Category: world
Updated: 12/06/12 : 08:06:15

World :: Coroner Rules Dingo Took Away Australian Baby

Lindy Chamberlain pictured with her nine-week-old baby Azaria in 1980
A 32-year mystery over the disappearance of a baby in Australia's Outback has come to an end after a coroner ruled that a dingo was responsible for the death of Azaria Chamberlain.

The coroner's finding ends a three-decade fight for justice by Azaria's parents, Michael Chamberlain and Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, who was jailed for three years over her daughter's death before she was later cleared.

Nine-week-old Azaria disappeared on August 17, 1980, from a tent near Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, which is one of Australia's main tourist attractions.

Her body was never found.

Mr Chamberlain said outside the court the ordeal had been "a terrifying battle" but now the family had "a chance to put our daughter's spirit to rest".

He and his former wife have always maintained Azaria was taken by a dingo.

Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris found evidence from the case proved a dingo or dingoes were responsible for Azaria's death and ruled that her death certificate should read "attacked and taken by a dingo".

"What occurred on 17th August, 1980, was that shortly after Mrs Chamberlain placed Azaria in the tent, a dingo or dingoes entered the tent, took Azaria and carried and dragged her from the immediate area," Ms Morris said.

In an emotional finding, Ms Morris then offered her condolences to the Chamberlains, who were in the Darwin courtroom.

"Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special loved daughter and sister Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss," she said to the family.

"Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child."

An amended death certificate was made available to Azaria's parents immediately after the ruling.

Azaria went missing during a camping trip to the evocative red monolith in the heart of the Outback.

The coroner ruled that shortly after Mrs Chamberlain placed Azaria in the tent that afternoon a dingo, or dingoes, entered, took the baby and carried and dragged her away.

Ms Morris detailed how the mother was alerted to a baby's cry, and on returning to the tent saw a dingo nearby. She raised the alarm but despite an extensive search, the body was never found.

Mrs Chamberlain was jailed for murder, despite an initial inquest which backed her explanation the baby was snatched.

The convictions of Mrs Chamberlain and her then husband Michael, who was given a suspended term for being an accessory, were overturned in 1988 after the chance find of a piece of Azaria's clothing near a dingo lair.

The case inspired the 1988 hit film A Cry In The Dark, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, along with books, a TV series and even an opera.