Lynette Dawson made a deliberate decision to leave home in 1982 without taking any belongings to make it seem like her husband had killed her, a court has been told.

Giving evidence in Christopher Michael Dawson’s Sydney murder trial on Monday, Paul Steven Cooper said he had met a woman he was sure was Mrs Dawson early in 1982 at a pub in Warners Bay, on Lake Macquarie.

Cooper claimed to have struck up a conversation with the woman who said she had left her husband and children and was working up the courage to see her sister.

Telling the woman that the police might think she had been killed by her husband because she had left all her belongings, Cooper said he was shocked by the response. 

“When I looked back at her, she had a different demeanour at that time and it shocked me because I thought that might have been the intent,” he told Justice Ian Harrison.

Cooper claimed the woman was waiting for a passport and was planning to fly first to Bali and then onto another overseas country. She allegedly asked Cooper to book a motel for her because she had no identification.

After seeing a report on Mrs Dawson on A Current Affair three years ago, Cooper said he contacted Dawson’s lawyer Greg Walsh. He told the court he didn’t contact the police, fearing they would be biased.

Cross-examined by crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC,  Cooper admitted that he had spent time in prison for possessing cannabis and heroin, armed robbery, theft, and break and enter. He had also appeared before court for breaching apprehended violence orders.

While Cooper could not remember details such as whether he had asked for the woman’s name, he was adamant that he was telling the truth. His own father had killed his wife, and he would not be here defending Dawson if he thought the murder allegations were true, the court heard.

“I’m not here just to muck around. I’m here because I believe what I say.”

Despite Cooper claiming the woman said her sister lived near Warners Bay, Mr Everson pointed out that Mrs Dawson’s actual sister, Pat Jenkins, lived a three-and-a-half hour drive away at Stuarts Point.

Dawson, now 73, is accused of murdering his wife and disposing of her body on January 9, 1982 so he could have an unfettered relationship with his then teenage lover and former high school student, known as JC. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Also on Monday, Justice Harrison dismissed evidence by Robert Silkman that Dawson had approached him on a busy plane flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney in 1975 to ask if he knew someone who could get rid of Mrs Dawson.

Silkman’s evidence was put forward to show Dawson had specific tendencies that pointed to the murder of his wife. 

Dawson’s legal team attacked Silkman’s credibility, pointing out that he had frequently lied to police and the courts, and had spent time in jail for theft and arson.

His evidence was rejected alongside testimony of three other witnesses Judith Solomon, KF and Roslyn McLoughlin who claimed they saw Mrs Dawson with black eyes or bruises before she disappeared in January 1982.

Closing the Crown’s case, Mr Everson said Dawson had thrown up lies and smokescreens to deflect attention away from the murder.

The timing of Mrs Dawson’s disappearance with her husband’s unopposed access to JC was neither serendipitous nor innocent, the barrister said.

“We say that an innocent explanation for Lynette Dawson’s disappearance puts such an incredible strain on human experience because it is so unbelievable,” he told the court.

Details of Dawson’s claims he had been contacted by his wife after January 9, 1982 had shifted and changed over the years, Mr Everson said. 

Allegations that Mrs Dawson was seen alive after that date also varied, including that she was with a religious organisation, living in a Blue Mountains commune, or residing in Queensland or New Zealand.

“Everything that he said about those destinations was vague, unverifiable and unlikely to attract suspicion in his direction,” Mr Everson said.

The trial continues.