One of the most controversial cases in Australian history centred around a claim that a baby was taken by a dingo.
While on vacation in the Australian outback, Seventh Day Adventist priest Michael Chamberlain and his wife, Lindy, discovered that their baby, Azaria, is missing from the tent where she was sleeping. Lindy claims she saw a dingo leave the tent with something in its mouth. Initial evidence supports the Chamberlains, but negative media coverage and unfounded rumors create a shift in public opinion as people begin to suspect the couple of murdering their baby.
Azaria Chamberlain (11 June 1980 – 17 August 1980) was an Australian 2-month-old baby girl who was killed by a dingo on the night of 17 August 1980 on a family camping trip to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain was, however, tried for murder and spent more than three years in prison. She as released from Darwin’s Berrimah prison in February 1986 after the extraordinary discovery of baby Azaria's jacket on a remote side of Ayers Rock as police searched for a British tourist who had slipped and fallen.
In 2012, some 32 years after Azaria's death, the Chamberlains' version of events was officially confirmed by a coroner.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
- 11 Jun 1980 - Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain is born to Michael and Lindy Chamberlain. She joins older brothers, Aidan and Reagan.
- 17 Aug 1980 - The Chamberlain family go on a camping trip to Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock). Shortly after having put Azaria to bed in the tent beside her sleeping brother Reagan, the Chamberlains and other campers hear sharp cries from Azaria. As Lindy approaches the tent, she sees a dingo run off. On entering the tent, she finds Azaria missing. Searches begin immediately for Azaria.
- 24 Aug 1980 - A photographer at Uluru, Wally Goodwin, finds some of Azarias clothing. A bloodied jumpsuit, booties, diaper, and undershirt are found. The matinee jacket is not found. Rumors that the clothes were found folded are false.
- Early Oct 1980 - The Chamberlain family gives official police statements and their car is searched.
- 20 Feb 1981 - The initial coroner’s inquest rules that a wild dog took Azaria and that no one from the Chamberlain family was responsible for her death. However, it states the clothes were tampered with after the fact by “person or persons unknown.”
- Late Sept 1981 - The Chamberlain family home is searched, along with the homes of other witnesses.
- 20 Nov 1981 - A new inquest is ordered.
- 12 Dec 1981 - The second inquest begins.
- 2 Feb 1982 - The second coroner’s inquest finds cause to commit Lindy to trial on charges of murder. Michael Chamberlain, Azaria’s father, is charged as an accessory after the fact.
- 13 Sep 1982 - The trial begins. The prosecution would call nearly 40 witnesses and the defense around 25.
- 29 Oct 1982 - The jury finds the very pregnant Lindy guilty of murder, and Michael guilty as an accessory after the fact. Lindy receives a mandatory life sentence whereas Michael is given an 18 month suspended sentence.
- 17 Nov 1982 - Lindy delivers a health baby girl while in custody who she names Kahlia.
- 19 Nov 1982 - Lindy is released on bail pending the outcome of her initial federal appeal.
- 19 Apr 1983 - The appeal is denied and Lindy is ordered back into custody. An application for bail pending a second appeal is denied.
- 2 Feb 1986 - While searching for the remains of English Hiker David Brett at Uluru, a small child’s jacket is found near dingo lairs. The jacket is white with yellow trim, just as Lindy had described. It had been believed that Lindy lied about the jacket in order to explain why dingo saliva was not found on Azaria’s clothing.
- 7 Feb 1986 - Lindy is released from prison.
- 2 Jun 1987 - The Morling Royal Commission issues a nearly 400 page report after a 14 month investigation into the evidence of the case. Evidence of a dingo attack is found whereas evidence of murder is not.
- 15 Sept 1988 - The Chamberlains are found actually innocent by a court.
- 25 May 1992 - Lindy Chamberlain is given $1.3 million in compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
- 13 Dec 1995 - A third inquest leaves the cause of death for Azaria “open” though it does hold that Michael and Lindy were not responsible.
- 16 Dec 2011 - The inquest is re-opened. This is the fourth inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain and comes when Azaria would have been 31 years old.
- 12 Jun 2012 - The fourth inquest rules that Azaria’s cause of death was a dingo attack. Not only does the evidence support this, it is the only alternative theory the prosecution offered to murder.
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