Judge rules out new Dawson witnesses

·3-min read

Witnesses who came forward because of publicity surrounding the murder trial of Christopher Michael Dawson have had their evidence rejected by the court.

On Wednesday, Justice Ian Harrison said that the new witness statements came too late during the trial and that a line had to be drawn somewhere to ensure the case wrapped up.

"I just think there has to be an end to it," he said.

Dawson, now 73, is accused of murdering his wife, Lynette, and disposing of her body in January 1982 so he could have an unfettered relationship with a woman known as JC who was his babysitter and former student. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

He is facing a judge-only trial.

The NSW Supreme Court judge noted that the new evidence, which included statements about purported incidents that occurred more than a decade before the alleged murder, did not appear to add much to the Crown's case against Dawson.

Crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC also told the court that further witnesses had "come out of the woodwork" because of the trial, with one giving a statement to police after calling Crime Stoppers.

Former detective sergeant John Pendergast of Dee Why Police Station in Sydney gave evidence about how in 1999 he had assisted with the investigation into Mrs Dawson's disappearance.

Mr Pendergast said he was never formally assigned to assist in the 1999 investigation but helped junior detective Damien Loone in interviewing JC and the Dawson family members.

Sympathising with Mrs Dawson's family who did not know what had happened to her, he told the court they had been dudded by the police who had not launched a proper investigation before 1999.

He said it was unusual that the matter was looked at by him and Mr Loone instead of being referred to the NSW Police Force's homicide squad.

He admitted he had known JC before the investigation and had taken her to many sites of interest during the investigation. This included Chris and Lynette's family home in Bayview, Sydney, where radar scans were done in April 1999 to see if anything was buried under the pool.

Mr Pendergast said he had no personal interest in the case, rejecting claims by Dawson's barrister Pauline David that he had lost his objectivity and ignored evidence that did not support his theory that Mrs Dawson was murdered by her husband.

"I suggest to you that you were pursuing an agenda that was being pushed by [JC]," Ms David said.

"No," he replied.

Ms David has previously suggested JC made up allegations against Dawson because of a heated custody battle after the pair separated in 1990.

Mr Pendergast denied claims that he simply took JC's evidence at face value, saying he corroborated her statements when he could.

In notes taken by the police officer during the investigation, he said any criminal involvement by JC in Mrs Dawson's disappearance could not be ruled out, but that her evidence could be accepted with caution.

Ms David suggested the former detective had failed to pursue leads in looking into the disappearance, neglecting to take statements from important witnesses and instead appearing with a psychic at the Dawson family home to determine where the burial site was.

These allegations were rejected by Mr Pendergast who admitted the use of the psychic.

"There was nothing lost by doing it, but I don't hold a lot of credibility with that sort of investigative tool," he said.

Hypnosis was also used during the investigation, the court heard.

Mr Pendergast denied suggestions that an improper investigation could result in an innocent man being charged.

"That's taken to an extreme level. I don't totally agree with that because there would be many safeguards to prevent that happening," he said.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

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