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Former Australian rugby league star Christopher Dawson has been sentenced to 24 years of prison for killing his wife 40 years ago.
The 74-year-old, who became the subject of a popular crime podcast, was found guilty in August of killing his wife so that he could continue his relationship with a high school student.
Dawson was a high school teacher who was in a sexual relationship with a teenage former student and babysitter for his two daughters, identified as JC.
His wife Lynette Dawson went missing from their Sydney home in January 1982. Despite extensive searches by the authorities, her boy was never found.
Dawson will “probably die in jail”, the judge said, as he would turn 92 by the time he becomes eligible for his first parole after spending 18 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2040.
Judge Ian Harrison, during the sentencing in the New South Wales Supreme Court, said that the murder was an “objectively very serious crime”.
The judge added: “Lynette Dawson was faultless and undeserving of her fate.”
“Despite the deteriorating state of her marriage to Mr Dawson she was undoubtedly also completely unsuspecting.”
Judge Harrison said Dawson had a “positive infatuation” with JC and the prospect of losing her “distressed, frustrated and overwhelmed him”, according to ABC News.
Dawson’s legal team had argued that his wife had walked out on the family and abandoned the children after he broke her trust due to his relationship with JC. However, judge Harrison rejected the possibility.
The judge also dismissed claims that his wife had been seen alive after January 1982 or that she had contacted her husband.
Dawson had claimed in a 1991 police interview his wife called him several times after failing to show up to a meeting at a pool in January of the year she went missing.
During a hearing in August, the judge said: “The whole of the circumstantial evidence satisfies me that Lynette Dawson is dead, that she died on or about January 8, 1982 and that she did not voluntarily abandon her home.”
Earlier three separate police investigations were launched into Lynette Dawson’s disappearance, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he was charged with killing his wife.
The cold case was brought to court after attracting international attention with the launch of a podcast by The Australian newspaper, titled The Teacher’s Pet, which has garnered an audience of at least 60 million.
“Mr Dawson is not old by contemporary standards, but the reality is he will not live to reach the end of his non-parole period, or will alternatively, by reason of his deteriorating cognitive condition and physical capacity, become seriously disabled before then even if he does,” he said.
“I recognise that the unavoidable prospect is that Mr Dawson will probably die in jail.”
Lynette Dawson’s brother Greg Simms condemned the murder. “Chris Dawson discarded her, the Dawsons disregarded her. From today, we would like her to be remembered as Lynette Joy Simms,” Mr Simms was quoted by The Guardian as saying.
“We really didn’t believe this day would ever come. What we need now is to find Lyn and put her to rest.”