Police are digging up the backyard of a home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches in a renewed search for the remains of Lynette Joy Dawson. It’s been 36 years since the missing mother-of-two—whose story was recently adapted into true crime podcast The Teacher’s Pet—disappeared without a trace. She was 33 at the time.
Coroners previously concluded that Lyn was murdered by her husband, Chris Dawson, who failed to report that she was missing for almost six weeks following her disappearance. It was recommended that he be charged with her murder. But the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
"Without a body, without knowing first of all whether in fact she is dead, without knowing secondly if she is dead, how she died, it's very hard to mount a case of a reasonable prospect of conviction just on motive and the undefined existence of means and opportunity,’ Nicholas Cowdery QC, who was acting as DPP at the time, told the ABC. “That makes it very weak.”
To this day, Mr Dawson maintains his innocence while NSW police continue to pursue the matter in earnest. In 2015, detectives from the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Unit established Strike Force Scriven in order to re-investigate the circumstances surrounding Lyn’s 1982 disappearance. It is those investigations that have led to today’s forensic search at the property in Bayview.
Detectives are expected to perform a meticulous hand dig of the backyard, possibly over the course of several days, and feed the unearthed materials through a sifter. Coupled with a new brief of evidence that police sent to the DPP in April, it is hoped that any fresh findings will lead to Mr Dawson’s criminal prosecution.
"We're still, with some passion, chasing the offender for this crime, and we sincerely hope that this year the matter will come to hopefully an end, a rather positive one," said NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
"If it doesn't, we'll continue to investigate the matter. We won't give up."
The Teacher’s Pet podcast, by crime journalist Hedley Thomas, also delved into the details of Lyn’s mysterious disappearance and found that previous searches of the Bayview block—where the Dawsons were living at the time—were insufficient and incomplete. In particular, it insisted that detectives had failed to investigate a patch of soft soil at the back of the house, near the children’s bedroom windows.
Lyn’s brother, Greg Simms, told The Australian that he believes today’s search is a direct result of the podcast bringing renewed attention to the case.
“This is the culmination of everything that Hedley’s been working on and all the shows the family has been doing,” said Greg. “We just hope that a very extensive check is done on the whole block and we hope they find something.
"It needed to be done.”