Neighbours ‘saw Lynette Dawson’ years after disappearance,court told

Peter Breese believes he saw his neighbour Lynette Dawson in June 1984,more than two years after she disappeared from Sydney’s northern beaches,and has told a court he did not know at the time that she was missing.

He said during one of his wife Jill’s visits to him at the former Rockcastle Hospital in Curl Curl,where he had nose surgery,she told him,“I’ve just seen Lynette Dawson.”

“I said,‘Well I’ve seen her too,’” Breese told the NSW Supreme Court on Friday,giving evidence at the trial of Chris Dawson,who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Lynette,his first wife.

Chris and Lynette Dawson on their wedding day in 1970.

Chris and Lynette Dawson on their wedding day in 1970.NSW Supreme Court

The 33-year-old vanished from Bayview in January 1982. The Crown alleges Dawson killed Lynette on or around January 8 that year and disposed of her body,motivated by his desire to have anunfettered relationship with babysitter and former student JC.

Breese told the court his property had adjoined the Dawsons’ home and he would share brief conversations with Lynette in the backyard such as “hello,goodbye,nice day”.

“She was an attractive lady. There was a notable feature about her face,” he said.

He said Lynette had “very obvious” glasses,a nice smile and her front two teeth protruded slightly.

Breese said he saw Lynette some time in November or December 1981,and then again during his six-day hospital stay in June 1984.

“It was late afternoon,early evening. She came to the door and that’s when I saw her,” he said.

The sighting lasted five to 10 seconds,she was in a nurse’s uniform about three metres away and no words were exchanged. He said she had large,round glasses on and hair “above the shoulders and sort of below the jaw”.

Breese was “pretty well out of it” after the general anaesthetic from his rhinoplasty and did not see anyone he thought was Lynette that first night. Sometime during his stay,his wife told him of her sighting,and he said he had seen Lynette the night before.

Peter Breese leaving Downing Centre court in February 2020.

Peter Breese leaving Downing Centre court in February 2020.James Alcock

Breese said the couple “didn’t know she was missing”.

“It was not a big deal or for family discussions. It was simply,‘I saw her,yeah I saw her the other night,’ end of story.”

Under cross-examination,Breese accepted there was a possibility he had mistaken her for someone else,but said he was “absolutely certain” and “had no doubt it was her”.

“It was brief but it stuck in my mind because someone comes to the door,they’re there for a reason,” he said. “Then you look at them,they literally spin on their heels,turn very quickly and walk away and never come back.”

Breese said that between 1986 and 1988 the couple saw a missing persons item about Lynette in theManly Daily newspaper with a number for Mona Vale police,and his wife called the next day.

“[A] constable rang her back and said he spoke to the detective,and Lynette Dawson was under the pool,” Breese recalled. “Very briefly and just hung up.”

Jill Breese was unable to give evidence on Friday as she was ill. Her hour-long testimony,recorded at Dawson’s committal hearing in 2020,was played to the court.

She said she had recognised a nurse working at the hospital as Lynette Dawson. Asked whether she could be mistaken,she replied,“I don’t believe I was mistaken,but it’s a possibility,isn’t it?”

The recorded evidence of Jill Breese,from the Local Court in 2020,was played to the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

The recorded evidence of Jill Breese,from the Local Court in 2020,was played to the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.James Alcock

She recalled being shocked by the “abrupt” comment from police when she was allegedly told that detectives “believe she’s[Lynette’s] under the pool” at Bayview.

“That’s what he said,and then we just terminated the phone call,” she said.

She said the Dawsons’ pool was already built when they once visited the home while Lynette was there.

Ray Butlin,who managed a team at Gosford rugby league club,coached by Chris Dawson and his twin brother Paul Dawson in 1979,said he last saw Lynette Dawson around 1980-81.

However,his ex-wife Sue Butlin,now deceased,had worked at a Pacific Highway fruit barn on the NSW Central Coast and claimed to have seen Lynette Dawson alive after her disappearance.

Ray Butlin,former rugby league colleague of Chris Dawson.

Ray Butlin,former rugby league colleague of Chris Dawson.Louise Kennerley

“The substance[of what she said] was that she saw a person that she believed was Lyn Dawson,” Butlin said,adding that Sue had “called her name”. “She walked towards her and the woman proceeded without turning around and got into a car and drove off.”

Butlin said he once received a call from Dawson “stating that Lyn had left”. He could not recall the date of the alleged sighting.

Chris Dawson claims Lynette made several calls from January 9,1982 onwardsto say that she “needed time away”. He reported her missing on February 18 that year. 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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