Chris Dawson has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for murdering his former wife Lynette.
In the New South Wales supreme court, justice Ian Harrison sentenced the 74-year-old to 24 years, with a non-parole period of 18 years, bringing to an end a long campaign for justice.
Dawson, a former rugby league star and schoolteacher, was found guilty in August of murdering his wife in 1982 in order that he might have an unfettered relationship with a high school student who was also his babysitter, anonymised before the court as JC.
Lynette Dawson went missing from the Bayview home she shared with her husband on Sydney’s northern beaches in January 1982. Her body has never been found despite extensive police searches.
Her family has pleaded with Dawson to reveal where her body is.
Dawson heard his sentence in silence, sitting alone in the dock, wearing a green prison-issue tracksuit.
Justice Harrison told the court Dawson killed his wife for the “selfish and cynical purpose” of allowing him an unfettered relationship with JC.
“Lynette Dawson was faultless and undeserving of her fate … she was also completely unsuspecting.
“Lynette Dawson was treated by her husband … as completely dispensable.”
The judge described Dawson’s crime as premeditated and planned, a “self-indulgent brutality”.
In handing down his sentence, justice Harrison said he took into account Dawson’s age and failing health.
“Mr Dawson is not old by contemporary standards but the reality is that he will not live to reach the end of his non-parole period.”
Outside court, Dawson’s lawyer Greg Walsh SC said “there are no winners in this case”.
“For Lynette’s family, they have lost a sister, daughter, and mother. So far as Mr Dawson is concerned, he knows he will, in all probability, spend the rest of his life in jail.”
Walsh said Dawson “maintains his innocence” of killing his wife.
Beseeched by Lynette Dawson’s family to reveal the whereabouts of her body, Walsh said Dawson had stated: “I don’t know where she is… I didn’t murder her”.
Dawson has been taken from court back to Silverwater prison, from where he is likely to be moved to another prison in NSW. Walsh said Dawson faced regular intimidation in prison from other inmates – including direct threats of violence such as “we’ll cut your throat” – and had been ironically nicknamed ‘The Teacher’s Pet’, after the name of the podcast which brought the case to widespread public attention.
Dawson will not be eligible for parole until August 2040 at the earliest. He will be 92 years old.
On the courthouse steps, Dawson’s twin brother Paul was asked if he had any comment to make. He shook his head and did not speak.
The court has heard that Dawson, a former rugby league player for the Newtown Jets, was in deteriorating health, showing signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain condition often suffered by those who sustain head injuries playing contact sports.
Dawson has filed an appeal against his conviction.