Did a Dingo Really Get Her Baby? A Case Reopened
By Marina Kamenev / Sydney Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
On the evening of Aug. 17, 1980, Lindy Chamberlain heard a cry coming from her tent. Lindy, her husband Michael and their three children were camping in Ayers Rock (now called Uluru) in Australia's Northern Territory. Lindy had put her 10-week-old daughter Azaria to sleep in their tent. After the cry, Lindy rushed back to check on her and saw a dingo leaving the area, clenching something in its jaws. Azaria was no longer in the tent, and Lindy screamed the now infamous line, "A dingo's got my baby!"
What followed was Australia's most famous saga, the subject of the 1988 film A Cry in the Dark. It's also a saga that's yet to come to a close. Lindy Chamberlain, whose version of events was initially believed, was later found guilty of killing Azaria after charges were pressed following a second inquest in 1981. Michael Chamberlain was found guilty of being an accomplice to murder. The evidence in that inquest was based on traces of fetal hemoglobin, which exists only in infants six months and younger, that were found in the Chamberlains' car and on Azaria's jumpsuit, which had blood around its collar and a human-size handprint.
In 1982, after exhausting all means of appeal, Lindy Chamberlain started her life sentence, always maintaining her innocence. Four years later, the 37-year-old mother's story was finally confirmed when a piece of Azaria's clothing was found, by chance, near a dingo den in Ayers Rock, and Lindy was released. The couple's convictions were overturned in 1988. But the evidence presented in the Chamberlains' first trial left a question mark that still hangs over their daughter's death. In 1995 a third coronial inquest into the case recorded an inconclusive finding, and Azaria's death certificate still lists the girl's cause of death as "unknown."
Now the Chamberlains are fighting for another chance at closure. Their lawyer, Stuart Tipple, has written to the Northern Territory coroner requesting that a fourth coronial inquest take place. The Melbourne Age reported that authorities in the Northern Territory were moving to establish the fourth inquest into Azaria's disappearance early next year. Michael Chamberlain declined to speak to TIME about the inquest until it is officially granted, but he scorned the third inquest on Australia's ABC News as being unsatisfactory. "By leaving it open, [then Northern Territory coroner John Lowndes] basically sullied the waters for us and turned it around and made us look like we might have been potentially guilty again," he said.