Star witness who knew gangster Neddy Smith describes amazement at Chris Dawson hitman request


Star witness who knew Sydney gangster Neddy Smith while playing for the Newtown Jets recalls his startled reaction when asked by teammate Chris Dawson for help to ‘get rid of wife Lynette’: ‘What, FOR GOOD?’

  • Star witness Robert Silkman has testified to Chris Dawson’s murder trial
  • Robert Silkman played rugby league with accused Chris Dawson in 1975
  • Silkman described flight back from Newtown Jets Gold Coast holiday
  • Claims Dawson kneeled down on plane and asked for help in killing wife 
  • Silkman asked ‘what, for good’ to which he said Dawson replied ‘yeah’
  • Turning to player next to him Silkman said Dawson was ‘f***ing mad’
  • Said he’d met gangster Neddy Smith at a pub but wasn’t friends with him
  • Silkman was friends with Smith’s brother-in-law Jets star Paul Hayward
  • Hayward was later a heroin trafficker who was jailed in Thailand  

A former Newtown Jets player who had met Sydney gangster Neddy Smith has described his amazement when Chris Dawson allegedly approached him on a plane to ask if he knew someone to help ‘get rid of his wife’.

Robert Silkman, was on a flight home from a Jets holiday with teammates when he says Dawson bent over and made the request, to which Silkman replied, ‘what, for good?’

‘And he said “yeah” and I said “I’ll talk to you when I get back to Sydney”,’ Mr Silkman told Chris Dawson’s murder trial on Thursday.

He said he then turned to the Jets player sitting next to him on the plane, Ray Lee.

‘I said “you wouldn’t believe what Chris Dawson just said to me?” and I was laughing, “he said he wanted to know if I can use someone to get rid of his wife.

‘And I said “he’s f***ing mad”.’

Mr Silkman – who admitted under cross-examination he has a criminal record – said he had never again discussed with Chris Dawson what had occurred on the flight. 

The Chris Dawson murder trial heard a Newtown Jets team mate of Chris Dawson who had met gangster Neddy Smith (Smith is above, left, with wife Debra and a man Smith later murdered, Harvey Jones) had been asked on a plane flight by the accused for help in getting his wife Lynette Dawson killed

The Chris Dawson murder trial heard a Newtown Jets team mate of Chris Dawson who had met gangster Neddy Smith (Smith is above, left, with wife Debra and a man Smith later murdered, Harvey Jones) had been asked on a plane flight by the accused for help in getting his wife Lynette Dawson killed  

Robert Silkman, who has met Neddy Smith at a pub with Newtown Jets' teammate Paul Hayward  (pictured above) - Smith's brother-in-law - said when Dawson asked him for help 'to get rid of' Lynette Dawsonm he replied 'you mean for good?'

Robert Silkman, who has met Neddy Smith at a pub with Newtown Jets’ teammate Paul Hayward  (pictured above) – Smith’s brother-in-law – said when Dawson asked him for help ‘to get rid of’ Lynette Dawsonm he replied ‘you mean for good?’

Robert Silkman said when Chris Dawson (above) approached him on the return flight from a Newtown Jets team holiday with the request, he'd told another Jets player that Dawson was 'f***ing mad'

Robert Silkman said when Chris Dawson (above) approached him on the return flight from a Newtown Jets team holiday with the request, he’d told another Jets player that Dawson was ‘f***ing mad’

In the course of Mr Silkman’s cross-examination by Chris Dawson’s barrister Pauline David, Justice Ian Harrison took the step to grant the witness immunity against self-incrimination when being quizzed about past crimes. 

Justice Harrison said Mr Silkman’s credibility as a witness, given his dishonest past, would  have to be judged. 

Now in his 70s, Mr Silkman told the court he had met Neddy Smith at a pub in the 1970s when he went for a drink with his friend, Newtown Jets star halfback, Paul Hayward.

The NSW Supreme Court on Thursday heard that Smith – a heroin dealer and later a convicted murderer who was a notorious Sydney criminal and died in jail last year – had been at a hotel when the Newtown team mates turned up, but that Mr Silkman was not a friend of his.

‘I didn’t have no association with Neddy Smith, only a hello in a hotel,’ Mr Silkman told the court, adding that ‘nothing was secret’ about that fact. 

Mr Silkman said the approach by Chris Dawson on a plane flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney had occurred after a Jets end-of-season holiday in late 1975.

The teammates had stayed at the Tiki Inn in Surfers Paradise, and on October 1, 1975, watched the Muhammad Ali boxing fight against Joe Frazier in the Philippines, known as  the ‘Thriller in Manila’. 

On the flight Mr Silkman was sitting in an aisle seat and he said that Dawson had ‘come along and kneeled down to my level where I was sitting and asked me … did I know anyone’ to get rid of Lynette Dawson.

Mr Silkman said he didn’t know Mrs Dawson. He was testifying via AVL from Bankstown police station at the murder trial of Christopher Michael Dawson, who has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife. 

The 1975 Newtown Jets team including Chris Dawson (not pictured), his twin Paul Dawson (back row, fourth from left) had colourful identities such as armed robber Gary Sullivan (front row second from left), drug trafficker Paul Hayward (back row, second from left), disgraced cop David Oliveri (back row, third from left) and alleged mob driver Doug Kemister (bottom right).

The 1975 Newtown Jets team including Chris Dawson (not pictured), his twin Paul Dawson (back row, fourth from left) had colourful identities such as armed robber Gary Sullivan (front row second from left), drug trafficker Paul Hayward (back row, second from left), disgraced cop David Oliveri (back row, third from left) and alleged mob driver Doug Kemister (bottom right).

The trial has heard that Newtown Jets former team mate of Chris Dason's, Robert Silkman, will claim the accused asked him in 1975 - six years before Lyn Dawson(above) disappeared if he could get someone to kill her

The trial has heard that Newtown Jets former team mate of Chris Dason’s, Robert Silkman, will claim the accused asked him in 1975 – six years before Lyn Dawson(above) disappeared if he could get someone to kill her

Lynette Dawson disappeared in January 1982, just over six years after the Jets’ Gold Coast team holiday, and Chris Dawson is accused of murdering her and disposing of her body.

The crown argues that he did so to have an unfettered relationship with his babysitter and former student, known as JC. 

His defence case is that Lyn left her marriage to Chris Dawson of her own accord and abandoned her two young daughters, then aged four and two. 

Mr Silkman, who played reserve grade rugby league with Chris Dawson for the Newtown Jets, said both Chris and is twin brother Paul were footballers with asterisks attached to their names, denoting ‘important player’. 

He listed the Newtown Jets players he hung around with back then, which included Paul Hayward, who later became a heroin trafficker.

After the 1978 football season, Hayward was sent to Bangkok probably by Neddy Smith with Warren Fellows to arrange a drug shipment. 

Jets star halfback Paul Hayward was married to Neddy Smith's wife's sister and got caught in Thailand in 1978 with 8.4kg of heroin

Robert Silkman met Neddy Smith at a pub with Hayward,  but said he wasn't mates with the notorious gangster who died i jail last year

Jets star halfback Paul Hayward (left) , who got caught in Thailand in 1978 with 8.4kg of heroin, was married to the Neddy Smith’s wife’s sister and had a sorry end after being jailed in Thailand

The murder trial of Chris Dawson (above with wife Lynette) has heard a claim that he approached a Newtown Jets teammate in 1975 and asked him if he could help 'get rid of his wife'. Lynette Dawson was allegedly murdered in 1982

The murder trial of Chris Dawson (above with wife Lynette) has heard a claim that he approached a Newtown Jets teammate in 1975 and asked him if he could help ‘get rid of his wife’. Lynette Dawson was allegedly murdered in 1982

 Hayward and Fellowes were caught by Thai police with a suitcase containing 8.4kg of heroin and the pair were imprisoned to await trial for drug trafficking for which they faced the death penalty.

Hayward spent 11 years in Thailand’s notorious prisons, before being granted a royal pardon,  but returned home a heroin addict with HIV and died of an overdose in 1992.

 Asked by crown prosecutor Craig Everson SC who he mixed socially with in 1975, Mr Silkman said he also mixed with Dave Oliveri.

Dave Oliveri was a NSW police Officer who became the subject of an ICAC investigation and resigned from the force in disgrace in 1988, but was never charged.

On a 1975 game playbook of Newtown games against Canterbury Bankstown, one player listed was Doug Kemister, who had criminal underworld connections.

Defence barrister Pauline David asked Mr Silkman on Thursday about his criminal past , which included stealing 5000 bricks in 1973, and using fire and explosives to destroy a Kogarah property in 1991. 

Chris and Paul Dawson (above in a Levi's jeans ad in the 1980s) were both footballers for the Newtown Jets back in 1975 and had asterisks attached to their names, denoting 'important player'

Chris and Paul Dawson (above in a Levi’s jeans ad in the 1980s) were both footballers for the Newtown Jets back in 1975 and had asterisks attached to their names, denoting ‘important player’

Robert Silkman was friends with Dave Oliveri, a NSW policeman who later resigned in disgrace

On the Newtown Jets playbook was Doug Kemister (above) who later had criminal connections

Robert Silkman was friends with Dave Oliveri, (left) a NSW policeman who later resigned in disgrace and on the Newtown Jets playbook was Doug Kemister (right) who later had criminal connections

Asked why he burned down the premises of his friend Alan Thompson, for which he was found guilty of causing malicious damage by fire, Mr Silkman said ‘he owed me money … $30,000’.

Mr Silkman was burnt in the fire after using petrol to ignite some felt with a cohort, RH. 

Pauline David: ‘Why did you call (Alan Thompson) at 3am?’

Robert Silkman: ‘To tell him I’d burnt his place down.’

Ms David: ‘You were party to an insurance fraud?’

Mr Silkman: ‘No’. 

Asked why he lied about the arson, telling police he got burned in a barbecue accident, Mr Silkman replied, ‘The reason I lied is I didn’t want to go to jail (it) taught me to tell the truth in future because I went to jail’.

Asked if he wanted the court ‘to accept you as an honest person’, he replied, ‘well I think I am’. 

Prosecutors have attempted to paint Chris Dawson (above with Lynette and one of their daughters) as a violent, controlling and abusive husband, but his defence contends Lyn left the marriage of her own accord, abandoning her children

Prosecutors have attempted to paint Chris Dawson (above with Lynette and one of their daughters) as a violent, controlling and abusive husband, but his defence contends Lyn left the marriage of her own accord, abandoning her children

The murder trial began in early May and is into its fifth week, with a one week adjournment interrupting proceedings when Mr Everson contracted Covid. 

The crown’s witnesses have attempted to paint Dawson as a violent, controlling and abusive husband, with testimony emerging that Mrs Dawson had been seen variously with a black eye, and bruises around her throat and on her arms and thigh.

Witnesses have said they saw him shove his wife’s face into the dirt, swing her into a doorframe, and demean her with insults such as ‘fatso’.

Dawson’s legal team has argued the witnesses’ testimony has been contaminated because they had talked about the case with each other and had listened to The Teacher’s Pet podcast about the mystery surrounding Mrs Dawson, arguing it was broadcast with an assumption that her husband was guilty.

They have also argued that because these events happened four decades ago and memories have faded over time, the testimony given now is not an accurate portrayal of what happened.

Dawson claims JC’s allegations are lies spurred by a bitter custody battle which occurred after their 1990 break-up. 

The trial heard an intercepted phone call between Chris Dawson and his sister in which they discussed his schoolgirl second wife JC (centre) which Lynette Hutcheon said had been 'difficult, causing custody problems' in the 1990s

The trial heard an intercepted phone call between Chris Dawson and his sister in which they discussed his schoolgirl second wife JC (centre) which Lynette Hutcheon said had been ‘difficult, causing custody problems’ in the 1990s

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