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It’s Official: The Dingo Did Take The Baby

It’s Official: The Dingo Did Take The Baby

32 years after Azaria Chamberlain disappeared in the most famous baby snatching since the Lindbergh baby, an Australian coroner has finally ruled that, yes, a dingo did it.

The nine-week-old was snatched in 1980 as her family camped at the foot of Australia’s landmark rock Uluru, then known as Ayer’s Rock. Aboriginal trackers saw dingo tracks and the first coroner blamed Australia’s wild dog — but the newly independent of Commonwealth control Northern Territory government was upset at the coroner’s criticism of police, as well as of ‘Southerners,’ and pursued Azaria’s mother, Lindy. She was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1986, following mounting criticism and the chance discovery of the baby’s matinee jacket, the forensic and other evidence was dismissed as flawed at a Royal Commission and Lindy freed, but a further coronal inquiry gave an open verdict, so it is only now that Lindy and her ex-husband Michael have finally had all trace of guilt removed.

In the three decades since the events, a large swathe of Australia has continued to believe the parents guilty. Australia’s media, newspapers, tabloid TV and talk radio indulged in what amounted to religious persecution — the parents are Seventh Day Adventists — indulging wild rumors of ritual sacrifice. Australia also didn’t want to believe that dingos are dangerous; think of the implications for the tourism industry.

Lindy’s seemingly cold demeanor and refusal to speak to the media, failing to fit the cultural expectations of a grieving mother, also fed into how the couple were cast.

In 1980, dingoes were widely believed never to pose a threat to humans, but since then, fatal attacks have received wide coverage, particularly the killing of a nine-year-old boy on Fraser Island off Queensland in 2001. That led to 31 dingoes being controversially culled.

The new verdict may lead many Australians to reassess why they indulged in what amounted to a frenzy — well documented in the movie “A Cry In The Dark,” which starred Meryl Streep as Lindy. One comedian, Wendy Harmer, has already apologized for her antics in the 1980s. The coroner fought back tears as she told Lindy and Michael “I am so sorry for your loss” yesterday.

Writes author Jo Hilder, a teenager back then:

Most of Australia decided Lindy was “weird”, and her behaviour in public was “unnatural” and “emotionally detached”, we also made up our minds that even though we didn’t know her from Eve, we were sure she was absolutely capable of cold-blooded infanticide.

Apart from the outright vitriol directed towards Lindy Chamberlain, there were also the jokes. Dozens of dingo/baby jokes circulated around our school, but we didn’t make them up. We didn’t have to. We heard them from our parents. Then there were the T-shirts, the cartoons in the paper and the comedy sketches on TV. The Chamberlains, and their most horrible defining moment, had become a part of Australian parochial culture.

How is it easier to believe a human mother could behave like a wild dog towards her own child than it is to believe a wild dog could behave that way?

… while she very may have very well been an hysterical mess in private, she chose not to behave that way in front of us. And we hated her for it.

Speaking outside the Darwin court, Lindy said:

No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and will only attack if provoked.

We live in a beautiful country but it is dangerous and we’d ask all Australians to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions.

Said Michael:

This has been a terrifying battle. Bitter at times, but now some healing and a chance to put our daughter’s spirit to rest.

I’m here to tell you, you can get justice even when you think all is lost. If you know you are right, never give up on getting it right when a serious issue could affect the life and livelihood of others.

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Picture by lostandcold

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133 comments

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11:50PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

I remember this story when it happened and saw the film. I never thought she was guilty. I'm glad her name has finally been cleared.

9:36PM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

I am glad this can finally be put to rest. It breaks my heart she lost her baby and was convicted of murdering this child. I have never watched the movie but heard all about it and what was said. Just watching documentaries about wildlife in general, watching them about dingo's and knowing canine behavior, I fully believe that a dingo could take a human child and kill it. Children and small adults look like prey to many predators and it could easily come in to a camp and take a small child with little or no effort. As for her demeanor, not everyone grieves the same so to try and convict her based a lot on her behavior was just wrong. I don't often cry at death openly and in front of people but in private I cry just as much and grieve just as deeply. Stoic and reserved does not mean cold and uncaring, just different from another. I can only imagine it was a surreal and unimaginable time for her and her husband. She has suffered enough. I hope she can find peace. The child is with God and the angels and was a victim of the cruelty and capriciousness nature can sometimes have.

12:16PM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

Yes, Pamela, you have a valid point. I live in America, I foster dogs as well as have 3 that are my own pets. One of my pets is a Dingo Mix. He looks exactly like the one in the picture above, except he does not have the bushy tail and his body is not quite as long. But other wise he is the spittin image of it. What I can tell you about my Dingo mix is that he is very quite when strangers are around, and even around the other dogs, but always observing everything around him. I have learned to read his body language quit well, and know when for what ever his reason may be, that he is about to unknowingly attack one of the other dogs. And when he does, you better be there and respond quick. You have to grab him at the nape of the neck, like a mama dog carrying her youn, pull his front paws off the floor and hold him there until he gives it up and settles down. I firmly believe he would kill the other animal if someone did not interfere. Otherwise he is a wonderful animal. However he has never attempted to attack a human. I have had him since he was born. In the wild that might be a different story. Do I believe that they would take a baby? In the wild, and if hungry, yes, I do.
And they are fast at what they do. I have watched as Sampson, laid in wait for a field rat that we had been trying to catch that invaded our home, and he lay quite, still, never moved or blinked. The rat thought about turning around, then I guess he though okay no danger and eased his way twoard our p

7:31PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

The hell that poor woman was put through. I was just a youngster at the time and never thought she was guilty. I'm glad I lived long enough to see she was proved innocent of the charge of killing her child. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a "witch hunt" can generate itself. People don't wait for all the facts before they're more than ready to hang someone. Best wishes dear lady for the remainder of your life to be happier than the past 32 years have been. God bless you.

7:15PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

A dingo "could" have taken the baby...we'll never know what really happened as the child is not here to tell us first hand!

6:13PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

As someone said, this only verifies that a dingo COULD have taken the baby. There must have been SOMETHING that led prosecutors to believe the mother was guilty. But it's over and hopefully the right decisions were made.

1:47PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Well said Virginia! I totally agree!

10:13AM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

so glad she has finally been cleared...what a long, drawn-out ordeal!

9:39AM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

It's only been proved that a Dingo COULD HAVE taken the baby because of newer incidents. Dingos are wild animals, they will eat anything they can catch.

9:26AM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

panic. kill. reactionary and reflexive, how typically human, without the capacity to think and to reason logically, rationally. something is declared so, so it must be. Like the Heritage Foundation, which, a few months ago, declared there is no poverty in America. It must be so. So why bother with welfare, medicare, etc? exactly.

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