There have been three inquests, a trial, two appeals and a royal commission – but the legal saga sparked by the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain 30 years ago is not yet over. Australian authorities are reportedly planning a fourth inquest, following demands by Azaria’s parents for official recognition of the fact she was taken by a dingo.
The most recent inquest, in 1995, returned an open verdict, infuriating Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, who were both convicted in relation to Azaria’s death. The nine-week-old baby vanished from a campsite near Uluru (then called Ayers Rock) in 1980, triggering Australia’s most celebrated murder case. The convctions were overturned eight years later, with both parents exonerated.
The Northern Territory Attorney-General, Delia Lawrie, said yesterday that she had asked officials to review the case. Local media reported that a new inquest was expected to be held early next year.
Azaria’s parents want her death certificate changed to state that a dingo killed her. Mr Chamberlain said his lawyers were collating evidence – including details of attacks by dingoes on humans – which he was confident would lead to a new coronial finding. “It’s justice for Azaria,” he told ABC radio. “Her spirit does not rest because the truth was never told about how she actually died.”
Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton, who has remarried, released an open letter in August, on the 30th anniversary of Azaria’s disappearance, calling for a new inquest. Convicted of murder and sentenced to life, she spent three years in jail but was released after the baby’s matinee jacket was found at the base of Uluru, near a dingo’s lair. Her husband had been convicted of being an accessory to murder.
Since 1980 there have been at least six dingo attacks on humans, including one in which a nine-year-old boy, Clinton Gage, died on Queensland’s Fraser Island in 2001. Mr Chamberlain said: “They confuse human prey with animal prey, and look upon them as fair game, no matter what they are, whether a kangaroo, a calf, a lamb, a wallaby or a baby.”
He called on the coroner to investigate the handling of the case – considered one of Australia’s worst miscarriages of justice – by Northern Territory authorities. “There were many unfortunate things that happened … whether by ignorance or a kind of plan to take us, come hell or high water,” he said.