Alleged murder victim Lynette Dawson was greatly distressed before she vanished in 1982 after becoming “cowered” by her husband, Chris Dawson, a court has been told.
Patricia Jenkins on Tuesday gave evidence at the NSW supreme court trial of Chris Dawson, who is alleged to have murdered his wife, Lynette, in January 1982.
Dawson, 73, a former Newtown Jets rugby league player and teacher, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the mother of two.
The Crown claims Dawson killed Lynette and disposed of her body because of his affair with a high school student, known as JC.
Dawson’s legal team have argued at the trial that he may have failed his wife as a husband, but he did not kill her.
In evidence tended on Tuesday Jenkins told the court that Lynette initially appeared to have a happy marriage, but by 1981 there were tensions in the Bayview home about the presence of JC.
The court heard that tensions eased when Dawson left the family in late 1981 but that Lynette had little money and “didn’t know what the future was going to be”.
“She was in great distress, I could tell by her voice,” Jenkins said.
She said Lynette was intelligent, made independent decisions and stood up to people, but said “I think she was cowered” by Dawson by 1981.
Quizzed over whether Lynette could have needed a break from what was going on in the household, her sister conceded it was a remote possibility.
“There’s always that little bit of hope you’re going to find her,” she said.
Earlier in her evidence Jenkins became emotional, but declined a break in proceedings, when recalling a conversation with her sister a day or two before Christmas 1981 in which she was told that Dawson had left the family.
The witness said Lynette told her she came home to find a note on the bed from Dawson that said: “Don’t paint too dark a picture of me to the girls.”
She said Lynette told her Dawson’s clothes and pillow were gone and that “she didn’t know if Chris was coming home again or not”, causing her to be upset.
Jenkins testified her sister told her she was worried about Dawson’s health due to him at times being angry at her, and thought there may be a physical cause.
Jenkins said she spoke of her husband’s “black eyes flashing”, trying to give him a hug but being pushed away, and him giving her “such a dirty look”.
The last time Jenkins talked to her sister was on New Year’s Day 1982 when Lynnette told her of a “sad Christmas” and a yacht party that Dawson attended.
“I’ve not seen her since then, not heard from her since then,” Jenkins said.
On Tuesday, Jenkins said she had listened to the Teacher’s Pet podcast and met with its creator, Hedley Thomas.
“It was very overwhelming to listen to it,” Jenkins said.
On Monday, the trial heard from Julie Andrew, a friend and neighbour of the alleged victim, who testified she saw Dawson standing over his crying wife, screaming at her and shaking her shoulders in the back yard of their Sydney home in late 1981 – weeks before she disappeared.
The judge-alone trial continues.