Fourth inquest opens in dingo case
Published 24/02/2012 | 05:32
A coroner has opened Australia's fourth inquest into the most notorious and bitterly controversial legal drama in the nation's history - the 1980 death of a nine-week-old baby whose parents say was taken by a dingo from her tent in the Australian Outback.
Azaria Chamberlain's mother, Lindy, was convicted and later cleared of murdering her and has always maintained that a wild dog took the baby.
She and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, are hoping fresh evidence they have gathered about dingo attacks on children will convince Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris and end relentless speculation that has followed them for 32 years.
Anne Lade, a former police officer hired by the court to investigate the case, told a packed courtroom that in the years since Azaria disappeared, there have been numerous dingo attacks on humans, some of them fatal.
Rex Wild, a lawyer assisting the coroner, described several of the attacks and said he believed the evidence showed that a dingo could have been responsible for Azaria's death. "Although it (a dingo killing a child) may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 ... it shouldn't be by 2011-12," he said.
Azaria's death certificate, however, still lists her cause of death as "unknown". The Chamberlains say they want to set the record straight on behalf of their daughter.
"It gives me hope this time that Australians will finally be warned and realise that dingoes are a dangerous animal," Mrs Chamberlain said outside the courthouse in the Northern Territory capital, Darwin. "I also hope that this will give a final finding which closes the inquest into my daughter's death, which so far has been standing open and unfinished."
In court, Michael Chamberlain fought back tears as he spoke of the nightmarish aftermath of his daughter's death. "Since the loss of Azaria I have had an abiding fear and paranoia about safety around dingoes," he said. "They send a shudder up my spine. It is a hell I have to endure."
Azaria vanished from her tent in the Outback on August 17 1980, during a family vacation to Ayers Rock, the giant red monolith now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru.
Australians have followed the case closely since it began, and most have strong opinions. Although public support for Ms Chamberlain has grown over the years, many still doubt that a dingo could have killed Azaria.