The Dingo Really Did Eat Her Baby

Thirty-two years ago, an Australian woman who was accused of murdering her child but put forward a defense that many found implausible and some openly mocked, has been vindicated by a coroner’s investigation:

Thirty-two years after Azaria Chamberlain, 9 weeks old, disappeared from a campsite in Australia, the coroner in the fourth inquest into her death announced on Tuesday that the baby died as a result of being taken by a dingo, an Australian wild dog.

The ruling signified the end of three decades of struggle for the Chamberlain family. At first, Azaria’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was convicted of murdering her daughter and was sent to prison.

That verdict was later overturned and Ms. Chamberlain set free, but subsequent inquests were unable to reach a determination on how Azaria died, despite growing evidence that Ms. Chamberlain was truthful in her statement that a dingo was responsible for the death at the campsite in central Australia.

The coroner, Elizabeth Morris, with tears in her eyes, addressed the Chamberlain family in a courtroom in Darwin, Australia.

“Please accept my sincere sympathies on the death of your special daughter,” Ms. Morris said. “I am so sorry. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.”

She said of Azaria, “The cause of her death was the result of being taken by a dingo.”

The death of Azaria and the arrest and conviction of her mother became an international saga with the making of the 1988 movie “Cry in the Dark,” in which Meryl Streep played Ms. Chamberlain.

At the time of the death, many Australians could not believe a dingo, a small wild dog, would attack a human. Many Australians also turned against Ms. Chamberlain because, some suggested, she had not shown the kind of grief expected of a mother who had lost her child. The strain on the family was enormous, and she and her husband, Michael Chamberlain, divorced. But she never stopped pursuing vindication in a coroner’s ruling.

In recent years, a dingo attacked and killed at least one victim, a young boy.

And that would appear to be the end of this saga.

 

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    What a nightmare for that woman. This sort of thing is why I always approve when you post on not rushing to judgement, even if there’s a conviction.

  2. Tano says:

    hmmm, I find this rather odd. What was the basis for the new report by the coroner? Any new evidence? An examination of the 30 year old remains turning up something that was overlooked before? Or simply, as the article seems to imply, a changing attitude about the plausibility of the dingo-defense? IOW nobody really knows what happened any more now than before, but everyone seems to sympathize with the mother these days, so the decision turns her way.

    Of course, if they don’t know what happened, then of course she should be cleared (innocent till proven guilty etc), but that is different from positively asserting that it was a dingo, as the coroner has done.