The essence of the Crown case was that instead of being taken to the tent and put to bed in her carry cot, Azaria was murdered by her mother, whilst Lindy was sitting in the front seat of their car. They further claimed that Azaria’s body was stuffed into Michael’s camera bag in front of the driver’s seat, and that at some time later, they disposed of the body, and placed the clothing where a tourist found it one week later. Lindy said that there was an additional piece of clothing, a matinee jacket, which was not found until five and a half years later.

Proof of the Crown scenario was the fact that the NSW forensic lab technician had found what she claimed was proof of foetal blood under the dashboard, on the passenger seat hinge, on the floor (under the carpet), and on the zipper of the camera bag. These results were found even though the car had been searched nearly eighteen months earlier by a police officer, and he had seen no evidence of blood in the car.

The Crown also said that the cuts found on Azaria’s clothing could not have been made by a dingo, but rather, could only have been made by scissors.

The defence pointed out that there was a larger amount of blood in the tent – on the mattress, carry cot, and tent – than what was claimed to be blood in the car. They also pointed out that three people had heard Azaria cry out – one a total stranger to the Chamberlains. Lindy had seen a dingo coming from the tent with something in its mouth, although she could not say what it was because of the rail being between her and the dingo. There were dingo tracks around the tent. Aboriginal and white trackers, and Rangers had tracked a dingo and seen impressions in the sand of a ‘knitted garment’, and a dark spot, which they took to be blood.

If Lindy set out to commit murder, as the Crown scenario accused her, then she was an extraordinary actress, and extremely fortunate as well. She was gone from the barbecue for not more than sixteen minutes – a fact not disputed. In that time she was supposed have taken Azaria to the car, murdered her, stuffed her in the camera bag, cleaned up all but a few traces of the blood, gone to the tent and cleaned up her own clothing so that no blood could be detected, sprinkled blood in the tent, put dingo prints leading to and from the tent, then went to the back to the car and got Aidan a can of beans and raced him back to the barbecue area. Some time later she supposedly told Michael, who immediately accepted her story without protest, and they managed to find a moment when no one was around to dispose of the body and clothing.

If the Crown was right in saying that Lindy was making up the dingo story, then it was an amazing coincidence that a dingo was heard by a neighbouring camper to give a warning growl shortly before, three people heard Azaria cry out, and dingo prints were seen. Also, why, when a person has thousands of square kilometres to do such a thing if they were so inclined, would a they commit murder in a campground full of people, while she was with other people. Lindy was described as a proud, model mother, without any signs of depression or any history whatsoever that would lead one to believe she might commit crime of any sort. It just made no sense.

The first police officers on the scene from Alice Springs were taken off the case when they said the evidence showed a dingo was responsible.

The Royal Commission Report lays out the case very well, and I will be including that soon. The Blue Book (pdf, 1.7mb with photos) report lays out results of the testing done for the Chamberlains regarding the ability of dingo teeth to cut, and testing of the supposed blood in the car. The defence was unable to test the substances the Crown claimed was blood, as the lab technician said it had all been used up. The defence expert was able to look at the technician’s notes, and said that the tests appeared not to have been done correctly, but without being able to test the material themselves, could say no more.

This type of case is difficult, as it was based on circumstantial evidence, which required interpretation as to what it meant. That is why the first inquest and the Royal Commission had such a wide ranging investigation. Forensic work is not at all cut-and-dried like we see it on television programmes like CSI. As a small example, some have said, ‘Why didn’t you use DNA testing?’, as if that would solve everything. The answer is, they did. But DNA testing on the clothing could only tell you who touched the clothing, not when. So, if the Crown Prosecutor touched the clothing at some point after they were found, then would you accuse him of murder? No, because you have to look at the circumstances. Forensic labs worldwide have improved skill and technique immensely since the Chamberlain case, but it can still go wrong, based on human bias, lack of skill, or prejudice.

Further Reading :

  • Legal Process and Findings

    The essence of the Crown case was that instead of being taken to the tent and put to bed in her carry cot, Azaria was murdered by her mother, whilst Lindy was sitting in the front seat of their car. They further claimed that Azaria’s body was stuffed into Michael’s camera bag in front of […]

  • Findings and Transcripts

    This page contains links to the Acrobat files. It will ultimately contain all findings and transcripts related to the Chamberlain case, as I find time to scan, correct scanning errors, and collate the original documents. 1984 High Court Appeal finding (pdf, 216kb) 1995 Third Inquest into death of Azaria Chamberlain – Coroner’s Report (pdf, 335kb)

  • Maps

    Some images for points of reference: This is the campsite as it looked on that day. The Chamberlain’s car sits to the left of the tent. The entry of the tent is facing the barbecue area, which can be seen as a dark roofline to the left of the centre tree. There is a timber […]

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