It’s been a little over four months since Chris Dawson, the man at the centre of the popular Australian true crime podcast The Teacher’s Pet, was arrested over the death of his former wife. Chris was extradited from Queensland to New South Wales in December last year before being formally charged with the murder of Lynette Dawson, who disappeared from Sydney’s northern beaches in January 1982. Now, with the looming possibility that he’ll go to trial at some point next year, the podcast that’s thought to have led to Chris’ arrest has been taken down in Australia in the interest of giving him a “fair trial.”
In a statement released last week, The Australian—who published The Teacher’s Pet—announced that they would be making all 16 episodes of the podcast “temporarily unavailable.” The decision was made on the advice of the Office of the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions, who recently sent a letter to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Christopher Dore.
“The Australian is committed to ensuring a fair trial for Mr Dawson,” Christopher said. “He is entitled to the presumption of innocence just like any Australian facing a criminal trial. We’ve decided to restrict access to the podcast as we let justice run its course, but will continue to monitor the case and will put it online as soon as we can.”
Hedley Thomas, the investigative journalist responsible for the podcast series, released a 16-minute “update episode” on Friday in which he acknowledged that the decision would “inconvenience tens of thousands of people who are currently listening to the series in Australia.” The length of the unavailability period, he explained, would depend on of Chris’ trial—although in the meantime the series will still be available overseas.
“The decision to take down these episodes in Australia has not been made lightly,” he added. “But the expert advice we’ve received is that it is appropriate to help ensure that Chris Dawson gets a fair trial, whenever that may be. This is vitally important for him, and for the criminal justice system.”
Chris, 70, has so far maintained his innocence in the face of the charges: emphatically denying any involvement in the disappearance of his former wife. He has been released on bail. Crown prosecutor Craig Everson has previously requested more time to put the case together.
Lynette disappeared in 1982 under suspicious circumstances. While her body has never been found, the case of her suspected murder became the subject of national attention last year when Hedley and The Australian released The Teacher’s Pet: a hugely popular true crime podcast exploring the details of her disappearance. The series ultimately prompted renewed calls for Lynette’s case to be reexamined—and it’s thought that the podcast even led detectives to dig up her former backyard in September last year in the search for additional evidence. Importantly, it also framed Chris as a primary suspect in Lynnette’s suspected murder. That's a cause for concern, insofar as it could influence the jury's decision.
About 4500 pages of material have been given to the defence, a Sydney court has been told—but police are still in the process of combing through 100 gigabytes of audio, video, and documents from the podcast series, as provided by Hedley.
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