Podcasts used to be the domain of pseudo-intellectual dude-bros who assumed everyone would find them as funny as they find themselves. They still are, but now they’re also apparently the latest motivation for police to do their jobs and solve murder cases the world over.
One of the most recent example of the meta podcasts-catching-crims genre is the epic saga of the historic killer Chris Dawson who was convicted in August of killing his wife Lynette Dawson in 1982. On December 2, Dawson was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The Teacher’s Pet was published in 2018 by The Australian and hosted by journalist Hedley Thomas. The podcast won multiple Walkley Awards for its investigation into the events of forty years ago and was all the rage on the podcast scene when it dropped.
With over 60 million downloads across the 16-episode series, The Teacher’s Pet became a number one in the charts in Australia, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. It’s still the most popular podcast in Australian history.
However, since 2019, the podcast has been unavailable as police investigations reopened into the crime as authorities worried its popularity would warp the potential trial and prevent Dawson from being convicted.
Now that he has, The Australian re-released the podcast so we can all relive the drama and the hype knowing that the killer in question ends up behind bars. The podcast became available again on September 3 at all good podcast locations.
According to press material, the podcast has been edited from its original form however because Dawson is facing a further criminal charge. “Legally sensitive material” has therefore been removed to protect the trial.
It’s a riveting listen, although the truth of how far the podcast “solved” the case of Lynette Dawson’s murder is probably oversold.
The show deals with the cold case of Lynette, the failure of the courts to bring charges against Chris despite two coronial inquests, and the suspect behaviour of the latter. Until The Teacher’s Pet got involved, this crime was unlikely to ever have been solved. At least, that’s what the publishers would have you believe.
A “senior police source” told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2018 that the podcast was “100%” the reason for the new investigation four years ago. They also noted that the show potentially distorted some witnesses’ memories of the events of 1982 and that “some of the information used in the podcast came from a clairvoyant.”
Critics have long questioned exactly how much new evidence the podcast brought to light and puts its success down to the subject matter itself.
Melbourne Law School Professor Jeremy Gans argued in 2018 that “the secret to his podcast’s popularity is banal: the spectre of violence combined with lots of sex, even more innuendo and an unwavering certainty that a single theory about an unsolved disappearance is the absolute truth”.
Police have since denied that the podcast was helpful in solving the case, with further witnesses who came forward being “not crucial, but corroborative.” The case was re-opened in 2015 and Dawson was arrested in 2018, not long after the podcast began airing.
The Teacher’s Pet is certainly a compelling story, and, arguably, one that shone a light on shoddy police work, but it also risked the investigation entirely. Worth a listen, just don’t believe the hype.