Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Lindy CHAMBERLAIN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


"The Dingo Trial"
 
Born Alice Lynne Murchison
 
Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Miscarriage of justice - Her baby daughter was taken by a dingo
Number of victims: 1 ?
Date of murder: August 17, 1980
Date of birth: March 4, 1948
Victim profile: Her baby daughter, Azaria, nine-week-old
Method of murder: Taken by a dingo?
Location: Ayers Rock, Northern Territory, Australia
Status: Convicted of murder on October 29, 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her conviction was overturned and acquitted of all charges in September, 1988.
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2
 
photo gallery 3 photo gallery 4
 
forensic evidence
 
 
 
 
 

High Court of Australia

 
Chamberlain v. The Queen
 
 
 
 
 

Mr John Lowndes - Coroner for the Northern Territory

 
Inquest  into the death of Azaria Chamberlain - 1995
 
 

Elizabeth Morris - Coroner

 
Inquest  into the death of Azaria Chamberlain - 2012
 
 
 
 
 

Chamberlain Innocence Committee

 
New Forensic Evidence
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton (born 4 March 1948, née Alice Lynne Murchison) was at the center of one of Australia's most publicised murder trials, in which she was convicted of killing her baby daughter, Azaria. The conviction was later overturned.

Early life

Lindy Chamberlain was born in Whakatane, New Zealand and moved to Australia with her family in 1949. She and her family were adherents to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she married fellow Adventist and pastor Michael Chamberlain on November 18, 1969.

In the 1970s Michael and Lindy Chamberlain had two sons, Aidan (born October 2, 1973) and Reagan (born April 16, 1976). For the first five years after their marriage they lived in Tasmania, after which they moved to northern Queensland.

Azaria Chamberlain's disappearance

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain's first daughter, Azaria, was born on June 10, 1980. When Azaria was two months old, Michael and Lindy Chamberlain took their three children on a camping trip to Uluru, arriving on August 16, 1980. On the night of August 17, Chamberlain reported that the child had been taken from her tent by a dingo. A massive search was organised, but Azaria's body was never found.

Conviction, imprisonment and release

Although the initial coronial inquiry supported Chamberlain's account of Azaria's disappearance, Chamberlain was later prosecuted for the murder of her child on the basis of the finding of the baby's jumpsuit and of what appeared to be blood found in the Chamberlain's car. She was convicted of murder on October 29, 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Shortly after her conviction, she gave birth to her fourth child, Kahlia, on November 17, 1982. An appeal against her conviction was rejected by the High Court in February, 1984.

New evidence emerged in February 1986 when a remaining item of Azaria's clothing was found. On the basis of this evidence Lindy Chamberlain's life sentence was remitted by the Northern Territory Government and a Royal Commission began in 1987. Her conviction was overturned in September, 1988.

Subsequent life

In 1990, Chamberlain published Through My Eyes: an autobiography (ISBN 0-85561-331-9). It has recently been reprinted. She and Michael Chamberlain divorced in 1991. On December 20, 1992, Ms Chamberlain married Rick Creighton, a publisher and fellow member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. She and Creighton now live in Australia.

Film and TV

In the 1983 Australian TV movie about the case, Who Killed Baby Azaria?, Lindy Chamberlain was played by Elaine Hudson. In the 1988 film A Cry in the Dark (also called Evil Angels), the role was taken by Meryl Streep, while Miranda Otto played her in the 2004 Australian TV mini-series, Through My Eyes: The Lindy Chamberlain Story.

 
 

Alice Lynne "Lindy" Chamberlain-Creighton (born 4 March 1948) was at the centre of one of Australia's most publicised murder trials in which she was accused and convicted of killing her 2-month old daughter, Azaria while camping at Uluru. In her defence, she always maintained that she saw a dingo leave the tent where Azaria slept on the night she disappeared.

Eight years later her conviction was overturned in the discovery of new evidence and both she and Michael Chamberlain were acquitted of all charges. She was adjudged wrongly convicted only after having spent three years in prison for murdering her baby, and having given birth to her fourth child while a prisoner. In 1992 Lindy Chamberlain received $1.3 million compensation from the Australian government for wrongful imprisonment.

Early life

Alice Lynne Murchison was born in Whakatane, New Zealand where she was known as "Lindy" from a young age. She moved to Australia with her family in 1949. She and her family were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she married fellow Adventist and pastor Michael Chamberlain on 18 November 1969. In the 1970s the Chamberlains had two sons; Aidan, born in 1973, and Reagan, born in 1976. Chamberlain's first daughter, Azaria, was born 11 June 1980, her second daughter and fourth child, Kahlia, was born in November 1982. For the first five years after their marriage they lived in Tasmania, after which they moved to Mount Isa in northern Queensland. At the time their daughter Azaria went missing, Lindy's husband Michael served as minister of Mount Isa's Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Azaria Chamberlain's disappearance

When Azaria was two months old, the family went on a camping trip to Uluru, arriving on 16 August 1980. On the night of 17 August, Chamberlain reported that the child had been taken from her tent by a dingo.

A massive search was organised; Azaria was not found but the jump suit she had been wearing was discovered about a week later about 4000m from the tent, bloodstained about the neck, indicating the probable death of the missing child. A matinee jacket the child had been wearing was not found at the time.

From the day Azaria went missing, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain have maintained a dingo took their child, and early on in the case, the facts showed that for the two years before Azaria went missing, Uluru / Ayers Rock chief ranger Derek Roff had been writing to the government urging a dingo cull and warning of imminent human tragedy, that dingoes were becoming increasingly cheeky, approaching and sometimes biting people.

Conviction, imprisonment and release

The initial inquiry, held in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, by Alice Springs magistrate and coroner Dennis Barritt in December 1980 and January 1981, supported the Chamberlains' account of Azaria's disappearance, finding a dingo took the child.

The Supreme Court quashed the findings of the initial inquest and ordered a second inquest in December 1981, with the taking of evidence concluded in February 1982. By an indictment presented to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in September 1982, Lindy Chamberlain was charged with the murder of Azaria Chamberlain and Michael Chamberlain was charged with being an accessory after the fact. On 29 October 1982 the Chamberlains were both found guilty as charged.

Second inquest

In committing the Chamberlains for trial, the coroner who performed the second inquest and recorded findings as to the cause and manner of Azaria's death, stated that although the evidence was, to a large degree, circumstantial, a jury properly instructed could arrive at a verdict; with regard to the clothing evidence, he surmised that the Chamberlains knew dingos were in the area, attempted to simulate a dingo attack, recovered Azaria's buried body, removed her clothing, damaged it by cutting, rubbed it in vegetation and deposited the clothes for later recovery.

On this basis and that of blood evidence of unknown origin found in the Chamberlains' car, the Chamberlains were prosecuted and convicted for the murder of their 2-month old baby, with Lindy sentenced to life imprisonment and Michael Chamberlain convicted as an accessory to murder.

Prosecution claims

The prosecution's theory was that, in a ten minute absence from the camp fire, Lindy returned to her tent, changed into track suit pants, took Azaria to her car, used scissors to cut Azaria's throat, waited for Azaria to die, hid the body in a camera case in the car, cleaned up blood on everything including the outside of the camera case, removed the tracksuit pants, obtained baked beans for her son from the car, returned to the tent, did something to leave blood splashes there and brought her son Aidan back to the campfire without ever attracting the attention of other campers.

The prosecution's expert testimony for forensic evidence included that of James Cameron, a scientist who had also given crucial evidence in a case in England which was later overturned when his expert evidence was proved wrong. With regard to the timing of the baby's cry and Mrs. Chamberlain's whereabouts, the prosecution also claimed that the Chamberlains convinced fellow camper and witness Sally Lowe to say that she heard Azaria cry after Mrs. Chamberlain returned to the camp fire. Witness Judith West, who was camped 30m away, testified to hearing a dog's low, throaty growl coming from that direction, a sound that she associated with growls her husband's dogs made when he was slaughtering sheep.

Post-conviction

Shortly after her conviction, Chamberlain was escorted from Berrimah Prison under guard to give birth to her fourth child, Kahlia, on 17 November 1982, in Darwin Hospital, and was returned thereafter to prison. An appeal to the Federal Court against conviction was subsequently dismissed. Another appeal against her conviction was rejected by the High Court in February 1984.

Release on new evidence

New evidence emerged on 2 February 1986 when a remaining item of clothing was found partially buried near Uluru in an isolated location adjacent to a dingo lair: Azaria's missing matinee jacket, which the police had maintained for years did not exist. Five days later, on 7 February 1986, with Azaria's missing jacket found and supporting the Chamberlain's defence case, Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison, and her life sentence was remitted by the Northern Territory Government. A Royal Commission began investigating the matter further in 1987.

Morling Royal Commisssion

The purpose of the Royal Commission was to enquire into and report on the correctness of the Chamberlain convictions. In reaching the conclusion that there was a reasonable doubt as to the Chamberlains' guilt, Commissioner Morling concluded that the hypothesis that Mrs. Chamberlain murdered Azaria had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Although the Commission was of the opinion that the evidence afforded considerable support for the dingo hypothesis, the Commission did not examine the evidence to see whether it had been proved that a dingo took the baby. To do so would, in the words of Commissioner Morling, involve "... (a) fundamental error of reversing the onus of proof and requiring Mrs Chamberlain to prove her innocence." (at 339 of the Report).

Acquittal

In acquitting the Chamberlains in 1988, the Supreme Court found that the alleged "baby blood" found in the Chamberlain's car, upon which the prosecution so heavily relied, could have been any substance, but was likely that of a sound deadening compound from a manufacturing overspray.

This finding underscored inconsistencies in the earlier blood testing, which, along with the later-recovered matinee jacket from a dingo lair area, had given rise to the Morling Royal Commission's doubts about the propriety of her conviction. The court also noted that as DNA testing was not advanced in the early 1980s, the expert testimony given by the prosecution at trial and relied on by the jurors was reasonable evidence at the time, even though it was ultimately found to be faulty.

Third inquest

After the Chamberlains were acquitted by the Supreme Court in September 1988 and their convictions overturned, a third inquest in 1995 took place, with the coroner's report stating that it was a "paper inquest" rather than a full inquest since there was little new evidence and the second inquest was never fully completed.

The coroner considered the Morling Royal Commission's report enquiring into the correctness of the convictions against Alice Lynne Chamberlain along with submissions made on behalf of the Chamberlains, and returned an open verdict in Azaria's cause of death, or, insufficient evidence by the prosecution that failed to meet the required standard of proof for conviction. Specifically, he wrote "After examining all the evidence I am unable to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Azaria Chamberlain died at the hands of Alice Lynne Chamberlain. It automatically follows that I am also unable to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Michael Leigh Chamberlain had any involvement in the death." He also wrote that because the evidence for the death-by-dingo hypothesis was never developed "I am unable to be reasonably satisfied that Azaria Chamberlain died accidentally as a result of being taken by a dingo".

2012 inquest

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain have continued to push for a fuller investigation of Azaria's death as caused by a dingo. A new inquest began in February 2012 and new figures on dingo attacks on Fraser Island have been collated by the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM). They will reportedly be provided as evidence at the Azaria Chamberlain inquest. Coroner Elizabeth Morris said new evidence in relation to dingo attacks on infants and young children had helped convince her to reopen the investigation.

After 32 years of intense media interest and public excoriation, the Chamberlains have stated they are yet unsatisfied with bare acquittal and presumed innocence, they are keen to finally, and definitively, determine how their daughter died.

Court cases

  • Chamberlain v R (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1983) 153 CLR 514; (1983) 46 ALR 608; 2 May 1983, HCA, Brennan J – bail application

  • Chamberlain v R (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1983) 46 ALR 493; 29 April 1983, FCA, Bowen CJ, Forster & Jenkinson JJ

  • Chamberlain v R (No 2) (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1984) 153 CLR 521; (1984) 51 ALR 225; 22 February 1984, HCA, Gibbs CJ, Mason, Murphy, Brennan & Deane JJ

  • Chamberlain v R, (Acquittal decision) Reference Under S.433A of the Criminal Code by the Attorney-General for the Northern Territory of Australia of Convictions of Alice Lynne Chamberlain and Michael Leigh Chamberlain, Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia, No. CA2, 1988

Subsequent life

Chamberlain published Through My Eyes: an autobiography in 1990.

Chamberlain was divorced from Michael Chamberlain in 1991. On 20 December 1992, she married an American, Rick Creighton, a publisher and fellow member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She subsequently became known as Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton. She and Creighton live in Australia.

In August 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the death of Azaria, Chamberlain appealed on her website to have the cause of death amended on Azaria's death record.

Film and other adaptations

In the 1983 Australian TV movie about the case, Who Killed Baby Azaria?, Chamberlain was played by Elaine Hudson. In the 1988 film Evil Angels (released in Europe and the Americas as A Cry in the Dark) the role was played by Meryl Streep, whose performance received an Academy Award nomination for best actress in 1989. Miranda Otto played Chamberlain in the 2004 Australian TV mini-series Through My Eyes: The Lindy Chamberlain Story.

  • Who Killed Baby Azaria? (1983) (TV, Network Ten) at the Internet Movie Database

  • "Evil Angels" or "A Cry in the Dark" (1988) at the Internet Movie Database

  • Through My Eyes (2004) (TV, Seven Network) at the Internet Movie Database

Australian composer Moya Henderson wrote the opera Lindy to a libretto by Judith Rodriguez. In 1990, the Rank Strangers' recording of their song "Uluru", which supported the Chamberlains and called for compensation to be paid to them, finished in the final five of the Australian Country Music Awards in Tamworth, New South Wales.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Azaria Chamberlain disappearance

Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain (born 11 June 1980 in Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia) was a nine-week-old Australian baby girl, who disappeared on the night of 17 August 1980 on a family camping trip to Uluru (then 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. An initial inquest held in Alice Springs supported this assertion and was highly critical of the police investigation. The findings of the inquest were broadcast live on television—a first in Australia. Subsequently, after a further investigation and a second inquest held in Darwin, Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain was tried for murder. She was convicted of murder on 29 October 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Azaria's father, Michael Chamberlain, was convicted as an accessory after the fact and given a suspended sentence. A third inquest was conducted in 1995, which resulted in an "open" finding. A fourth inquest was announced in December 2011.

The media focus for the trial was extraordinarily intense and sensational. The Chamberlains made several unsuccessful appeals, including the final High Court appeal. After all legal options had been exhausted, the chance discovery of a piece of Azaria's clothing in an area full of dingo lairs led to Lindy Chamberlain's release from prison, on "compassionate grounds". She was later exonerated of all charges. While the case is officially unsolved, the report of a dingo attack is generally accepted. Recent deadly dingo attacks in other areas of Australia have strengthened the case for the dingo theory.

The story has been made into a TV movie, a feature film, a TV miniseries, a play by Brooke Pierce, a concept album by Australian band The Paradise Motel and an opera by Moya Henderson. Numerous books have also been written about the case.

Coroner's inquests

The initial coronial inquest into the disappearance was opened in Alice Springs on 15 December 1980 before magistrate Denis Barritt. On 20 February 1981, in the first live telecast of Australian court proceedings, Barritt ruled that the likely cause was a dingo attack. In addition to this finding, Barritt also concluded that subsequent to the attack, "the body of Azaria was taken from the possession of the dingo, and disposed of by an unknown method, by a person or persons, name unknown".

The Northern Territory Police and prosecutors were dissatisfied with this finding. Investigations continued, leading to a second inquest in Darwin in September 1981. Based on ultraviolet photographs of Azaria's jumpsuit, James Cameron of the London Hospital Medical College alleged that "there was an incised wound around the neck of the jumpsuit – in other words, a cut throat" and that there was an imprint of the hand of a small adult on the jumpsuit, visible in the photographs.

Following this and other findings, the Chamberlains were charged with Azaria's murder.

In 1995 a third inquest was conducted which failed to determine a cause of death, resulting in an "open" finding.

In December 2011 the Northern Territory coroner Elizabeth Morris announced that a fourth inquest would be held in February 2012.

Case against Lindy Chamberlain

The Crown alleged that Lindy Chamberlain had cut Azaria's throat in the front seat of the family car, hiding the baby's body in a large camera case. She then, according to the proposed reconstruction of the crime, rejoined the group of campers around a campfire and fed one of her sons a can of baked beans, before going to the tent and raising the cry that a dingo had taken the baby. It was alleged that at a later time, while other people from the campsite were searching, she disposed of the body.

The key evidence supporting this allegation was the jumpsuit, as well as a highly contentious forensic report claiming to have found evidence of fetal haemoglobin in stains on the front seat of the Chamberlains' 1977 Torana hatchback. Fetal haemoglobin is present in infants six months and younger and Azaria was nine weeks old at the time of her disappearance.

Lindy Chamberlain was questioned about the garments that Azaria was wearing. She claimed that Azaria was wearing a jacket over the jumpsuit, but the jacket was not present when the garments were found. She was questioned about the fact that Azaria's singlet, which was inside the jumpsuit, was inside out. She insisted that she never put a singlet on her babies inside out and that she was most particular about this. The statement conflicted with the state of the garments when they were collected as evidence. The garments had been arranged by the investigating officer for a photograph.

In her defence, eyewitness evidence was presented of dingoes having been seen in the area on the evening of 17 August 1980. All witnesses claimed to believe the Chamberlains' story. One witness, a nurse, also reported having heard a baby's cry after the time when the prosecution alleged Azaria had been murdered.

Evidence was also presented that adult blood also passed the test used for fetal haemoglobin, and that other organic compounds can produce similar results on that particular test, including mucus from the nose, and chocolate milkshakes, both of which had been present in the vehicle where Azaria was allegedly murdered.

Engineer Les Harris, who had conducted dingo research for over a decade, said that, contrary to Cameron's findings, a dingo's carnassial teeth can shear through material as tough as motor vehicle seat belts. He also cited an example of a captive female dingo removing a bundle of meat from its wrapping paper and leaving the paper intact. His evidence was rejected, however.

Evidence to the effect that a dingo was strong enough to carry a kangaroo was also ignored. Also ignored was the removal of a three-year-old girl by a dingo from the back seat of a tourist's motor vehicle at the camping area just weeks before, an event witnessed by the parents.

An Aboriginal man gave evidence that his wife had tracked the dingo and found places where it had put the baby down, leaving the imprint of the baby's clothing in the soil. This evidence was discounted, because the man spoke on behalf of his wife, but in the first person, according to Aboriginal custom.

The defence's case was rejected by the jury. Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murder on 29 October 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour. Michael Chamberlain was found guilty as an accessory after the fact and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Appeals

An appeal was made to the High Court in November 1983. Asked to quash the convictions on the ground that the verdicts were unsafe and unsatisfactory, in February 1984 the court refused the appeal by majority.

Release and acquittal

The final resolution of the case was triggered by a chance discovery. In early 1986, English tourist David Brett fell to his death from Uluru during an evening climb. Because of the vast size of the rock and the scrubby nature of the surrounding terrain, it was eight days before Brett's remains were discovered, lying below the bluff where he had lost his footing and in an area full of dingo lairs. As police searched the area, looking for missing bones that might have been carried off by dingoes, they discovered a small item of clothing. It was quickly identified as the crucial missing piece of evidence from the Chamberlain case—Azaria's missing matinee jacket.

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory ordered Lindy Chamberlain's immediate release and the case was reopened. On 15 September 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously overturned all convictions against Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. The exoneration was based on a rejection of the two key points of the prosecution's case—particularly the alleged fetal haemoglobin evidence—and of bias and invalid assumptions made during the initial trial.

The questionable nature of the forensic evidence in the Chamberlain trial, and the weight given to it, raised concerns about such procedures and about expert testimony in criminal cases. The prosecution had successfully argued that the pivotal haemoglobin tests indicated the presence of fetal haemoglobin in the Chamberlains' car and that it was a significant factor in the original conviction. But it was later shown that these tests were highly unreliable and that similar tests, conducted on a "sound deadener" sprayed on during the manufacture of the car, had yielded virtually identical results.

Two years after they were exonerated, the Chamberlains were awarded A$1.3 million in compensation for wrongful imprisonment, a sum that covered only approximately one quarter of their legal expenses.

The findings of a third coroner's inquest were released on 13 December 1995. The coroner found that

Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain died at Ayers Rock on 17 August 1980. As to the cause of her death and the manner in which she died the evidence adduced does not enable me to say. I therefore return an open finding and record the cause and manner of death as unknown.

Media involvement and bias

The Chamberlain trial was the most publicised in Australian history. Given that most of the evidence presented in the case against Lindy Chamberlain was later rejected, the case is now used as an example of how media and bias can adversely affect a trial.

Public and media opinion during the trial was polarised, with "fanciful rumours and sickening jokes" and many cartoons. In particular, antagonism was directed towards Lindy Chamberlain for reportedly not behaving as a "stereotypical" grieving mother. Much was made of the facts that the Chamberlains were Seventh-day Adventists (including false allegations that the church was in fact a cult that killed babies as part of bizarre religious ceremonies), that the family took a newborn baby to a remote desert location, and that Lindy Chamberlain showed little emotion during the proceedings.

One anonymous tip was received from a man, falsely claiming to be Azaria's doctor in Mount Isa, that the name "Azaria" meant "sacrifice in the wilderness" (it actually means "blessed of God") ("Azazel" is the name of a wilderness demon to whom a goat was "sent out" on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.) Others claimed that Lindy Chamberlain was a witch.

The press appeared to seize upon any point that could be sensationalised. For example, it was reported that Lindy Chamberlain dressed her baby in black dress. This provoked negative opinion, despite the fact that in the early 1980s, black and navy cotton girls' dresses were in fashion, often trimmed with brightly coloured ribbon, or printed with brightly coloured sprigs of flowers.

Subsequent events

In July 2004, Frank Cole, a Melbourne pensioner, claimed that he had shot a dingo in 1980 and found a baby in its mouth. After interviewing Cole on the matter, police decided not to reopen the case. He claimed to have the ribbons from the jacket which Azaria had been wearing when she disappeared as proof of his involvement. However, Lindy Chamberlain claimed that the jacket had no ribbons on it. Cole's credibility was further damaged when it was revealed he had made further unsubstantiated claims about another case.

The Chamberlains' claim that a dingo had taken Azaria was originally greeted with skepticism by many. Several factors led to this, including a lack of knowledge about dingoes and their behaviour and the fact that these animals generally live in remote areas and are therefore rarely seen by most Australians. Possibly because of the historical human partiality for domesticated dogs, dingoes were not regarded as a dangerous species.

Since the Chamberlain case, proven cases of attacks on humans by dingoes have brought about a dramatic change in public opinion. It is now widely accepted that, as the first inquest concluded, Azaria probably was killed by a dingo and that her body could easily have been removed and eaten by a dingo, leaving little or no trace.

Crucial to the change in public opinion was a string of dingo attacks during the late 1990s on Fraser Island off the Queensland coast, the last refuge in Australia for isolated pure-breed wild dingoes. In the wake of these attacks, it emerged that there had been at least 400 documented dingo attacks on Fraser Island. Most were against children, but at least two were on adults.

In April 1998, in a scenario strikingly similar to the story told by Lindy Chamberlain, a 13-month old girl was grabbed by a dingo and dragged from a picnic blanket at the Waddy Point camping area. In this case, the child was dropped when her father intervened.

In 2008, the Holden Torana car that was tested for Azaria's blood in the original court case was used in the wedding of Aidan Chamberlain, Azaria's brother, who was six when his sister disappeared. His bride arrived at the ceremony in the car and his father, Michael Chamberlain, said that he was proud the couple had chosen to use the car which was the centrepiece of the case.

Current status

The cause of Azaria's disappearance has not been officially determined. The last official inquest listed the cause of her death as "undetermined". A body has never been found, only various items of bloodstained clothing. The Chamberlains, who were originally convicted, have been officially exonerated and eventually received some financial compensation. It is estimated that their legal fees exceeded $5 million.

In August 2005, a 25-year old woman named Erin Horsburgh claimed that she was Azaria Chamberlain, but her claims were rejected by the authorities and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Media Watch program, which stated that none of the reports linking Horsburgh to the Chamberlain case had any substance.

The Chamberlains divorced in 1991 and Lindy Chamberlain has since remarried. She and her new husband lived for a time in the United States and New Zealand but have since returned to Australia.

The National Museum of Australia has in its collection over 250 items related to the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain, which Lindy Chamberlain has helped document in relation to her ordeal. Items include courtroom sketches by artists Jo Darbyshire and Veronica O'Leary, camping equipment, a piece of the dashboard from the Chamberlain family's car, outfits worn by Lindy Chamberlain, the number from her prison door and the black dress worn by Azaria which was the cause of so many rumours.

The National Library of Australia has a small collection of items relating to Azaria, such as her birth detail records and her hospital identification bracelet, as well as a manuscript collection that includes around 20,000 documents including some of the Chamberlain family's correspondence and a large number of letters from the general public.

On 17 December 2011, a spokesman for the Department of Justice in the Northern Territory announced that a fourth inquest into the incident would commence on 24 February 2012.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

The Trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain

("The Dingo Trial")

A Trial Commentary by Douglas O. Linder (2005)

"The scientist shouldn't become too adventurous, too competitive.  The trouble is, we're all so human.  I've never seen a case more governed by human frailties."
--Dr. Tony Jones, government pathologist in the Chamberlain trial

On August 17, 1980, at a campsite near Australia's famous Ayer's Rock, a mother's cry came out of the dark: "My God, my God, the dingo's got my baby!"  Soon  the people of an entire continent would be choosing sides in a debate over whether the cry heard that night marked an astonishing and rare human fatality caused by Australia's wild dogs or was, rather, in the words of the man who would eventually prosecute her for murder, "a calculated, fanciful lie."  A jury of nine men and three women came to believe the latter story and convicted Lindy Chamberlain for the murder of her ten-week-old daughter, Azaria.

Three years later, while Lindy dealt with daily life in a Darwin prison, police investigating the death of a fallen climber discovered Azaria's matinee jacket near a dingo den, and the Australian public confronted the reality that its justice system had failed.  

"A Cry in the Dark," a  movie starring  Meryl Streep, carried the story of Lindy's wrongful conviction across oceans.  What went wrong?  Convictions of the innocent usually result from inaccurate eyewitness testimony (generally the least reliable evidence in a trial because of biases and the tricks of memory), but Lindy Chamberlain was  convicted by  flawed forensic evidence and by investigators and prosecutors unwilling to reconsider their assumptions in the face of contradictory evidence.  The trial of Lindy Chamberlain, and her husband Michael, is a cautionary tale that everyone who practices forensic science should carefully consider. 

Azaria Disappears

Improbably shaped Ayers Rock rises 348 meters out of the dry Aboriginal heart of Australia.   The monolith, called  Uluru  by  natives, lures  tourists  drawn by its imposing shape and colors that migrate from gold to red in the changing sunlight.  On August 13, 1980, the Chamberlain family left their home in the northern Queensland mining town of Mount Isa, heading west and then south to see central Australia's most famous natural feature. 

At the time of their trip, Michael Chamberlain served as minister at Mount Isa's Seventh Day Adventist Church, a denomination much misunderstood Down Under.  He and his wife of ten years, Lindy, looked forward to several days of tenting and exploring with their three children,  Aidan (age 6), Reagan (age 4), and Azaria (ten  weeks). 

The Chamberlains arrived late on the night of August 16 at the Ayers Rock campground.  The next morning, Michael and the two boys climbed portions of the rock.  Lindy, cradling Azaria in her arms, explored a formation called Fertility Cave.  Just outside the cave, she looked up uneasily to see a dingo staring at her.  She would later tell a detective that she had the feeling that the wild dog was "casing the baby." 

After sunset, the Chamberlain family gathered with other campers around the barbecues near their tent site.  Lindy held her Azaria in her arms as she and Michael chatted with Greg and Sally Lowe, another young couple also vacationing with an infant.  Around 8:00, as Sally Lowe walked to a rubbish bin to dispose of items left from the evening meal, she turned to see a dingo following four or five paces behind her.  Minutes later, Michael entertained his son Aiden by tossing a crust of bread to a dingo that appeared near their barbecue bench.  Lindy  remonstrated, "You shouldn't encourage them" about the same time as the dingo pounced on a mouse that young Aiden had been chasing.

Lindy announced "It's time I put Bubby down" and retreated to the Chamberlain's tent to make a suitable bed for Azaria.  Ten minutes later, having left Azaria with her sleeping brother, Reagan, in the tent, Lindy rejoined the rest of the campers by the barbecue bench.  A baby's cry from the direction of the tent soon sent Lindy racing back to investigate.  Then came her cry: "My God, My God, the dingo's got my baby!"

Frank Morris, the first investigator to arrive, shined a light across the floor of the Chamberlain tent, where he noticed blood on one of the rugs.  Paw prints led away from the tent entrance, but faded as they hit a road.  Meanwhile, six-year-old Aiden wailed to Sally Lowe, as he showed her the empty bassinet, "The dingo has our Bubby in its tummy." 

Soon campers were locating flashlights ("torches," in Australian) and heading out into the dark scrub land. Nearly 300 men, women, and teenagers formed a human chain to look for tracks or pieces of clothing. Michael, who did not join the chain, had already assumed the worst, telling a fellow camper, "She's probably dead now."  Then he added, incongruously, "I am a minister of the gospel."

The main search turned up dingo tracks, but nothing more.  Away from the chain, tourist Murray Haby had better luck, following the tracks of a large dingo under a sand ridge, Haby noticed a depression in the sand where the wild dog seemed to have laid down something it had carried. Called by Haby to investigate, ranger Derek Hoff and native tracker Nuwe Minyintiri studied the depression.  The imprint in the sand suggested a knitted weave of some sort.  The men looked for dingo tracks leading on from the depression, but the task proved hopeless.

First Doubts

The four law men first assigned to the Chamberlain case talked over drinks at the Red sands Motel. Inspector Michael Gilroy accepted the Chamberlain's story, while Frank Morris kept his own counsel.  John Lincoln, according to John Bryson's account in Evil Angels, doesn't buy the dingo story:  "Not a chance.  Never happened before.  There's a fact you can't beat.  Never ever happened."  Gilroy noted that, even though none before had been fatal, there had been a series of recent dingo attacks in the park on children. Lincoln scoffs at the possibility that a dog could lug a ten pound baby over hundreds of yards.  To prove his point, he leaves the room and returns with a pail filled with ten pounds of sand, which he succeeds in supporting by his mouth for less than a minute.  He challenges the other officers to see if they can do better.

One week after Azaria's disappearance, Wally Goodwin set out for a gully at the base of Ayers Rock, with plans to photograph wild flowers along the way.  While walking along a densely foliated animal path, Goodwin spotted shredded clothes resting near a boulder.  Upon closer inspection, the proved to be a torn nappy  and a  jumpsuit. Goodwin reported his discovery and Constable Morris arrived to collect the evidence.

On August 28, Detective-Sergeant Graeme Charlwood took over the Chamberlain investigation.  While subordinates checked vehicle registrations of August 17 campground visitors, Charlwood  could  ponder  Inspector Gilroy's initial  report on the case, which included suspicious  tidbits  of information.  Gilroy reported that when Lindy had brought Azaria in for a medical check up, the baby was dressed in all black. 

The examining doctor is said to have been curious enough about the name "Azaria" to look it up in a Dictionary of Names and discover that it meant "Sacrifice in the Wilderness."  (Actually, it means "Whom God Aids.")  Gilroy also commented that Azaria's clothes were found close to where the family hiked earlier in the day.  He noted that the people who observed her that evening "assumed she was holding a baby when they have seen her holding a white bundle to her breast."

In places around Australia, ranging from laboratories to wildlife parks, investigators conducted experiments to test the veracity of Lindy's account of Azaria's disappearance.  Blood, vegetation, and hair samples found on Azaria's clothing were examined. 

Dead dingoes shot in the Ayers Rock region following the disappearance were dissected by veterinarians looking for either human bone or human protein.  Tears in the fibers of Azaria's clothing were studied--Did the tears appeared to be caused by a dingo's teeth or by some human instrument?  At Cleland Park wildlife reserve in Adelaide, dingos were tossed meat wrapped in a baby's nappy, so that the nappy could be studied and compared to Azaria's.  From these various efforts, investigators began to build a case for murder.

Newspapers fueled suspicions that the Chamberlains killed their baby, possibly as a religious sacrifice.  Stories reported rumors that the Chamberlains were somehow linked to the Jonestown mass suicide two years earlier, or that Azaria might have been killed to atone for sins of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Reporters frequently observed that the many Australians concluded from televised interviews with the fatalistic Chamberlains that the couple's demeanor didn't match what they would expect from a couple that had just tragically lost a child.

On October 1, 1980 in Mount Isa, Charlwood conducted a several-hour long separate interviews with Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. His questions took her along the timeline from their departure for Ayers Rock to the days following Azaria's disappearance.

The interview was relatively cordial, but Lindy expressed repeated frustration with leaks to the press of forensic tests that seemed to cast doubt on her account of events.  Charlwood took particular interest in Lindy's unusual reaction to his suggestion that she be hypnotized in an effort to pull out additional details concerning her sighting of the dingo around the tent.   Lindy immediately rejected the idea saying, "The church wouldn't allow it and I wouldn't do it.  God slew Saul for that.  Do you know Saul and the Witch of Endor?"

First One Coroner's Inquest, Then Another

It fell to the magistrate and coroner of Alice Springs, Denis Barritt, to conduct what would eventually turn out to be the first of three coroner's inquests into the death of Azaria Chamberlain.  Journalists crowded into Barritt's no. 2 courtroom, with its high ceilings, polished furniture, and landscape paintings. 

The inquiry opened on December 16, 1980 with Ashley Macknay for the Northern Territory laying out the case for human intervention in her death.  The evidence suggests that the clothes were put in place, not dragged by a dingo and the clothes show signs of being removed from the baby by a human, Macknay argued.  Moreover, he added, the damage to the clothes is inconsistent with being caused by a dingo.  Macknay questioned Lindy Chamberlain, but generally failed to show her as a mother with either the will or motive to kill her own child.

Television cameras were live when Barritt announced his findings.  Barritt concluded his discussion of the voluminous evidence by finding that Azaria "met her death when attacked by a wild dingo whilst asleep in her family's tent."  Neither of her parents were, Barritt found, "in any degree whatsoever responsible for her death."  Still, the number of oddities concerning Azaria's clothing convinced Barritt that "the body of Azaria was taken from the possession of the dingo and disposed of by an unknown method, by a person or persons name unknown."

Coroner Barritt's findings might have been expected to discourage investigators bent on proving Lindy Chamberlain a murderer, but they did not.  On September 19, 1981, officers of the Northern Territory police conducted a four-and-a-half hour search of the Chamberlain's home, seizing over three hundred items ranging from items of clothing to scissors to the yellow Torana that they had driven to Ayers Rock. Detective Charlwood revealed to Lindy that the search had been prompted in part by the findings of British forensic expert James Cameron, who concluded from examining the baby's clothes that no dingo had been involved in her disappearance.  Lindy reacted coolly: "I didn't know there were any dingo experts in London."

In November 1981, Chief Minister Everingham, as attorney-general for the Northern Territory filed a motion to quash the findings of the first inquest based on newly discovered evidence.  What finally convinced authorities to push for a second inquest was the presence of large quantities of blood in the Chamberlain's dismantled automobile.

The second inquest into the death of Azaria opened in Alice Springs on December 14, 1981, before Coroner Gerry P. Galvin.  Des Sturgess, the barrister assisting the coroner, made clear from his questioning of the Chamberlains his belief that Lindy Chamberlain took Azaria from the campsite on the evening of August 17, 1980 and murdered her in their yellow Torana with a sharp instrument, probably a scissors. 

Many of the questions directed at the Chamberlain concerned the presence of blood in the family automobile: "Did you notice any blood staining inside or outside the car when you cleaned it?", "Do you recall cleaning blood  off the seats?"  Sturgess called  biologist  Joy Kuhl, who testified that  she  found  fetal blood beneath the passenger seat of the Torana.  James Cameron claimed in his testimony that the tear found on Azaria's jumpsuit could hardly have come from a dingo--"It's more consistent with scissors." 

A reporter from Sydney, Malcolm Brown, offered a concise comparison between the two coroners' investigations.  "The first inquest was about dingoes," Brown said,  while "this one is about blood."  The blood evidence persuaded Galvin.  He charged Lindy Chamberlain with murder and Michael as being an accessory after the fact.

The Trial

Despite the lack of a body, the lack of a motive, and the lack of any eye-witnesses, the Northern Territory opened its prosecution of (a now pregnant) Lindy and Michael Chamberlain in a modern two-story courthouse in Darwin on September 13, 1982.  Justice James Muirhead, in crimson robes and a gray wig, sat on the bench in the crowded courtroom as attorneys for both sides worked to select twelve jurors from a panel of 123 all-white Territorians.  When the selection process was completed, nine men and three women took their seats in the jury box.  Defense attorney John Phillips was pleased with the group, telling his co-counsel Andrew Kirkham, "I think we've done well."

Ian Barker opened the case for the prosecution, telling jurors Azaria "died very quickly because somebody had cut her throat."  Barker added, "The Crown does not venture to suggest any reason or motive for the killing.  It is not part of our case that Mrs. Chamberlain had previously shown any ill will toward the child."  Barker called Chamberlain's story about the dingo attack "a fanciful lie, calculated to conceal the truth."

The Crown's first witness, Ayers Rock tourist Sally Lowe, offered as much support for the defense as for the prosecution.  Lowe described Lindy as being away from the barbecue only "six to ten minutes," a very short period in which to have committed the murder and temporarily disposed of the body, as the Crown claimed. Lowe also damaged the Crown's case by insisting, "I heard the baby cry--quite a serious cry," shortly before Lindy went to the tent and reportedly saw the dingo slinking off into the dark.  On cross-examination, Lowe confirmed that she was "positive" she heard a baby cry--a cry that was suddenly cut off--and that the cry "definitely came from the tent."  She also described Lindy before the incident having "a new-mum glow about her."

Testimony from others who were at the campground that August night generally presented a version of events that also seemed to aid the defense more than the prosecution, whose witnesses they were.  Greg Lowe, Sally's husband, was asked on cross whether he saw any if the Chamberlains cleaning blood from their Torana at the time when, according to the prosecution timeline, they would have had to have done so.  "No, I didn't," Lowe answered. "There were quite a lot of people around at that time at the tent-site, and I'm sure if anything like that happened it would have been noticed."  Judy West reported she heard Lindy cry "The dingo's got my baby!" just "five to ten minutes" after she heard a dingo growl--"low" and "deep"--outside the tent.  She also testified that earlier she had been forced to shoo off a dingo that had grabbed her twelve-year old daughter by the arm and pulled.

Witness Amy Whittaker, however, provided jurors with evidence of the seemingly odd behavior that had turned public opinion against the Chamberlains earlier in the investigation.  Whittaker testified that minutes after the alleged dingo attack, Michael Chamberlain had appeared at the doorway of her camper and announced, "A dingo has taken our baby, and she is probably dead by now."  Whittaker also reported Lindy saying, as she tried to comfort her, "Whatever happens, it is God's will."  She also described Lindy and Michael walking alone together into the the bush for "fifteen to twenty minutes:--a time during which the prosecution later argued the Chamberlains might have buried their baby.

Because the prosecution case depended heavily on convincing jurors that the blood that turned up in the Chamberlain's car belonged to Azaria, the Crown called to the stand Keyth Lenehan, a bleeding hitchhiker picked up by the Chamberlains who the defense maintained might account for the presence of blood.  Barker wanted to establish that Lenehan did not carry unusually high levels of fetal hemoglobin in his adult bloodstream.  Still, the prosecution's calling of Lenehan prompted one journalist to tell an assistant prosecutor, "So far all you've done is convince everybody that Lindy is innocent."

Reporters saw the tide beginning to move a bit in the Crown's direction when a parade of forensic experts took the stand.  Dr. Andrew Scott, a biologist from Adelaide, testified that his study suggested that the blood on Azaria's singlet flowed downward, from what appeared to be from the cutting by a sharp instrument, in the area of the neck.  Barry Cocks testified that the jumpsuit seemed cut, not torn by a dingo.  Professor Malcolm Chaikin, Australia's leading textile expert, demonstrated for the jury how cutting the jumpsuit produced small loops of toweling, much like those discovered  by investigators in Michael Chamberlain's camera bag, where police suspected Lindy might have temporarily hid her dead baby.  On cross, the defense got Chaikin to admit that the loops might also have come from a new, unwashed suit.  (The Chamberlains said that they sometimes used the camera bag as a place to stuff Azaria's clothes.) 

Biologist Joy Kuhl, the prosecution's thirty-fifth witness, presented what the Crown saw as some of its most damning evidence. Kuhl  told jurors that her tests  proved that the blood  found  on the dash support bracket in the  Chamberlain's Torana belonged to an infant.  On cross, Defense Counsel Phillips forced Kuhl to admit all the plates she used in her actual blood tests "have been destroyed"--a practice she called "standard procedure in our laboratory." Phillips also raised questions about the accuracy of her test results, suggesting that the blood--if that's what it was--might well have come from the bleeding hitchhiker picked up by the Chamberlains in 1979. 

Crown witness Bernard Sims had investigated about two dozen attacks by dogs on humans in his job as a London ondontologist.  Sims saw nothing consistent with a dingo attack in Azaria's clothing, claimed that a dingo attack would cause "copious" bleeding, and indicated that a baby's head could not fit into the jaws of a dingo.  On cross, Sims reaffirmed that a the opening of a dingo's "mouth wouldn't allow it to get [over a baby's skull."  Kirkham then surprised Sims with a photo of a dingo with the head of a baby-sized doll taken, crown first, with the canine teeth reaching to the doll's ears.   Sims, staring at the photograph, could only concede that his earlier supposition might have been mistaken.

James Cameron was the final witness for the prosecution.  Cameron, a professor of forensic medicine, testified that Azaria was killed by "a cutting instrument across the neck, or around the neck" held by a human.  He exhibited to the jury slides of Azaria's clothing taken in his laboratory with ultra-violet light which he believed showed the pattern of bloodied fingers.  Cross-examination focused attention on previous cases in which Cameron's pro-prosecution testimony had helped incriminate what turned out to be innocent suspects.

On October 13, the defense began its case.  John Phillips ended his opening statement by pointing to the witness stand and saying, "I call Mrs. Chamberlain."

Tears slid down Lindy's face as she described the clothing her daughter was wearing the last night she laid her down: "She had a white knitted Marquis jacket, with a pale lemon edging."  Phillips asked Lindy to place her index finger next to Cameron's exhibit which, the professor claimed, showed bloodied fingers.  The point became obvious, when spectators realized that the print made by so-called bloodied fingers showed four phalanges, while Lindy Chamberlain, and virtually every other human on the planet, have only three.

Much of Ian Barker's cross-examination of Lindy was devoted to poking holes in her story about seeing a dingo in the vicinity of the family tent.  He asked her to explain how a dingo, shaking a bleeding baby, would not have left large quantities of blood in and around the tent.  He also challenged the defendant to account for the fetal blood which his experts claimed to have found in the family car.   Lindy resisted saying, "I'm not going to speculate how it got there."  Near the end of his long cross-examination Barker began asking "questions" that were really just statements for the jury.  "Mrs. Chamberlain," the Queen's Counsel said at one point, "may I respectfully suggest to you that the whole [dingo] story is mere fantasy?"

More than two dozen defense witnesses followed Lindy to the stand.  Several testified as to the Chamberlain's fine character and their grief over the loss of their daughter.  Other witnesses told either of their own frightening encounters with Ayer's Rock dingoes, or testified in general about the aggressiveness of the region's wild dogs.  In addition, eight defense forensic experts would attack the dubious tests or conclusions of the prosecution's experts, on subjects ranging from fiber to blood evidence.

The defense saw Professor Barry Boettcher as one of its most important forensic experts.  Boettcher attacked Joy Kuhl's conclusions that the Chamberlain car contained significant quantities of fetal blood.  In complicated testimony that might have flown right over the heads of the jurors, Boettcher tried to explain why Kuhl's testing method might have produced false positives for fetal blood.  Later, another expert, Richard Nairn would also pile on Kuhl's results, arguing that the sheer number of Kuhl's tests was irrelevant: "Two hundred bad tests are poorer than one good test."

Some of the most riveting defense testimony came from defense dingo expert Les Harris contended that a dingo after prey the size of Azaria would "make seizure, which would be of the entire head, and it would close its jaws sufficiently to render the mammal immobile."  It would be most unlikely to "hang around" with its prey, Harris contended.  Harris said dingo kills in the field produce "very little" blood and that they characteristically shake their heads after taking prey "to break the neck."

Except for one recalled expert, the last defense witness was Michael Chamberlain.  Ian Barker, in his cross-examination of Michael, focused heavily on the his actions in the first hours after Azaria's disappearance.  Barker suggested that Michael's failure to ask Lindy certain questions, or to go running off into the brush in search of his daughter, was because he already knew Lindy had killed his daughter: "Could it be because you knew that the dingo did not take her, and that she was dead at the hands of your wife?"  Michael answered, in a low voice, "No."  Barker pushed hard: "The whole story is nonsense, and you know it."  "No, Mr. Barker," Michael insisted again.  Courtroom observers concluded that Chamberlain's testimony lacked spirit; it seemed both weary and inappropriately nonchalant.  When his long hours on the stand finally ended, he took a seat in the courtroom next to his wife, and held her hands.

Phillips, in his summation, stressed that the prosecution failed to provide even a remotely plausible explanation as to why Lindy Chamberlain would want to kill her own child.  "The prosecution has had two years and three months to think of a reason," he said, and "they can't." 

Barker, summing for the Crown, admitted that no motive had been proved, but insisted that was neither the prosecution's intent or its job.  "All the Crown says is that you should find the murder happened," Barker told the jury.  He turned the tables by asking the jury to consider the lack of evidence that might suggest the dingo was guilty.  "How could you possibly convict [the dingo] on this evidence?" he asked, noting the lack of dingo hairs or drag marks by the tent, the fact that no one saw it carrying a baby, and the relatively undamaged condition of Azaria's jumpsuit.  "The case against the dingo would be laughed out of court," Barker concluded.

On October 28, 1982, Justice Muirhead instructed the jury--in a manner that generally pleased the defense.  He reminded them that Sally Lowe distinctly remembered hearing a baby's cry coming from the Chamberlain's tent, and that if she was correct about that, then the prosecution's assertion that Azaria was at the time lying dead in the Chamberlain's car with her throat cut could not be true.  Most journalists left the Darwin courtroom expecting an acquittal.

On October 29, at 8:37 pm, the foreman of the Chamberlain jury announced its verdict.  The jury found Lindy guilty of murder, and Michael guilty of being an accessory after the fact.  Across Australia, the jury's verdict  was greeted mostly with approval and, in places ranging from a speedway in Perth to a bar in Darwin to a convention of dentists in Newcastle, with sustained applause.  Reports later indicated that the jury was initially considerably more divided that its verdict indicated, having first split four for conviction, four for  acquittal, and four undecided.  (One juror later told the press, "It came down to whether you believed it was a dingo or not.")

Justice Muirhead sentenced Lindy to life in prison, but suspended Michael's sentence.  "I consider it not only appropriate, but in the interests of justice to do so," he explained.

The Trial Aftermath

One month after beginning her sentence at Berrimah prison outside of Darwin, Lindy Chamberlain gave birth to a second daughter, which she Kahlia.  "Let them try to make something out of that," she said. 

Lindy regained some freedom, temporarily, when she was released on bail pending her appeal.  Her appeal to the Federal Court was rejected, 3 to 0, in April of 1983.  Ten months later, Australia's High Court also refused to set aside her conviction, on a 3 to 2 vote, and Lindy found herself back on Block J of Berrimah Prison.

As Lindy passed her days in a fortress on a ridge near Darwin, new reports casting doubt on the prosecution's scientific evidence helped spur a growing Free Lindy movement.  Most damning of all the new reports was one showing that what the prosecution had claimed was the blood of a murdered child in the Chamberlain vehicle was in fact not even blood at all--it was paint emulsion.  Well over 100,000 Australia's signed petitions calling for her release.  The country remained, however, deeply divided on the issue, with one poll showing 52% of the nation's residents believed her guilty of murder.

An English hiker named David Brett would, quite unintentionally, succeed in gaining Lindy's release after so many before him had failed.  He did so in January 1986 by falling off Ayer's Rock during an evening climb and killing himself. Eight  days  after his  accident, Brett's body was discovered below the bluff where he had lost his footing, in an area full of dingo lairs.  As police scoured the area, looking for missing bones that might have been carried off by dingoes, they discovered a once white jacket of a baby: Azaria's missing matinee jacket.

Given the skepticism prosecutors had expressed for Lindy's story about the missing matinee jacket, there seemed little choice now.  The Chief Minister ordered Lindy's release from prison.  Wearing a pink frock and sunglasses, Lindy climbed into a limousine at the gates of Berrimah prison on February 7, 1986 and tried to begin a second life.

A judicial inquest followed Lindy's release from prison, and in this one former prosecution witnesses had a lot of explaining to do.  In May 1987, Justice Trevor Morling issued a 379-page report critical of the investigatory techniques of Joy Kuhl, James Cameron, and other key prosecution witnesses in the trial.  He put great weight on the credible accounts offered by the Chamberlain's fellow campers, noting: "It is extraordinary that the persons at the barbecue area at the time of and immediately after Azaria's disappearance accepted Mrs. Chamberlain's story and noted nothing about her  appearance and conduct suggesting that she had suddenly killed her daughter." 

Morling concluded, "I am far from being persuaded that Mrs. Chamberlain's account of having seen a dingo near the tent was false" and that "if the evidence before the Commission had been given at the trial, the trial judge would have been obliged to direct the jury to acquit the Chamberlains."

On September 15, 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously quashed all convictions against Lindy and Michael Chamberlain.  A month later, the Chamberlains held a victory feast for invited guests at the Avondale College cafeteria.  Among those invited by the Chamberlains were defense witnesses and lawyers, a couple whose daughter was taken from their car by a dingo, and journalists and politicians who had supported them during their long ordeal.  Lawyer Ken Crispin, in a speech, praised the Chamberlains for being remarkably free of bitterness or self-pity.

The Chamberlains traveled to Sydney to see a preview of the movie based on their experience, "A Cry in the Dark."  Lindy, in her book "Through My Eyes," called the movie, based on John Bryson's fine account of the case, 95% accurate and said that "no other actress would have been able" to play her better than Meryl Streep.

Lindy Chamberlain wrote in the last pages of her 1990 book, "And now we wait, we wait for the Northern Territory to pay us what they owe."  That day finally came two years later when she received $1.3 million in compensation from the Northern Territory government for wrongful imprisonment.

 
 

Timeline

June 11, 1980 Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain is born, the third child of Seventh Day Adventist pastor Michael Chamberlain and his wife Lindy. Her name of Hebrew origin - means helped by God.

August 17, 1980 On the second night of a family holiday at Ayers Rock (now Uluru), Azaria then nine weeks old, and weighing 4.5kg is put to bed alongside brother Reagan, 4.

August 17, 1980 About 8pm, Azaria cries and Lindy goes to check on her. She is not in the tent.

Lindy cries out: "My God, my God, the dingo's got my baby!" Three hundred people, including Aboriginal trackers, search the area but find nothing.

August 24, 1980 Wally Goodwin finds Azarias bloodstained jumpsuit, booties, nappy and singlet near the base of the Rock. Her matinee jacket remains missing.

August 1980 The nations focus turns to Lindy and Michael and their behaviour after Azarias death. Rumours include that Azaria means sacrifice in the wilderness and that Azaria was dressed in black. The world is fascinated; Australia is divided.

October 1980 Police statements are given by Lindy, Michael, their son Aidan, 6, and Regan at Mt Isa. Their 1977 Torana is searched.

February 20, 1981 Alice Springs Coroner Denis Barritt finds a dingo took Azaria but her body was disposed of by person or persons unknown. Forensic expert Ken Brown requests permission to do further tests on the jumpsuit.

September, 1981 The Chamberlain's My Isa home is raided. More than 300 items are seized, including clothing and scissors.

November 20, 1981 Northern Territory Supreme Court quashes the first inquest and orders a new one. Among the reasons is the discovery of large quantities of blood in the now-dismantled family car.

February 2, 1982 After new forensic evidence some of it related to bloodstains - is presented at a second inquest, Coroner Gerry Galvin commits Lindy to stand trial charged with murdering Azaria. Michael Chamberlain is charged as an accessory after the fact.

September 13, 1982 The murder trial begins in Darwin amid intense public interest. Dingo jokes abound as the nation speculates about Lindys guilt or innocence. By now, Lindy is pregnant with her fourth child.

September 1982 Sensational evidence is presented. A dingo was heard growling near the tent. Biologist Joy Kuhl says the blood in the Torana is from an infant. An expert says it would be impossible for a babys head to fit inside a dingos mouth. The defence then shows a photo of a dolls head in dingos jaw.

October 29, 1982 Lindy is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Michael receives an 18-month suspended sentence.

November 17, 1982 The Chamberlains second daughter Kahlia is born in custody. Two days after giving birth, Lindy is released on bail pending an appeal.

April 29, 1983 The Federal Court unanimously rejects an appeal. Lindy is held at Mulawa Women's Prison, then transferred to Darwin after an application for bail pending a High Court appeal fails. Kahlia goes to live with foster parents Wayne and Jenny Miller.

July 19 & 27, 1983 Solicitor Stuart Tipple applies for Lindy's temporary release after Reagan is blinded in one eye when a bottle thrown into a fire in the familys backyard explodes. The request is denied.

February 22, 1984 The High Court appeal fails in a split judgement of 2 to 3.

May 3, 1984 A petition of 131,000 signatures calling for Lindy's release and a judicial inquiry is presented to Governor General Sir Ninian Stevens. Meanwhile, new reports suggest the blood in the car was paint emulsion.

November 17, 1984 An application for release is made after Kahlia's foster parents are transferred. The application denied. Kahlia goes to new foster parents, Dr Owen and Jan Hughes.

November 1985 Evil Angels by Melbourne barrister John Bryson is published. It suggests the Chamberlains might have been wrongfully convicted.

February 3, 1986 Chamberlain solicitor Stuart Tipple is tipped off that the missing matinee jacket of Azaria has been found during a search for missing body parts belonging to a fallen climber at Ayers Rock. The jacket has been held at the Alice Springs Court House since January 31.

February 7, 1986 Local reporter Frank Alcorta is incensed when he discovers the matinee jacket has been held in secret for days. He threatens to publish an article if Northern Territory Government does not release Lindy from jail or call a royal commission. It complies.

June 2, 1987 After a 14-month Royal Commission, Justice Trevor Morling clears the Chamberlains. He slams the evidence offered by Joy Kuhl and other key prosecution witnesses. The Northern Territory government offers the Chamberlains a pardon.

November 4, 1988 The film Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark), starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain, is released. It polarises the nation.

September 15, 1988 The Supreme Court of Darwin quashes all convictions and declares the Chamberlains innocent.

June 27, 1991 The Chamberlain's divorce becomes final. Kahlia chooses to live with Michael and visit Lindy, Reagan stays with Lindy and visits Michael. Aidan divides his time between the two homes.

February 1992 Lindy meets Rick Creighton during a speaking tour of the USA.

May 25, 1992 Compensation of $1.3m is paid to the Chamberlains by the Northern Territory government.

December 20, 1992 Rick and Lindy are married. They live in Washington State, USA. Four months later, Lindy gets custody of Kahlia and Reagan. Two year later, Michael meets and marries Ingrid Bergner. Their daughter Zahra is born in June 1996.

December 13, 1995 The findings of the third inquest are announced. NT Coroner John Lowndes reiterates that neither Lindy nor Michael were involved in Azaria's disappearance. He leaves the cause of Azaria's death open.

August 1998 Lindy and Rick return with Reagan and Kahlia to live in Australia.

October 2002 The opera Lindy premieres at the Sydney Opera House.

August 6, 2004 Melbourne pensioner Frank Cole takes a lie detector test after asserting he shot the dingo that killed Azaria in August 1980, then showed the baby's body to his companions. He passes the test, but Lindy expresses doubts.

October 2004 Lindy releases her autobiography Through My Eyes.

November 2004 The television mini series Through My Eyes is broadcast on Australia's Channel 7 network. Miranda Otto plays Lindy.

August 9, 2010 Jury notes from in the Northern Territory police files reveal details of deliberations: Three women all voted for Lindy's conviction while at least four of the nine men had to persuaded that she was guilty. The foreman dismissed the defence evidence as purely smokescreen.

December 18, 2011 A fourth inquest into Azaria's death is announced, due to commence on February 24, 2012.

Ntnews.com.au

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact