Trials & Litigation

4th Inquest Starts re 1980 Baby Death in Australia; Meryl Streep Movie Told Story of Unsolved Case

It now appears that Lindy Chamberlain was speaking the truth when she told authorities in 1980 that her 9-week-old baby had been taken, and presumably killed, by a wild Australian dog as her family was on a camping trip in the country’s outback.

But at the time she was suspected and found guilty of the baby’s murder, until a chance find of the baby’s jacket by a dingo den helped Chamberlain win release from her life prison term and overturn her conviction in the controversial high-profile case.

Prosecutors had theorized that Chamberlain slit the baby’s throat in the family car and then buried her; however, “blood” forensic testing initially determined to be in the car was in fact a combination of milk and a chemical sprayed by the auto manufacturer, the Associated Press recounts.

The case was the basis of a Meryl Streep movie, A Cry in the Dark.

Today, a Northern Territory coroner began a fourth inquest into the cause of the baby’s death, which so far has been undetermined, in a packed courtroom in Darwin. Chamberlain and her former husband had sought the proceeding, hoping to resolve the questions that still remain more than 30 years after their daughter, Azaria, disappeared.

At the time, dingo attacks on humans were almost unheard of. But there have since been numerous reported attacks, several of them fatal.

A former police officer hired by the court to investigate agreed with a lawyer for the Chamberlain family that the number of dingo attacks since 1980 could total 239, reports the Courier-Mail.

Attorney Rex Wild, assisting the coroner, described some of the attacks reported since Azaria’s disappearance and said he believed they helped establish a similar attack as the likely explanation of what happened in Azaria’s case, the AP says.

While a child being killed by a dingo “may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 … it shouldn’t be by 2011-12,” Wild said. “With the additional evidence in my submission, your honor should accept on the balance of probabilities that the dingo theory is the correct one.”

Agence France-Presse, Reuters and the Sydney Morning Herald also have stories.

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