Inside the courtroom as Chris Dawson’s verdict was handed down

For hours, Chris Dawson hung off every word from the judge. 

Wearing a face mask and sitting quietly with his arms folded, it was to be a long wait for the former Sydney high school teacher.

It took Justice Ian Harrison about five hours to arrive at his verdict.

“Christopher Michael Dawson,” he began. 

Former Sydney teacher Chris Dawson, maintained his innocence while on trial over the murder and disappearance of his first wife Lynette. (ABC News)

“On the charge of that on or about 8 January, 1982, at Bayview or elsewhere in the state of New South Wales, you did murder Lynette Dawson.”

“I find you guilty,” Justice Harrison said, directing his glance straight at Dawson.

The 74-year-old lowered his eyelids, but showed little emotion.

Across the hallway, loud applause echoed from an overflow courtroom, opened to accommodate the huge number of spectators and journalists.

“It will be necessary for you to be taken into custody,” Justice Harrison told Dawson.

Outside court, Lynette Dawson’s relatives faced an enormous media pack to express relief, as a helicopter hovered overhead.

Outside the Supreme Court crowds and media waited hours for the vrdict ABC News Jake Lapham
Outside the Supreme Court crowds and media waited hours for the verdict.(ABC News: Jake Lapham)

For weeks, the NSW Supreme Court heard evidence about a troubled marriage, an “affair” with the teenage babysitter, and claims Lynette Dawson could have abandoned her family in 1982.

Ms Dawson’s name had been cleared, her brother Greg Simms said.

She loved her family and never left them, but instead her trust was betrayed by a man she loved.

Mr Simms also said the journey of “advocating for Lyn” was incomplete.

“She’s still missing. We still need to bring her home,” he said.

Lynette Dawson's brother Greg Simms said the verdict was vindication ABC News Jake Lapham
Lynette Dawson’s brother Greg Simms said the verdict was “vindication”.(ABC News: Jake Lapham)

“We would ask Chris Dawson to find it in himself, to finally do the decent thing and allow us to bring Lyn home for peaceful rest.”

Simultaneously, Dawson’s lawyer Greg Walsh stood metres away at the exit of the Law Courts flagging an appeal and insisting his client will continue to assert his innocence.

His client was “in shock” and “upset”, Mr Walsh said.

Chris Dawson’s brothers Peter and Paul Dawson were visibly frustrated as they were pursued by cameras after leaving the building.

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Chris Dawson “shocked and upset” says lawyer

Early on in the judgement, Justice Harrison made it clear the circumstantial nature of the case called for him to assess the evidence “as a whole” and not in a piecemeal fashion.

One by one, elements of the Dawson defence seemed to fall away. 

Alleged sightings of Ms Dawson in the years after she vanished from the northern beaches were dismissed as false, fabricated, or unreliable.

The ex-Newtown Jets rugby league player lied when he told police he received phone calls from Lynette Dawson from January 1982 telling him she needed time away, the judge found.

He said Dawson was the “sole author” of evidence about bank card activity suggesting there were purchases after Ms Dawson vanished.

However, there were minor wins for the defence case, too.

Justice Harrison said he wasn’t able to be satisfied that a conversation with JC took place in which Dawson had allegedly spoken about the possible hiring of a hitman.

He was also not persuaded the ex-teacher was “physically violent” towards Ms Dawson.

But perhaps most crucially, the judge made findings against the defence suggestion there was another reasonable hypothesis for the disappearance — that Lynette Dawson abandoned her family.

That theory rose no higher than “speculation, conjecture, or supposition,” he said.

The judge found the evidence doesn’t establish how Ms Dawson died or where her body now lies, but he said the circumstantial case when considered as a whole was “persuasive and compelling”.

Dawson has now spent his first night behind bars awaiting his sentence.

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