Friday, September 30, 2022

Murder case in Australia: when a journalist does police work

Sydney. Ever since Lynette Dawson disappeared from the face of the earth 40 years ago, many people have been pointing fingers at her husband. Although no body or murder weapon was ever found, family members, neighbors, friends, journalists and the general public were certain: the then 33-year-old mother of two was murdered by her husband. However, Chris Dawson remained at large for almost 40 years until he was suddenly arrested in December 2018. At the time, the former professional rugby league player and high school teacher was 70 years old. The charge was of the murder of his wife Lynette. Dawson himself has always stated that he was not involved in Lynette’s disappearance.

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This week, an Australian judge found the now 74-year-old guilty. He was convinced “without a doubt” that it was the “only logical conclusion” that Lynette Dawson died on or about January 8, 1982, and that Chris Dawson had caused it. Dawson was remanded in custody, with a sentence to be determined at a later date.

great public interest

Unfortunately, domestic violence is not uncommon in Australia. On average, one woman is violently killed each week in Australia, and the perpetrators are mostly partners or ex-partners. There are rarely names or pictures for sad statistics. The fact that the Lynette Dawson case is still so prominent in the media has to do with a podcast from 2018 commemorating the population 40 years after her disappearance. Because it made the case worldwide famous: a 16-part series titled “The Teacher’s Pet” (“The Favorite Pupil”) collected statements and evidence from several witnesses that police had overlooked in their investigation. But he also cast a spell on his listeners as the case involved a scandalous love affair.

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Lynette Dawson went missing from her Sydney home between 8 and 9 January 1982. After some time her husband informed her about her disappearance. After a while, her teenage boyfriend, who was referred to as “Jesse” at the trial, moves into their home. The two later married and had one child in addition to children from Dawson’s first marriage, Lynette. However, when the couple split years later, “Jesse” tells police that she believes her ex-husband murdered Lynette. Police were already re-investigating when said podcast took the case to the world stage overnight: Nearly 60 million listened to the real-life crime thriller, which outlined the disappearance of Lynette Dawson and her husband. heavily convicted. Such was the interest that the court did not engage the jury, believing that the jury may have been biased by media attention.

No body, no weapon and still a criminal

The allegation was that Dawson had murdered his wife, Lynette, so that he could have an uninterrupted relationship with “Jesse”. Met the teacher later when she was just 16 years old and in class XI. “Jesse” was their children’s babysitter and Lynette already suspected that the young girl and her husband had started an affair. But Dawson’s defense attorney argued that there was no gun, forensic or scientific evidence to support the murder. Lynette Dawson’s body was also never found. Despite this, the judge said in his sentence this week that he was “convinced beyond a reasonable doubt” that Dawson was the culprit. As a reason, he gave the lie he believed Dawson had told.

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“What makes this case so interesting is that a journalist for The Australian, Hedley Thomas, has delayed his investigation,” Rick Surrey, Professor Emeritus of Law and Criminal Justice at the University of South Australia, wrote in a technical article. Academic journal “The Conversation”. Thomas strongly criticized the police investigation and presented his own evidence, which he said clearly pointed to Dawson’s guilt. In order not to interfere with the process and influence potential prosecution witnesses, the podcast was eventually taken offline in 2019. It was feared that Dawson would not get a fair trial.

Investigative journalism triumphs?

But how fair can the process be, given the heavy attention of podcasts and media? For example, according to Surrey, the conversations recorded by Thomas were listed as evidence in the trial. The latter were journalistic interviews in which interviewees did not receive the usual formal warnings about their use, the lawyer explained. In addition, the police officers involved in the investigation met with the journalist for lunch – a practice that is perceived as police should not express their opinion about a suspect’s guilt or innocence.

Surrey wrote, “It is not uncommon for a journalist to fight for someone he believes has been wrongfully convicted.” However, it is highly unusual for a journalist to accuse someone to such an extent that the continuance of a trial may be jeopardized because a fair trial is no longer possible. The defense had actually argued the latter, but did not get away with it. In Surrey’s eyes, the guilty verdict has finally become a “clear victory for dog investigative journalism”. Because without podcasts a lot would have been hidden.

Nevertheless, the final chapter in the Australian crime thriller is yet to be written. Dawson’s lawyers appealed shortly after their client’s guilty verdict. The role of the media and Dawson’s bias will certainly be discussed again.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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