‘Fat and ugly’:Comment allegedly made by Dawson allowed into evidence

Chris Dawson allegedly called his first wife a “fat and ugly bitch” after their second child was born,according to a neighbour whose statement has been allowed as evidence at his Sydney murder trial.

The former teacher and rugby league player,73,has pleaded not guilty to murdering Lynette Dawson,who vanished from the northern beaches in January 1982. The Crown alleges Dawson was motivated by his desire to have an unfettered relationship with the babysitter,known as JC.

Chris Dawson leaves the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Chris Dawson leaves the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.Steven Siewert

Justice Ian Harrison on Tuesday ruled that a redacted statement made by Coral Clarke,a former neighbour of the couple who is unwell and unavailable to give evidence,was admissible,and its reception did not create unfair prejudice to Dawson.

Harrison said this was for reasons including that he was hearing the trial without a jury,and the statement appeared “to have been made in circumstances that make it highly probable that the representation is reliable”.

The incident described by Clarke was undated,but allegedly occurred between July 1979,when the Dawsons’ second daughter was born,and January 8,1982 when Lynette Dawson disappeared. Clarke was 62 when her statement was made in December 2011.

“Before Lynn went missing,she came around this particular day and was upset and crying because Chris was calling her ‘fat and ugly bitch’,simply because she couldn’t lose the baby weight she was carrying from her youngest child,” an unredacted paragraph from Clarke’s statement reads.

Harrison said it did not strike him as unusual or unlikely that a woman in Lynette Dawson’s position “would confide in another woman who lived nearby”,as she did not drive and lived in a house that was relatively isolated.

He said Crown prosecutor Craig Everson,SC,had submitted that any such comment would have “stuck in Lynette Dawson’s mind”. Everson said it was “not something that would be forgettable”.

The judge noted Dawson’s lawyers had “emphasised” their inability to cross-examine Clarke as a circumstance that caused him unfair prejudice.

JC previously gave evidence that when she had moved into the Dawsons’ home in 1981,Lynette was welcoming while Chris was “very distant” with his wife,singing her “cruel” songs.

“He didn’t call her Lyn,he called her fatso and laughed about it,” JC said.

On Tuesday,retired homicide detective Paul Mayger,who handled the case in the early 1990s and interviewed Dawson and JC,said his investigation was suspended in 1992 amid reviews of ongoing cases.

“I raised the issue of eyewitness testimony or statement to police that Lynette Dawson had been seen a week after her supposed disappearance,” he said. “I was advised that unless we could refute that evidence then the investigation probably shouldn’t proceed.”

Mayger said documents from the Chatswood office were moved into a storage facility after a centralised system was established at Strawberry Hills.

“What we found was quite a disaster,” he said.

Mayger said boxes of records were stacked “four or five high”,with some collapsing under the weight of those above,and “the damp had come up” through the concrete floor.

“It was just a mess,really. Trying to find stuff was almost impossible,” he said.

Mayger said when detective Damian Loone was tasked with investigating the case in 1998,the situation with available documentation “tied his hands considerably” and it was “unfortunate there wasn’t more to give him”.

Mayger was asked under cross-examination why he made no direct inquiry about a hitman claim raised by JC. She has alleged Dawson drove her west in late 1981 and said he “went to get a hitman to kill Lyn” but decided against it because innocent people could be injured.

“It was quite vague,so it was very hard to follow any further,” Mayger said.

“Hitman could refer to a lot of people in this city,where do I start?”

He said his memory was “hazy” and he could not recall whether they had put JC in a police car and taken her around the alleged location of the incident.

Retired detective Geoffrey Wright said his involvement in investigations had included checking the surrounds of the couple’s house at Bayview and their swimming pool.

Wright said,“new concrete was laid” and a radar penetrating device was used to search for any “abnormalities” underneath.

The trial continues.

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

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