A long and messy story of an Aussie expatriate made bad has come to an end in London, with would-be modelling agency head Amanda Lawson winning a quarter of a million in civil damages from the estate of the late software tycoon Christopher Dawes, whom she alleged kidnapped and raped her a year or so before his death in 1999.

Adelaide-born Dawes had flown Lawson to his mansion in the Channel Islands in his private helicopter, to discuss business opportunities. By Lawson’s account he then refused her food, plied her with vodka and crack and raped her repeatedly – though allowing her to twice phone home, from where her boyfriend alerted local police.

Dawes was under investigation for all of this and drugs charges when he (and two others) were killed in a high-speed car crash in his F1 McLaren sports car in 1999. The car was travelling at over 220kmh, went smack into a house, and was blown in two.

In the absence of witnesses or forensic evidence, the judge found for Lawson on the basis of evidence from two other women that he had tried the same thing on them.

Dawes was famous in the London dotcom world in the 90s, having started the Micromuse software firm and made it very rich within a couple of years. But he was well-known as a major psycho whose famous energy was not so much the inner flame of entrepreneurship as industrial quantities of amphetamines.

These made him completely paranoid – his cars and helicopters were all black, with blacked-out windows, and before his death he gave his family a list of eight people he thought were trying to kill him.

I saw him once, while I was reporting for a financial news website in the Golden Square internet cafe in Soho – birthplace of the first great dotbomb Boo.com – at a time when internet cafes were the height of space-age glamour, not the spare corner of a 7-11.

Draped in black from head to foot, he was barking into a minuscule mobile phone (ie twice the size of the average one today) and talking in the sort of mindf-ck management-speak characteristic of too many neurolinguistic programming courses.

Inevitably, despite the fact that your average expatriate is a legal secretary who has the occasional night out at the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout, Dawes’s behaviour was taken as the convict streak coming through etc etc…

Which all seemed kinda funny, until the rape stuff….

Peter Fray

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