Wednesday 22 October 2014

Ayers rock baby death: Dingoes have been attacking children for years, inquest hears

Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney

Published 24/02/2012 | 09:12

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton arrives at Darwin Magistrates Court for the first day of the fourth coronial inquest into the disappearance of her daughter, Azaria Chamberlain, more than 30 years ago. Photo: Getty Images
Michael and Lindy Chamberlain leave a courthouse in Alice Springs, Australia, 1982. Photo: AP

AN INQUEST into the disappearance 31 years ago of nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain has heard that dingoes have been attacking children for decades.

The baby’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, was found guilty of murder and jailed for life in 1982 in a case that divided Australia and inspired the film A Cry in the Dark.

A jury refused to believe her claim that a dingo stole her baby from a tent near Uluru, or Ayers Rock, in 1980.

She and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, want the Northern Territory coronial court to officially blame dingoes for the death of Azaria – a finding that would finally bring an end to a saga that has continued for decades.

A former police officer, Anne Lade, who has investigated the case for the court, said dingoes had attacked hundreds of children around the country, causing injuries and three deaths. She said she accepted suggestions there had been 239 attacks.

The conviction of Ms Chamberlain-Creighton was overturned in 1988 following a royal commission and she was released from jail, but the cause of death has remained open.

Mr Chamberlain told the court that the claim that a dingo killed Azaria was “no longer a hypothesis - it's a fact."

"In the eyes of a mother, a father, virtually all of the Ayers Rock witnesses in 1980, and now the vast majority of expert witnesses, a dingo stole a little girl from our humble tent and killed her,” he said.

Rex Wild QC, counsel assisting the coroner, provided evidence of more than a dozen dingo attacks dating back to the 1980s, mainly targeting children.

He said the attacks, usually by semi-domesticated dingoes, had often taken place near family members. Mr Wild said that if this evidence had been available at an inquest – the third and most recent - in 1995, the coroner would have ruled a dingo caused Azaria's death.

"Although it [a dingo killing a child] may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 or 1986/87 or 1995 it shouldn't be by 2011/12," he said.

The coroner, Elizabeth Morris, said her findings will not be released today.

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