawyers citing a “media storm.” The Australian government made the podcast unavailable in the country in 2019 in an effort to ensure a fair trial.
The true-crime podcasting genre has occasionally influenced the course of justice. Last year, murder charges were dropped against a Mississippi man, Curtis Flowers, after a witness who claimed Mr. Flowers had made a jailhouse confession recanted his story during an interview with the podcast “In the Dark.”
And the popularity of “Serial” has helped one of its subjects, Adnan Syed, prolong appeals of his murder conviction. (The New York Times bought the company behind “Serial” in 2020.)
On Tuesday, Ms. Dawson’s brother, Greg Simms, told reporters that “this verdict is for Lyn.”
“Today her name has been cleared,” he said, according to The Guardian. “She loved her family and would have never left them of her own accord. Instead, her trust was betrayed by a man she loved.”
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