Australia's Azaria Chamberlain mystery solved: A dingo did it

A 32-year mystery over the death of baby Azaria Chamberlain ended Tuesday when an Australian coroner found a dingo killed the baby.

(AP Photo/News Ltd, file)
A file photo of an Australian wild Dingo dog on Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia. In 2001, a nine-year old boy was killed by a dingo on Fraser Island.

A 32-year legal mystery over the death of a baby in Australia's outback came to an end on Tuesday when a coroner found a dingo was responsible for killing infant Azaria Chamberlain, a case that split national opinion and attracted global headlines.

The coroner's finding ends a three-decade fight for justice by Azaria's parents, Michael Chamberlain and Lindy Chamberlain, who was jailed for three years over her daughter's death before she was later cleared.

"This has been a terrifying battle, bitter at times, but now some healing, and a chance to put our daughter's spirit to rest," Michael Chamberlain told reporters in the Northern Territory capital Darwin after the coroner's ruling.

RELATED: Top animal stories of 2011

Azaria disappeared on Aug. 17, 1980 from a tent in a camping ground near Uluru, a towering, haunting monolith formerly known as Ayers Rock, one of central Australia's main tourist attractions.

Azaria's body was never found. Her parents always maintained she was taken by a dingo, an Australian native wild dog.

"Obviously we are relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga," Lindy Chamberlain, now known as Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, told reporters outside the court.

The dingo-baby case has been dramatized several times, and was turned into a Hollywood film "A Cry in the Dark", starring Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain.

TAKEN BY A DINGO
Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris found evidence from the case proved a dingo or dingoes were responsible for 9-week-old Azaria's death and ruled that her death certificate should read "attacked and taken by a dingo".

"What occurred on 17th August, 1980, was that shortly after Mrs Chamberlain placed Azaria in the tent, a dingo or dingoes entered the tent, took Azaria and carried and dragged her from the immediate area," Morris said.

In an emotional finding, Morris then offered her condolences to the Chamberlains and one of their sons, who were in the Darwin court room.
"Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special loved daughter and sister Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss," she said to the family. "Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child."

A first inquest in 1981 supported the parents' account but, a second inquest in 1982 overturned that finding and recommended Lindy and Michael Chamberlain stand trial over Azaria's death.

Lindy Chamberlain, then pregnant with her fourth child, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Michael Chamberlain was convicted of being an accessory and given a suspended sentence.

A judicial inquiry, known as a Royal Commission, overturned the convictions in 1987, leading to Lindy Chamberlain's release. A third inquest in 1995 returned an open verdict.

The latest inquest, however, heard new evidence of several dingo attacks on humans, including details of how a nine-year old boy died in Queensland after being attacked in 2001.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)

RELATED: Top animal stories of 2011

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.