The Azaria Chamberlain case is one of the most contentious and widely debated in Australian history. Azaria Chamberlain, nine weeks old, went missing from a campsite near Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, in Australia’s Northern Territory on the night of August 17, 1980. Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, her parents, claimed that a dingo [an Australian wild dog] had stolen her from their tent.
“A dingo’s got my baby,” Lindy Chamberlain said of her daughter’s disappearance to police and the media.
Lindy stated that she placed Azaria in her bassinet in the tent’s back right corner, while Aidan settled into his sleeping bag. Aidan replied that he was still hungry after she said goodnight. Lindy returned to the BBQ area with Aidan after retrieving some baked beans from the car parked near the tent. They were gone from the tent for 5 to 10 minutes.
Michael and Mrs. Lowe both heard a brief, faint cry they suspected was from Azaria when Lindy opened a can of beans. Lindy went to investigate after hearing the cry and saw a dingo, an Australian wild dog, leaving the area with something in its mouth and shaking its head.
Lindy and Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in August 1980. (Supplied)
She dashed into the tent, only to discover that the baby had vanished. Lindy’s panicked cry of “the dingo has taken my baby” catapulted her from housewife to news celebrity. Despite an initial investigation that supported the Chamberlains’ claims and the conclusion by Alice Springs magistrate and coroner Dennis Barritt that Azaria was abducted by a dingo.
However, police in the Northern Territory remained skeptical, accusing Lindy of murdering her daughter in the front seat of their car. As a result, the Supreme Court overturned the initial finding and charged Lindy with murder, with Michael serving as an accessory.
Despite the lack of evidence, both Lindy and Michael were convicted, and Lindy was sentenced to life in prison on October 29, 1982. However, the evidence used against them, which was later discredited, was flawed and included alleged blood spatters in the footwell and under the dash of the family car. This was later revealed to be a forensic error.
The evidence claimed to be Azaria’s blood was discovered to be a variety of substances, including bitumen material (a sound deadener used in the car’s manufacturing), milkshake, and copper dust, but not blood, according to National Museum of Australia curator Sophie Jensen.
Lindy was eventually released from prison and exonerated in 1986, not because the forensic evidence was re-evaluated, but because Azaria’s missing jacket was discovered near dingo dens at the base of Uluru in February 1986.
She and her co-accused husband, Michael Chamberlain, were officially pardoned in 1987, and their convictions were overturned by the Northern Territory Supreme Court in 1988. Chamberlain received $1.3 million in compensation from the Australian government in 1992.
The coroner expressed her grief when she announced that Azaria had been killed by a dingo on June 12, 2012. She ended by expressing her condolences to the Chamberlains, saying, “Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your beloved daughter.” “Time does not heal the pain and sadness of a child’s death.”
Coroner Elizabeth Morris officially determined Azaria’s death was caused by a dingo and granted Lindy and Michael an amended death certificate.
The case sparked enormous public interest, bordering on hysteria, and became one of the most widely publicized trials in Australian history, dividing the community. The case has inspired numerous books, TV documentaries, a film, and even an opera over the years.