Azaria Chamberlain



This case is more widely known as the “Dingo Baby Case” and was very big in the 1980's despite being from half way around the world in Australia. I do not do a lot of cases that are outside of the United States due to the fact that the laws are so different in other countries and I do well to understand some of the laws in our country, but this one was a very high profile case. I also think that the results that were concluded in the case, then referred and then more concluded again later are interesting. To be fair I am fairly uncertain that this case would have ever made it to a United States court in 1980 let alone in 2017. I do not think the evidence was there to charge anyone. In fact, I do not think there has ever been enough evidence to prove anything in this case. However, Australia apparently felt differently. They have however apparently used this case in teachings about how the media and bias can affect a trial unfairly.

On August 17, 1980 Michael and Lindy Chamberlain were camping with their children, as well as apparently a group of friends. Lindy would say that she had placed her two month old daughter, Azaria, inside the family tent and then went back to where the others were and fed one of her sons. A bit later she would go back to the tent and Azaria was not there. It was quite unclear whether she claimed to have seen a Dingo (a wild dog known only in Australia), similar to Coyote only descended from domesticated dogs, take off with Azaria or it was simply widely assumed.

A large search was made for the baby but all that was found was some of her clothing that included a jumpsuit and underclothing. Her body would never be found. Lindy would argue early on that Azaria had also had a jacket on that had not been found.

The media ran after this story and so it seems the authorities looked very deep into Lindy's claims. There were many who believed that Dingoes were not vicious enough to attack unprovoked or even at all. Many believed that Dingoes were more apt to keep their distance from people and their dens were often isolated.

While in the United States we no longer use what are called coroner inquests, they are still apparently used in Australia. For those unfamiliar with coroner inquests they are basically the equivalency of what we know of as a grand jury. Testimony is given but instead of a judge being in charge of things it is the coroner. Sometimes these were used, as apparently it was in this case, to get more information about a death to help determine what may or may not had happened. The first inquest into this case ended in February 20, 1981. It was determined that in fact Lindy's story was seemingly true and that a Dingo had attacked and taken her baby.

It seems that investigators were not happy with this outcome and kept digging for more. The second inquest would take place in September of 1981 where the “prosecutors,” known as The Crown in Australia, would argue that ta cut on the jumpsuit found indicated that Azaria's throat had been cut. This inquest would end in what we would know as an indictment. Both Michael and Lindy Chamberlain would be arrested.

At her trial The Crown would argue that Lindy had cut Azaria's throat in the front seat of the family vehicle. They would claim that there was evidence of this through a substance called foetal haemoglobin Of course I had to look up what this substance was and it is a product found in the blood that was said to only be found in infants less than six months of age. The Crown would go on to say that she then hid the body in a large camera case, went and fed her son and then went to the tent proclaiming Azaria was gone. It was their theory that while others were out looking for Azaria that Lindy had then retrieved her body and disposed of her. The Crown would also argue that Lindy had not acted as a “grieving” mother should have and that her behavior pointed to her guilt.

Several witnesses of that night disputed these claims with one claiming to have heard a baby's cry long after the prosecution would claim Lindy had killed the child. Despite the defenses' effort Lindy was convicted of murder in October of 1982 and was sentenced to life. Michael had also been tried as an accessory after the fact and received an eighteen month, suspended sentence. Lindy of course filed an appeal but it was denied.

Then, in 1986 while authorities were searching for a fallen climber they came across a small infant jacket near the entrance of a Dingo den. This appeared to be the jacket that Lindy had always proclaimed Azaria was wearing on the night she was taken by the Dingo. This finding, as well as evidence of subsequent evidence of other Dingo attacks prompted the courts to release Lindy from prison.

In 1988 The Crown officially overturned both Lindy and Michael's convictions but they still were not vindicated. A third coroner's inquest was conducted on the case in 1995. Those findings were considered “open,” meaning that no true cause of death could be determined. Keep in mind that no body had ever been found, only clothing. The forth and final inquest was held in June of 2012. It was here that a ruling all but matched the original inquest and determined that Azaria had in fact been taken by a Dingo and killed.

Over time it had also been discovered that the foetal haemoglobin results were at best flawed. While it had been testified that the substance could only be found in infants under the age of six months it had been determined that the elements used to determine this were found in many things, including in chemicals applied to new car seats.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain would divorce in 1991 and subsequently go on to marry other people. They would sue for their false convictions and receive $1.5M in compensation. Many have argued that the amount they received covered less than half of the legal expenses they had incurred to prove their innocence.

It was reported that in 2008 Azaria's brother, Aiden, who was six when she was killed had gotten married and that his new wife was driven to the ceremony in the car the family had owned, and had been inspected in 1980. I must admit that I found this not only odd that it was done, but even more odd that the news felt the need to report it.

In 2014 Zahra Chamberlain, the daughter of Michael and his second wife, Ingrid was featured in the paper. Despite the fact that her father had an understandably fear and anger towards Dingoes, Zahra was making a living as a Dingo trainer.

Michael Chamberlain would die recently on January 9, 2017 after suffering from leukemia.

As I stated earlier I do not believe that this case would have seen the inside of a courtroom in 1980, let alone now. This seems to be a case of an overzealous “prosecutor” who was convinced that a parent was lying. Now, it could have been, and in reality still could be, true that a Dingo never came into the campsite and took off with Azaria and that Lindy and Michael had been responsible. However, there was never any evidence of this and what evidence The Crown supposedly presented seemed solely based on speculation. I never saw any evidence pertaining to the camera case in which The Crown would argue that Lindy hid Azaria's body. From all outside appearances it seems they needed to have a place for the body to be hidden for their theory and the camera case seemed convenient. As far as the results, as they were given in 1980, pertaining to foetal haemoglobin I cannot say if those results were deliberately false or research at the time was so lacking as to have little understanding of the element. But, the bottom line of things is that there was not then, nor has there ever been a body found to conclusively say that a Dingo had entered their camp and took their child. Yes, I realize that the jacket was found near a Dingo den, as well as it was later speculated that the original clothing may have also been found near a Dingo den, in my opinion that is not conclusive. I am not accusing Michael and Lindy of murdering their child, because I do not know that either. What I am pointing out that there was no evidence one way or another. This left me very confused as to the results of the 2012 inquest in which it was determined that the cause of death was determined to be the Dingo. It is completely possible that it was, but it is also not conclusive.

Then there is the matter of the issue that regardless of any conclusions that any inquest would have or did make not only did not bring Azaria back but would likely not change the minds of those who believed in the parents' guilt. I would gander to guess that there was a lot of criticism on them, or at lest there would have from people in the United States, especially in our current day, that the couple had not only taken such a small child with them camping but had not kept a constant eye on her. In today's world of helicopter parenting I am certain there would be the “perfect parents” out there ready to state their judgments. I am generally the first person to defend people not only based on time periods and how things were done but cultures and areas in which things are not done in the same manner as others. In Australia this may have been a very common thing to do but that never stops those who disagree from stating so. Lindy Chamberlain absolutely deserved the compensation, what little help it may have given, that she received based on the fact that her trial was wholly unfair.



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