Chris Dawson brainwashed daughters with cruel lie about mum Lynette

How ‘evil’ Chris Dawson brainwashed his grieving kids with a cruel lie about their mother Lyn – as his brave daughter speaks for the first time about the night she ‘saw him with a shovel and her mum’s body slumped over in a car’

  • Chris Dawson was found guilty in August of murdering his wife Lyn in 1982
  • He told his two daughters their mother had left and joined a religious cult
  • Daughter Shanelle Dawson revealed deep rage she feels towards her father
  • She said she saw father digging at a spot near pool at family home in Bayview
  • Shanelle also remembers seeing her mum’s body slumped over in a car as a child

The daughter of convicted murderer Chris Dawson has revealed the cruel lie she and her sister were told after their mother Lynette disappeared – that she left because she ‘didn’t love them’.

Shanelle Dawson said her ‘evil’ dad cunningly brainwashed his two little girls into thinking their beloved mum had abandoned them and their Bayview home in Sydney’s northern beaches to join a religious cult after she went missing in 1982.

In a startling revelation to 60 Minutes on Sunday, Shanelle recalled dark memories of seeing her father holding a ‘shovel’ and her mother’s body ‘slumped’ over in a car – before he dug a grave near the family swimming pool.

For 40 years, the former rugby league star denied any involvement in the disappearance of his first wife insisting to police and Lyn’s devastated family she had left on her own accord. 

As children, Shanelle and her younger sister were ‘gaslighted’ into believing their mother didn’t love them enough to stay, despite her inner circle arguing she would never have left her girls.

But in August, Dawson was found guilty of murdering the 33-year-old at a marathon judge-alone trial at the NSW Supreme Court after he was arrested in December of 2018. 

Lynette Dawson (above with Shanelle) was never seen again after vanishing in January, 1982

Shanelle had suspected her father had killed her mother for years before the trial but said his conviction had still come as a ‘shock’. 

”Chris Dawson, I find you guilty’, I heard them say, and I was just in shock,’ she said. 

‘I just couldn’t fathom it really. This dad that I love actually did do it, and that is now recognised by our justice system.’

Living in the United States for nine years gave Shanelle ‘distance’ from Dawson and opened her eyes to the ‘abusive’ and ‘toxic’ family dynamics. 

‘I could see that he was manipulating and gaslighting us all the time. When I came back into the family that relationship changed quite drastically,’ she said. 

‘My father embodies the survival of the fittest and f*** everyone else to get what you want. 

‘I feel an anger and rage towards him for being that way, but I simultaneously feel compassion and sadness that he is that way.’

Shanelle Dawson (pictured) believes her mother was buried by the pool that night before Dawson moved her body elsewhere the following day when he was alone

Chris Dawson was found guilty of murdering his first wife Lyn. Her body has never been found

Shanelle had been on the cusp of starting primary school when her mum vanished without a trace.

Dozens of Shanelle’s school friends, work colleagues and neighbours said Lyn was besotted with her little girls and would never have left them. But she grew up believing she was abandoned. 

Now with an eight-year-old daughter of her own, Shanelle said she felt both an immense sorrow and extreme rage for her father for ‘selfishly’ removing Lyn mother from her life and denying her a loving family. 

She said Dawson had smashed her heart ‘into smithereens’ when he killed her mother and then tried to convince her and her sister Lyn had left voluntarily. 

Shanelle’s last correspondence with her father was over text on Father’s Day in 2018 – just three months before he was arrested at his Queensland home. 

In the text, she asked her father to finally take responsibility for the pain he had caused the family when he denied his two daughters of their mother’s love. 

Shanelle and her younger sister were made to think their mother didn’t love them enough to stay, despite Lyn’s inner circle arguing the contrary (pictured is the Dawson family)

In Dawson’s ‘breathtaking’ response, he suggested Shanelle was lonely and depressed because she had a child and no partner to support her. 

He told his daughter that in life everyone had to live with their ‘poor choices’ and said Shanelle didn’t have to remind him of his.

‘That’s how he takes responsibility, by deflecting it on to other people. I couldn’t see a remnant of apology there, I was dumbfounded and so angry,’ she said. 

‘I was actually very happy in my life except for that big thing called my father murdering my mum.’

In a bombshell revelation, Shanelle later told 60 Minutes she remembered seeing her father with a shovel and her mother slumped in the front seat of a car in 1982 on the night she is believed to have died.

In a bizarre move, investigators had placed her under hypnosis to uncover lost memories.

Shanelle believes her father buried her mother by the pool before moving her body elsewhere the following day when he was alone (pictured is Chris and Lynette Dawson at their wedding)

She told reporter Tom Steinfort she saw her father shining his car headlights at a spot near the family swimming pool while she was in the backseat. 

Shanelle believes Dawson buried her mother by the pool that night before moving her body elsewhere the following day when he was alone.

‘It was really pretty profound. I believe I saw my sister and I in the back of a car, and my mother slumped in the front,’ she said. 

‘I believe I saw him digging in that spot for that night, and then the next day, when he didn’t have us kids, he moved her somewhere else.

Steinfort asked Shanelle if she believes that what she saw while under hypnosis were true memories, to which she replied: ‘I think they are, yes’.

Shanelle said she saw her father shining headlights at an area near the pool (pictured) while under hypnosis

Shanelle said she doubted her father would ever reveal what really happened on the night he killed her mother because he ‘believes his own lies’. 

She said she would only have closure when she received these details.  

‘It won’t be anytime soon. Truth for me is what brings peace,’ she said. 

If Shanelle could speak to her mother, she said she would tell her that she was sorry, that she loved her and would thank her for the first four-and-a-half years of ‘nurturing’. 

She became emotional while admitting she wished she could see Lyn spend time with her granddaughter and said people take having a loving family for granted. 

‘I always thought, I wish I had one of those,’ she said. 

‘I hope anyone listening to this will go and appreciate their mums just that little bit more, tell them that they love about them and thank them for all the things they do.’

Justice Ian Harrison found it was beyond reasonable doubt that Lynette Dawson (above with Chris Dawson on her wedding day) did not leave her home in Bayview voluntarily

Shanelle’s revelation comes after Dawson’s Supreme Court trial was told police received ‘a lot’ of anonymous phone calls from people who claimed Lyn body was buried under the swimming pool at the home in Bayview.

Former detective Damian Loone told the trial police had considered this theory because the pool had been paved shortly after Lyn vanished.

Asked under cross-examination how this idea had come about, Detective Loone said it was during an interview with JC, the schoolgirl babysitter who had replaced Lyn as Chis Dawson’s partner and later his wife. 

The trial had earlier heard JC swam topless and naked in the pool while living at the Dawson house at Gillwinga Drive in Sydney’s northern beaches, and babysitting the couple’s two young daughters before Lyn disappeared.

Chris Dawson (pictured) lodged the paperwork flagging his intention to appeal the murder conviction

Lyn, pictured with her husband Chris and one of their daughters disappeared without a trace in January 1981

‘She was going for a swim in the swimming pool and when she went to get out of the pool and put her hands on the pool to get out it was dirt, and sometime after it was paved,’ he said.

In 2000, police conducted a major dig near the swimming pool at the Bayview home and uncovered pieces of a pink cardigan with slash marks. 

However, forensic analysis was unable to link the material to Lyn.

Last week, Dawson lodged the paperwork for an appeal against his conviction for his first wife’s murder and remains in Sydney’s Silverwater Jail awaiting sentencing. 

The former Newtown Jets rugby league star has always professed his innocence over any involvement in Lyn’s disappearance. 

Chris Dawson cunningly brainwashed his two little girls into thinking their mother Lyn (pictured) had cruelly abandoned them to join a religious cult


January 1982 – Lynette ‘Lyn’ Dawson, 33, disappears from her home at Bayview on Sydney’s northern beaches, leaving behind two young daughters. The family’s babysitter, a schoolgirl who can only be identified as JC, moves into the home within days.

February – Chris Dawson, a teacher and former Newtown Jets rugby league player, reports his wife missing some six weeks after he says she disappeared.

2001 – An inquest recommended a ‘known person’ be charged with Mrs Dawson’s murder, but the Director of Public Prosecutions later says the evidence was not tested because no witnesses were called.

2003 – A second inquest calls witnesses and recommends a known person be charged with murder, referring the matter to the DPP. Again, no charges are laid.

2010 – NSW Police announce a $100,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction.

2014 – The reward is doubled to $200,000.

2015 – Strikeforce Scriven is established and the Dawsons’ entire Bayview block is mapped.

April 2018 – Scriven detectives request the DPP review their brief of evidence.

May – The Australian newspaper releases The Teacher’s Pet podcast about Mrs Dawson’s disappearance. It is eventually downloaded 60 million times worldwide.

July – NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller admits police ‘dropped the ball’ in the 1980s investigation.

September – Police dig up the backyard at the Bayview home the couple shared at the time of Mrs Dawson’s disappearance but don’t find remains or any items of interest.

December 5 – Chris Dawson is arrested on the Gold Coast and spends the night in a watch-house.

December 6 – Dressed in a polo shirt, shorts and thongs, the then 70-year-old is extradited to Sydney, where he’s charged with his first wife’s murder and appears in court via video link. His lawyer, Greg Walsh, says he ‘strenuously asserts his innocence’.

December 17 – Dawson is bailed to live back in his Queensland home.

August 8, 2019 – Magistrate Michael Allen warns that some reporting of the case could affect a fair trial, saying: ‘Someone would have to be living in a cave or be naive in the extreme to perhaps ignore the potential for unfairness to a person who receives this level of media scrutiny.’

February 11-13, 2020 – Magistrate Jacqueline Trad hears evidence before committing Dawson to stand trial for murder.

April 3 – Dawson formally pleads not guilty to murder, with his lawyers flagging an application for a permanent stay of proceedings.

September 25 – Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Fullerton grants Dawson only a nine-month halt to allow the ‘unrestrained and clamorous’ public commentary about his wife’s disappearance to abate before his trial.

June 11, 2021 – The Court of Criminal Appeal refuses a permanent halt to proceedings.

April 8, 2022 – The High Court backs the lower courts’ decisions not to permanently halt proceedings.

May 2 – Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones orders the trial to proceed before a judge alone following an application by Dawson.

May 9-July 11 – The trial is heard by Justice Ian Harrison, with prosecutors alleging Dawson was violent and abusive towards his wife and killed her to have an unfettered relationship with JC. Dawson’s lawyers pointed to various witnesses claiming to have seen Mrs Dawson alive and well after January 1982.

August 30 – Dawson is found guilty of murder.

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Source: Australian Associated Press 

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