Almost 37 years after his wife’s disappearance, Chris Dawson is sitting in a jail cell on the Gold Coast after being arrested on Wednesday.
His wife’s family say they are relieved by the breakthrough.
Lynette Dawson, a 33-year-old Sydney mother of two, disappeared without trace nearly four decades ago.
Driving quietly up to the Biggera Waters home of Chris Dawson’s daughter on Wednesday, detectives emerged with a man who could be the best-known homicide suspect in the country.
The major development was the news Mrs Dawson’s loved ones have waited a long time to hear.
Her big sister Pat Jenkins cheered as she was first told of the arrest.
“I think I am in shock. Hurray,” she cheered. “Oh it’s just great news.”
It was a milestone moment in a long and frustrating investigation.
“Just the euphoria, it was just unbelievable,” Mrs Dawson’s brother Greg Simms said.
“We’ve been going around all day with goosebumps and my hair standing on end.”
The family know they will likely have to give evidence later, so they are not expected to attend Chris Dawson’s court appearance on Thursday.
Mr Dawson, 70, said nothing as he was arrested and led away.
“I am told he was calm and a little bit taken aback,” Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Scott Cook told reporters on Wednesday.
The woman’s disappearance was largely ignored by police decades ago, but has become one of the hottest cold case inquiries in Australian criminal history thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the podcast investigation The Teacher’s Pet, which has been downloaded 27 million times.
Police insist Wednesday’s arrest was a result of their work before the podcast aired.
While Mrs Dawson’s body has never been found since her 1982 disappearance, police are confident in their case.
“If anyone has committed a crime in the past, do not think you can get away with it,” warned NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
— 7 News Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) December 4, 2018
Before Lynette Dawson’s 1982 disappearance
Former Newtown Jets footballer Mr Dawson married his high school sweetheart in 1970.
They settled in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and had two daughters, but in 1981 Chris began an intense affair with 16-year-old student Joanne Curtis.
In January 1982 the Dawsons went to see a marriage counsellor.
Mrs Dawson was meant to meet her mother at the Northbridge Baths the next day, but never showed up.
Within days Mr Dawson had moved his schoolgirl lover into the family home. He told police his wife left, but didn’t report her missing for six weeks.
Two coroners have found that Mrs Dawson was murdered by a person known to her.
A dig in January 2000 unearthed a woman’s cardigan with cut marks, but twice the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) refused to prosecute Mr Dawson.
“It’s very hard to mount a case of a reasonable prospect of conviction just on motive and the undefined existence of means and opportunity,” former DPP Nicholas Cowdery previously told Australian Story.
Police admitted there has been no new evidence breakthrough since then, however Det. Supt said prosecutors accepted they had enough to go on.
“We are confident with the case. I wouldn’t have written to the DPP otherwise,” he said.
Chris Dawson’s family convinced he is innocent
Mr Dawson’s family is standing by him, they revealed in a statement.
“We have no doubt whatsoever that Chris will be found not guilty as he is innocent,” the family statement said.
“There is clear and uncontested evidence that Lyn Dawson was alive long after she left Chris and their daughters.”
Mr Dawson applied for bail, claiming he wasn’t a flight risk and would hand his passport in and live with his brother, but the magistrate ruled to approve the extradition and sent him to face the courts in Sydney.
It is likely that will be on Thursday once flight logistics have been arranged.