The Azaria Chamberlain case
ON 17 AUGUST 1980, nine-and-a-half week old Azaria Chamberlain went missing from a tent in a campground near Uluru in the Northern Territory.
“My God, my God, the dingo’s got my baby!” Lindy Chamberlain (now-famously) cried, upon seeing a dingo exit her family’s tent and discovering her daughter’s empty bassinet sometime around 8pm.
The subsequent arrest of Lindy for Azaria’s murder became one of Australia’s most well-known legal stories. The baby’s body has never been found. In 1982, Lindy was sentenced to life in Darwin’s Berrimah Prison while her husband Michael was convicted as an accessory after-the-fact to murder and given a suspended sentence of 18 months.
VIDEO: In 2010, new details came to light about the 30-year-old case. (Source: Sky News / Youtube)
In February, 1986, a missing matinee jacket Azaria had been wearing was found at the base of Uluru and kept hidden at the Alice Springs courthouse after its discovery a few days earlier.
Polarising a nation
Journalist Frank Alcorta came across this information and the pressure he applied to the Northern Territory government forced it to call a Royal Commission, which later cleared the couple and resulted in the immediate release of Lindy from prison.
Historian Robert Crawford from the University of Technology, Sydney, says the case continues to polarise the nation. “It had a lot of intrigue because of all the factors involved,” says Robert. “The story resonates today because…questions are still unanswered. People are not convinced. As well, there is an undercurrent [in Australian society] where there is also a fear of the outback.”
Released notes written by the jury foreman give some insight into the thinking of the jury at the time. They reveal that the three female jurors were harder on Lindy than the male jurors, and that all were swayed by the (later determined) incorrect forensic and expert evidence.