I tell my children real stories, not fairytales. Should I worry about their love of true crime? | Emma Brockes

They listen to adult stories and ask mature questions. I just hope it doesn’t rob them of a playful aspect of childhood

On the walk to school every morning my children ask for a story, and their tastes – formed by my own – skew towards real-life drama. They like natural disasters; shark attacks; plane and shipwrecks; cases of mistaken identity; gruesome accidents; the paranormal; and stories with an element of revenge, enabling their favourite catchphrase: “That’s what you get.” This week, owing to a dearth of suitable material on my end and an appetite for injustice on theirs, I shared with them, hesitantly, the cold case of a woman murdered by her husband in 1982.

The disappearance of Lynette Dawson is the subject of The Teacher’s Pet , a podcast by the Australian journalist Hedley Thomas that has, to date, been downloaded more than 60m times. It is as brilliant and addictive as any TV show, with a list of witnesses – many of whom were never contacted by the police – so willing to share their memories of Lynette’s husband’s wrongdoing that it can make it hard to believe what you’re hearing. It is also infuriating, revisiting as it does the case of a woman who disappeared from her home in Sydney in January 1982, leaving behind two children under the age of five and a husband who, two days after her disappearance, moved his 16-year-old lover into the house. Despite all the evidence of foul play, Chris Dawson, a former rugby league star and golden boy of the couple’s upscale suburb, lived undisturbed for more than 30 years, while police accepted his story that his wife had run off. It strikes one with the dull familiarity of so many stories – the Yorkshire Ripper, most forcefully – of police failures around the murder of women.

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