Police in Australia on Wednesday arrested the former husband of a woman who disappeared 36 years ago and has long been presumed dead. Renewed interest in the cold case came about after it was the subject of a hugely popular Australian podcast series called The Teacher's Pet.
According to the podcast, when Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982 she was 33, living in a Sydney suburb with her husband, Chris Dawson — a high school teacher and former professional rugby player — and their two children.
Dawson has long denied any connection to her disappearance.
Dawson did not report his wife missing for nearly six weeks, telling her family that she needed some time to herself, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Various media also reported Dawson later claimed his wife went to live with a religious cult in a remote area of Australia. One of Dawson's teenage students moved in with him right after his wife disappeared. They later married.
Australian authorities plan to formally charge the now-70-year-old Dawson with murder. As Australia's NBN Television reports, Dawson covered his ears when he was told the allegations during his arrest. He has been denied bail.
Although Lynette Dawson's body has never been found, a state police official expressed confidence in the case, based on new evidence. "We've solved homicides before without identifying the body," New South Wales Police Commissioner Michael Fuller told reporters Wednesday.
Fuller said the new evidence, including witness statements, was submitted to prosecutors in April, and this week an arrest warrant for Dawson was granted.
As with the hit 2014 U.S. podcast Serial, which focused new attention on the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, who was eventually granted a new trial, The Teacher's Pet podcast renewed the public's interest in the Lynette Dawson case.
The award-winning investigative podcast series, which is produced by The Australian newspaper and has been downloaded millions of times, portrays a fractious marriage. Lynette Dawson "adored her husband, but he betrayed and humiliated her in the most callous way," according to the podcast hosted by Hedley Thomas. The 16-episode series winds through the many details of the Dawson case, including mishandling by authorities.
Here's the producers' description of Episode 14:
"After 36 long years, failed police investigations, two coronial inquests, and countless appeals from Lyn's family, the case is stronger now - and once again it's in the hands of the office of the [Director of Public Prosecutions]. ... In this episode, former coroner Carl Milovanovich explains why he believes a jury would convict Chris over the probable murder of Lyn - and why the case still troubles him today, 15 years after his inquest in a Sydney courtroom."
7 News Sunshine Coast reports Chris Dawson's family said in a statement that it is disappointed by the decision to arrest him and has "no doubt whatsoever that Chris will be found not guilty as he is innocent."
The brother of Lynette Dawson told The Australian, "We've had a cry, we've cuddled, we're just completely over the moon that something has finally happened."