A homicide investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Lynette Dawson was called off because police had been told she had been seen alive and well afterward, a court has heard.
Giving evidence in the murder trial of Chris Dawson on Tuesday, former Det Sgt Paul Mayger said the investigation was suspended in May 1992 after discussions with either the office of the coroner or of the director of public prosecutions.
“I raised the issue of witness testimony and statements of the police that Lynette Dawson had been seen a week after her supposed disappearance, and I was advised that unless we could refute that evidence, the investigation probably shouldn’t proceed,” he told the New South Wales supreme court.
Mayger was part of the major crime squad located at Chatswood in Sydney, where he investigated the January 1982 disappearance of Lynette Dawson in the early 90s.
Dawson, 73, was charged in 2018 with the murder of his wife, Lynette Dawson. Crown prosecutors allege he killed and disposed of her body in January 1982 so he could have an unfettered relationship with a high school student, JC.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and claims Lynette Dawson left home and did not contact her family afterward.
In a 1991 police interview, Dawson told Mayger that his wife had been spotted by family friends Sue and Ray Butlin on the Central Coast a week after allegedly leaving her home in the Sydney suburb of Bayview in the Northern Beaches, the court heard.
In court on Tuesday, Mayger said he had not spoken to the Butlins during the investigation. He suggested this would have been intended but said the crime squad’s heavy workload meant newer cases took priority over older ones.
“Matters such as this that wasn’t fresh, weren’t alive, so to speak, got pushed to the back,” he told the court.
Earlier this month, Butlin told justice Ian Harrison that his wife had briefly seen Lynette Dawson at a fruit stall on the Pacific Highway north of Sydney before Lynette Dawson got into a car and drove off.
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Mayger said documents from his investigation in the early 90s had been packed into boxes and moved from Chatswood to a storage area after the crime squads became centralized at Strawberry Hills.
The court heard that some paper records had been destroyed by dampness after sitting on the concrete floor for many months in boxes stacked on each other. “It was just a mess,,and trying to find stuff was almost impossible,” Mayger said.
As a result, only some documents were provided to Det Damian Loone, who, between 1998 and 2015, investigated Lynette Dawson’s disappearance.
Mayger could not remember seeing an antecedent report from August 1982 in which Dawson claimed transactions had been made with his wife’s bank card at Katie’s and Just Jeans in the weeks after her disappearance.
“If that information is correct, it only shows that her card was used, not who used it,” he told the court. The judge-alone trial continues.