Chris Dawson, whose alleged murder of his wife was the subject of a podcast that became an international phenomenon, has been released on bail from a prison in Sydney, almost three weeks after he was charged over the 36-year-old crime.
Smiling as he was driven from prison in his brother’s Porsche, Mr Dawson, 70, was heard yelling “get a life” but made no formal comment to the media. He intends to plead not guilty to the murder. His bail was set at A$1.5m (£850,000).
Earlier this month, a court heard that police believe Mr Dawson killed his wife Lynette Dawson, a nurse and the mother of the couple’s two children, who disappeared in 1982, aged 33.
Two days after she went missing, Mr Dawson, a teacher and former professional rugby league player, moved his teenage lover Joanne Curtis – who was one of his students – into the family home.
He did not report his wife missing for six weeks and claimed she might have run away to join a religious cult.
The case has attracted widespread attention after it was investigated by the podcast The Teacher’s Pet, which claimed to have found new witnesses and examined allegations that Mr Dawson and several other male teachers groomed schoolgirls in the affluent beachside suburbs of northern Sydney.
The podcast has been downloaded more than 27 million times.
Police had long been interested in the case and had reopened the investigation in 2015.
Two coronial inquiries in 2001 and 2003 concluded that Mr Dawson should be charged, but prosecutors were reluctant to proceed because the body of Mrs Dawson has never been found.
Mr Dawson once told one of his daughters that he spotted Mrs Dawson in the audience on a 2006 episode of BBC programme Antiques Roadshow – a claim strongly disputed by her family.
A court last week granted bail but required an £840,000 bail surety on Mr Dawson’s home in Queensland and his brother’s Sydney home. Robert Williams, the magistrate, said the trial was unlikely to begin before 2020.
Greg Walsh, Mr Dawson’s lawyer, told The Australian that Mr Dawson had faced several threats in prison and would be “hugely relieved” to be home.
“He’s very stoic and looking forward to being reunited with his family over Christmas,” Mr Walsh said.
“He’s a courteous man, very quiet man, quite reserved sort of gentleman and he’s been very appreciative of the efforts that have been made to help him.”
Mr Dawson was expected to fly from Sydney to Queensland to spend Christmas with his with his third wife, Susan Dawson. After Lynette’s disappearance, he was married to Ms Curtis for six years and they had a daughter before divorcing. She later claimed he was violent and assisted police with inquiries.
Mr Dawson’s next hearing is in February.