Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton

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Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton
Lindy Chamberlain 1986 face photo.jpg
Chamberlain in a 1986 news broadcast
Alice Lynne Murchison

(1948-03-04) 4 March 1948 (age 71)
Whakatane, New Zealand
Known forImprisoned for three years after being convicted of the murder of her baby Azaria (later exonerated)
Michael Chamberlain
(m. 1969;div. 1991)

Rick Creighton(m. 1992)
ChildrenAidan (born 1973)
Reagan (born 1976)
Azaria (June–August 1980)
Kahlia (born 1982)

Alice Lynne "Lindy" Chamberlain-Creighton (née Murchison; born 4 March 1948) is a New Zealand-born woman who was wrongfully convicted in one of Australia's most publicised murder trials. Accused of killing her nine-week-old daughter, Azaria, while camping at Uluru (then usually known as Ayers Rock) in 1980, she maintained that she saw a dingo leave the tent where Azaria was sleeping. The prosecution case was circumstantial and depended on forensic evidence.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

A miscarriage of justice, also known as a failure of justice, is when an actually innocent person is found guilty. It is seldom used as a legal defense in criminal and deportation proceedings. The term also applies to errors in the other direction—"errors of impunity", or to any clearly unjust outcome in any civil case. Every "miscarriage of justice" in turn is a "manifest injustice." Most criminal justice systems have some means to overturn or quash a wrongful conviction, but this is often difficult to achieve. In some instances a wrongful conviction is not overturned for several decades, or until after the innocent person has been executed, released from custody, or has died.

Death of Azaria Chamberlain Australian victim of animal attack

Azaria Chamberlain was an Australian 2-month-old baby girl who was killed by a dingo on the night of 17 August 1980 on a family camping trip to Uluru in the Northern Territory. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. Lindy Chamberlain was, however, tried for murder and spent more than three years in prison. She was released when a piece of Azaria's clothing was found near a dingo lair, and new inquests were opened. In 2012, 32 years after Azaria's death, the Chamberlains' version of events was officially supported by a coroner.


Chamberlain was convicted on 29 October 1982, [1] and her appeals to the Federal Court of Australia, [2] and High Court of Australia, [3] were dismissed. On 7 February 1986, after the discovery of new evidence, Chamberlain was released from prison on remission. She and her husband Michael Chamberlain, co-accused, were officially pardoned in 1987, [1] and their convictions were quashed by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in 1988. [4] In 1992, the Australian government paid Chamberlain $1.3 million in compensation. [5] In 2012, a fourth coronial inquest found that Azaria died "as a result of being attacked and taken by a dingo." [1]

Federal Court of Australia Australian superior court

The Federal Court of Australia is an Australian superior court of record which has jurisdiction to deal with most civil disputes governed by federal law, along with some summary criminal matters. Cases are heard at first instance by single Judges. The Court includes an appeal division referred to as the Full Court comprising three Judges, the only avenue of appeal from which lies to the High Court of Australia. In the Australian court hierarchy, the Federal Court occupies a position equivalent to the Supreme Courts of each of the states and territories. In relation to the other Courts in the federal stream, it is equal to the Family Court of Australia, and superior to the Federal Circuit Court. It was established in 1976 by the Federal Court of Australia Act.

High Court of Australia supreme court

The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the states, and the ability to interpret the Constitution of Australia and thereby shape the development of federalism in Australia.

Supreme Court of the Northern Territory

The Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is the superior court for the Australian Territory of the Northern Territory. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the territory in civil matters, and hears the most serious criminal matters. It is around the middle of the Australian court hierarchy.

Early life

Alice Lynne Murchison was born in Whakatane, New Zealand, the daughter of Avis and Cliff Murchison. [6] She was known as "Lindy" from a young age. She moved to Australia with her family in 1969.

Whakatane Town in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Whakatane is a town in the eastern Bay of Plenty Region in the North Island of New Zealand, 90 km east of Tauranga and 89 km north-east of Rotorua, at the mouth of the Whakatane River. Whakatane District is the encompassing territorial authority, which covers an area to the south and west of the town, excluding the enclave of Kawerau.

She and her family were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she married an Adventist pastor, the New Zealand-born 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. [7] At the time their daughter Azaria went missing, Chamberlain's husband served as minister of Mount Isa's Seventh-day Adventist church. [8] [9]

Seventh-day Adventist Church Protestant Christian church founded in 1863

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination which is distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the seventh day of the week in Christian and Jewish calendars, as the Sabbath, and its emphasis on the imminent Second Coming (advent) of Jesus Christ. The denomination grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States during the mid-19th century and it was formally established in 1863. Among its founders was Ellen G. White, whose extensive writings are still held in high regard by the church.

Tasmania island state of Australia

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. It is located 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of around 526,700 as of March 2018. Just over forty percent of the population resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city, Hobart.

Mount Isa City in Queensland, Australia

Mount Isa is a city in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia. It came into existence because of the vast mineral deposits found in the area. Mount Isa Mines (MIM) is one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc.

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. [10] :p. 17 Chamberlain's first daughter, Azaria, was born 11 June 1980. 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".[ citation needed ]

Azaria's disappearance

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. [11] 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. [9] [12] From the day Azaria went missing, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain maintained a dingo took their child. 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. Roff noted that dingoes in the area were becoming increasingly cheeky, approaching and sometimes biting people. [13]

Conviction, imprisonment and release

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. [5] [8] 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, Chamberlain was charged with Azaria's murder. Michael Chamberlain was charged with being an accessory after the fact. On 29 October 1982 the Chamberlains were both found guilty as charged. [14]

Second inquest

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. [15] 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 without parole [1] and Michael Chamberlain suspended for three years as an accessory to murder. [9] The stain believed to have been blood that was found in the Chamberlains' car was later determined to be most likely a sound-deadening compound from a manufacturing overspray. [16]

Prosecution claims

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. [10] :p. 14 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. [9] [12] [16]

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. [12] 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. [10] :p. 6

Evidence that a dingo took Azaria Chamberlain

Camper Sally Lowe and Lindy's husband Michael gave evidence that they heard a baby cry at a time when Chamberlain was with them at the barbecue area and Azaria was believed to be in the family tent. [10] :p. 10

Witness Judith West, who was camped 30 metres 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. [10] :p. 18

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. [10] :p. 16

Police Detective Sergeant John Lincoln gave evidence that he took photographs of large paw prints a few centimetres from Azaria's cot and found what was probably blood outside the tent. He collected samples but they were not tested. [10] :p. 11

Camper Sally Lowe gave evidence that she had brought 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. [10] :p. 15 However, the amount of blood was disputed. Another witness who entered the tent that night, police Constable Frank Morris, gave evidence that there were only a few drops of blood on a couple of blankets and a sleeping bag in the tent. [9]

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. [10] Canine hairs were located in the tent and on Azaria's jumpsuit. The Chamberlains did not own a dog. [9]

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. [10] :p. 12 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. [10]

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." [10]

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. [9] Azaria's clothing was found only 30 metres from a dingo's den, although no-one, including the chief ranger and his deputy, was aware of the den at the time. [9]

Claims of human interference with clothes

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. [10] 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. [10] 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.


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. [8] 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. [3]

Release on new evidence

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. [8] 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. [1] [16] In 1987, a Royal Commission began investigating the matter further.[ citation needed ]

Morling Royal Commission

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 Trevor Morling concluded that the hypothesis that Chamberlain murdered Azaria had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Although the commission was of the opinion that the evidence afforded considerable support for the dingo hypothesis, it 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). [17]


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). [16] 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. [16]

Third inquest

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. [9] The coroner considered the Morling Royal Commission's report enquiring into the correctness of the convictions against Lindy 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." [18] 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." [17]

2012 inquest

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. [19] A new inquest began in February 2012 [20] [21] 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. [11] 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. [20] 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. [11] [22] 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. [23] [24] Coroner Elizabeth Morris apologised to the Chamberlain family while an amended death certificate was immediately made available to them. [25]

Court cases

Subsequent life

Chamberlain published Through My Eyes: an autobiography in 1990. The Chamberlains divorced in 1991. On 20 December 1992, she married American publisher and fellow member of Seventh-day Adventist Church, Rick Creighton. She is now known as Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton. [5] She and Creighton live in Australia. [7] In 2007, Chamberlain-Creighton spoke out in support of the parents of Madeleine McCann, and said she would be willing to talk to the McCanns. [27]

In August 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the death of Azaria, Chamberlain-Creighton appealed on her website to have the cause of death amended on Azaria's death record. [19] [28] In 2012, the coroner's final report identified that a dingo was the cause of death. [29]

Film and other adaptations

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 Australia and New Zealand) [30] 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. [31] 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

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  2. 1 2 Chamberlain v The Queen [1983] FCA 78 , (1983) 72 FLR 1; (1983) 46 ALR 493.
  3. 1 2 3 Chamberlain v The Queen (No.2) [1984] HCA 7 , (1984) 153 CLR 521.
  4. 1 2 Re Conviction of Chamberlain [1988] NTCCA 3 , (1988) 93 FLR 239.
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  6. Everlasting nightmare accessed 12-28-2015
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  12. 1 2 3 Lewis, Roger, "Scientists in the Dock Lawyers Scientists and the Prosecution of Offenders" (PDF). Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), Deakin University, 2001. Accessed 2012-2-26.
  13. Toohey, Paul, "Witch Hunt". Archived from the original on 6 April 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2012.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), The Australian, 2000-7-15. Accessed 2012-2-25.
  14. Lowndes 1995, pp. 1-2.
  15. Lowndes 1995, pp. 4–9, citing the transcript of the second inquest proceedings, 2 February 1982, at p. 779..
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 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.)
  17. 1 2 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Chamberlain Convictions, Report, Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers (1987), volume 15, paper 192.
  18. Lowndes 1995, pp. 97-8.
  19. 1 2 Murdoch, Lindsay, Not over: Chamberlain seeks justice from hearts of stone, Sydney Morning Herald, 2010-10-11. Accessed 25 February 2012.
  20. 1 2 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.
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