Teacher and rugby league player Chris Dawson upset his sister-in-law by asking if he could stay over at their place and share a bed with his babysitter JC while still married to his wife Lynette in December 1981.
Giving evidence during Dawson’s murder trial in Sydney on Wednesday, Marilyn Dawson said she was unhappy about allowing her brother-in-law and JC to stay at their place on Christmas Day but reluctantly gave them permission.
At the time, she said she knew Chris and Lynette Dawson’s marriage was on shaky ground, but felt an obligation to help her brother-in-law who had just returned from an aborted trip north with his former high school student JC.
“I felt torn between helping Chris and trying to help Lyn and Chris’ family. His parents probably didn’t know where he was, and I just felt upset that I was in that situation,” she told the NSW Supreme Court.
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Dawson and JC had left Sydney in December 1981 to start a new life in Queensland, but abruptly cancelled their plans after JC felt sick and wanted to return home, the court previously heard.
Dawson is accused of murdering his wife and disposing of her body in January 1982, so he could have an unfettered relationship with JC while retaining family assets such as their home in Bayview, Sydney. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Marilyn Dawson, who married Chris Dawson’s twin brother Paul in 1969, told the court she knew the couple’s marriage had not been going well in the final months of 1981, when her sister-in-law was spending more time outside of home including at the family holiday house in Nowra.
“I asked Lyn to be strong and stay in her own home if she wanted to show that she loved her children and her home and her husband,” she told Justice Ian Harrison.
However, she said Mrs Dawson would always take her children on these trips, and would never just leave them at home.
Marilyn Dawson said she sometimes saw Lynette Dawson with small, odd bruises on her legs and arms, but never saw Chris Dawson act in a violent or abusive manner towards her.
“I thought maybe she had that sort of soft skin where, if you bumped it, you were going to get a mark.”
She never saw Mrs Dawson with a black eye or bruises on her throat, however. The court previously heard from other witnesses who say they spotted Mrs Dawson with these injuries before she vanished.
After Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982, Marilyn Dawson said the topic of an insurance policy came up in conversations with her brother-in-law.
In an interview with police in March 1999, Mrs Dawson said the money in the insurance policy had just “frittered away” and that the policy had been dissolved. She denied signing any insurance documents for her brother-in-law or forging Lynette Dawson’s signature, saying it would be a stupid thing do to.
Mrs Dawson said after the disappearance, Dawson claimed his wife had been spotted in Gosford and that she may have gone away to a retreat after “religious people” were spotted at their house in December 1981.
She said she never had any religious types knock on the door of her home, which was just down the road from Chris and Lynette Dawson’s house.
After a family holiday to Lake Munmorah, NSW, in January 1982, Marilyn Dawson returned to Sydney to find Dawson and JC in the Bayview home. She said she never saw Mrs Dawson again after that.
She said Dawson seemed normal at the time, but was concerned about the disappearance of his wife, who he claimed had unexpectedly called to say she needed some time away.
The hearing continues.
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