22:11 EST 11 June 2012
After more than three decades of controversy a coroner in Australia found today that baby Azaria Chamberlain, who vanished from her family’s tent on a camping holiday 32 years ago, was taken by a dingo.
The case, which saw Azaria’s mother Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton serve six years for her murder before being acquitted, has divided a nation, prompting massive speculation over what really happened on the night of August 17, 1980.
Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton and her then husband Michael Chamberlain have always maintained that a wild dog took their baby during the family camping trip to Ayers Rock.
Azaria’s body was never found despite intensive searches by police, Aboriginal trackers and park rangers, but her clothing was later found beside a dingo’s lair at the base of the rock.
Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton and Mr Chamberlain, who was given a suspended sentence for being an accessory after the fact were both exonerated after a royal commission in 1987.
Today’s dramatic ruling, during what was the fourth inquest into Azaria’s death, finally puts to rest the doubts that have existed over the case. It came just one day after Azaria would have celebrated her 32nd birthday.
Northern Territory coroner Miss Elizabeth Morris said that after considering all the evidence from earlier inquests and inquiries she concluded a dingo entered the family tent and dragged Azaria away.
The coroner fought back tears as she extended her sympathies to Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton, as she is now known, and her former husband Michael Chamberlain, who were present in the courtroom in Darwin.
Miss Morris said the cause of Azaria’s death was as the result of ‘her being attacked and taken by a dingo.’
She said it was clear that not just from her findings but from other evidence dingos could cause harm to humans.
It was beyond the scope of her inquest to examine the cause of the attack on Azaria, she said, and she did not intend to make any recommendations in respect of public safety.
But she said it was appropriate for wildlife authorities to look into the risks created by wild animals in areas attended by the public.
Turning to the Chamberlain couple and their three other children, Miss Morris’s voice broke and she struggled against tears as she told them.
‘Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special and loved daughter and sister.
‘I am so sorry for your loss.
‘Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.’
She said a certificate of death would now be made available reflecting her findings that a dingo had taken Azaria.
Azaria’s previous death certificate had stated the cause of her death as ‘unknown’.
The new findings are now believed to be the final chapter in what has been one of Australia’s most enduring sagas.
The drama had begun when the Chamberlain couple and Azaria, along with their two young sons Aidan and Reagan, travelled from their home in outback Queensland for a camping holiday at the popular beauty spot.
Mrs Chamberlain had placed Azaria in the tent, where Reagan was already sleeping, before she returned to a barbecue area where her husband was chatting to other campers.
It was then that someone asked if they had heard a baby cry.
Mrs Chamberlain returned to the tent – and moments later the silence of the night was broken by Mrs Chamberlain’s cry: ‘A dingo’s got my baby.’
She told other campers that she had seen a dingo leaving the tent – and there was no sign of Azaria.
A big search was started but there was no sign of the dingo nor the child.
But several days later the baby’s jumpsuit was found beside a dingo lair. There was no sign of the baby or any remains.
Sceptics said that it would have been impossible for a dingo to have killed and even eaten the child without leaving some remains.
There were also no signs of dingo saliva or hairs on the jumpsuit, but Mrs Chamberlain said that would have been because the baby was wearing a matinee jacket over the jumpsuit.
The matinee jacket was not found – until nearly four years into Mrs Chamberlain’s life sentence when it was dramatically discovered beside the body of Englishman David Brett who had fallen to his death while climbing Ayer’s Rock.
Authorities agreed Mrs Chamberlain had been telling the truth about the jacket and she was almost immediately released from prison.
Ordeal: Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton served six years for her murder before being acquitted in 1988. She had always claimed that a dingo killed their child.
She and her husband were later exonerated from involvement in the baby’s death.
Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton and her ex-husband – a former Seventh Day Adventist church pastor – were expected to comment later.
Standing outside the court building, Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton said:
‘We are delighted to come to the end of this saga…no longer will Australia be able to say that dingos are not dangerous.
‘We live in a beautiful country but it is dangerous and we would ask Australians to be aware of this and take precautions.’
Michael Chamberlain said: ‘Today I heard coroner Morris speak for the dead on behalf of the living.
‘This battle to get the legal truth about what caused Azaria’s death has taken too long. However I am here to tell you that you can get justice even when you think all is lost. But truth must be on your side.’
He added: ‘If you know you are right never give up on getting it right.’
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
how she obtained/lost her heart’s desire = LN = 35 = Azaria Chamberlain.
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