Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Cry in the Night Part 2 of 3

Starting Over

During the inquest, Erwin Chlanda, chief reporter for the local 'Centralian Advocate' and freelance television documentary maker, had approached the Chamberlains to tell their story in a documentary. They knew from bitter experience that this would be their only opportunity to tell their story in their own words, without interference from headline-seeking journalists.

Azaria at 5 weeks
Azaria at 5 weeks

As soon as the inquest was over, Lindy and Michael headed toward Ayers Rock in a privately chartered plane, flown by Chlanda. They filmed all of the sites important to tell their story. Of particular interest was the filming of the dingo lair. The dingo track from the site where Azaria's clothes had been found to the lair was well worn. The lair itself was a small opening in the rock, too small for any of them to fit through, but Lindy was able to reach through the opening with the camera, filming inside the lair.

Just near the opening was a cavity in the rock, which resembled a nest, probably inhabited by the dingo puppies. The lair was full of droppings. Lindy and Michael mused that if those droppings had been tested at the time, they may have been saved a great deal of heartache. They were tempted to remove some of the droppings to have them tested but decided against it because they knew that, apart from teeth, nothing else would have passed through the dingos intestines intact. Besides, the case was closed.

It was finished, and it was time to go home.

Their arrival home brought with it a great sense of relief. They quickly threw themselves back into their lives. Michael resumed his studies and Lindy concentrated her energies into their two boys and reorganising their new home. The process of healing could begin, although the emptiness and ache in their hearts for the little girl they had loved and lost would probably never go away. They were now free to grieve in private.

A month after their return home, all of their belongings which had been exhibits for the inquest were returned. The only items missing were Azaria's clothing. They were told that Dr. Brown had applied for permission to take the clothes back to his laboratory. The clothes would be returned to the Chamberlains as soon as he was finished with them.

The anniversary of Azaria's death came and went. Lindy and Michael dealt with it as best they could, leaning heavily on the support of friends and their faith. Slowly but surely, life was returning to normal.

On Saturday, 19th September 1981, as the Chamberlains were preparing for church, there was a knock on the door. Six men stood at the door. One of them Michael knew only too well. Charlwood had brought with him a search warrant.

As they followed Michael into the lounge room, Sergeant Gillian from the New South Wales police force showed him the warrant. Charlwood explained that as there was fresh evidence, the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, had authorised further investigations. Those investigations would begin with the Chamberlains providing to the police everything that they had taken with them to Ayers Rock at the time of Azaria's death.

The truth was that this was not the beginning of the investigations at all. In fact they had begun in March, only a short time after the inquest had determined that a dingo had taken and killed Azaria. A new police task group had been formed, sanctioned by the Northern Territory's Chief Minister and Attorney General, Paul Everingham. The task group was known to its members as Operation Ochre.

It had begun with Dr Kenneth Brown taking Azaria's clothing with him to London to be examined by James Cameron, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the London Hospital Medical College, and Bernard Sims, a forensic odontologist.

When Brown returned to Adelaide, he brought with him the clothing and a report from Cameron and Sims. The report was sent to the Northern Territory police department. On 27 August 1981 Police Commissioner McAulay, with Everingham's approval, gave Charlwood authority to proceed. He flew to Adelaide on 8 September, and took Azaria's clothing back into police custody.

On 10 September, there was a secret meeting in Brisbane between Charlwood, McAulay, Professor Cameron, and Chief Minister Everingham. While in Brisbane they appointed lawyers to work with them on the case.

Lindy and Michael watched as the five police officers searched the house and garage from top to bottom. As the police piled the Chamberlain's belongings into their car, Lindy asked if she could organise a babysitter for the boys. Lindy quickly located a friend to look after Aidan and Reagan. Dr Cox, Avondale College president, took her to his office to call for legal advice. Neither Peter Dean or Phil Rice were at home. Cox suggested that she call a local Adventist solicitor, Stuart Tipple, but he too was out. By now Lindy was becoming frantic. Then she remembered that Mr. St. John, QC had once offered his assistance if it was ever needed. Fortunately, he was home. He advised her that, because the police had not allowed them to read the warrant and they had already given extensive statements in the past, neither she nor Michael should agree to an interview.

While Lindy was away, Charlwood had convinced Michael to go with the boys to the closest police station in Toronto for an interview. The arrival of media helicopters, reporters and journalists was enough to cause Michael to leave. Once again, the media knew what was happening before the Chamberlains did.

As Charlwood had been left without transport, they took the car the Chamberlains were borrowing while their own was undergoing repairs after a road accident. On the way, Charlwood gave Lindy an indication of some of the new evidence that he had alluded to earlier. He informed her that Cameron's test results had revealed a blood stained handprint belonging to a female on Azaria's jumpsuit, in the underarm region. The report also indicated that the baby had been decapitated.

He also informed her that the police had applied to the Northern Territory Supreme Court to quash the findings of the first inquest. There would be a second inquest.

At the police station Lindy was taken into a room and asked to wait while Charlwood went to get Michael. Lindy was concerned that Michael would talk freely to the police as they had done before, as she had not yet told him of St. John's advice. She was able to see clearly into the main office where Charlwood stood talking to a colleague. Another door opened and she heard Michael and the boys' voices. Charlwood was on the phone as she walked out into the office. When she asked where her husband was Charlwood said that he was coming shortly. Hearing her voice, the boys ran out of the adjoining office, where Michael was being interviewed, followed by Michael. He had not been informed of her arrival at all.

Charlwood asked Lindy if she would agree to having a print taken of her hand but she would not do so without legal advice, and as they could not contact Peter Dean it would not be possible. Then the police asked to take the car. The Chamberlains agreed. They were to take the police to the repairer's yard where it would be lifted onto a truck. As they were leaving, Charlwood asked Michael to sign his notebook stating that he had given the police his permission. It was unfortunate that the Chamberlains had not sought legal advice on this issue as the warrant did not include seizure of the car and should not have been taken.

They were to find out later that Michael's supposedly informal interview had been taped. Charlwood claimed during the inquest that, although he had used a tape recorder during his conversation with Lindy in the car, it had not recorded.

The raid on the Chamberlain's home was not the only action taken by Operation Ochre at that time. All over the country, teams of police arrived at the homes of anyone who had testified at the first inquest. Greg and Sally Lowe were questioned for a gruelling four and a half hours. Despite all efforts, the police were unable to glean any new information from them. It was the same for all of the others.