Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton

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Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton
Lindy Chamberlain 1986 face photo.jpg
Lindy Chamberlain in 1986, as she appeared in a news broadcast
Born Alice Lynne Murchison
(1948-03-04) 4 March 1948 (age 66)
Whakatane, New Zealand
Known for Imprisoned for three years after being convicted of the murder of her baby Azaria Chamberlain (later exonerated)
Spouse(s) Michael Chamberlain (1968–1991)

Alice Lynne "Lindy" Chamberlain-Creighton (born 4 March 1948) is a New Zealand-born Australian woman who was at the centre of one of Australia's most publicised murder trials. Originally accused and convicted of killing her nine-week old daughter, Azaria, while camping at Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock) in 1980, she maintained that she saw a dingo leave the tent where Azaria slept on the night she disappeared. Eight years later, her conviction was overturned after the discovery of new evidence, and both she and her then husband Michael Chamberlain were acquitted of all charges.

She was adjudged wrongly convicted after having spent three years in prison for murdering her baby, and having given birth to her fourth child while a prisoner. In 1992, she received $1.3 million compensation from the Australian government for wrongful imprisonment.[1] As the result of a fourth inquest in 2012, an Australian coroner made a ruling that a dingo had indeed taken baby Azaria from the campsite in 1980 and had caused her death.

Early life[edit]

Alice Lynne Murchison was born in Whakatane, New Zealand, where she was known as "Lindy" from a young age. She moved to Australia with her family in 1949.

She and her family were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she married fellow Adventist and pastor Michael Chamberlain on 18 November 1969. For the first five years after their marriage they lived in Tasmania, after which they moved to Mount Isa in northern Queensland.[2] At the time their daughter Azaria went missing, Lindy's husband Michael served as minister of Mount Isa's Seventh Day Adventist Church.[3][4]

In the 1970s the Chamberlains had two sons: Aidan, born in 1973, and Reagan, born in 1976. A family friend, Mrs Ransom, gave evidence that Lindy had always wanted a girl.[5] Chamberlain's first daughter, Azaria, was born 11 June 1980, and her second daughter and fourth child, Kahlia, was born in November 1982.

According to the findings of the third inquest, the evidence for some aspects of Lindy Chamberlain's mothering was undisputed: Chamberlain was "an exemplary mother".

  • She had no mental illness.
  • She was never violent with her children.
  • She had given no indication of being irritated with Azaria.
  • She gave no indication of being stressed when she took Azaria and indicated that she was putting her to bed.

Azaria's disappearance[edit]

When Azaria was two months old, the family went on a camping trip to Uluru, arriving on 16 August 1980. On the night of 17 August, Chamberlain reported that the child had been taken from her tent by a dingo.[6] A massive search was organised; Azaria was not found but the jump suit she had been wearing was discovered about a week later about 4000 m from the tent, bloodstained about the neck, indicating the probable death of the missing child. A matinee jacket the child had been wearing was not found at the time.[4][7] From the day Azaria went missing, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain maintained a dingo took their child, and early on in the case, the facts showed that for the two years before Azaria went missing, Uluru/Ayers Rock chief ranger Derek Roff had been writing to the government urging a dingo cull and warning of imminent human tragedy, that dingoes were becoming increasingly cheeky, approaching and sometimes biting people.[8]

Conviction, imprisonment and release[edit]

The initial inquiry, held in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, by Alice Springs magistrate and coroner Dennis Barritt in December 1980 and January 1981, supported the Chamberlains' account of Azaria's disappearance, finding a dingo took the child.[1][3] The Supreme Court quashed the findings of the initial inquest and ordered a second inquest in December 1981, with the taking of evidence concluded in February 1982. By an indictment presented to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in September 1982, Lindy Chamberlain was charged with the murder of Azaria Chamberlain and Michael Chamberlain was charged with being an accessory after the fact. On 29 October 1982 the Chamberlains were both found guilty as charged.[9]

Second inquest[edit]

In committing the Chamberlains for trial, the coroner who performed the second inquest and recorded findings as to the cause and manner of Azaria's death, stated that although the evidence was, to a large degree, circumstantial, a jury properly instructed could arrive at a verdict; with regard to the clothing evidence, he surmised that the Chamberlains knew dingoes were in the area, attempted to simulate a dingo attack, recovered Azaria's buried body, removed her clothing, damaged it by cutting, rubbed it in vegetation and deposited the clothes for later recovery.[10] On this basis and that of blood evidence of unknown origin found in the Chamberlains' car, the Chamberlains were prosecuted and convicted for the murder of their 2-month old baby, with Lindy sentenced to life imprisonment[11] and Michael Chamberlain convicted as an accessory to murder.[4] The blood believed to have been found in the Chamberlains' car was later determined to be most likely a sound-deadening compound from a manufacturing overspray.[12]

Prosecution claims[edit]

The prosecution's theory was that, in a five- to ten-minute absence from the camp fire, Lindy returned to her tent, did whatever was necessary to stop her young son Aidan from following her, changed into track suit pants, took Azaria to her car, obtained and used scissors to cut Azaria's throat, waited for Azaria to die (options were carotid arteries or jugular – all experts said there was an absence of evidence of arterial bleeding on the jump suit blood stains and it would take up to 20 minutes if the death was from cutting the jugular), hid the body in a camera case in the car, cleaned up blood on everything including the outside of the camera case, removed the tracksuit pants, obtained baked beans for her son from the car, returned to the tent, did something to leave blood splashes there and brought her son Aidan back to the campfire without ever attracting the attention of other campers except for camper Greg Lowe who gave evidence that he observed her to go to the tent with Azaria and Aidan and then walk to the car with her left arm around Aidan and her right arm unimpeded.[5] She also counted on her son not noticing she had taken Azaria and returned without her and asking her publicly where she had taken Azaria. She then later returned to the tent and immediately claimed that she saw a dingo taking her baby with evidence implicating a dingo being purely coincidental. No-one noticing alleged blood on Mrs Chamberlain's clothes in the hours after the disappearance was purely fortunate. Mrs Chamberlain opening the car where the body was allegedly hidden to give a dog the scent of Azaria from the clothes in the car was a daring act. She also must have somehow done it without her husband's knowledge or he was also incredibly daring given that he left his children in her care afterward and he told the police that he had given them the wrong camera case and then gave them the one that was allegedly used to conceal the body.[4][7][12]

The prosecution's expert testimony for forensic evidence included that of James Cameron, a scientist who had also given crucial evidence in a case in England which was later overturned when his expert evidence was proved wrong.[7] With regard to the timing of the baby's cry and Mrs. Chamberlain's whereabouts, the prosecution also claimed that the Chamberlains convinced fellow camper and witness Sally Lowe to say that she heard Azaria cry after Mrs. Chamberlain returned to the camp fire.[5]

Evidence that a dingo removed Azaria[edit]

Camper Sally Lowe and husband Michael Chamberlain gave evidence that they heard a baby cry at a time when Mrs Chamberlain was with them at the barbecue area and Azaria was believed to be in the family tent.[5]

Witness Judith West, who was camped 30 m away, testified to hearing a dog's low, throaty growl coming from that direction, a sound that she associated with growls her husband's dogs made when he was slaughtering sheep.[5]

Mrs Chamberlain gave evidence that, in response to others hearing Azaria cry, she went to the tent. Half way to the tent she thought she saw a dingo emerging from the tent having difficulty getting out of the tent and shaking its head vigorously. Her view of its nose was obscured. She cried "Michael, Michael, the dingo's got my baby!" and ran into the tent to check on her children. Azaria was missing. She chased in the direction she thought it had gone, and called out to her husband for a torch.[5]

Police Detective Sergeant John Lincoln gave evidence that he took photographs of large paw prints a few centimeters from Azaria's cot and found what was probably blood outside the tent. He collected samples but they were not tested.[5]

Camper Sally Lowe gave evidence that she had brought Mrs Chamberlain's son Reagan out of the tent after the occurrence. When she was in the tent she observed a pool of blood in the tent about 15 cm by 10 cm.[5] However, the amount of blood was disputed. Another witness who entered the tent that night police Constable Frank Morris gave evidence that there was only a few drops of blood on a couple of blankets and a sleeping bag in the tent.[4]

A scientific witness located blood on the wall of the tent. Scientist Dr Andrew Scott agreed that the spray mark of blood was consistent with a dingo carrying a bleeding baby. However he did not believe that it was human blood.[5]

Canine hairs were located in the tent and on Azaria's jumpsuit. The Chamberlains did not own a dog.[4]

Les Harris, then President of the Dingo Foundation, gave evidence that his opinion based on years of studying dingoes is that a dingo could have enveloped the head of a baby in its mouth and carried the weight of a baby over long distances. He produced photographs of dingoes enveloping the head of a baby-sized doll in its jaws.[5] However, forensic expert Professor James Cameron gave evidence that, based on studying plaster casts of dingo jaws, it was impossible for a dingo to open its jaws wide enough to encompass a child's head.[5]

Tourist Max Whittacker gave evidence that he attended a search later on the night of the disappearance with people including the head ranger and an Aboriginal tracker. He claimed to have been called by the ranger Derek Roff to help him and the Aboriginal tracker to follow dingo paw prints and scrape marks in the sand in a westerly direction. He was led to believe they were following the trail of a dingo carrying a heavy object believed to be Azaria's body. "I now know that the Aboriginal's account of following these tracks west that night has been denied by rangers and the Aboriginal's account of this incident has not been accepted."[5]

Although expert opinion varied as to whether the clothes damage could have been caused by a dingo some took the view that it could have been. Further, marks on nappy fragments were similar to marks resulting from a dingo on another nappy that was used for testing purposes.[4]

Azaria's clothing was found only 30 m from a dingo's den, although no-one, including the chief ranger and his deputy, was aware of the den at the time.[4]

Human interference subsequent to Azaria's removal[edit]

Some evidence indicates human intervention between the time of discovery of Azaria's clothes and the time that the police photographed it.

Camper Wallace Goodwin, who was the first to discover the jumpsuit, singlet and nappy, gave evidence that the whole of the jumpsuit was undone, that the clothes were lying on the ground naturally not artificially, and that he believed the singlet was beside the jumpsuit not inside it.[5]

However, police Constable Frank Morris, the first police officer to examine the clothes after Goodwin located them, gave evidence that only the top four buttons were undone and the singlet was inside it. He stated that he picked up the clothes to check the inside for human remains and then returned it to the ground and photographed it.[5] The singlet that had been placed back in the jumpsuit was inside out. Mrs Chamberlain gave evidence that she always ensured that singlets were not inside out.

Post-conviction[edit]

Shortly after her conviction, Chamberlain was escorted from Berrimah Prison under guard to give birth to her fourth child, Kahlia, on 17 November 1982, in Darwin Hospital, and was returned thereafter to prison.[3] An appeal to the Federal Court against conviction was subsequently dismissed. Another appeal against her conviction was rejected by the High Court in February 1984.[13]

Release on new evidence[edit]

Richard Morecroft introducing an ABC news report on the day of Lindy Chamberlain's release.

New evidence emerged on 2 February 1986 when Azaria's matinee jacket, which the police had maintained did not exist, was found partially buried adjacent to a dingo lair in an isolated location near Uluru.[3] Five days later, on 7 February 1986, with the discovery of Azaria's missing jacket supporting the Chamberlains' defence case, Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison, and her life sentence was remitted by the Northern Territory Government.[11][12] In 1987, a Royal Commission began investigating the matter further.

Morling Royal Commission[edit]

The purpose of the Royal Commission was to enquire into and report on the correctness of the Chamberlain convictions. In reaching the conclusion that there was a reasonable doubt as to the Chamberlains' guilt, Commissioner Morling concluded that the hypothesis that Mrs. Chamberlain murdered Azaria had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Although the Commission was of the opinion that the evidence afforded considerable support for the dingo hypothesis, the Commission did not examine the evidence to see whether it had been proved that a dingo took the baby. To do so would, in the words of Commissioner Morling, involve "... (a) fundamental error of reversing the onus of proof and requiring Mrs Chamberlain to prove her innocence." (at p. 339 of the report).[4]

Acquittal[edit]

In acquitting the Chamberlains in 1988, the Supreme Court found that the alleged "baby blood" found in the Chamberlains' car, upon which the prosecution so heavily relied, could have been any substance, but was likely that of a sound deadening compound from a manufacturing overspray (which contained no blood).[12] This finding underscored inconsistencies in the earlier blood testing, which, along with the later-recovered matinee jacket from a dingo lair area, had given rise to the Morling Royal Commission's doubts about the propriety of her conviction. The court also noted that as DNA testing was not advanced in the early 1980s, the expert testimony given by the prosecution at trial and relied on by the jurors was reasonable evidence at the time, even though it was ultimately found to be faulty.[12]

Third inquest[edit]

After the Chamberlains were acquitted by the Supreme Court in September 1988 and their convictions overturned, a third inquest in 1995 took place, with the coroner's report stating that it was a "paper inquest" rather than a full inquest since there was little new evidence and the second inquest was never fully completed.[4] The coroner considered the Morling Royal Commission's report enquiring into the correctness of the convictions against Lynne Chamberlain along with submissions made on behalf of the Chamberlains, and returned an open verdict in Azaria's cause of death, or, insufficient evidence by the prosecution that failed to meet the required standard of proof for conviction. Specifically, he wrote "After examining all the evidence I am unable to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Azaria Chamberlain died at the hands of Alice Lynne Chamberlain. It automatically follows that I am also unable to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Michael Leigh Chamberlain had any involvement in the death." He also wrote that because the evidence for the death-by-dingo hypothesis was never developed "I am unable to be reasonably satisfied that Azaria Chamberlain died accidentally as a result of being taken by a dingo."[14] He noted that "Indeed, the evidence affords considerable support for the view that a dingo may have taken her. To examine the evidence to see whether it has been proved that a dingo took Azaria would be to make the fundamental error of reversing the onus of proof and requiring Mrs Chamberlain to prove her innocence."[15]

2012 inquest[edit]

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain continued to push for a resolution to the investigation into the death of Azaria as being caused by one or more dingoes without human interference.[16] A new inquest began in February 2012[17][18] and new figures on dingo attacks on Fraser Island were collated by the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Resource Management and provided as evidence at the Azaria Chamberlain inquest.[6] Coroner Elizabeth Morris said that the new evidence in relation to dingo attacks on infants and young children had helped convince her to reopen the investigation.[17] After 32 years of intense media interest and public excoriation, the Chamberlains stated they remained unsatisfied with bare acquittal and presumed innocence, and were keen to finally, and definitively, determine how their daughter died.[6][19] On 12 June 2012, an Australian coroner made a final ruling that a dingo dog took baby Azaria Chamberlain from a campsite in 1980 and caused her death.[20][21] Coroner Elizabeth Morris apologised to the Chamberlain family while an amended death certificate was immediately made available to them.[22]

Court cases[edit]

  • Chamberlain v R (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1983) 153 CLR 514; (1983) 46 ALR 608; 2 May 1983, HCA, Brennan J – bail application [23]
  • Chamberlain v R (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1983) 46 ALR 493; 29 April 1983, FCA, Bowen CJ, Forster & Jenkinson JJ [24]
  • Chamberlain v R (No 2)] (Azaria Chamberlain case & Dingo case) (1984) 153 CLR 521; (1984) 51 ALR 225; 22 February 1984, HCA, Gibbs CJ, Mason, Murphy, Brennan & Deane JJ [25]
  • Chamberlain v R (Acquittal decision) Reference Under S.433A of the Criminal Code by the Attorney-General for the Northern Territory of Australia of Convictions of Alice Lynne Chamberlain and Michael Leigh Chamberlain, Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia, No. CA2, 1988.[26]

Subsequent life[edit]

Chamberlain published Through My Eyes: an autobiography in 1990.

Chamberlain was divorced from Michael Chamberlain in 1991. On 20 December 1992, she married an American, Rick Creighton, a publisher and fellow member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She subsequently became known as Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.[1] She and Creighton live in Australia.[2] In 2007, Lindy's case resurfaced in the media with the disappearance of toddler Madeline McCann in Portugal which had striking similarities to her own case and Lindy publicly spoke about the case and offered to talk to the McCanns.

In August 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the death of Azaria, Chamberlain appealed on her website to have the cause of death amended on Azaria's death record.[16][27]

Film and other adaptations[edit]

In the 1983 Australian TV movie about the case, Who Killed Baby Azaria?, Chamberlain was played by Elaine Hudson; the movie aired on Network Ten. In the 1988 film Evil Angels (released as A Cry in the Dark outside of Australia and New Zealand)[28] the role was played by Meryl Streep, whose performance received an Academy Award nomination for best actress in 1989. Miranda Otto played Chamberlain in the 2004 Australian TV mini-series Through My Eyes: The Lindy Chamberlain Story, which aired on the Seven Network.

Australian composer Moya Henderson wrote the opera Lindy to a libretto by Judith Rodriguez.[29] In 1990, the Rank Strangers' recording of their song "Uluru", which supported the Chamberlains and called for compensation to be paid to them, finished in the final five of the Australian Country Music Awards in Tamworth, New South Wales.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Linder, Doug, Professor, The Trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain: A Chronology, University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, 1995–2011.
  2. ^ a b Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton Biography, Accessed 2012-2-25.
  3. ^ a b c d Linder, Doug, Professor, The Trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain ("The Dingo Trial"), University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, 1995–2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lowndes, John, 1995 Inquest Into The Death Of Azaria Chamberlain, Coroner for the Northern Territory, Australia, 1995-12-13 (3rd inquest).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Using the Chamberlain Case to explore evidence in history at the Wayback Machine (archived June 11, 2011), National Museum of Australia, p. 17, 2001. Accessed 2012-6-02.
  6. ^ a b c Winterman, Denise, Dingoes: How dangerous are they?, BBC News, 2012-02-25.
  7. ^ a b c Lewis, Roger, Scientists in the Dock Lawyers Scientists and the Prosecution of Offenders at the Wayback Machine (archived July 6, 2011), Deakin University, 2001. Accessed 2012-2-26.
  8. ^ Toohey, Paul, Witch Hunt at the Wayback Machine (archived April 6, 2005), The Australian, 2000-7-15. Accessed 2012-2-25.
  9. ^ Lowndes, pp. 1–2.
  10. ^ Lowndes, pp. 4–9, citing the transcript of the second inquest proceedings, 1982-02-02, at p. 779.
  11. ^ a b Azaria Chamberlain - Chamberlain v R - death of baby by dingo, LIAC Crime Library, New South Wales State Library. Accessed 2012-2-25.
  12. ^ a b c d e Reference Under S.433A of the Criminal Code by the Attorney-General for the Northern Territory of Australia of Convictions of Alice Lynne Chamberlain and Michael Leigh Chamberlain, Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia, No. CA2, 1988. (Acquittal decision.)
  13. ^ Chamberlain v. The Queen (No.2), Chamberlain v R (No 2) ("Chamberlin case") [1984] HCA 7; (1984) 153 CLR 521, 1984-2-22.
  14. ^ Lowndes, pp. 97–98.
  15. ^ Lowndes, p. 67.
  16. ^ a b Murdoch, Lindsay, Not over: Chamberlain seeks justice from hearts of stone, Sydney Morning Herald, 2010-10-11. Accessed 25 February 2012.
  17. ^ a b Animal behaviour expert says recent dingo research probably strengthens case for showing a dingo took Azaria Chamberlain, The Daily Telegraph via Perth Now, 19 December 2011.
  18. ^ Bradford, Kelly Rose, Dingo case to be re-opened, parentdish.co.uk, 2011-12-11. Accessed 26 February 2012.
  19. ^ Rule, Andrew, New inquest must declare innocence, Herald Sun, 20 December 2011.
  20. ^ "Dingo caused baby Azaria Chamberlain's death - coroner". BBC News Asia. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  21. ^ La Canna, Xavier (12 June 2012). "Dingo killed baby Azaria, says NT coroner". Nine News. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  22. ^ "Dingo to blame for Azaria's death: coroner". theage . com . au. Fairfax Media. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  23. ^ http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1983/13.html
  24. ^ http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/1983/78.html
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^ Hall, Lex, Change Azaria's death certificate to show a dingo was responsible, says Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, The Australian, 2010-8-17. Accessed 2012-2-26.
  28. ^ "A Cry in the Dark (1988) - Release dates". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-06-14. 
  29. ^ "Lindy". Opera Australia. 2002. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2007. 

External links[edit]