Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Cry In The Night Part 1 Of 3

The Search

Within moments, the campsite was teeming with people. Torch beams broke through the darkness. Someone suggested that the police should be notified, it was Judy West who had the adjoining tent. A woman, Amy Whittaker, put her arms around Lindy, offering her comfort and the warmth of a blanket, as she was still dressed in her cotton day dress.

Sally Lowe tended to young Aidan as best she could while his mother and father searched for Azaria. The poor child was in shock. He had left his parka in the tent and hadn't even noticed the cold. Sally took him into the tent hoping that he would be able to sleep. As he pointed out to her where his bed was, she noticed a pool of blood on the floor, still wet.

Sally & Greg Lowe
Sally & Greg Lowe

At that moment Sally had the dreadful realization that the baby probably died right there in the tent. She attempted to divert Aidan's attention away from the blood but it was too late. The child began to tremble. "Reagan's dead, the dog's killed him too," he cried.

Sally quickly shook the sleeping Reagan until he stirred. Reassured, Aidan climbed into his bed and lay down. As she left the tent, Sally noticed more spots of blood on a sleeping bag, and on clothing that was lying on the floor. One of Azaria's blankets was torn and bloodied.

The head ranger, Derek Roff, soon arrived. After being shown the morbid scene inside the tent, he held little hope for the child. Even if the dingo had dropped the baby somewhere, the chances of it surviving more than twenty or thirty minutes were very slim.

He quickly instructed Lindy to not touch anything in the tent until the police had examined it and then began to organize the growing crowd of volunteers in searching the area thoroughly.

The police did not come for half an hour. When Constable Frank Morris arrived, he briefly questioned Lindy about the incident. Lindy explained that she had not been able to see whether or not the dingo had anything in its mouth as it ran away from the camping ground. As he hurried away, Lindy told him that Azaria was wearing a white jumpsuit and matinee jacket, so that he would know what he was looking for. At no time did Morris, or any other police officers, take any statements from the Chamberlains or any of the witnesses at the scene.

During the search, two dogs had been brought to the scene by volunteer searchers, in the hope that they might be able to follow the baby's scent. Lindy collected the clothes that Azaria had worn earlier that day and allowed the dogs to sniff them. The first dog had stood near the car with the front passenger door open. The second dog sniffed the clothes while Lindy sat in the front seat. This fact would prove an embarrassment to the prosecution later.

As the night wore on, the cold finally broke through to Lindy and Michael. Michael pulled a pair of trousers up over his shorts while Lindy took a pair of tracksuit pants from the tent and wore them under her dress.

The need to do something compelled Michael to rejoin the search. As Lindy stood at the fence feeling so terribly alone, the crest of Sunrise Hill lit up as the beams from the torches of the searchers swept over the top, and down toward her in a sweeping arc. She knew then that she was not alone. Every one of those people out searching cared about her little baby girl and was doing everything they could to find her.

Soon Michael was back. Holding each other as they looked out into the night, they both knew that there was no hope of finding Azaria alive. It had been too long.

Time seemed to stand still for the people back at the campsite. The searchers had spread far afield by now and there still had been no word. At nine-thirty, a police vehicle arrived, momentarily sparking a ray of hope to their heavy hearts. It was quickly dispelled when the police officer, Constable Noble, informed them that he had no news. He had brought with him the district nurse, Bobbie Downs, to check on Mrs Chamberlain.

After talking with both Lindy and Michael for more than half an hour, Bobbie suggested that they spend the night in a motel. Lindy was beginning to show signs of distress typical in such a situation. Bobbie's experience told her that the best thing for these people was to be away from the scene. She knew that there was little they could do for Azaria. It was time to look after the bereaved parents. Lindy declined as they could not afford the cost, and besides they needed to be here, just in case.

Greg Lowe returned to the campsite, tired and despairing. He and Sally knew they could do no more. They packed up their things and moved to a motel for the night. The thought of remaining in such close proximity to the tragedy was too much for them. Before they departed, they promised the Chamberlains that they would return in the morning to continue the search. None of them knew then that they would not speak again until the inquest. At no time on that night or even the next day, were either Sally or Greg questioned by police. Nor were their names or contact details taken.

From the outset of the search, Murray Haby, a tourist, had chosen to remain separate from the main group of searchers. Heading off in the direction Lindy had indicated, instead of following a direct line, he attempted to cover as much ground as possible by taking a zigzag path.

The number of tracks was astounding. He had to narrow down his choices. The dingo they were looking for would be purposeful, so any prints which seemed aimless or meandering should be ignored. It would be carrying a heavy weight, so any prints that were light could be dismissed. The dingo would also be moving quickly so he would need to choose prints that showed sand had been kicked up.

He was to reach the foot of the sand hills without finding any prints which fitted these criteria. Flashing the beam of his torch in all directions brought no positive results. Haby recalled that there was a ridge at the top of the dune over which the dingo would have to pass if it were to maintain its original direction. The incline would make it close to impossible for the dingo to carry its burden without dragging it.

After travelling almost the full length of the ridge, Haby's torch beam revealed the sign he had been looking for. The prints were deep, obviously from a large animal. As he inspected them more closely, he could see a furrow. It was dragging something. Haby followed the trail carefully. The tracks led him higher. Haby found a depression confirming his belief that the animal had been carrying something that it had laid down briefly.

The prints led to the top of the ridge, then over. The sand was much firmer here and the tracks more faint. Within thirty paces he had lost them. If not for his torch he would have been unable to see anything, not even his own feet. He walked in an ever widening circle, shining the torch before him, hoping to pick up the trail again, but nothing. The sand here was firm, he could barely see the impression from his own footsteps.

Haby shone the torchlight further out and discovered he was now standing in the centre of an empty car park. He searched unsuccessfully for the dingo's exit point from the car park but to no avail.

Resigning himself to the fact that he could not follow the dingo any further, Murray Haby decided to retrace the tracks he had found and to follow them back to the beginning. When he reached the depression, he knelt down to inspect it more thoroughly. It was the shape of something soft and oval, about the length of his hand. There was a moist spot next to it. It didn't seem to be dark enough to be blood. Possibly saliva. The pattern of the imprint caught his attention. It reminded him of knitted fabric.

Haby was able to easily follow the tracks downhill, back toward the campsite. The closer he came to the camping ground, the easier they were to follow. They led him back to the roadway. Across the road, to his right, he could see the Chamberlains' yellow 'Torana' car parked close to the tent. Lindy and Michael were standing at the railing.

Aboriginal Trackers
Aboriginal Trackers

As soon as Derek Roff learned of Haby's discovery, he brought Nuwe Minyintiri, an Aboriginal tracker with him to the first sign of the tracks found by Haby. Minyintiri swiftly and confidently followed the tracks and soon came upon the depression found earlier by Haby. He then retraced his steps to be sure that he hadn't missed anything earlier. Back at the depression again, he shone his torch all over the area and soon found two more depressions.

Roff noticed too the imprint of the bundle. The pattern was distinct and reminded him of crepe or knitted weave. He asked the old Aborigine if it was the baby. "Maybe, maybe. Something like." Then as he traced his finger around the periphery of the indentation, he said sadly "Not move anymore."

Minyintiri continued to follow the dingos tracks further but he, too, lost them. Roff realized that there was nothing more they could do that night. They would have to wait for first light. Incredibly, the area was not cordoned off or protected in any way from public interference, nor was it photographed.

When they returned to the camping ground at around eleven o'clock, the Chamberlains were not informed of their find. Instead the Chamberlains were told that there was still no news. Bobbie Downs felt this was a good time to mention the motel again, assuring Lindy that it would be inexpensive, and the best thing for her and the children. She reluctantly agreed.

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