Michelle was a 14-year-old girl at Cromer High School in Sydney’s northern beaches when Lyn, the wife of her much adored PE teacher, Chris Dawson, went missing in January 1982.
‘I met Lynette at a gym display at the end of 1981,’ Michelle tells New Idea. ‘She was lovely, gentle. I remember her smile.’
But it was to be a one-off meeting because soon after, 33-year-old Lyn mysteriously disappeared leaving behind her two daughters Shanelle, who was four, and Sherryn, two.
At the time she was passed off as a runaway wife - but two subsequent coronial inquests found Lyn was murdered by a ‘known person’.
That person is alleged to be Chris Dawson.
‘He was a rockstar at school,’ Michelle remembers of her former teacher, who strenuously denies the allegations against him.
And the handsome former first-grade rugby player knew it, using his position of authority in the most shocking way – by starting a relationship with one of his students.
‘I was close to Chris so I was particularly aware of his relationship with Joanne,’ Michelle says.
Joanne Curtis was a Year 11 student that Chris Dawson was well-known to have started a sexual relationship with.
Incredibly he even moved her into his family home, conducting a sordid affair with the 16-year-old schoolgirl under his wife’s nose.
‘When we were in his office Joanne would be sitting on his knee,’ Michelle recalls. ‘When they shut the door my friend Michelle and I thought it was hilarious to play knock and run. We’d hide in the stairwell in hysterics. Looking back it’s the weirdest thing. We knew he was married and had daughters, and had a girlfriend.’
Then on January 9, 1982, Lyn vanished and Chris moved Joanne into his home just days later. The children quickly started calling her Mummy.
‘I was training in the gym after the holiday break and Bushy came firing in, crying and shaking,’ Michelle remembers.
Bushy, or Miss Bush, was another of the PE teachers. ‘She was saying Lynette had gone missing. As a kid I had no idea what to say so I kept quiet and waited for her to leave.’
What happened when Michelle went outside is a fragment of information she has kept quiet about for so long.
‘Chris called me over,’ she remembers. ‘He demanded to know what Bushy told me. I didn’t know what to say.’
Her previously gentle teacher, who had always favoured Michelle taking her home from sports carnivals and letting her miss lessons to babysit his kids, suddenly turned on her.
‘He stood over me with the most angry face I’d ever seen and he told me to keep my mouth shut,’ Michelle says.
‘I was so shocked. I wasn’t sure what I was keeping my mouth shut about, but I did. All these years.’ Bushy and Dawson left the school in the following months, something Michelle says she was relieved about.
Dawson and Joanne moved to Queensland to start a new life together and it was only when they split and Joanne bumped into Michelle in 1990 that they shared stories.
‘What Joanne was saying was 1000 times more significant than what I had,’ she remembers. ‘It all became very real. Everything we’d all thought at school was true.’
With a new baby and still seemingly unimportant information Michelle never did report her fragment and it was only when another former student was asking for information on a Facebook group this year that Michelle spoke up.
She ended up as part of the investigative podcast series, The Teacher’s Pet, which tells Lynette Dawson’s story.
It also inspired her to try and find Bushy, who she was convinced knew what happened to Lyn. Sadly Miss Bush had died.
‘When I was looking for Bushy we found Bev McNally. She was a babysitter for the Dawsons,’ Michelle says. Her fragment also became part of the podcast series, and both she and Michelle have been formally interviewed by police.
And in a shock development, on Dec. 5, police announced they had finally made an arrest - almost 37 years after Lyn disappeared.
'In 2015 NSW Police Force unsolved homicide Squad under Strike Force Scriven commenced a reinvestigation into the disappearance and possible homicide of Lynette Dawson," said NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
'Over the next three years, Detective Dan Poole has worked tirelessly gathering evidence, preparing a brief of evidence with other detectives which culminated in April this year, the submission of a fresh brief of evidence to the department.
'Positive information that enabled NSW police to get an arrest warrant for a 70 -year-old man currently living in Queensland.
'That warrant was executed this morning, a 70-year-old man was arrested and is currently waiting to go before the courts in Queensland to face extradition to NSW.”
Whether it turns out Chris Dawson killed his wife or not, Michelle believes the case 'will be solved'.
'I can't even imagine what Lyn's family must be thinking and feeling,' Michelle says.
'One thing I would still love to see happen is that they find her [Lyn],' she adds.
'It's the only way they [the family] can get absolute closure.
‘I feel so incredibly sad for Lyn,' she concludes. 'This lovely woman just made the mistake of marrying the wrong man.’