Teacher and former Newtown Jets player Chris Dawson was a good man who was incapable of killing his wife Lynette, his sister-in-law has told his ongoing murder trial.
Giving evidence by video-link from Tweed Heads, Marilyn Dawson defended her brother-in-law as an upstanding citizen who was respectful and kind to his family.
“Do you believe he was capable of killing Lynette?” Dawson’s solicitor Greg Walsh asked.
“No,” Marilyn Dawson told the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Incapable of hurting his wife
In two intercepted phone calls with her parents-in-law and sister in March 1999, Ms Dawson said Chris Dawson was incapable of hurting his wife.
Chris and his twin brother Paul Dawson were not volatile but were “low-key”, she told her sister, Kay Luschwitz.
“I know that Paul and Chris have boys talks and all of that but I don’t think they could have been plotting anybody’s murder without me being aware,” she said on the phone.
Dawson, 73, is accused of murdering his wife and disposing of her body in January 1982, so he could have an unfettered relationship with one of his former students, known as JC, while retaining family assets such as their home in Bayview, Sydney. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Marilyn Dawson said while she supported her brother-in-law, she was upset by his request to stay over at their place and share a bed with JC on Christmas Day 1981, while he was still married to his wife.
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 from Sydney with JC.
“I felt torn between helping Chris and trying to help Lyn and Chris’s 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.
Dawson and JC had left 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.
Knew couple’s marriage was not going well
Marilyn Dawson, who married Paul Dawson 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 away from home.
“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.
She said Mrs Dawson would always take her children on these trips however, 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, abusive or controlling 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.”
Insurance policy discussed after disappearance
She denied seeing Lynette Dawson with a black eye or bruises on her throat. The court previously heard from other witnesses that Mrs Dawson had these injuries before she vanished.
After Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982, Marilyn Dawson said the topic of an insurance policy was discussed with her brother-in-law.
In an interview with police in March 1999, she 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 have been a stupid thing do to.
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.
Dawson seemed normal at the time
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.
Paul Dawson also took the stand but could not remember what happened over Christmas 1981, when his brother and JC allegedly stayed together at his home.
He said both Chris and Lynette Dawson were very positive about their marriage in late 1981 and were looking forward to the future.
He will continue his evidence on Thursday.
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