Alright yall. Has anyone, EVER, heard of the phrase “A Dingo Ate My Baby”? Did you all know what it was based on? I’m going to go ahead and tell you that I had absolutely no idea the history behind that phrase and now that I do, it definitely sounds incredibly callous.
In this story, we’re talking about a woman who was convicted of murder, who’s story was as sensational as it can get, and who’s entire family has actually been pardoned by Australia’s Northern Territories court. Her name is Lindy Chamberlain, and she was accused and convicted of killing her 9 week old baby. She maintained her innocence the entire time, saying that there was a DINGO-a breed of wild dogs in Australia, who actually came and ate her baby. She was pardoned and released after serving three years in prison.
Let’s talk a little about Lindy Chamberlain’s early life.
She was born in New Zealand as Alice Lynne Murchison. She started to go by Lindy at a young age and moved to Australia in 1969 with her family. She married Michael Chamberlain in November 1969 and they lived in Tasmania for 5 years before moving to Mount Isa in north Queensland. Lindy’s husband served as the minister for the 7th day Adventist church in Mount Isa.
The Chamberlains had 2 sons, Aiden in 1973 and then Reagan in 1976. Their first daughter was named Azaria, and born in June 1980.
The Chamberlain’s had a family trip planned in August, a trip where they’d be exploring central Australia’s famous Ayres rock, which stands around 1100 feet above the ground. They arrived at the campground on August 16th. The first day the family spent hiking around the different rock formations, with Lindy holding baby Azaria while they explored. At one point, Lindy claims to have looked up and seen a dingo on the rocks that was “casing” her baby.
Later that evening, as the Chamberlains socialized with other families at the campsite, multiple others also saw dingos as it got later in the evening. Sally Lowe and her husband Greg were among others camping in the area that night, along with their own baby. Sally is recorded as saying that she remembers walking to a trash can to throw some food away, and turning around to find that a dingo was actually following her a few feet behind. Michael, Lindsey’s husband, and their son Aiden entertained themselves by throwing scraps to the dingos, as Lindy scolded them saying “You shouldn’t encourage them.”
Lindy put both Reagan and Azaria asleep in the same tent, and then came back to join the other campers at the barbecue. Around 8 PM, there was a baby’s cry, and Lindy went back to the tent, only for the shout that soon the entire world would know, “My God, my god the dingo has my baby.”
Blood was found on the rug of the Chamberlain’s tent, and paw prints were tracked away from the tent. The trail was hard to follow, but at one point investigators found a large indent on the ground with a weave pattern, as if the dingo had laid something on the ground before continuing. Unfortunately, investigators and people on scene were unable to track the dingo prints from this part of the ground. One camper reported talking to Michael, who hadn’t joined in on the search, and who said something that stuck with him. “She’s probably dead right now,” before Michael added, “I am a minister of the gospel.”
A massive search of almost 300 people was held, but nothing turned up-until August 24th. It was then that Wally Goodwin found Azaria’s bloody jumpsuit, shoes, diaper, and singlet. The jacket that she was reported wearing is not found.
After Azaria’s presumed dead, the investigation turns towards the parents-Lindy and Michael. Rumors begin spreading, as they tend to do in cases such as this.
One of the most prominent rumors was that Azaria was sacrificed in some kind of religious ceremony. A while before Azaria’s death, Lindy had taken her in for a medical check up and she had dressed the baby in all black, which stuck with the examining doctor, enough to have been curious to look up what the name Azaria means, and find a meaning that was “Sacrifice in the Wilderness.” Which I know sounds really freaky and way too spot on and I think it’s mostly because in part it was. See, I looked up the name Azaria and found that it usually means variations of “Whom God Aids” or “God Has Helped” so I’m not really sure where they found that meaning.
What this all lead to was an absolute circus of an investigation. Wild dingos were shot and examined by vets and compared to what was found in Azaria’s clothes, park rangers stuffed baby clothes with meat and left them out for dingos to compare the rips and tears in fabric to those in Azaria’s. One inspector even noted that the clothes were found close to where the family was hiking, and said that people who had seen Lindy holding baby Azaria that night “assumed she was holding a baby when they have seen her holding a white bundle”, alluding to the possibility that Azaria may not have even been there that night.
In October of 1980, police questioned the entire family at their home. Lindy, her husband, their son Aiden, and their son Regan. During this visit, their car is also searched for evidence.
In February 1981, the coroner concludes his report by saying that he believes a dingo took Azaria, but that her body had actually been disposed by someone else. September 1981 lead to a raid of the Chamberlain’s house, leading to a seizure of 300 items including clothes and scissors.
In November 1981, blood was reportedly found in large quantities in the family's dismantled car. In February 1982, charges are brought against Lindy for murder, and her husband Michael for accessory after the fact.
During the trial, the prosecution argued that Azaria was killed by Lindy very quickly, and the story about the dingo to be “a fanciful lie, calculated to conceal the truth.”
Multiple witnesses testified, including Sally Lowe who said that Lindy was only away from the barbecue for 6-10 minutes, and that she heard “the baby cry, quite a serious cry,” right before Lindy went and saw Azaria had been taken.
And most of the other witnesses testified stories that actually seemed to support the Chamberlain’s account of what happened that night. Another woman, Judy West, says that she heard Lindy yell out “The dingo’s got my baby” right after she heard a low and deep dingo growl nearby. She also told about how she’d had to actually beat off a dingo earlier that day when it grabbed her 12 year old daughter by the arm and tried to pull her away.
There was also evidence brought by the prosecution in the form of biologist Joy Kuhl who said that tests she’d run on the blood found in the Chamberlain’s car belonged to an infant. However, these samples were also destroyed soon after the results came through, which was apparently considered a standard procedure in her practice. ALSO, in 1979, the Chamberlains picked up a hitchhiker who happened to bleed in their car, and there wasn’t any effort made to compare the blood to that person to see if it matched.
There was also an argument made that a baby’s head wouldn’t fit in a dingo’s mouth. The person who said this was like the leading expert on dogs attacking humans in London, but on the cross examination the expert was shown a picture that had a dingo holding a baby doll by the crown of it’s head and the dingo’s teeth were down by the doll’s ears. The expert, who’s name was Bernard Sims, then admitted that his statement that a baby’s head wouldn’t fit in a dingo’s mouth was wrong.
Lindy Chamberlain was actually called to the witness stand during her own trial. She described what her daughter was wearing, “a white knitted jacket with a pale lemon edging”.
The cross examination was less questions and more statements from the prosecution, in fact one quote was that the prosecution said, Mrs. Chamberlain may I respectfully suggest to you that the whole [dingo] story is mere fantasy?"
At the end of the trial, the jury found Lindy guilty of murder, which came as a surprise to almost everyone. One juror said that ultimately, it “came down to whether you believed it was a dingo or not.”
Michael was actually also convicted of accessory after the fact, but received a suspended sentence.
After the trial, Lindy was granted temporary release while undergoing the appeal process, but ultimately her appeal was rejected not once, but twice.
In 1986, a hiker named David Brett fell to his death during an evening climb on Ayer’s Rock. There was a search for his body, and during that search the police discovered an area full of dingo lairs while looking for his body. The police also found Azaria’s missing jacket.
The missing jacket was actually held in secret in police custody, until an investigative reporter heard about it while covering the climber’s death. He threatened to run the story and say how the police were hiding evidence related to the Chamberlain’s case, and eventually the Chief Minister ordered Lindy’s release from prison.
Obviously, after her release there was an investigation done to see how her case could have been handled differently, and in May 1987, Justice Trevor Morling delivered a report 379 PAGES long criticizing the prosecution and it’s witnesses. He is quoted as saying “It is extraordinary that the persons at the barbecue area at the time of and immediately after Azaria’s disappearance accepted Mrs. Chamberlain’s story and noted nothing about her appearance and conduct suggesting that she had suddenly killed her daughter.”
On September 15, 1988 the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals reversed all convictions against both Lindy and Michael, and there was a movie based on their experience called “A Cry in the Dark” that had Meryl Streep playing Lindy Chamberlain. Lindy Chamberlain also wrote a book called “Through My Eyes”, and in her book she says that “no other actress would have been able” to play her better than Meryl Streep.
Lindy was also awarded 1.3 million dollars in compensation from the Northern Territory government for wrongful imprisonment.