The daughter of convicted murderer Chris Dawson has shared the final text message she received from her father.
Last August, Dawson was found guilty of the January 1982 murder of Lynette, his wife and the mother of his two daughters; the cold case having captivated Australia thanks to Hedley Thomas’s award-winning podcast, The Teacher’s Pet. He is now serving 24 years for the murder, and a three-year sentence for the unlawful carnal knowledge of a 16-year-old pupil.
Now, in an emotional interview for the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly, Shanelle Dawson has revealed the conflicted feelings she holds for her father – and the message she sent him in September 2018, when the podcast about their family took off.
“My inner world [was] playing out for the masses. [I] couldn’t pretend anymore,” the mother-of-one told The Australian Women’s Weekly.
In the text, Shanelle told Dawson she loved him, “but I won’t live a life based on lies, nor will I keep subjecting myself to emotional manipulation and control”.
“You have dishonoured our mother so terribly,” her message read.
“One day, I will forgive you for removing her so selfishly from our lives.”
To which Dawson responded: “You’re clearly very lonely and depressed in the life you’ve chosen … It is your adult life, now 41 with a child and without a partner, that has clearly caused this terrible depression.”
That same month, she received what would be his final text to her, reading: “Hi Shanelle, hope you and Kialah are both well. Thinking of you constantly xx.”
She also recalled in the interview her father telling her when she was 13 that he “wished he had tried harder” to make his marriage with Lynette “work”.
It’s a comment Shanelle said was “possibly” prompted by “the realisation that he’d murdered our mum for no good reason”.
Now, she added, “I honestly believe that he’s got some kind of split personality disorder and he doesn’t remember [killing her]”.
Shanelle – whose book, My Mother’s Eyes, hits shelves on October 11 – said she went into shock when Judge Ian Harrison found Dawson guilty of her mother’s murder.
“I was trying to be at peace with whichever way it went, trying not to be too distraught and attached to a particular outcome because you can only have so much emotional turmoil in one lifetime,” she said.
She watched the verdict via a livestream on her phone with “mixed feelings of despair and relief”.
While “there was no rejoicing for me … it is heartbreaking for me to know he will likely die behind bars”, his conviction brought “more healing than I realised it would”.
You can read Shanelle Dawson’s full interview here and in the November issue of The Australian Woman’s Weekly, on sale today.