The simple story is that three people heard the cry of Azaria on the night she disappeared from the tent in the camping ground at Ayers Rock (Uluru). Lindy saw a dingo coming out of the tent and dingo tracks were seen around and inside the tent. Blood from Azaria was found in large quantities – for an infant – on the tent mattress and other items, on the tent itself, near the carry-basket she had been sleeping in, and next to dingo tracks.
Shortly after the alarm was raised, Aboriginal and white trackers following the dingo prints (until they could no longer, as it mixed with shoe prints of humans on the road) saw drag marks in the sand; in two places were there was a shallow depression in the sand, where a bundle had been set down, apparently while the animal rested. The depressions contained the imprint of a knitted garment, and next to one, small, dark patches in the sand, which they took to be blood.
For everyone who had been with the Chamberlains that day, or held the vigil with them that night as they waited for word on their daughter, there was no question that the Chamberlains were a loving family, and that they had just experienced the loss of their daughter and sister under horrific circumstances.
But false rumors began to fly. Some members of the media and police helped spread the rumours. The first inquest found that Azaria had died by a dingo attack, and the Coroner chastised the police for shoddy work. He felt that some police may have been against the idea of a dingo being involved, and that their ‘evidence’ against the Chamberlains did not stand up.
Some who felt attacked by the coroner vowed to ‘set things right’ as they saw it. Eight months later, in the coordinated nationwide ‘Operation Ochre’ the Chamberlain’s home was searched and large quantities of items were taken by police.
At the same time, all of the eyewitnesses had police at their doors, asking for statements. From the beginning it was clear what the agenda was. When the eyewitnesses began to describe what they had seen or heard, the police told them that ‘they did not want to hear anything about a dingo. This is a murder investigation.’The police told those who had been there on the night, and had seen the evidence first hand, that they expected an early confession from Lindy; they did not even expect it to go to trial.
The first inquest was overturned, and the second inquest made no finding, but bound the Chamberlains over for trial. The police would not get their wish of a confession for they failed to recognise how important innocence is to innocent people. Based on faulty ‘evidence’ – all of which was later overturned – Lindy was found guilty of murder and her husband of helping her conceal the crime. She received a life sentence with no parole; he received a three year suspended sentence.
The Chamberlains fought to prove their innocence, until they reached the end of all legal means available to them. But suddenly, bowing to multiple pressures, the Northern Territory released Lindy and established a Royal Commission to review all the evidence. Ultimately, the Chamberlain’s convictions were quashed and they were exonerated. Four years later they received some compensation.
Still, even though the first Coroner had said he believed a dingo responsible, and the Royal Commission and NT Supreme Court echoed that, the NT government would not agree with them. Even the Crown prosecutor, in the trial, had said it was a case of ‘simple alternatives’; either a dingo killed Azaria, or Lindy did. But, in 1995, confirming that none of the Chamberlains were in any way responsible for Azaria’s death, the coroner at that time ruled that the cause of her death could not be determined. It seems hard to fathom, as all of the key witnesses were still alive, the testing still available, and the Royal Commission did enormous research, finally saying that it had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that a dingo hadnot taken Azaria. One newspaper headline said it best – “OUTRAGE”.
In December 2011 the NT Coroner’s office announced that there was to be another inquest, and on 12 June 2012 Coroner Elizabeth Morris delivered her finding that Azaria had indeed been taken by a dingo. Even though Lindy’s conviction had been quashed in 1988, it was not until 2012 that the public felt that Lindy had been fully exonerated at last.