Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dingo Did Eat Baby, Coroner Rules

Lindy and Azaria Chamberlain. Source: LindyChamberlain.com

More than three decades after the disappearance of nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain in the Australian desert, a coroner has ruled that her death was caused by a dingo, as her parents had contended all along.

On August 17, 1980, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain took their infant daughter, Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain, camping at Uluru, the famous natural landmark then known as Ayers Rock.  During the night, Azaria disappeared, and her body was never found.  The Chamberlains told police that a dingo had taken the child, but an investigation and subsequent trial led to their convictions in October 1982.  A crucial piece of evidence was blood allegedly found in front seat of the Chamberlains’ car; it was later determined to be sound deadening paint.  Lindy, convicted of murder, was sentenced to life with hard labor.  Michael was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact and received an 18-month suspended sentence.

They appealed and were turned down, but in 1986 a crucial piece of evidence led to the Chamberlains’ exoneration. When a climber fell from Uluru and died, search parties looking for his body came across Azaria’s jacket in an area populated with dingoes.  After the discovery of the jacket, a coroner issued the following statement:

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.

Now, the Northern Territory deputy coroner has ruled that a dingo did cause the death of Azaria Chamberlain, and has amended her death certificate accordingly. The Chamberlains, now divorced, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse following the ruling. ’”The truth is out,” said Michael Chamberlain, adding, “Now, some healing and a chance to put our daughter’s spirit to rest.” The ruling came after Lindy Chamberlain’s tireless campaign to have Azaria’s death certificate altered to make dingoes the official cause of death.

 

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