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Chris Dawson makes ‘good character’ claim during court appeal

Written by on May 14, 2024

A claim from Chris Dawson that he should be freed on the basis of his “good character” has been spectacularly shut down on the second day of the wife killer’s court appeal, as the 75-year-old fights to have his murder charge quashed.

Dawson appeared at the NSW Supreme Court via AVL on Tuesday wearing prison greens and a pair of reading glasses as his lawyer Belinda Rigg SC noted how multiple witnesses gave evidence during the trial of his “non-aggressive and nonviolent nature”.

The appeal is being overseen by Court of Appeal President Julie Ward and Justices Anthony Payne and Christine Adamson.

Ms Rigg argued the evidence pointed to the “good character” of Dawson and the fact he would not be capable of killing his wife Lynette Simms.

The concept was quickly shut down by Justice Adamson who noted that Dawson was a “married man” who had started a sexual relationship with his teenage student, who was also the couple’s babysitter.

The August 2022 murder trial found Dawson had killed Ms Simms to start a new life with the teenager in Queensland. Her identity is “JC” in the trial in an effort to protect her identity, as she was underage at the time.

“So it’s only aspects of character that you want us to take into account …. not the ones that aren’t so good?” Justice Adamson asked Ms Rigg.

Capabilities as a father

The second day of the appeal saw Crown Prosecutor Brett Hatfield begin his submissions on Tuesday afternoon, telling the court there was no “significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted in this case”.

Mr Hatfield was quick to rebut suggestions made by Ms Rigg on Monday that it was “not inconceivable” that Ms Simms would have abandoned her children and left them in the care of Dawson, as she “trusted him” as a father.

He noted evidence from JC that Dawson “couldn’t cook, he couldn’t clean, he couldn’t do the washing” and said Ms Simms would have known he “lacked capacity” to take care of their two young daughters alone. They were aged two and four at the time of Ms Simms disappearance on January 9, 1982.

Mr Hatfield read out evidence that JC said she “had to look up in a cookbook on how to mash potatoes as the three of them sat at the counter looking at me”.

“It paints a very striking image of the situation,” Mr Hatfield said about the teenager’s evidence.

The convenient ring

On Tuesday morning, President Ward took aim at Dawson’s claim that Ms Simms had “conveniently left her jewellery behind” ahead of her disappearance.

The court previously heard Dawson’s claim that on the day of her disappearance, he dropped Ms Simms at a Mona Vale bus stop to go shopping.

He then claims she called him while he was at work as a part-time lifeguard at Northbridge Baths that afternoon – telling him she needed some “time away” from the family.

At the murder trial, JC told the court how Dawson told her she could go through Ms Simms’ clothes and keep “anything” she wanted.

She also told the court she saw two diamond rings in her possessions and that later, her wedding ring was made using the diamonds from Lyn’s engagement ring and eternity ring.

JC married Dawson in January 1984 before the pair separated in 1990.

Ms Ward asked Ms Rigg to confirm that Lyn had: “conveniently left her jewellery behind, has she?”.

“That’s the evidence yes. There was jewellery left behind,” Ms Rigg said.

“So he drops her at the station not wearing her wedding ring or her engagement ring,” Ms Ward said.

“I think that’s the evidence, yes,” she responded.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Ian Harrison sentenced the ex-Newtown Jets rugby league player to a maximum of 24 years in prison for his wife’s murder with a non-parole period of 18 years.

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Dawson’s appeal rests on five separate grounds, namely that he suffered from a “miscarriage of justice” as it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Simms was not alive after January 9, 1982.

If his appeal succeeds, the court could quash the charges or order a retrial.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.