'Dingo baby' saga may be laid to rest

Cry for justice: Mother wrongly convicted of her daughter's murder returns to court to end 15-year ordeal

After 15 years, several false conclusions and enough media hype to rival the OJ Simpson case, Australia's most celebrated mystery, the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain, the "dingo baby", may be resolved today.

Azaria's parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, have asked a coroner's court to clear them of any involvement in the disappearance of their nine week old daughter in 1980. Now divorced, the Chamberlains are expected to attend the court in Darwin today when the coroner delivers his verdict.

Azaria vanished from a tent at Ayers Rock camping ground in the Northern Territory during a family holiday. The Chamberlains insisted that a dingo, a wild Australian dog, had snatched the child, and Azaria's body has never been found.

In 1982, after a frenzy of speculation, two coroner's inquiries, and a trial at which forensic witnesses mounted a circumstantial case against the parents, Mrs Chamberlain was found guilty of murdering her daughter and received a life sentence. Her husband was convicted as an accessory and was released on a good-behaviour bond. The Crown had not put forward a motive for the crime.

When a British tourist fell to his death while climbing Ayers Rock in1986, rangers sent to retrieve his body found Azaria's matinee jacket lying near by. Mrs Chamberlain had always maintained that Azaria was wearing such a jacket when she disappeared. With the discovery of this vital clue, the Northern Territory Government released Mrs Chamberlain and set up a Royal Commission to determine if the Chamberlains had been victims of a miscarriage of justice.

The commission found that a jury would not have convicted them if this evidence had been available. In 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Appeal quashed their convictions.

The first inquest, in 1981, found that a dingo had taken the child. A second inquest, called in 1982 after criticism of the Northern Territory authorities, concluded that Azaria was murdered by a person or persons unknown. That second finding technically still stands, despite the Royal Commission's establishment of a miscarriage of justice. It is this finding that the Chamberlains have requested the coroner to set aside, and to conclude that Azaria died accidentally after a dingo took her.

Three years ago, the Northern Territory government paid the couple pounds 620,000 in compensation, but has never offered them a formal apology. They have also received pounds 120,000 from Kerry Packer, the media magnate, for exclusive magazine and television interviews, as well as undisclosed fees for A Cry in the Dark, the film version of their story starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill.

But the Chamberlains claim that the money barely covered their legal bills.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Business Development Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to develop an ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor