The hit podcast put Lynette Dawson’s passing in 1982 in the spotlight

The hit podcast put Lynette Dawson’s passing in 1982 in the spotlight

The hit podcast put Lynette Dawson’s passing in 1982 in the spotlight

The Teacher’s Pet podcast, which was inextricably linked to Christopher Michael Dawson’s murder trial, won the highest accolade in Australian journalism for Hedley Thomas and Slade Gibson and was downloaded 60 million times internationally.

Judges who awarded the pair the 2018 Gold Walkley award said the Australian newspaper’s 220,000-word podcast “uncovered long-lost statements and new witnesses and prompted police to dig again for Lyn Dawson’s body. disappeared from her home in 1982 “.

On Tuesday, Dawson, 74, was found guilty of killing his ex-wife Lynette four decades ago on Sydney’s northern beaches. Dawson has always claimed his innocence and after the verdict his attorney confirmed that he would appeal.

Related: Chris Dawson was found guilty of murdering his wife Lynette in Sydney 40 years ago

New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison has referred to Thomas’ podcast multiple times, most notably the cross between the evidence given in court and the interviews those same witnesses had previously granted to Thomas.

He said it was likely, if not certain, that The Teacher’s Pet podcast “may have wholly or partially deprived some evidence of its usefulness.”

Of a witness who was interviewed by Thomas, Shelley Oates-Wilding, Harrison said: “I am unable to have any assurance, after hearing excerpts from her long taped conversations with him, that I know what part of his evidence comes from. from what Hedley Thomas told him, and what part of his evidence comes from what he remembered. “

But another witness who took part in the podcast, Julie Andrews, was found to be “reliable and credible”. Harrison said that listening to the tapes of his unedited interview “did not alter my opinion that his description of the trampoline incident was credible and reliable.”

Speaking out of court on Tuesday, Thomas said Dawson should have been charged 40 years ago, but the system had failed Lynette at the time.

“Lynette Dawson has been missing for eight years and was treated like a runaway mother for that time when the circumstances were so grossly suspicious,” said Thomas. “It wouldn’t happen today.”

When Dawson was indicted in December 2018, then New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller emailed Thomas saying “you must be happy enough man?”, According to a previous ruling in the case of Judge Elizabeth Fullerton .

Thomas had by now struck a deal for a Teacher’s Pet miniseries with Jason Blum Blumhouse’s American production company.

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In April 2019, on the advice of the Office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, and in the interest of a fair trial, the Australian removed the podcast from all platforms. It had already reached number 1 on podcast charts in Australia, UK, Canada, and New Zealand.

First published between May and August 2018, the 14-part podcast was reported and narrated by Queensland-based Thomas, already an award-winning investigative journalist for the Murdoch newspaper. It was produced by Gibson, a former Savage Garden guitarist. After Dawson’s arrest, three more episodes were made.

Thomas began his newspaper career at age 17 as a copyist at the Gold Coast Bulletin, was a foreign correspondent in London and spent six years at Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post before returning to Queensland in 1999. He won seven Walkley Awards. , including the 2007 Gold Walkley for a series in Australia that highlights the flawed police chase of Mohamed Haneef, a doctor wrongfully accused of being a terrorist.

Hedley Thomas out of NSW Supreme Court in June 2022 during Chris Dawson's trial.

Hedley Thomas out of NSW Supreme Court in June 2022 during Chris Dawson’s trial. Photography: Flavio Brancaleone / AAP

A podcast newbie, Thomas began his Teacher’s Pet series three years after the unsolved homicide unit set up Strikeforce Scriven to re-investigate Lynette’s suspected murder. The popularity of the story turned the spotlight on the case and put public pressure on the police. A few months after it aired, Dawson was indicted.

But Thomas’s attitude towards Dawson as a likely suspect, and interviews with potential witnesses, threatened to derail a fair trial, Dawson’s legal team said, and argued for a permanent suspension.

The high court disagreed, but Dawson was granted a judges-only trial when the NSW Supreme Court agreed that “the nature of the podcast and its extremely wide distribution raises real concerns about the fairness of a trial. “in front of a jury.

Related: Podcast listeners are likely to be more curious and less neurotic – study

Thomas provided evidence at Dawson’s trial, telling the court that he only wanted justice for Lynette and her family and believed she was killed by her husband in January 1982.

“And so justice for Lyn meant, right, Christopher Dawson’s indictment to you,” defense attorney Pauline David asked.

“I think it’s the right choice, yes,” Thomas replied.

Thomas told the court that he believed Dawson was the only suspect, but he denied engaging in a campaign to incite prejudice against him.

“If I had discovered or received information from someone who interrupted, changed the narrative … it would have become a very significant part of the podcast,” he said.

Thomas dismissed suggestions that he influenced potential witnesses by discussing potential movies or miniseries on the case and said it was just jokes during interviews.

“When you offered them those deals … did you appreciate that it would be interesting for them?” David asked.

Thomas said: “Maybe for some, but it may have been very unattractive to others who were introverted or didn’t want to get involved.”

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