Aussie dad says dingo will be blamed for lost baby

AP News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 1:34 AM
Aussie dad says dingo will be blamed for lost baby

The father of a baby who infamously vanished in the Australian Outback more than 30 years said Monday that he was confident a new inquiry into the tragedy will officially rule that a dingo took his daughter.

The disappearance of 9-week-old Azaria Chamberlain on Aug. 17, 1980, from a campsite near Ayers Rock, the red monolith in the Australian desert now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru, divided Australians between those who believed a native dog known as a dingo killed her and those who believed she was murdered by her mother, Lindy Chamberlain.

The tragedy and the legal drama that ensued became the subject of the 1988 movie "A Cry in the Dark" for which Meryl Streep earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Lindy Chamberlain, who has since remarried and taken the name Chamberlain-Creighton.

Chamberlain-Creighton received a life sentence for her daughter's murder and spent four years in prison in the 1980s before the conviction was overturned.

Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris announced Sunday that a fourth inquest into the tragedy will begin in February to review the open finding of the third inquest that in 1995 failed to determine a cause of death.

Morris said in statement that she would examine new evidence provided by Azaria's parents that dingoes attack children.

Michael Chamberlain, who was given a suspended sentence in 1982 for being his wife's accessory in his daughter's murder but has since been cleared of any crime, said he is confident that the legal process would turn full circle by reaching the same conclusion as the original coroner Denis Barritt did in 1981 _ that a dingo took the baby.

"I don't think people open inquests without thinking there's good reason for it and that means there'd have to be a change from the status quo of the open finding that was in 1995," Chamberlain told The Associated Press.

"It's now looking at dingoes, not people, as to the cause of death," he added.

But Chamberlain said he was prepared to ask the Northern Territory Supreme Court to overturn the 1995 coroner's finding if Morris had not agreed to reopen the case.

"I am pleasantly surprised and very grateful that at long last there's a meaningful attempt ... to determine the proper cause and truth about how my daughter died," he added.

John Lawrence, a senior lawyer involved in a separate federal government inquiry that in 1987 exonerated both parents over the tragedy, agreed that the new inquest would be a final legal chapter that concluded a dingo was responsible.

Previous inquiries were provided with no record of dingoes ever attacking children. But in 2001, a 9-year-old boy was mauled to death on Fraser Island, the last wild habitat of purebred dingoes off eastern Australia, and two girls aged 4 and 3 have since survived dingo attacks on the same island.

"I think that the void will be filled by the new evidence on the dingo," Lawrence told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"The inquest will come to a conclusion very much similar to Mr. Barritt's ... and that should really put it to bed," he added.

Chamberlain-Creighton could not be immediately contacted for comment on Monday.

But last year on the 30th anniversary of Azaria's disappearance, she pleaded in an open letter posted on her website for her daughter's death certificate to state that a dingo was to blame.

"She deserves justice," Chamberlain-Creighton wrote.

John Bryson, a lawyer who wrote the definitive book about the tragedy "Evil Angels" upon which the 1988 movie was based, said the new inquest showed that the Northern Territory legal establishment was moving beyond lingering biases against the parents.

"They're entitled to their verdict," Bryson said of the parents. "They've been through a nightmare."