The Teacher’s Pet

Recommendation: Excellent podcast series, highly recommended

Where to read: On the bus, walking home, in the gym, when bored at work

Read with: A comfort blanket

In brief: I know it’s not a book but it’s worth listening to, so here it is


From the website:

Chris and Lyn appear to have the perfect marriage. But when Lyn goes missing, dark secrets are buried. This is no fairytale, but a sordid story of strangely close twin brothers, teenage student lovers, and probable murder. 

This is a pretty amazing as a piece of investigative journalism, up there with the other Australian true crime podcast Bowraville and (alas) rather better than Unravel, the ABC’s competent but not amazing contribution to the genre. Equally amazing has been the public response, with the podcast racking up something like 26 million downloads or streams, and the effect on the case. As it currently stands, Chris Dawson has been arrested and charged with the murder of his wife and the podcast is paused as the courts do their work. Ironically, while the popularity of the podcast may have driven renewed investigative action, it may make prosecuting the man more difficult.

Hadley Thomas is excellent throughout (though I spent the first episode missing the dulcet tones of Dan Box in Bowraville), constructing a truly compelling narrative from a mess of evidence and emerging leads. This is all the more impressive when you consider that these episodes were recorded and released as the investigation developed, the podcast gained traction and more and more people came forward – Thomas, like the rest of us, didn’t know where this was all going when he started. 

This fact also creates an odd duality which becomes more and more apparent as the story develops. Thomas is both telling the story and, increasingly, creating the story. From the start, he’s piecing together the events of forty-ish years ago and exploring the flaws in the initial “investigation” but there’s a parallel story running in the present day as he finds fresh evidence and new witnesses. It’s not so much breaking the forth wall as asking the wall for the answer.

I do have to give Thomas mad props for the moderate tone adopted throughout, his sensitivity to legal issues and what appears to be a solid streak of common decency. The occasional snippet of A Current Affair journalists chasing people down streets shrieking at them like the seagulls in Finding Nemo highlights the very different approach he takes. The series is also a nice break from the almost nauseatingly voyeuristic tone of a lot of true crime, not to mention the truly stupid shit people come out with about the justice system.

This may be a personal point but the most harrowing part of the whole experience is the moment in the last episode when a psychic gets involved. Sure, she’s being used by the police in a publicity stunt to renew attention in the case, but there is something horrifyingly ghoulish about this woman claiming contact with people who’ve been dead for decades.

On a slight (massive) negative note, Thomas calls the Telly “Sydney’s Leading Newspaper” at one point. It’s defensible only because “leading” means nothing but really….

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