One of the most highly publicized missing children cases in history, which led to a mistaken conviction of a mother, has finally come to an end as an Australian corner has officially ruled a dingo took a baby from a campsite.
For 32 years Lindy Chamberlain has been haunted by public doubt of her version of events the her nine-month old daughter, Azaria died. Chamberlain shocked the world when she reported the infant was taken by a dingo ? an Australian wild dog.
"We're relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga," said Chamberlain. Her former husband, and Azaria's father added, "this battle to get to the legal truth of what happened to Azaria has taken too long."
"Please accept my sincere apology on the death of your special and loved daughter and sister Azaria," said coroner Elizabeth Morris. "I am so sorry for your loss. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of death of a child."
There have been 27 dingo attacks, three of them fatal since Azaria's death in 1980, but before her case fatal attacks with the dogs who frequent the Uluru camp areas were unheard of. Plausibility is crucial for testimonial evidence in Australian courts, and since nothing like it had ever happened, the judge was hard pressed to accept the dingo story. According to the coroners office, thanks to the awareness created by her own case, the story of what happened to Azaria Chamberlain now fits that requirement.
On August 17, 1980, Chamberlain and her now ex-husband, Michael, took their three children camping to Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock, in the Australian desert. After Chamberlain put the newborn to sleep in a bassinet in the couple's tent, she returned to a nearby barbeque area with friends. Soon after, witnesses heard a "menacing growl" and a baby crying. The mother of three ran back to the tent, she says, and saw a dingo dragging her daughter away.
The initial coroner's inquiry found that the Chamberlain family had no responsibility in Azaria's death; but for many, their story was just too unbelievable.
In October of 1982, amid rumors the Chamberlains sacrificed their daughter in a religious ceremony, the case was re-opened; and Lindy was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
It wasn't until four years later, when a child's jacket was found in a dingo den, that Chamberlain was re-tried and acquitted. Eventually the family faded into obscurity while their story would become a joke and punch line in movies and TV shows.
Meryl Streep portrayed Lindy Chamberlain in the 1988 film "A Cry in the Dark," and was nominated for an Oscar for the role.
Now, after yesterday's ruling, the Chamberlains can finally end their three-decade fight to have Azaria's cause of death officially recognized on her death certificate.