Tag Archives: Australia


A10Azaria Chamberlain—a nine-week-old infant—disappeared from her family’s campsite at Ayers Rock (now called Uluru) in the central desert of Australia’s Northern Territory on August 17, 1980. Despite a massive search, Azaria’s body was never found and the question of whether she was taken from the tent by a wild dog or whether she was killed by her mother, Lynne (Lindy) Chamberlain, lingered on.

Lindy Chamberlain was charged with Azaria’s first-degree murder and convicted of her daughter’s slaying. After thirty-two years, eight legal proceedings, and tens of millions spent in the investigation, Lindy was finally exonerated by a coroner’s inquest that declared Azaria’s death was an accident—the result of a wild animal attack, to wit—a dingo.

The case was entirely circumstantial and supported by incriminating points of forensic evidence that convinced a jury to find Lindy Chamberlain guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But how credible were these “forensic facts”? Where did the case go wrong? And what led to Lindy’s conviction being overturned?

A3Lindy Chamberlain, 34, her husband Michael, 38, son Aidan, 6, son Reagan, 4, and infant Azaria were on a family vacation and pitched their tent in the Ayers Rock public campground at the famous World Heritage site. At eight p.m. and well after dark, Lindy finished breast-feeding Azaria and took her to the tent—thirty feet from the picnic table where she placed the baby in a bassinet and covered her with blankets. She’d taken Aidan with her and Reagan was already asleep inside.

Lindy went to their car that was parked beside the tent and got a can of baked beans to give Aidan as a bed-time snack, then returned with Aidan to Michael at the picnic table. At 8:15 p.m Azaria cried out. Concerned, Lindy walked toward the darkness of the tent-site and claimed she saw a dingo at the opening of the unzipped tent door. It appeared to have something in its mouth and was violently shaking its head.

Lindy hopped a short parking barricade which made the animal flee into the night. She checked inside the tent.  Azaria was gone and there were fresh blood stains on the floor, bedding, and other articles. Lindy rushed out, yelling to Michael and the other campers “Help! A dingo’s got my baby!

A19The adjacent campers formed a search party which was re-enforced by authorities and local residents, eventually totaling over three hundred volunteers including Aborigine expert trackers with their dogs. Dingo paw prints were noted in the sand outside the tent and a trail was followed which showed marks indicating a dingo was partly dragging an object, periodically setting it down to possibly rest or readjust its grip. (Azaria weighed just under ten pounds.) The trail indicated its destination was toward known dingo dens at the southwest base of Ayers Rock.

By daylight, no sign of the infant was found and the search was called off. The Chamberlain family cooperated in a preliminary investigation conducted by police from the nearest town of Alice Springs, then they returned home to Mount Isa.

A4Initially, there was no doubting the Chamberlains’ story. A dingo was seen in the campground before dark by campers. Others heard a dog growl minutes prior to the baby’s cry. They also heard Lindy’s scream “A dingo got my baby!” Further, the park ranger had warned that the dingo population was increasing and becoming very aggressive. And young Aidan backed up his mother’s story of going to the tent and the car, being with Lindy throughout.

The police investigation stopped. But, seven days later, a hiker found some of the garments Azaria was dressed in, nearly three miles away by the dingo dens. The clothes were a snap-buttoned jumpsuit, a singlet, and pieces of plastic diaper, or “nappy” as they say in Australia. Still missing was a “matinee” coat that Azaria wore overtop.

A17The examination found bloodstains on the upper part of the jumpsuit which showed a jagged perforation in the left sleeve and a “V”-shaped slice in the right collar. The singlet was inside out and the diaper fragments were shredded. The police officer who retrieved the garments failed to photograph their original position as had the original police officers attending the incident failed to photograph the scene. They also failed to properly examine and photo the tent’s interior which others reported was pooled and spotted with blood.

By now the Dingo’s Got My Baby case was getting international attention and the speculative rumor mill was alive in the media. “Dingos don’t behave like that!” self-appointed experts were saying. “It’s unheard of for a dingo to do this!” “Dingos can’t run with something in their mouths!”

A15Bigotry was emerging because the Chamberlains were Seventh Day Adventists with Michael being a professional pastor. “They’re a cult!” “They believe in child sacrifice!” “They were at Ayers Rock for a ritual!” “They always dressed the baby in black!” “The name ‘Azaria’ means ‘Sacrifice in the Wilderness’!”

When the first inquest was held in February, 1981, the media was in a frenzy and the police were covering their butts. The coroner ruled Azaria’s death was due to a dingo attack, despite there being no physical body to examine, and was critical of shoddy police investigation and of certain government officials of the Northern Territory who failed to provide the police with resources to investigate.

This threw fuel on the media fire and caused the authorities to start damage control.

A7A task force was formed to re-open the case, fittingly named Operation Ochre after the red sands of Ayers. It was headed by an ambitious police Superintendent with an aggressive field detective and was overseen by a politically-protective prosecutor. Collectively, they ran the investigation with the mindset that the dingo attack was implausible and that Lindy fabricated the story because she’d killed her own kid.

On September 19, 1981, Operation Ochre did a massive round-up of the original witnesses for re-interviews and raided the Chamberlains’ home. They seized boxes of items in a search for forensic evidence and impounded their car.

The investigation theory held that Lindy took Azaria from the tent to the car where she slit her baby’s throat, then stuffed her infant’s body in a camera bag. With husband Michael’s help, and after the searchers went home, they took their daughter’s body far away to the dingo dens, buried their little girl, then planted her clothing as a decoy.

There wasn’t the slightest suggestion of motive or any consideration of how the Chamberlains were stellar in reputation.

A6The vehicle was forensically grid-searched over a three-day period by a laboratory technician with a biology background. Suspected bloodstains were found on the console, the floor, and under the dashboard which was described as at trial as an “arterial spray” pattern.

Blood was also found on various items taken from the Chamberlains’ home, known to be present in the tent at the time Azaria disappeared. The lab-tech confirmed the blood on Azaria’s jumpsuit was not only human—it was composed of 25 % fetal hemoglobin which was consistent with an infant’s blood.

This was the forensic cornerstone of the prosecution’s circumstantial case.

A8A second inquest was held in February, 1982. It was run as a prosecution—an indictment with the focus on proving a theory, rather than discovering facts. The Chamberlains were not privy to the “evidence” beforehand and had no ability to defend themselves. “Information” was presented by the lab-tech that blood from the car was consistent with fetal hemoglobin and, therefore, the baby must have bled out in the car.

Another forensic expert testified the cuts and bloodstain pattern on the jumpsuit were caused by a sharp-edged weapon, probably a pair of scissors, and were in no way caused by canine teeth.

Despite all the civilian witnesses testifying consistently as before, and corroborating the Chamberlains claims, the inquest deferred judgment and referred the case to the criminal courts.


Lindy was tried for Azaria’s murder in September, 1982, and her husband was accused of being an accessory-after-the-fact. Over a hundred and fifty witnesses testified, many of those being forensic experts—some of considerable note. The Chamberlains were forced to defend themselves, funded by their church and donations by believers in their innocence. They had no access to disclosure of evidence by the prosecution and were kept on the ropes by surprise after surprise of technical evidence which they had no time nor ability to prepare a defense.

A20This trial was not just sensational in Australia. It was carried by all forms of world news—TV, radio, print, and tabloids. As big as the O.J. Simpson trial would become in America, the public were split on the question of Lindy’s guilt or innocence.

The jury bought the prosecution’s case that science was far more reliable that eye and ear witness testimony and the Chamberlains were convicted. Lindy was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor and Michael was given a three-year suspended sentence. A pregnant Lindy went directly to jail where their newest baby—a daughter—was born. Two appeals to Australian high courts fell on deaf ears. They found no fault in the application of law.

The Dingo Got My Baby case never faded from public interest. Many groups petitioned, calling for changes in the law and for a new, fair trial to be held. Pressure mounted on the Australian Northern Territory officials.

A18On February 02, 1986, a British rock climber fell to his death on Ayers Rock. During the search for his body, Azaria’s missing matinee jacket was found—partially buried in the sand outside a previously unknown dingo den. The examination found matching perforations in the coat consistent with the jumpsuit cuts.

News of this find caused a massive public outcry against the Northern Territory government and they reluctantly released Lindy from jail pending a re-investigation. A third inquest was a “paper” review that recommended the matter be sent back to the courts.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into Lindy Chamberlain’s conviction was held from April, 1986, to June, 1987. It focused on the validity of the scientific evidence, rather than on legalities of court procedure.

A21The jewel of the forensic crown—the fetal hemoglobin in the family car bloodstains turned out not to be blood at all. The drops were spilled chocolate milkshake and some copper ore dust while the “arterial spray” was overspray from injected sound deadener applied at the car’s factory.

The clothing cuts became an Achilles’ Heel and toppled the case because the expert witness by now was discredited in other cases resulting in wrongful convictions. New forensic witnesses, with more advanced technological expertise, testified the cuts were entirely consistent with being mauled by a dog.

In September, 1988, the Australian High Court quashed the Chamberlains’ convictions and awarded them $1.3 million in damages—far less than their legal bills, let alone compensating their pain and suffering.

A1The High Court never said Lindy was innocent, though. It rightfully set aside her conviction but made no amends in publically proclaiming innocence.

It wasn’t until 2012, that Lindy’s perseverance forced the fourth inquest. The presiding coroner classified Azaria Chamberlain’s death as accidental—being taken and killed by a dingo.

Coroner Elizabeth Morris had the decency to publically apologize to Lindy on behalf of all Australian authorities for a horrific, systematic miscarriage of justice.

Coroner Morris also had the class not to single out individuals. Without her saying, it was evident the police, prosecution, and forensic people instinctively reacted as they’d been trained to react—and that was to individually find evidence to support their case interest and not to follow what didn’t fit.

And Coroner Morris was careful not to burn the media.

A23Lindy’s situation was a media dream, having all the elements of a thrilling novel—mystery, instinctive fears, motherhood, femininity, family, religion, politics, and an exotic location combined with courtroom and forensic drama.

And it came at the expense of an innocent human mother who’s baby girl got taken by a wild animal—probably a mother dingo instinctively trying to feed her own family.

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Here are links to more information on the Chamberlain travesty:

Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry  Click Here

Lindy Chamberlain – Creighton’s website  Click Here


Thanks so much to Australian BestSelling thriller author, Rachel Amphlett, who gives writers these confidence building tips on how to publicly promote their work. 

RachelA1Most writers I know, myself included, are quite happy in their own little worlds. We might venture out to go to work, socialize with friends, or do the shopping but we’re never happier than when we’re tucked away daydreaming or scribbling down frantic notes for our current works in progress.

The problem is, when we are required to do public speaking, we’re simply not equipped for it. In fact, we’re terrified. So, how do you go from happy introvert to confident extrovert, even if it’s just for a few minutes?

Prepare Yourself

RachelA9You’re probably going to be asked to read an excerpt from your latest work. The trick here is to read it out aloud on your own a couple of times during the week leading up to the event.

Talking out loud is a lot different to talking in your head. You’ll spot the words you’re likely to trip over, you’ll discover a whole new meaning to ‘pacing’ and, more importantly, you’ll find the places where you can come up for air.

Yes, remember to breathe – please. We don’t want you passing out from lack of air.

Know Your Audience

RachelA7The first public talk I ever did with regard to my writing was in a library, on a Saturday morning, to two people. Yes, two.

I was still scared. These lovely ladies had read about my first novel in the local paper and had decided that they’d better come along to see what I had to say for myself.

I quickly realised it would be ridiculous if I insisted on standing and pacing about in front of them, so instead we pulled up a little circle of chairs and I started off by explaining how I decided to write a book. Before I knew it, a whole hour had gone by, two of the library employees had joined us, and they’d all grabbed details of how to download my book (it was only available as an eBook at the time, and the library still supported me, thank goodness), and we’ve exchanged emails since that time.

Sitting down and being at the same level as my audience meant we were a lot more approachable to each other – the gesture broke down any ‘us and them’ barriers that might have otherwise been in place, and led to a much better engagement. And I realized that they weren’t so scary after all.

RachelA4The key here is to size up your audience and adjust your presentation, if necessary. Are the guests talkative and chatty? Engage them with questions. Are people taking lots of notes? Slow down the tiniest bit to allow them time to write. Reading your audience is hugely helpful in allowing you to tailor your presentation to their needs, which can make for a more successful event.

Take Your Time

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I learnt this trick, but trust me – it works. Whatever the occasion, when it’s your turn to stand up in front of an audience, make them wait.

RachelA3Not too long, though. By taking your time, I mean walk up to the podium, stage or whatever speaking platform has been set up, and either open the book and run your gaze over the first few sentences, or adjust the microphone. Adjusting the microphone is my favorite trick. Personally, I haven’t got an excuse, because at six foot tall I usually tower over my host anyway, but it’s a fantastic way to prepare for public speaking.

When I was asked to read an excerpt from my first book at an international thriller author’s book launch, I adjusted the microphone, looked up at the audience, and asked if they could hear me okay. A few people at the back called out that they could, and off I went. Those precious few seconds allowed me to:

  • Get my breathing under control

  • Eyeball my audience

  • Engage with my audience, and prepare them (and me!) for the sound of my voice

RachelA6Hopefully the above tips will help ease your nerves leading up to your moment in the spotlight. If public speaking is something you’d like to develop, there are several groups you can join, Toastmasters being the obvious choice, and one I’ve participated in a couple of times. I found them to be incredibly supportive and attentive listeners and the feedback is invaluable.

Often, the hurdle is getting used to your own voice, but once you’ve done that, you’ll be well on your way to being a confident public speaker, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Rachel originally wrote this piece for the blogsite Writers Helping Writers. You can find it on this link: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/11/3-tricks-surviving-public-speaking-event/

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RachelA10Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005. After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories, before her first thriller White Gold was released in 2011.

Rachel12Her Dan Taylor thrillers (White Gold and Under Fire) and her latest standalone thriller, Before Nightfall, are all Amazon bestsellers. Currently, two further independent projects are in draft stage, while a third Dan Taylor thriller is being researched.

Before Nightfall eBook cover smallNow, till Jan 31, Before NightFall is on special at .99 cents at Amazon.

You can keep in touch with Rachel via:

Her website  http://www.rachelamphlett.com/

Read her blog  http://www.rachelamphlett.com/blog

Her mailing list