Jets players discussed Dawson allegedly wanting to ‘get rid of’ wife

A former Newtown Jets player says a teammate told him that,on their end-of-season trip in 1975,Chris Dawson had said he “wanted to get rid of his wife”,a court has heard.

Dawson,73,has pleaded not guilty to murdering his first wife,Lynette Dawson,who vanished from Sydney’s northern beaches in January 1982.

Chris Dawson (right) arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Friday with his older brother,Peter Dawson.

Chris Dawson (right) arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Friday with his older brother,Peter Dawson.Louise Kennerley

Giving evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday,Raymond Lee said he did not recall playing any Newtown Jets games with Chris Dawson or his twin brother,Paul Dawson,but players across the three grades at the club had travelled to the Gold Coast together in October 1975.

He recalled watching the “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier,broadcast in a Surfers Paradise beer garden. Lee said by that time he had known fellow player Robert Silkman for about three years from junior rugby league,and they had since maintained a friendship.

“I’ve known him for close to 50 years,” he said.

Witness Raymond Lee leaves the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

Witness Raymond Lee leaves the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.Nine News

Lee was asked by Crown prosecutor Craig Everson,SC,when the “topic of Chris Dawson” first came up in conversation between them in relation to their 1975 trip.

“I don’t really remember,but I do think it was on or around that time,possibly after that time,he said something to me about what Chris had said to him – allegedly said to him.”

Everson asked:“What did Robert Silkman tell you that Chris Dawson had said to him?”

“He said that he wanted to get rid of his wife,” Lee replied.

He said it did not come up often,but sinceThe Australian’sTeacher’s Pet podcast was released and “whenever it gained a bit of attention in the press,he[Silkman] might mention it again to me”.

Asked for clarification,Lee,now aged in his late 60s,estimated Silkman had first told him about the alleged conversation in the late 1970s. “I’d say we were in our 20s,” he said.

He said alcohol would have been consumed before and during flights as players “let their hair down”.

Under cross-examination from defence solicitor Greg Walsh,Lee accepted that he had no memory of seeing the Dawson twins on the trip or the words being said in his presence.

He said the brothers were “considered really good players” and “were the sort of guys that kept to themselves a lot”.

“Do you have any recollection of Chris Dawson,on this flight,walking down the aisle and approaching Robert Silkman?” Walsh asked.

“No,I don’t,” Lee replied.

Silkman previously gave evidence that Chris Dawson knelt down next to him on the return flight and “asked me did I know anyone that could get rid of his wife”.

“I was taken aback. I said,‘What do you mean?’ I said,‘For good?’ And he said,‘Yeah.’”

“I said,‘Look,I’ll talk to you when I get back to Sydney’,and that was the end of the conversation.”

Silkman said nothing else was said between them after that. He said he told Lee,who had been sitting next to him,he “wouldn’t believe what Chris just said”,and they agreed Dawson was “mad”.

Robert Silkman gave evidence earlier this month from Bankstown police station.

Robert Silkman gave evidence earlier this month from Bankstown police station.Nick Moir

Detective Senior Constable Mark O’Reilly said he worked with Silkman,a security manager,at a Qudos Bank Arena event in September 2018 when he started talking about two brothers from football.

“He recalled a time that he was on a plane and Chris Dawson had a conversation with him[and said] words to the effect,‘Do you know how to get rid of my wife?’ or similar,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly contacted State Crime Command and tracked down the officer-in-charge of the case,Detective Daniel Poole.

O’Reilly was asked by defence barrister Pauline David whether there had been an excavation occurring at a former Sydney home of Dawson’s when Silkman told him about the alleged remark.

“I believe so,” he replied.

He said the topic of a reward was not discussed. Silkman has denied any knowledge of a $200,000 reward for information.

The judge-alone trial before Justice Ian Harrison continues.

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Sarah McPhee is a court reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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