Maybe a Dingo Really Did Eat Her Baby
A coroner in Darwin, Australia says she will rule soon on the results of the fourth inquest into the most notorious and bitterly controversial legal drama in the nation’s history: the 1980 death of a 9-week-old baby whose parents say was taken by a dingo from her tent in the Australian Outback.
Azaria Chamberlain’s mother, Lindy, was convicted and later cleared of murdering her, and she has always maintained that a wild dog took the baby. She and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, are hoping fresh evidence they have gathered about dingo attacks on children will convince the Northern Territory Coroner and put an end to relentless speculation and accusations that have followed them for 32 years.
Azaria vanished from her tent in the Outback on August 17, 1980, during a family vacation. Fellow campers told police they heard a low growl followed by a baby’s cry shortly before Lindy — who was making dinner at a nearby barbecue area — went to check on her daughter.
Lindy said she saw a dingo run from the tent and disappear into the darkness. There were dingo prints outside the tent, and spots of blood on the bedding inside. Upon seeing Azaria’s empty bassinet, Lindy screamed, “The dingo’s got my baby!” — a line made famous by the Meryl Streep movie, “A Cry in the Dark,” based on the case.
A former police officer hired by the court to investigate the case testified that in the years since Azaria disappeared, there have been 239 recorded dingo attacks on humans in that area of Australia. Some were fatal.
A lawyer assisting the coroner testified that the evidence shows a dingo could have been responsible for Azaria’s death. He said that was generally regarded as not very likely in 1980, but now in 2012 it should be seen as a very real possibility because dingoes really do attack and kill humans.
Azaria’s death certificate still lists her cause of death as “unknown.” The Chamberlains say they just want to set the record straight on behalf of their daughter.
One of the more curious things about this story is the way so many American comedians thought it was funny, and have made fun of Lindy Chamberlain’s anguished cry that a dingo ate her baby.