Australian Story journalist Wendy Web page on 20 years reporting on the thriller of what occurred to Lynette Dawson


Over 20 years, whereas producing three separate Australian Story episodes, producer Wendy Web page spent many hours filming with the household of Lynette Dawson — her sister, Pat Jenkins, brother Greg Simms and his spouse, Merilyn.

Wendy Web page (centre) with Greg and Merilyn Simms.(ABC Information)

Web page constructed belief and rapport and noticed up shut the toll the 40-year thriller of what occurred to their beloved Lyn had taken on them, notably within the pressure-packed days main as much as the decision handed down towards Chris Dawson, who was discovered responsible of murdering his spouse.

“After we have been interviewing Lyn’s brother, Greg, [for this latest program] he had a panic assault,” remembers Wendy Web page.

“It was simply all of the stress of constructing as much as the decision — it was large for the household. All people was very involved that it could be very tough to get a conviction when there was no physique, no forensic proof, nothing to bodily join Chris Dawson to the crime.

“I might really feel the apprehension, pressure, and emotion for the household, and I would spoken with them about it. They’ve lived with this for 40 years, it is hung over their household, all their youngsters and that is actually, actually arduous. They have been fairly fragile main as much as the decision so, as a journalist, you tread very fastidiously.”

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Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 37 seconds

Lyn’s household confide in Australian Story about their “beneficiant, loving sister” the day after Chris Dawson’s responsible verdict.

Wendy Web page first began investigating the case in 2003 and got here out of retirement to supply, with colleague Jennifer Feller, final week’s story, Lyn Dawson: Vanished, which adopted household and mates via the trial, the anticipation and aftermath of the decision.

Sound recordist holding a microphone on a boom pole as three women sitting on a couch chat.
Australian Story filming work colleagues of Lyn Dawson.(ABC Information)

The case towards Chris Dawson was circumstantial however in a marathon five-hour listening to, Justice Harrison specified by painstaking element the proof persuading him that Chris Dawson, the 74-year-old former rugby league star and highschool instructor, had killed Lynette in January 1982 to have “unfettered” entry to his teen lover, recognized in courtroom as JC.

The primary Australian Story program, On the lookout for Lyn, happened after a journalist from The Australian, Hedley Thomas, whose fascination with the case later impressed the award-winning hit podcast The Trainer’s Pet, referred to as then-executive producer of Australian Story Deb Fleming and urged her to characteristic it on this system.

At that time, Lyn had been lacking for 20 years and there had been two coronial inquests, in 2001 and 2003, recommending expenses towards a “recognized particular person”.

A man wearing a mask in front of a TV cameraman
Chris Dawson arrives at courtroom to study his destiny.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

Over 20 years, Web page has spoken on or off digicam to a variety of individuals related to the case – together with Chris Dawson and JC.

“When researching our first program, I spoke to Chris Dawson and requested if he could be prepared to be interviewed on digicam. He was very guarded, and he mentioned no, he would not,” says Web page.

“He was charming, however he did not persuade me that he was utterly harmless. He politely declined to be interviewed and referred me to his brother, Peter, who’s a solicitor. Peter advised me in no unsure phrases that they might not be talking and that was it. I met and had a protracted dialog with the babysitter [and later Chris Dawson’s wife], referred to as JC in courtroom. Clearly, it was completely inappropriate for her to be interviewed for this system given the coroner had really useful homicide expenses and he or she could be a key witness. I discovered her utterly credible, because it appears Justice Harrison, within the trial, did too.”

Wendy Web page has investigated a number of homicide circumstances and miscarriages of justice over time and says she approached the Lyn Dawson story with an open thoughts.

“As soon as I began wanting into it and speaking to individuals, I realised that this was a fairly large story,” says Web page.

“Having reported on numerous homicide circumstances that resulted in wrongful convictions, I, of all individuals, perceive how straightforward it’s to get the story flawed. Typically circumstances could make individuals look responsible, I do know that circumstantial proof can convict individuals wrongfully. So, when investigating a narrative, I all the time ask myself what different potentialities are there? However with the Lyn Dawson case, the proof of her workmates, particularly, together with all of the circumstances referring to JC, was so compelling.

“It struck me {that a} horrible injustice had been dished as much as Lyn Dawson. She had been accused of deserting her youngsters, which individuals who knew her nicely knew there was completely no means on this planet she would have executed. Her work colleagues have been adamant that Chris Dawson was one way or the other concerned in her disappearance, and so they have been ready for the police to return and ask them about it.

“Trying again, that’s the factor that basically distressed me – that Lyn’s disappearance was by no means correctly investigated and that the police did not take it critically. If solely that they had correctly investigated on the time, they may have discovered phone information or financial institution card information. They might have realized of Dawson’s relationship with JC and so they might need determined Lyn didn’t voluntarily disappear, there might need been a unique end result again then. There have been so many purple flags on this story.”

Woman holding a small dog in a park.
Lyn Dawson’s sister, Pat Jenkins, and different relations campaigned tirelessly for Lyn’s disappearance to be correctly investigated.(Australian Story)

Lyn’s household was devastated when, on the day the primary Australian Story program was scheduled to go to air in 2003, the workplace of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions suggested it had determined to not proceed with expenses. Web page says there was an “monumental” public response after the episode went to air and a police officer investigating the case advised her that it introduced individuals out of the woodwork with new info, because the podcast did to a good larger extent 15 years later, however she felt an excessive amount of time had handed for there to be a prosecution.

“I believed it could by no means be solved,” she says.

“I believed as soon as the DPP had declined on two events to proceed with expenses that until they came upon a physique someplace and located some bodily proof, it could by no means get to trial.”

Large group of journalist and camera crews standing outside court.
An enormous media pack ready to talk to Lyn’s household after the decision.(ABC Information)

The case has triggered debate in regards to the execs and cons of true crime podcasts and media protection of police investigations and authorized proceedings. The Trainer’s Pet podcast clocked up tens of millions of downloads worldwide and Chris Dawson’s conviction has been seen as a vindication of journalist Hedley Thomas’s investigation, however prosecutors insist it had no affect on their determination to prosecute. There’s criticism, together with from the presiding choose, that the podcast compromised witnesses and that media reporting, which within the Dawson case pressured it to be heard by a choose fairly than a jury, can undermine the administration of justice.

“It is such a vexed situation,” says Web page, who was on the centre of an identical controversy over an Australian Story investigation into the homicide convictions of three males over the dying of Perth man Philip Walsham which have been in the end overturned.

“However I am unable to settle for that the media would not have a job to play. After all, the DPP would say he is utterly unbiased and never affected by any media protection, and he should not be affected, however I feel the large factor that The Trainer’s Pet podcast did was deliver out so many individuals contributing to the load of suspicion, individuals have been ringing in, giving info that they may have given 20 or 40 years in the past in the event that they’d been given a chance. They’d recognized there was one thing odd about Lyn’s disappearance and felt it was hushed up and it created a groundswell, an enormous groundswell, and public expectation that one thing must be executed. Lyn’s household and mates mentioned to me, categorically, that they might settle for the decision, irrespective of which means it went — crucial factor to them was that, eventually, it had been totally investigated and totally aired at a trial.

“I copped plenty of flak over the Walsham case. We have been accused of undermining religion within the justice system. The system righted this case, finally, but when the system will get it flawed, because it typically does, then we as journalists have an obligation to reveal it. It is not our duty to take care of religion within the justice system.”

After 20 years of questioning if there’d ever be a decision within the Lyn Dawson case, Wendy Web page watched the decision being handed down through a video stream into an overflow courtroom. There was such intense public curiosity on this case that there was not sufficient room in the principle courtroom.

“The courtroom that we have been in erupted into cheers and claps when Chris Dawson was pronounced responsible, however I did not cheer or clap. I felt it was inappropriate,” she says.

“In the principle courtroom, it was so silent that we might hear through the video stream the press of {the handcuffs} being placed on, it was a extremely sombre second. I simply felt profound aid for the household, tear-jerking aid. A narrative like that is deeply affecting since you’re coping with households who’re in excessive grief, and it has an impression on you, I would be mendacity if I mentioned it did not.

“However it’s a very satisfying factor as a journalist when you’ve labored on a narrative on and off over 20 years to see a profoundly vital end result for individuals who’ve been aggrieved for thus lengthy, feeling that no one cared about their sister, that she’d simply been besmirched as a dreadful girl who abandoned her husband and, worst of all, deserted her youngsters. I feel ultimately the household felt very supported by the general public, which was actually vital to them. It made an enormous distinction to them to really feel that folks cared about Lyn.”

Watch Lyn Dawson: Vanished on Australian Story on iview



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