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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 17 January 2021

After 32 years, coroner agrees: Yes, baby Azaria WAS taken by a dingo

Baby Azaria Chamberlain was taken from her parents’ campsite by a wild Australian dog, a coroner finally declares.

Two dingoes at a zoo in Sydney: a coroner has put an end to a 32-year affair by officially declaring that dingoes took a baby from her parents' care.
Two dingoes at a zoo in Sydney: a coroner has put an end to a 32-year affair by officially declaring that dingoes took a baby from her parents' care.
Image: Brian Giesen via Flickr

AN AUSTRALIAN CORONER has brought an end to a marathon 32-year case that has attracted attention from all corners of the globe – declaring that yes, a baby who disappeared in 1980 was taken from her parents by a dingo.

Coroner Elizabeth Morris today said she was “satisfied that the evidence is sufficiently adequate, clear, cogent and exact and that the evidence excludes all other reasonable possibilities” than baby Azaria Chamberlain had been taken by dingoes from a campsite at Ayres Rock.

Many Australians initially did not believe that a dingo was strong enough to take away the baby. Public opinion swayed harshly against the couple; some even spat on her mother Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and howled like dingoes outside her house.

No similar dingo attack had been documented at the time, but in recent years the wild dogs have been blamed for three fatal attacks on children.

Tumultuous affair

The findings of this inquest – the fourth into Azaria’s death – mirror those of the first coroner’s inquest in 1981, though that inquest also found that somebody had later interfered with the baby’s clothing, which was later found relatively unscathed in the desert.

A second coroner’s inquest ended with Chamberlain-Creighton being charged with murder and Michael Chamberlain being charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Chamberlain-Creighton, accused of slashing her daughter’s throat with nail scissors and making it look like a dingo attack, was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison with hard labour.

She was released in 1986 after evidence was found that backed up her version of events: the baby’s jacket, found near a dingo den, which helped explain the condition of the rest of the baby’s clothing.

A Royal Commission, the highest form of investigation in Australia, debunked much of the forensic evidence used at trial and her conviction was overturned. A third inquest could not determine the cause of death.

The fourth inquest heard new evidence of dingo attacks, including three fatal attacks on children since the third inquest.

‘Beautiful country’

“No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and only attack if provoked,” a tearful Chamberlain-Creighton said before leaving the court with her ex-husband and their three surviving children to collect Azaria’s death certificate.

“We live in a beautiful country, but it is dangerous and we would ask all Australians to beware of this and take appropriate precautions,” Chamberlain-Creighton said.

In today’s ruling, the judge sought to put an end to longtime speculation about whether it was possible for Azaria’s clothing to be found so relatively intact, had she been taken from her parents by typically wild feral dogs.

“It would have been very difficult for a dingo to have removed Azaria from her clothing without causing more damage than what was observed on it, however it would have been possible for it to have done so,” the judge said.

“I think it is likely that a dingo would have left the clothing more scattered, but it might not have done so.”

The controversy over the child’s disappearance prompted a 1988 movie, ‘A Cry in the Dark’, as well as countless other cultural references.

Additional reporting by AP

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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