Australia's fourth inquest opens in Azaria Chamberlain dingo case

 

A coroner today opened Australia's fourth inquest into the most notorious and bitterly controversial legal drama in the nation's history: the 1980 death of a nine-week-old baby whose parents say was taken by a dingo from her tent in the Australian Outback.

Azaria Chamberlain's mother, Lindy, was convicted and later cleared of murdering her and has always maintained that a wild dog took the baby.

She and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, are hoping fresh evidence they have gathered about dingo attacks on children will convince Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris and end relentless speculation that has followed them for 32 years.

Anne Lade, a former police officer hired by the court to investigate the case, told a packed courtroom that in the years since Azaria disappeared, there have been numerous dingo attacks on humans, some of them fatal.

Rex Wild, a lawyer assisting the coroner, described several of the attacks and said he believed the evidence showed that a dingo could have been responsible for Azaria's death.

"Although it (a dingo killing a child) may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 ... it shouldn't be by 2011-12," he said.

Azaria's death certificate, however, still lists her cause of death as "unknown". The Chamberlains say they want to set the record straight on behalf of their daughter.

"It gives me hope this time that Australians will finally be warned and realise that dingoes are a dangerous animal," Mrs Chamberlain said outside the courthouse in the Northern Territory capital, Darwin.

"I also hope that this will give a final finding which closes the inquest into my daughter's death, which so far has been standing open and unfinished."

Azaria vanished from her tent in the Outback on August 17, 1980, during a family vacation to Ayers Rock, the giant red monolith now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru.

Fellow campers told police they heard a low growl followed by a baby's cry shortly before Mrs Chamberlain - who had been making dinner at a nearby barbecue area - went to check on her daughter.

Mrs Chamberlain said she saw a dingo run from the tent and disappear into the darkness.

There were dingo prints outside the tent, and spots of blood on the bedding inside.

Upon seeing Azaria's empty bassinet, Lindy screamed, "The dingo's got my baby!" - a line made famous by the Meryl Streep movie, A Cry in the Dark, based on the case.

Azaria's body was never found, though her torn and bloodied jumpsuit turned up in the surrounding desert.

Officials, doubtful that a dingo was strong enough to drag away a baby, charged Mrs Chamberlain with murder.

Prosecutors said she slit Azaria's throat in the family car - which initial forensic tests said was splashed with baby's blood - and buried her in the desert. Mrs Chamberlain was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Years later, more sophisticated tests found that the "blood" in the car was a combination of milk and a chemical sprayed during manufacture.

Three years into Mrs Chamberlain's prison sentence, a jacket Azaria had been wearing was found by chance near a dingo den. Mrs Chamberlain was released from prison and her conviction was overturned.

Still, three separate coroner's inquests have failed to agree on a cause of death for Azaria. The last inquest, held in 1995, returned an inconclusive finding, with the coroner saying there was not enough evidence to prove a dingo was responsible.

Since then, the Chamberlains have gathered new evidence of around a dozen dingo attacks on children, three of them fatal, said their lawyer, Stuart Tipple.

That evidence has been presented to Ms Morris, the coroner, for consideration at today's inquest. Ms Morris is expected to issue her decision at a later date.

In court, Michael Chamberlain fought back tears as he spoke of the nightmarish aftermath of his daughter's death.

"Since the loss of Azaria I have had an abiding fear and paranoia about safety around dingoes," he said. "They send a shudder up my spine. It is a hell I have to endure."

Australians have followed the case closely since it began, and most have strong opinions. Although public support for Ms Chamberlain has grown over the years, many still doubt that a dingo could have killed Azaria.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf