Vic woman killed by stepfather: court told

·3-min read

A young woman found dead in a Melbourne creek more than 40 years ago was most likely killed by her stepfather, an inquest has been told.

Barbara Dawson was last seen alive on October 29, 1980. The 20-year-old's body was discovered partially submerged in a shallow ford at Kororoit Creek, Altona North three days later.

She was naked with her throat cut and plastic bags around her head and her feet. A 1981 inquest could not determine who killed her.

In 2003, her stepfather Peter Dawson was arrested. Neither he nor anyone else was charged, and he died in Queensland in 2008 at the age of 65.

A new inquest in Victoria's Coroners Court was on Tuesday told it was likely Mr Dawson cut his stepdaughter's throat and dumped her body in the creek.

Swabs collected from the woman's body also indicated sexual intercourse around this time.

Her stepfather was 100 billion times more likely to be the contributor to the DNA found, counsel assisting Lindsay Spence said.

Upon Mr Dawson's arrest, he denied ever touching his stepdaughter sexually.

Given strong evidence suggesting otherwise, Mr Spence said it was open for coroner Audrey Jamieson to disregard the denial and find, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Dawson had been responsible for the death.

Ms Jamieson is yet to hand down her findings, but agreed there was "clear and cogent" evidence indicating this was the case.

Mr Dawson and his partner, Helen, kept a "tight leash" on the young woman, the inquest was told.

She wasn't allowed to socialise and stayed home unless she was working at a Footscray supermarket.

In the lead-up to her death, she clashed with her parents because she wanted to be allowed to go out with a coworker.

Two days before she disappeared, Ms Dawson withdrew $1400 from her bank account.

When the discovery of her body made the news, her stepfather told a neighbour: "No, she has gone away on a holiday".

The court was also told he was in the area the body was found a day before passers-by made their grim discovery.

Later, Mr Dawson's partner was overheard saying: "I'll call the police and tell them everything".

Mr Dawson admitted down the track to his son: "I've done it (killed) before", the inquest was also told.

On the day of the young woman's disappearance, a telegram arrived at the family's Tottenham home.

"Decided to be on my own for a while. Let you know where I am later," it read.

It was signed "Babs". The court was told only Mr Dawson used that nickname for the young woman.

The telegram was requested and dictated by a man calling from a Footscray phonebox, according to the phonogram operator at the time.

In 2005, Mr Dawson was arrested and charged with the murder of his first wife, Patricia.

She has never been found after disappearing in South Australia in 1972.

The murder charge was dropped in 2006.

The findings into Barbara Dawson's death will be handed down at a later date.

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