Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Azaria Chamberlain - God Rest Her Little Soul

Lindy and Azaria, at Ayers Rock, just hours before the tragedy

"A dingo's got my baby!"

Most of us are familiar with that line. It won Meryl Streep one of her 89 Oscars. The movie "A Cry in the Dark" with one of our other favorites, Sam Neill, is an okay film. It's pretty dated and not super compelling, but the one thing it does do is accurately portray the couple in question, The Chamberlains, as they endure every parents worst nightmare - the death of a baby daughter.

Early in 1980, the Chamberlains, Lindy and Michael of Australia, went to Ayers Rock for an overnight camping trip. The accommodations were rustic and very outdoors but nice. There was a communal barbecue and seating area for campers, right next to the camping area itself where dozens of hikers, campers and families had pitched their tents for the night. Everyone was having a relaxing quiet time near the campfire after dinner, when Lindy put her baby, Azaria, in the tent to sleep, about 10 or 20 yards away. Near enough that they could hear her cry out and close enough to visually see it.

At some point into the evening, Lindy went to check on Azaria and disturbed an animal rustling in the tent. An animal that ran away with something in its mouth. Lindy frantically searched the sleeping bags and blankets, saw blood droplets and started screaming the now infamous line - "A dingo's got my baby!"

Instantly the camp went on super high alert. Campers pulled their cars around and left the headlights on to illuminate the area as much as possible. EVERYONE started searching the immediate area and calling for backup. At daylight the search went into an even more frantic mode with the parents completely freaking out.

A murder trial ensued of epic and vile proportions. A trial that ended in a guilty verdict and life sentence in prison for poor Lindy.

What happened? How could people turn against the family and think they made up the entire dingo story and secretly at some point that afternoon, killed their infant daughter, stashed the body and then went on to barbecue and laugh with fellow campers?

Call it the "Ramsey Syndrome". Remember when Jon Benet was killed and the entire world vilified Patsy and Jon Ramsey for not "acting normal", for blocking police access and yada yada?

Lindy and Michael, divorced since 1991, were at the time - Seventh Day Adventists. They both had a deep sense of faith and legitimized almost all things with a blase "It's God's will", "The Lord works in mysterious ways", "It's want God wanted", "Little Azaria is in Heaven now."

This, just as in the Ramsey case, was not what people wanted to hear or see. The parents weren't "acting right." Who in their right mind, could lose a child one day and wake up the next saying it's God's will? Psycho killers that's who. And so the witch hunt on Lindy began.

Blood drops in the car confirmed what people "knew". The Chamberlains murdered their baby.

Years later, a bloodstained sweater was found. A tiny infant sized piece of clothing that confirmed Lindy's story. It was found not only in the dirt of Ayers Rock BUT RIGHT NEXT TO A DINGO DEN. HOLY MOLY! A continent reeled. How could they have been so wrong? What happened to the justice system? How could forensic evidence (blood drops) be wrong?

Well, there was blood in the tent from the initial grab of the baby and that blood was transferred on Lindy and Michael's clothing to their car. That's it. Innocent cross-contamination that damned a mother to life imprisonment.

Lindy's case was finally overturned in 1988, but the death certificate still reads, cause of death "unknown."

Lindy was released from prison but the specter of guilt has always hung over her head. On the 30th anniversary of that day, just last August, Lindy wrote a scathing letter - still fighting to clear her name.

She wants the death certificate changed to reflect what really happened.

That a dingo got her baby.

News Link

Eyewitness Account

Lindy's Trial

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