Chris Dawson said wife Lynette left him to join commune,court hears

Decades after Lynette Dawson disappeared,Chris Dawson allegedly told a woman his first wife left him to join a commune in the Blue Mountains,a court has heard.

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

Chris Dawson arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Monday.

Chris Dawson arrives at the NSW Supreme Court on Monday.Peter Rae

In the NSW Supreme Court on Monday,Kay Sinclair said she had met Dawson and his twin brother Paul at a living wake for friend Phillip Day in 2007,attended by former Sydney Boys High School prefects including her husband.

Asked by Crown prosecutor Craig Everson,SC,about her conversation with Dawson that day,Sinclair said they discussed marriage,and Dawson said he had been married before and had children.

“He said that his wife had left him to join either a commune or something like that in the Blue Mountains.”

“I said,‘what sort of mother would leave her children?’” Sinclair said.

“Paul said something along the lines of ‘she was a little bit crazy’.”

Sinclair said Chris did not respond but “looked at his brother”. Under cross-examination,she said her impression was that “Chris was looking to Paul to confirm that what he was saying was OK”.

She said after listening to episodes ofThe Australian’s podcastThe Teacher’s Pet,she contacted journalist Hedley Thomas. She gave a statement to police in August 2018.

Sinclair accepted defence solicitor Greg Walsh’s suggestion the podcast portrayed Dawson as being responsible for Lynette’s murder. “It portrayed him as being abusive,” she said.

She said she was asked by Thomas about the body language between the Dawson twins,who she said had been sitting “very close”,and described it as “creepy”.

Walsh asked:“It[the podcast] had impacted upon you such that you had a very biased view towards both of the Dawsons?”

“No,definitely not,” Sinclair replied. “I knew about the Dawsons way before the podcast.”

She dismissed the suggestion she was mistaken or lying about what was said by Chris and Paul.

“I’m not a liar,” Sinclair said.

The prosecutor told the court they had hoped to call Thomas as a witness on Tuesday,as their case nears its end,but he was unwell. Everson said the Crown “does not rely on anything he says” and was making Thomas available at the request of defence.

Retired detective Ian Kennedy,who spent time with the homicide squad,gave evidence he had graduated from Sydney Boys with the Dawson twins in 1965 and played rugby union against them before their rugby league careers.

Kennedy denied telling Dawson at the 1985 school reunion he had “heard his wife Lynette was in New Zealand”. “That’s incorrect,I had no information at all,” he said.

In a police interview in 1991,Dawson claimed Kennedy had disclosed at the reunion that he “heard a whisper” Lynette was over there.

The court was played recorded evidence from Elva McBay,a late family friend of the Dawsons,who claimed she saw a woman who looked like Lynette during a royal visit in March 1983.

McBay said she and her husband were on the Sydney Hospital side of Macquarie Street as Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s car approached,when she saw a woman to her left.

“The lady ducked under the barricades and ran in front of the car and ran across to the other side of the road,” she said. “I turned to my husband ... and said,‘I think that was Lynette Dawson’.”

She said the woman was “too quick” for her to confirm it was Lynette.

Elva McBay gave evidence in 2020 that she had spotted a woman who looked like Lynette Dawson during a royal visit in 1983.

Elva McBay gave evidence in 2020 that she had spotted a woman who looked like Lynette Dawson during a royal visit in 1983.Nine News

The Crown is seeking to disprove the reported sightings and alleges Dawson murdered Lynette on or about January 8,1982,motivated by a desire to have an unfettered relationship with the babysitter JC,who became his second wife.

McBay said that in July 1981,Lynette told her about a “dreadful row” she had with JC that morning.

“She said she wants to get rid of me,” McBay recalled Lynette telling her.

McBay thought it was “very strange” the schoolgirl had moved in and said she had told Lynette,“if she’s upset you as much as this … you should get her out of the house”.

Dawson’s 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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