A new inquest will be opened into the death of baby Azaria Chamberlain, according to reports, 31 years after she was apparently taken by a dingo at Ayers Rock in a case that caused a worldwide sensation.
Northern Territory coroner Elizabeth Morris has cited new information from the Chamberlains’ counsel about dingo attacks as a reason for reopening the inquiry, the Sun-Herald newspaper said on Sunday.
Azaria was just nine weeks old when she went missing on August 17, 1980 during a camping trip to Ayers Rock, or Uluru, the evocative red monolith in the heart of Australia’s Outback. Her body was never found.
The case inspired the 1988 hit film “A Cry in the Dark”, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, along with books, a TV mini-series and even an opera, and was followed closely by foreign media, making it a global cause celebre.
Her mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, was jailed for murder, despite an initial inquest which backed her explanation the baby was snatched by a dingo, Australia’s native wild dog. The body was never found.
The convictions of Chamberlain and her then husband Michael, who was given a suspended term for being an accessory, were overturned in 1988 after the chance find of a piece of Azaria’s clothing near a dingo lair.
A third inquest in 1995 recorded an open finding, in a case that continues to fascinate the Australian public.
Morris, the coroner, said she was reopening the inquiry “largely in relation to information provided by your (the Chamberlains’) counsel about dingo attacks since the death of Azaria”.
The newspaper said the information was understood to include an account of attacks by dingoes on children at Fraser Island in Queensland state, which included a fatal attack on a nine-year-old boy in 2001.
Michael Chamberlain said he and Lindy had campaigned for a new inquest to establish that Azaria had been taken by a dingo.
“We believe that new evidence will indicate that dingoes can in fact kill babies,” he was quoted as saying. “I trust that the truth will now be determined.”
The inquest is due to open on February 24.
[Image via Brian Giesen on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]