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HomeIssue 23It's official, the dingo did take and kill Azaria Chamberlain: Coroner

It's official, the dingo did take and kill Azaria Chamberlain: Coroner


After 32 years it’s official: a dingo or dingoes took baby Azaria Chamberlain from her family’s tent at Ayers Rock on August 17, 1980, and the cause of her death was “the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.”
This was the finding of Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris this morning, with mother Lindy Chamberlain Creighton and father Michael Chamberlain – now separated – in the Darwin courtroom for the fourth inquest into the sensational case.
It was flawed by faulty forensic work, and had seen Lindy convicted and jailed for murder of her daughter.
She was exonerated, but officially the cause of Azaria’s death remained open until today.
Coroner Morris, after handing down the finding, her voice shaking, gave her “sincere sympathy” to the family, for the loss of their “special and loved daughter and sister, Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss.”
Recent evidence, especially dingo attacks elsewhere in Australia, moved Coroner Morris, on the balance of probability, to come to the “adequate, clear, cogent and exact” finding that “a dingo or dingoes took Azaria,” a conclusion further supported by finding dog or dingo hairs in the tent at the base of Ayers Rock.
The full text of the coronial finding is here.
The photos are from an ABC Four Corners documentary produced and filmed by Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA. This included a re-enactment, at Ayers Rock, by the Chamberlains from which these photos are taken. Chlanda was the first reporter on the scene, and then covered the case for television and print in Australia and around the world for several years.
NT Attorney General Rob Knight did not apologize to the Chamberlains.
All he could say this morning, as an affair came to an end that had put the Territory’s legal and police processes in disrepute the world over, was to thank Coroner Morris for “bringing this matter to what should be the end of the legal process.
“My thoughts go out to Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain and their families and hope that today’s decision helps deal with the tragic loss of their child.”
Inquest into the death of Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain
Mr and Mrs Chamberlain and their three children, Aidan, Reagan and Azaria, arrived at Uluru, generally known then as Ayers Rock on Saturday 16 August 1980, setting up their tent in the top camping area on the east side of the rock.
They were not alone, with six families in the camping area on the night of 17 August; the West’s, the Dawson’s, the Haby’s, the Lowe’s and the Whittaker’s.
A common barbecue area was about 20-25 metres from the Chamberlain’s tent.
Mr and Mrs Chamberlain were in this area shortly prior to 8.00pm, preparing their evening meal. Aidan and Azaria were with them, but Reagan was already in the tent asleep in his sleeping bag. Mrs Chamberlain was nursing Azaria, speaking to Mr and Mrs Lowe. Mrs Chamberlain then took Azaria and Aidan back to their tent area. She placed a sleeping Azaria in a bassinet in the rear of the tent and then went to get a tin of baked beans from their car for Aidan.
Mrs Chamberlain then went back to the tent, and then returned to the barbecue area with Aidan.
Shortly after Mrs Chamberlain returned to the barbecue, Mrs Lowe heard a baby cry from the tent. Mrs Chamberlain went immediately to check on Azaria, and moments later cried out either “That dog’s got my baby” or “My God, My God, a dingo has got my baby”.
Both Mr and Mrs West heard the growl of a dingo or dog from the direction of the Chamberlain’s tent fairly soon before they heard Mrs Chamberlain cry out.
Mrs Chamberlain initially ran in the direction she thought the dingo had gone, but then went back to check the tent. Others, including Mr Chamberlain and Mr Lowe then began an immediate search of the area and the surrounding sand dunes.
At around 8.25pm Mr Derek Roff, the ranger in charge of the area arrived. He, along with Constable Morris, who arrived shortly thereafter, organised a search party consisting of some 250-300 people, who search the areas east, north and south of the tent until about 3.00am.
Mr Haby found tracks on the sand dunes east of the camp, along with a mark or imprint on the sand as though an object had been put down.
Mr Roff also saw this imprint or drag mark, which he likened to a crepe bandage or resembling a knitted garment. Constable Morris also saw drag marks in that area, as well as tracks close to the rear of the tent.
Mr Roff and Mr Nui Minyintiri tracked a drag mark on the crest of a sand dune to the east of the tent. In Mr Minyintiri’s expert opinion the tracks of a dingo that he saw showed that “it walked as though it had some load on it … when I was tracking the dingo I knew, or I thought that it  was carrying the baby for sure.”
Mrs Barbara Winmati also assisted in attempting the next day to follow the tracks leading south from the tent, but after a considerable distance, lost the animal’s trail.
Blood was found inside the tent on various articles. This blood was Azaria’s.
Forensic Evidence
A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the conviction of Mr and Mrs Chamberlain was held between 8 May 1986 and 19 March 1987. His Honour, Justice Morling, delivered his findings on 22 May 1987. His Honour heard and received evidence, including evidence that had been heard at the criminal trial, as well as new evidence, including expert evidence, independent of that which was presented at the criminal trial proceedings. Given the thorough nature of the investigation of forensic and scientific evidence, there is little point or weight in further analysis.
Many aspects of the scientific evidence in this case have been either misreported or misrepresented.
Despite their thorough examination at the Commission myths still remain in the public domain in relation to clothing, blood, handprints, dingo hair and other aspects of the evidence. I have attached to these findings as an appendix, the report of the Commission, which formed part of the evidence before me, and which thoroughly and painstakingly addresses each of the forensic and scientific issues, and draws its conclusions from the best evidence available to it at the time.
The evidence before the Commission in relation to dingoes, led the Commissioner to conclude:
“Before August 1980 dingoes in the Ayers Rock area frequented the camping area. At that time there were many dingoes in the area, some 18-25 of which were known to visit the camping area. A number of attacks were made by dingoes on children in the months preceding Azaria’s disappearance. In none of these did any child suffer serious injury.
“About twenty minutes before Azaria disappeared Mr Haby saw and photographed a dingo which walked towards the Chamberlains’ tent.
A few minutes before the alarm was raised the West’s heard a dog growl.
“On the night of 17 August dog tracks were observed on the southern side of and very close to the Chamberlains’ tent.
“The same night Mr Roff and Mr Minyintiri, both experienced trackers and familiar with dingo behaviour, saw tracks of a dog carrying a load which they believed to be Azaria. It was within the bounds of reasonable possibility that a dingo might have attacked a baby and carried it away for consumption as food. A dingo would have been capable of carrying Azaria’s body to the place where the clothing was found.
“If a dingo had taken Azaria it is likely that, on occasions, it would have put the load down and dragged it.
Hairs, which were either dog or dingo hairs, were found in the tent and on Azaria’s jumpsuit. The Chamberlains had not owned a dog for some years prior to August 1980.
The quantity and distribution of the sand found on Azaria’s clothing might have been the result of it being dragged through sand. The sand would have come from many places in the Ayers Rock region.
The sand and plant fragments on the clothing are consistent with Azaria’s body being carried and dragged by a dingo from the tent to the place where it was found.
“It is unlikely that, if the clothing had been taken from the Chamberlains’ car, buried, disinterred, and later placed where it was found it would have collected the quantity and variety of plant material found upon it.
It would have been very difficult for a dingo to have removed Azaria from her clothing without causing more damage than was observed on it. However, it would have been possible for it to have done so.
“Mr Roff, the chief ranger at Ayers Rock and a man of great experience, thought that the arrangement of the clothing when discovered was consistent with dingo activity. Other dingo expert  disagreed. I think it is likely that a dingo would have left the clothing more scattered, but it might not have done so.
“The blood found in the tent was at least as consistent with dingo involvement in Azaria’s disappearance as it was with her murder in the car. The pattern of blood staining on the clothing does not establish that the child’s throat was cut with a blade.
The absence of saliva on Azaria’s jumpsuit which was conclusively proved at the trial is made more explicable by the finding of the matinee jacket which would have partially covered it. The fact that no debris from the baby’s body was found on the jumpsuit is also made more explicable by the finding of the jacket.
“There is great conflict of expert opinion was to whether the damage to the clothing could have been caused by a dingo. It has not been shown beyond reasonable doubt that it could not have been. There were marks on plastic fragments of the nappy similar to marks made by a dingo on another nappy used for testing purposes. However, there was no blood on the nappy.
“There was a dingo’s den about thirty metres from the place where the clothing was found. There is no evidence that the existence of the den was known to the Chamberlains, or for that matter, to anybody else and in fact it was unknown to the chief ranger and his deputy.”
Available to this inquest was further evidence in relation to attacks on people by dingoes. Coroner Lowndes in the third inquest indicated his approach in these terms:
“Applying once again the ‘belief’ approach to the civil standard of proof to the evidence, I am unable to be reasonably satisfied that Azaria Chamberlain died accidentally as a result of being taken by a dingo from her tent at the camp site at Ayers Rock.”
At page 310 of his report, Commission Morling stated: “The defence asserted that Azaria had been taken by a dingo, an event for which there was no known precedent. It was therefore a novel case”. Of course, one does not expect that human beings, in particular young babies, will ordinarily be taken and killed by a dingo. First, that circumstance is a factor which may itself be relevant to the question of probabilities.
In Queensland a 9 year old boy died as a result of an attack by dingoes on Fraser Island in April 2001. In New South Wales a 2 year old girl died in December 2005 from blood loss and shock from cranio-cervical injury from dog attack, being a part dingo crossbreed. In Victoria in February 2006 a 22 month old girl died of chronic respiratory failure with contributing factors of blood loss from dog bites (the dog being described as a dingo/Labrador cross). Apart from these deaths, there were reports of various attacks and injuries, including records obtained from the Department of Environment and Resource Management in Queensland, regarding reported dingo incidents on Fraser Island.
The further investigation of this Inquest has not found any disappearance exactly like that of Azaria. However it is clear that there is evidence that in particular circumstances a dingo is capable of attacking, taking and causing the death of young children. Some of these attacks occurred prior to the disappearance of Azaria in Central Australia and were considered by the Commission. Others have occurred since and form part of the evidence before me.
In considering now all of the evidence, I am satisfied that the evidence is sufficiently adequate, clear, cogent and exact, and that the evidence excludes all other reasonable possibilities, to find that what occurred on 17 August 1980 was that shortly after Mrs Chamberlain placed Azaria in the tent, a dingo or dingoes entered the tent, took Azaria and carried and dragged her from the immediate area.
Mrs Chamberlain, upon being alerted to Azaria’s cry, returned to the tent area to see a dingo near the tent. Raising a cry which alerted others, Mrs Chamberlain
then ran for a short distance after the dingo and then back to the tent, confirming that Azaria was missing.
The findings are:
The name of the deceased was Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain, born in Mount Isa, Queensland on 11 June 1980.
She was the daughter of Michael Leigh Chamberlain and Alice Lynne Chamberlain.
Azaria Chamberlain died at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock, on 17 August 1980.
The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.


  1. It is now a full 24 hours since you posted your report of the fourth coronial about the Azaria inquest.
    All locals, in Centralia at least, have history with this story going back over the last 32 years.
    It does disturb me that no-one has seen fit to publish their thoughts on this post.
    Daryl Manzie, geographically at least, is an outsider with the intimate view of an insider.
    How I would love to have a beer with Daz one day.

  2. I do not see how after thirty two years, a court can know better that the courts that looked at this matter at the time the incident took place. All this result will do is open the floodgates for massive lawsuits, the cost of which will, of course, fall on the Australian taxpayer.

  3. Terry, if you do not give our justice system the freedom to work its own twisted and quirky course, where does that leave the victim?
    Up the creek, that is where.
    I believe in business and I believe in justice. We should not dwell on the costs involved as much as we should learn from our collective mistakes.
    In WA, an individual named Andrew Mallard was convicted of murdering Pamela Lawrence and sentenced in 1995 to life. After 12 years, he was a totally free man and all charges were dropped. He had few friends in the system and the police never had any evidence of substance.
    Both the current NT Commissioner and the newish NT deputy are painfully aware of the details of this case and the ongoing ramifications for the WA judicial system.
    Terry, you mention the cost and time factor as if a flurry of law suits will follow. Lindy has already stated her position.
    Just what would you do,, Terry, if fate dealt you or myself into the unhappy dilemma that is the Chamberlains’?
    The costs of the Azaria business are about $35 million and counting. This is nothing compared to the value of the tourism industry over that same period.
    For what it is worth, I believe Lindy is right. I also believe she is of stronger character than any man or woman who has ridiculed her and / or her family since 1980. I apologise to her.
    Imagine the cost involved Terry, if we are forced by legal fact, to say sorry to Bradley Murdoch?

  4. It’s very good to see this matter resolved for the Chamberlains who certainly suffered an ordeal made much worse by the heartless condemnation of so many. Observing from the side-lines I’m aware that Derek Roff (Chief Ranger at Ayers Rock) placed great faith in the judgement of the Aboriginal trackers who followed the tracks of a dingo that was carrying and straddling a heavy burden that left intermittent drag marks. Unfortunately the forensic evidence triumphed over that of the trackers and an innocent women was wrongly convicted. (We now know the forensics were seriously flawed). Before and during her trial people were quick to condemn Lindy Chamberlain and it seemed to me that the further I travelled from this region (‘the crime scene’) the more vitriolic and judgmental the populace became. A few years later I spoke to tracker Nipper Winmati who was convincing in his assertions that a dingo had taken the baby and was very perplexed about Mrs Chamberlain’s conviction. Incidentally, we should not forget that an Alice Springs Magistrate who announced his findings at the initial coronial inquest on 20 Feb. 1981 also ruled that a dingo was the most likely culprit. Magistrate Barritt defended the Chamberlains against public hostility, was critical of the police investigation and also found that “the body of Azaria was taken from the possession of the dingo and disposed of by unknown method, by a person or persons, name unknown”. His findings were unpalatable to the NT government and I daresay to many in the general populace. Another inquest followed and Mrs Chamberlain was then tried for murder and ultimately gaoled for 3 years before her conviction was overturned. Hopefully this outcome, the fourth and final inquest will give a great many people cause for reflection.

  5. What a joke. How do you prove a cause of death without a body. Dingo or Lindy. Nobody will ever really know without the examination of Azaria body! I now have a lack of faith in coroner system because it has bowed to public opinion and not fact.

  6. Dear David,
    Centralians have had to put up with this issue for 32 years, because the wool was pulled over their eyes. When Dinny Barritt’s local findings were overturned by peeved Darwin drongos, no-one in Alice said a peep. Very few Alice residents had the insight to realise they were being duped, big time, by the movers and shakers up the track. Looks like not much has changed.
    Your hero, undazzling Daryl, an ex-Darwin cop and NT Attorney General, was merely protecting his own from even further justifiable ridicule when he made disgraceful and outrageous public comments immediately prior to the outcome of the 4th inquest.
    Anywhere else than the NT, this would be considered as trying to mislead and pre-empt the course of justice.
    Believe me, far too much of this lunacy has already happened up there in official quarters – to the extreme chagrin of the people who were actually at Ayers Rock on the spot at the time of the original incident.
    Rather than have a beer with this bloke, I’d much rather waste a barrel by pouring it over his head so his brain could actually be cooled enough to function rationally.
    Needless to say, he also has a lot of troppo mates on this topic. It’s about time the naysayers looked back at the facts with an unjaundiced eye.

  7. God bless the Chamberlain family. May Azaria rest in peace.
    No family should have gone through what you endured.
    The loss of a child, and to be accused of murdering her.
    I admire your faith and family bond and pray that you reconcile your marriage.
    God bless you.

  8. @Jesica. And some people believe astronauts experience weightlessness in outer space because there is no gravity there, even though such belief is clearly disproved by the existence of the moon in orbit and the existence of the tides. Evidence and reasoning mean nothing to some people. I think the Chamberlains are by now sadly quite resigned to the fact they will always be guilty in the eyes of some people. Like you it seems, Jesica?

  9. Despite all the evidence – either way – there’s one blaring question that needs to be asked: how could a person leave a tent open to the elements without zipping it up? Having camped for decades in America and even traveled around Australia, the most basic rule is to keep out flies and mosquitoes by securing the tent opening. I see no report on a torn tent where an animal of any kind forced its way through.

  10. That is sad. At last they know what happened and this is good info for my assignment. I hope no-one else has to live through it again.

  11. OK Greg and David, calm down, show me you degree in law or something to make any of what you’ve said credible. Then I won’t think of you two as self absorbed. I mean do you really need to disrupt such a sad article to shove your thoughts down someone’s throat?
    You’re as bad as most religions.

  12. I have had several dingo’s as pets. Beautiful creatures. They don’t smell, they clean themselves like cats, they don’t bark (unless mimicking a dog), have good table manners and the males are extremely paternal.
    They are a descendant of the Asiatic wolf. And I have no trouble believing a wild dingo would have any trouble at all, scouting, stalking, and then picking their moment to enter a tent and grab hold of a baby and lift it out of a basinet and run off with it.
    I have done some rather unscientific yet credible tests with legs of lamb and pork well over three times the size and weight of an average eight month old baby with Gretchen, my pet dingo who was 18 months old at the time.
    I made the task even harder by placing the meat in a cot, not a basinet. And Gretchen was able to get in, grab the meat, and jump out of the cot without any trouble at all.
    I believe on the balance of probability, that a wild dingo, alone in its endeavours, took Azaria Chamberlain from the tent that fatal night. I do have some criticism’s however.
    I believe the child was too young for a trip to such a rugged holiday destination, and the fact that the tent was not secured whilst Lindy was not present.
    However, these are small criticisms, irrelevant to the case as a whole.
    I empathise with the Chamberlains for what has been a continual disgraceful miscarriage of justice several times over.
    Please don’t ever refer to the NT legal system as a justice system. Legal system yes! Justice system no!

  13. Having read Lindy’s book “Through My Eyes,” and also Michael’s book “Heart of Stone” I am ashamed that so many people would seek to delude themselves and display such vitriol towards a deeply traumatised, innocent family whose lives had been damaged enough without the incredible and relentless harassment from all corners, not to mention that of the many self serving, evil administrators within our own bureaucracies.
    I use the word evil deliberately because all the evidence from those who were at the scene of this tragedy and the absolutely unquestionable facts pointed out by the Aboriginal trackers was completely ignored. The timeline alone in which Lindy supposedly killed her baby was completely implausible. I hope the Chamberlain family have received truckloads of mail from all those condemning them, asking their forgiveness.

  14. I believe the baby was taken by dingoes as it makes sense. The alternative just does not make sense given the evidence.
    Any outdoors man who has come across dingoes in the wild knows they are highly intelligent hunters and opportunistic feeders. I have been stalked by dingoes in WA. As a 6 ft adult man they will keep their distance but they do follow in packs and circle. There’s no doubt they observe and plan looking to exploit a weakness. If I were a small child in that situation I’d no longer be here.
    Unless a tent is zipped up properly and by that I mean lateral and vertical zips done up tight end to end a dingo will find it easy to enter. I’ve found myself guilty of often doing up only the central zipper of the tent This would make it very easy for a dingo to simply push through the gap and the zip will open itself. I know because my dog has entered my zipped up tent this way before!
    The fact is this family had no idea of the dangers dingoes present to the young. I feel for this family and I hope they have some closure now. It’s only taken 32 bloody years!

  15. I have studied and followed this case for many many years. I DO NOT believe a dingo walked in, and dragged a three month old baby out of its cot with another child sleeping nearby, while the tent was unsecured, unzipped and unprotected.
    I think this is BS. Full stop. I know dingoes are sly hunters … yes, they have attacked and killed … BUT in this scenario? Without the body? It’s just another distorted case.

  16. I STILL have not read anywhere in all this time just HOW the “dingo” was able to remove the baby’s clothing? And if there was a den nearby, did they find her body? NO! Unless someone can show me a website that answers these questions I will NEVER believe a “dingo done it”.

  17. It has now been quite a few years since the fourth coronial inquest into the death of this little bub.
    It never ever needed a heap of inquiries in the first place.
    If political interference and spin doctoring had not been firmly in place at the time, the original tragedy would have been concluded in a speedy manner.
    It is time to have a memorial installed, and I am more than happy to contribute towards one.

  18. I know where Azaria is and can prove it. I will prove it, just wait, Azaria is going to finally be free and everyone who said she was killed by the dingo will bite their tongue.
    If anyone has any actual pull with the forensic email me and I will send either hair on her DNA file from an online company. She will be finally free.

  19. I live in Britain and don’t pretend to know anything about dingoes but I do believe the Chamberlains.
    So much of the forensic evidence was found flawed and the Aboriginal trackers’ evidence was not even heard, along with the fact that the timeframe of Lindy supposedly killing the baby doesn’t add up. WHY WOULD SHE DO IT?
    Even the prosecution couldn’t think of a motive. I feel so sorry for them. They lost their daughter, were accused of murder and Lindy was jailed and lost three years away from her other kids. I hope this finally brings them peace, at long last.

  20. Why on earth is so hard to imagine a 45 lb. 4 foot long carnivore doing exactly what it was born to do: Hunt, kill and eat.
    Also, the zipper on the tent was reportedly broken, which is why the tent was open.

  21. There’s my point again! Would you, or anyone with just a little common sense, take your family on a camping trip with a tent that had a broken zipper?
    Perhaps in a regulated, tame camping site in Britain, but surely not in the Australian Outback.
    Even if you were naive enough to do that, you surely would keep your baby close by your side – just in case.
    Some things are hard to prove as they’re carried out at a deep subconscious level. One day, the truth will be known … about everything!

  22. If the truth were known, the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain in August 1981 and the howls of indignation and outrage over Lindy’s claim that a dingo took her baby marked the official arrival of Political Correctness in the Land Down Under. Or at least in the Red Desert.
    The culture of victimhood in the feral outback world had arrived. Dingo as victim, enshrined in public opinion by conservationists, animal lovers, inner city urban Green latte sippers and those generally with an axe to grind against the Chamberlains for whatever reasons.
    The media hysteria that made this our most infamous murder case also sent Lindy to prison in a flood of righteous condemnation that is a characteristic of the PC Brigade.
    The date of Azaria’s disappearance should be declared National PC Day.
    Fortunately, the PC Brigade did not get around to erecting a statue to their Victim Hero Dingo.
    It saves them the angst of now protecting it from the anti-PC Brigade’s graffiti and calls to tear it down.
    The Myth of Dingo As Victim, yet another casualty of the Culture Wars.

  23. It is a fact that a dingo can remove the skin from a rabbit almost as neatly as a rabbit Skinner can from the throat down. I have seen them do this while rabbiting around Broken hill.A dingo can carry off a young lamb without any effort in fact they can run while doing so.I think from memory that Magistrate Barritt said he found the child was taken by a wild dog with the possibility of human interference later.
    At the time there were many unofficial reports from people from The Rock indicating is was a camp dog groups of which had been causing some nuisance for a while.
    From a street view the later events appeared to be a religious blacklash against the Chamberlains’ religion.
    It was an eye opener to me that so many educated / religious people could behave in such a manner over a difference in religion.

  24. You know Greg and Terry, y’all need to grow up! This is a pathetic attempt at trying to disapprove our great nation. You guys are over yapping about awww boo hooo the court messed up 30 some years ago. Get over [it]. Y’all don’t have a degree in law or anything of the subject. You probably have a degree in art or something. So until you are truly educated, please stop the yapping!


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