The case of a two-month-old baby whose parents claim was killed by a dingo is to be re-examined with a fourth inquest.
Michael and Lindy Chamberlain have always insisted that wild dogs known as dingoes took their baby, Azaria, from their campsite near Ayers Rock, or Uluru, on 17 August 1980. But their initial pleas were dismissed.
“My god the dingoes took my baby," Lindy Chamberlain is said to have cried, words that were described as a "calculated fanciful lie" in court. Her words split the nation, and inspired 1988 film "A Cry in the Dark" film featuring Meryl Streep as distraught mother Lindy.
People had campaigned outside the court wearing T-shirts reading “the dingo is innocent!” while the jury laughed when they were shown pictures of dingoes as evidence.
However implausible, in 1981 a coroner ruled that baby Azaria was taken by dingoes.
It was a second inquiry in October 1982 that resulted in Lindy Chamberlain being convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with Michael convicted as accessory after the fact.
Much of the evidence rested on analysis of Azaria’s jumpsuit, found a week after the tragedy at the base of the rock. A slit to the neck of the baby-gro was judged to be made by scissors or a knife rather than dingo teeth, while a “bloodied” handprint was found on Azaria’s clothes.
Yet in one of biggest forensic blunders ever, the "bloodied handprint" turned out to be red desert dust, while more "blood" found in the family car was discovered to be chemical sound deadener.
Both convictions were overturned in one of the most mysterious cases in Australia’s legal history. This will be the fourth inquiry into the tragedy, and hinges on new evidence of dingo attacks.
At the time of the tragedy dingo attacks were relatively rare, and the jury was sceptical that a dingo would be able to take a 4kg baby from her parent’s tent.
However In April 2001, a group of dingoes stalked and killed nine-year-old Clinton Gage, while a number of cases of dingo harrassment have been recorded on Fraser Island, Queensland. After a third inquiry returned an open verdict, Michael Chamberlain hopes this fourth investigation wil bring some closure.
Lindy has since remarried and changed her name to Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton. However her ex-husband Michael says that they will both welcome the new inquest as a chance to establish forever that Azaria had been taken by a dingo.
“We believe that new evidence will indicate that dingoes can in fact kill babies,” he said. “I trust that the truth will now be determined.”
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