(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
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
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.
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
Conviction, imprisonment and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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".
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.
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 &
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
The Trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain
("The Dingo Trial")
A Trial Commentary by Douglas O.
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
--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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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,