How did a podcast solve a 40-year-old murder case?

A 40-year-old cold case has been solved thanks to an investigative reporter's podcast, though which a former teacher was found guilty of murdering his then-wife.

The Australian Aboriginal flag flies behind a sign outside the High Court of Australia building in Canberra. (photo credit: DAVID GRAY / REUTERS)
The Australian Aboriginal flag flies behind a sign outside the High Court of Australia building in Canberra.
(photo credit: DAVID GRAY / REUTERS)

A judge on Wednesday found former Sydney school teacher Christopher Dawson guilty of murdering his former wife 40 years ago to pursue a relationship with their family babysitter, all thanks to an investigative podcast. 

Dawson, 74, had been accused of murdering his first wife Lynette Dawson in 1982. Lynette’s body was never found and Dawson had consistently denied his involvement in her disappearance.

New South Wales supreme court Justice Ian Harrison delivered the guilty verdict. The case made headlines after it was featured in a popular true-crime podcast by Australian news outlet The Australian called “The Teacher’s Pet.”

According to multiple Australian news outlets, during the court hearing, Harrison said that he agreed that Dawson murdered Lynette. 

Australian Police at Sydney Airport (credit: DAVID GRAY / REUTERS)Australian Police at Sydney Airport (credit: DAVID GRAY / REUTERS)

“None of the circumstances considered alone can establish Mr. Dawson’s guilt,” he said. “But when regard is had to their combined force, I am left in no doubt. The only rational inference is that Lynette Dawson died on or around January 8, 1982, as a result of a conscious or voluntary act committed by Christopher Dawson.”

Harrison also admitted that he was satisfied that Lynette didn’t abandon her family — it came out during the trial that Lynette didn't pack any of her things. “It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that Lynette Dawson would have left without any personal effects,” he said, “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette did not abandon her home.”

Harrison ruled two separate instances of Dawson hiring a hitman to kill Lynette unlikely, according to 9 News.

The first claim was from Robert Silkman, a convicted criminal, who testified that Dawson asked him if he knew of anyone who could “get rid of” Lynette.

The second claim was from JC, the family’s old babysitter — and Dawson’s former student. She claimed that Dawson drove her somewhere in Western Sydney to speak to someone about a hitman.

Dawson then applied for a judge-only trial mainly, because of the publicity caused by the true-crime podcast.

What did the true-crime podcast say?

The true-crime podcast by The Australian’s investigative reporter Hedley Thomas dug deep into the cold case that was left unsolved for 36 years and it brought a lot of attention to it.

The podcast was listened to by tens of millions of people, and because of its popularity and what Thomas uncovered, the police were able to arrest Dawson on murder charges.

Thomas claimed in the podcast that Dawson killed his wife so that he can pursue a relationship with his former student and family babysitter, JC.

According to the podcast, Thomas suggested that there were serious errors made by the police at the time of the initial investigation. In addition, the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions failed to charge Dawson after having knowledge of the two separate instances.

Dawson was arrested in December 2018 and was extradited to Sydney.