Finally, it’s official. A dingo was responsible for Azaria Chamberlain’s death.
That’s the finding of a Darwin coroner who today delivered the results of the fourth inquest into how 9-week-old Azaria Chamberlain died on the 17th of August, 1980.
If Azaria Chamberlain was still alive, she would have celebrated her 32nd birthday yesterday.
But instead of watching her daughter blow out the candles on her cake, today Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain walked into a Darwin courtroom to hear what they hoped would be legal confirmation that a dingo killed her child – a finding which would allow the cause of death on Azaria’s death certificate to be altered from “unknown”.
Lindy cried and hugged her family as Coroner Elizabeth Morris read her findings:
- Azaria died at Uluru on the 17th of August, 1980. The cause of her death was the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.
- She told the court: “In considering now all of the evidence… and excluding all other reasonable possibilities.. what occurred was that a dingo or dingos entered the tent, took Azaria and dragged her from the immediate area.”
- She told Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain, “Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special and loved daughter, Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child… a certificate of death will be available for each of you which reflects the findings i have made today.”
The findings have been a long time coming for The Chamberlains who have been fighting for recognition that a dingo stole their Azaria since 1980.
Some history into the case, according to news.com.au:
The first inquest in Alice Springs began in December of that year. In February, 1981, in an unprecedented live telecast, the coroner returned a finding that Azaria had been taken by a dingo and that her body had been disposed of by persons unknown. Northern Territory police continued their investigations, which led to a second inquest later that year. The court heard evidence from a British pathologist that Azaria’s jumpsuit, found at the base of Uluru a week after her disappearance, bore the imprint of a bloody human hand, had cut marks consistent with incision by a knife or scissors, and bloodstains around the collar. The Chamberlains were charged with their child’s murder and in October, 1982, Mrs Chamberlain was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her husband was convicted of being an accessary and given a suspended sentence.
Media coverage of the trial was extraordinary and much of it was unsympathetic to the Chamberlains.
A stony-faced Mrs Chamberlain making her way to and from court, her hair cut in a severe fringe and heavily pregnant with her fourth child, are burned into the collective memory. There were even rumours of ritual sacrifice.
Over the next two years, appeals to the Federal and then the High Court failed. Then, in 1986, there was a startling discovery. Azaria’s matinee jacket – which her mother swore she was wearing when she disappeared – was found at Uluru and positively identified by Mrs Chamberlain.
She was released from jail and a royal commission was called. In June the following year, the commission cleared the Chamberlains of all charges, and in 1988 the NT Court of Criminal Appeals overturned their convictions. Still, the cause of Azaria’s death remained open. In 1995 a third inquest concluded that the cause and manner of her death was unknown.
IN this latest inquest, the court has heard detailed testimony about dingo attacks. A former police detective, Anna Lade, hired by the court to investigate, testified that there had been 239 dingo attacks since 1990 and that three children had died since 2001.
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