An Australian coroner ruled on Tuesday that a dingo, native to the Outback, kidnapped and killed baby Azaria Chamberlain in the infamous 1980 case that led to the mistaken murder conviction of the nine-week-old's mother Lindy Chamberlain.
The baby's death has been a legal mystery spanning over three decades, capturing international headlines when Chamberlain served more than three years in prison for the death of Azaria following the baby's disappearance. She was later cleared.
A Northern Territory coroner put an end to the mystery on Tuesday in Darwin, ruling that testimony Chamberlain maintained was true: Azaria was kidnapped by a dingo.
We're relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga, Chamberlain told reporters Tuesday.
Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from a campsite near Ayers Rock, which is now known as Uluru, on Aug. 17, 1980 during a family camping trip. Chamberlain and her now ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, put the baby to sleep in a bassinet in the couple's tent and stepped away with friends to barbeque. The couple discovered the baby disappeared after hearing a menacing growl and an infant cry. That's when Lindy Chamberlain said she saw a dingo carrying her baby away.
Public doubt rocked the case, namely since this was the first incident of its kind, when many people did not believe a dingo could snatch a baby due to lack of strength. In 1980, during the investigation into the case, dingo attacks were unheard of, leading Australian courts to doubt Chamberlain's testimony for lack of plausibility.
Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris has found evidence that Chamberlain's story regarding the death of her daughter by a dingo was true.
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, Morris said, according to the Associated Press.
Morris said she is satisfied that the evidence is sufficiently adequate, clear, cogent and exact and that the evidence excludes all other reasonable possibilities.
Morris also offered her apologies for the family who lost their nine-week-old, after ruling Azaria Chamberlain's death certificate should read, attacked and taken by a dingo.
Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special loved daughter and sister Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss, Morris said. Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.
The first inquest of the case was conducted in 1981, siding with the Chamberlains' account of the dingo, but a ruling in 1982 overturned its support. The second inquest in 1982 gave Chamberlain three years imprisonment for murder, while the baby's father was given a suspended sentence as an accessory in the death of Azaria. Both were cleared in 1987 after the baby's jacket was found near a dingo den. Tuesday marks the fourth inquest into the case after a third was unsuccessful in finding the cause of death. The latest inquest was bolstered by evidence from recent dingo attacks that have resulted in the death of three children since 1980.
The highly-publicized case was the subject of a 1988 film, A Cry in the Dark, starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain.
With the ruling of a dingo as Azaria's cause of death, the Chamberlain family said they are ready to move on.
This has been a terrifying battle, bitter at times, but now some healing, and a chance to put our daughter's spirit to rest, Michael Chamberlain said.
Since Azaria's death, there have been 27 other dingo attacks on humans, which led to the death of three people.
No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and only attack if provoked, Lindy Chamberlain said. We live in a beautiful country, but it is dangerous and we would ask all Australians to beware of this and take appropriate precautions.