East China Sea, Darwin, Australia
East China Sea, Darwin, Australia

Australian police have charged a retired teacher with the murder of his wife, whose disappearance in 1982 has been featured in a globally popular crime podcast.

Lynette Dawson went missing 36 years ago from her home in Sydney.  Her husband at the time, Chris Dawson has previously denied killing the mother of his two children, saying she abandoned the family for a religious group.  

A podcast produced by The Australian newspaper called 'The Teacher's Pet,' has brought global attention to the case. It has been downloaded more than 28 million times since it began running in May.  

There have been two separate inquests into Lynette Dawson's disappearance. Both concluded that she was killed by a known person.'  In 2003, a coroner determined that her husband, a former teacher and rugby player, had sex with teenage students during their marriage.

A 16-year old girl moved into the Dawson family home just days after Mrs. Dawson vanished.  

It is reported that new testimony from the schoolgirl led to this week's arrest.

The New South Wales state police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said fresh evidence has been crucial.

"They were predominantly statements from witnesses that helped us tie pieces of the puzzles together. No doubt it will be a voluminous brief with [an] enormous amount of evidence and obviously there are a number of witnesses that will be called."

Experts say that the popularity of investigative podcasts can give justice to the voiceless' or be a hindrance to a police inquiry if the material is not balanced and impartial.

Chris Dawson's lawyers say media coverage is likely to taint the case against him.

Australian police deny the huge interest surrounding the 'Teacher's Pet' podcast led to Mr. Dawson's arrest following a three-year reinvestigation of the case.

The 70-year suspect remains in custody.  The body of his former wife has never been found.