A Dingo Took Azaria: Coroner

THE fourth inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain concluded today with the Coroner ruling the baby died as a result of being taken by a dingo.

Lindy Chamberlain, the mother condemned by the Australian public and wrongfully jailed for Azaria’s death, tells her story at her website:

‘The family was staying in the public campground at Ayers Rock (now Uluru). Before the night was over her daughter was to disappear from the tent where she was sleeping. Lindy had seen a dingo coming out of the tent, and when she checked on her daughter, found her gone. There were dingo prints leading into the cold desert night and blood in the tent. But by morning, people who had not been with Lindy comforting her, or searching on that night, were already spreading wild, untrue rumours. Of sacrifice, murder, dingoes not being capable, and of weird behaviour…

As you look at the contents of this website, just for curiosity, or for research, keep foremost in your mind that this is two stories, firstly about a young life cut short. But, it is also the story of a mother who fought for justice, while struggling to keep her family together.

Above all, in everything that you do with your life, keep an open mind…

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35 Responses to A Dingo Took Azaria: Coroner

  1. Larry Fields June 13, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    A dingo is nothing but a dog whose evolution was shaped by natural selection, rather than by deliberate breeding on the part of humans. And dogs do occasionally kill babies.

    Several years ago, I remember reading about such a tragedy here in Nth California. A woman was jailed for some offense, and her baby was placed in foster care. The irresponsible ‘caregiver’ kept a German Shepherd in the house, and the dog killed the baby.

    The first rule for dogs and very small children living in the same household is that one never leaves the child alone with the dog, not even for a minute. If one needs to do some cooking or housework, put the dog out in the backyard.

  2. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Indeed a timely post Jen and I loved what Michael Chamberlain said that establishing what happened had taken ”too long”. ”However, I am here to tell you that you can get justice even when you think that all is lost.”
    I recall listening to the result of the first inquest in 1981 and when the Commission was taking place in Sydney I went a couple of times during my lunch hour to see Chester Porter (Counsel assisting) in action. Lindy looked very glamorous.
    This case has had it all – a tragic event, a lovely young mother, so far as I recall scientific fraud, an abandonment of the rules of disclosure and as John Bryson puts it:
    Nowhere is more affecting than the outline of foundations of the Red Sands Motel where, in the bar on the night after the search began, the first journalists here drink with police who have flown in from Alice Springs. A detective and a journalist are vehement in their denial of the Chamberlains’ version. No history of a death this way ever before, becomes their frequent jibe. The detective storms away, returns with a plastic bucket of sand. This is the weight of Azaria Chamberlain. He insists each try to hold it for one minute in the teeth. Perhaps because of the laughter, none is able.

    A silly incident, but the first of many trials and experiments in laboratories and in the field, with which it has in common three notable aspects: it is kept secret, it is not subjected to testing, and it begins a fresh set of rumours against the Chamberlains.

    Precisely here, and at this moment, humankind took over from a dingo the harassment of that depleted family; at this moment began the contagious scepticism that would infect a core of investigators with a belief in the Chamberlains’ guilt so deeply that they would deny the usual practice of fair disclosure, gather evidence later exposed as fallacy, open proceedings against the Chamberlains in a secret court, manage the reporting of a looming prosecution by news releases to friendly journalists, forbid their scientists to release their findings for peer review, destroy evidence of blood testing so it could not be examined at the trial, cause this family to suspect they are the tragic playthings of their God, and press to a successful conclusion the Azaria murder case, this vast, stupendous fraud.

    There was an experienced dogger who worked for my father and he always said dingoes could carry babies, they can carry lambs quite big ones and the weight is similar

    I hope the Heiner affair can also result in justice

  3. John Sayers June 13, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    In her book, The Passing of the Aboriginals, Daisy Bates wrote that the worst problem faced by the central Australian Aboriginals was that dingoes would sneak into their camps at night and steal their babies.

  4. spangled drongo June 13, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    If you’ve ever killed and butchered a bullock in the unfenced far west while encircled by literally hundreds of yodelling dingoes looking for every oportunity for a feed, you would have to understand how likely it was from the outset.

    Dingoes are not particularly good or natural hunters and like the Asian pariah dogs they are related to, they are sneaky and cunning and rely on easy, opportunist pickings.

  5. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    spangled did you have any dogs with you? I’d be interested to hear how they reacted to that

  6. spangled drongo June 13, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Val, the expanses were too wide and dry for working dogs to survive. We had one bluey at the homestead as a family pet but any time we tried working with dogs [which was a much more efficient way to work stock] the workload [long, dry distances] killed them.

    We had a mustering contract once and we thought we would use dogs because the seasons were good so we went to town with anniseed on our boots and picked up about 20 stray dogs. In spite of the good season those valiant mongrels [who relished the work] nearly all died.

    BTW, that part of the continent [Birdsville, Betoota, Innamincka] had never had dingoes in it up till around WW2 and it was all sheep country. The dingoes moved in and the wool industry had to shut down as the big runs could not be economically dingo proofed. Cordillo Downs, in the NE corner of South Aust had a big wool scour where the Afghan camel trains took the wool to the rail-head at Marree. In the channel country pack camels and pack horses persisted well into the mechanised age because they were the only means of getting across the channels.

    Sorry to waffle on but it brings back memories.

  7. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    and what memories spangled, give us more!
    I was brought up on the banks of the Paroo about 3 miles from where the railway line crosses
    My father ran sheep in the sixties and the dingo problem was bad, I remember my father telling of how he stayed in a tree overnight with a gun near a waterhole where the dingoes came to water (usually in the early dawn). He was hoping to shoot a few. During the night he heard rustling in the tree overhead and thought it was birds stirring. When the false dawn came he could see that there was a large brown snake above him. He got down very quickly and didn’t wait around for the dingoes. The doggers in those days used bile from a sheep’s gallbladder when they set traps – I think to attract dogs but it may have been an antidote to human smell – it certainly smelt very strongly. I’ve never seen a dingo in the wild though I was pretty close at dawn one day when a couple got a mob of sheep into a corner and killed a couple of lambs.
    and yes it would be pretty expensive to dingo proof a large holding

  8. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    I should congratulate Stuart Tipple, Lindy and Michael’s lawyer throughout their ordeal, I’d love to read his memories of the case sometime

  9. spangled drongo June 13, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Val, I was out on the Paroo recently. The nests of waterbirds were amazing.

    Another reason dogs weren’t used was we were always baiting dingoes and it was too risky for them. There was a govt bounty of a quid a scalp when 10 quid was a good wage and you could make a good little earner on that alone. We would shoot a wild donkey or camel and cut it up and lace the baits with strychnine.

    An energetic young feller could earn the price of an FJ in 3 months.

    In the ’80s, during the trial, all the bumper stickers stated sarcastically,”a dingo dun it”.

    An interesting exercise in mob psychology brought about mainly by the media.

    What does it remind you of?

  10. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I think to be fair spangled a lot of responsibility rests with the key Crown scientific witnesses, they were wrong and proved to be wrong in due course; some people say it’s a fault of the adversary system, like the scientific witnesses the Crown and the police were defensive of their initial positions, some the public did become involved with their opinions (for and against guilt) but without the key Crown scientific witnesses that would never have happened; as you say there certainly eventually was what could be described as ‘mob psychology’ but there were also journos and people supportive of the Chamberlains; most people expert in the bush who had knowledge of dingoes who I’ve met certainly always thought a dingo did it

    Did you see any brolgas on the Paroo, did you go fishing, do you have any photos?

  11. Ian Thomson June 13, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    There was also the problem of the tracker being a woman who had to speak through her husband. Therefore her evidence was ‘hearsay’. An astute prosecution,would have known all this. Too late to point fingers now.
    Not too late to be wary of wild dogs though, with interesting varieties including crosses with maremma strays in one place.

    SD, Your intimate , hands on, knowledge of the rivers and bush is something which often shines through from contributors on here. How sad that it is such a rare thing among those who decide our future.

    There were brolgas running around across the road at Toorale before the real wet , but that was before the politicians found the place and it was well managed for predators. I haven’t heard whether things have gone badly feral there yet as they surely will. However that is not a long way from the Paroo.

  12. Ian Thomson June 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    previous post- I meant that it was well managed before the pollies, not after. didn’t word that really well, did I ?

  13. Debbie June 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    1000’s of pairs of Brolgas as well as numerous other water birds in the MIA. Especially in the last 2 seasons.
    No dingoes here but the foxes and wild cats are a problem for the water birds.
    Foxes can take lambs as can wedge tailed eagles. Dingoes are bigger, stronger and equally cunning.
    It’s amazing it has taken this long for ‘the establishment’ to admit that it’s possible for a dingo to take/carry a baby.

  14. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Ian the way you worded that was quite funny unless the reader happened to have a fondness for politicians, I recall Bligh and Garret on the banks of the Paroo when it was declared to be part of the wild rivers area and I thought they could have done with a good predator or two – maybe one of those stirry mickeys which never appear when you want them

    Where on earth is Tooralee, I looked for it on whereis.com – charleville to tooralee but the map took me to a sydney suburb

    and Debbie I think a dingo’s jaws would be much stronger than a fox’s (but I’m no expert)

  15. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    sorry Ian, I’ve found it – beautiful http://www.pleasetakemeto.com/australia/toorale/information

  16. Robert June 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    The big consideration when talking about animal behaviour is individuality. All animals are individuals, and one type of individual is the radical. Animals survive as groups by having experimenters within those groups: those who eat, drink or attack new things, go to different places. You can plant a type of tree and wallabies leave it alone for a decade, while other trees are devoured instantly. Suddenly, a member of the group, through curiosity, desperation, bravado, mate-seeking etc etc, gets a taste for the “untouchable”. Soon everyone is eating it – unless the radical/show-off member came a cropper with its experiment.

    To keep browsers off my bamboo shoots in spring I have to use very fresh blood-and-bone. I only use the stuff for the three weeks it’s really needed, then there must be none of it used anywhere on my property. Why? Because it only takes one wallaby to decide the stuff doesn’t taste and smell so scary after all.

    How can one say what an animal will or won’t do? It’s all a punt, within a few loose guidelines. I guess understanding begins with Montaigne’s question: “What do I know?” Sadly, that’s been replaced by: “What can I publish?” in certain fields of inquiry.

  17. John Sayers June 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Debbie – I heard recently that an Alpaca in the herd will defend sheep against foxes, cats and wedge tailed eagles. Apparently they will stomp a fox to death with their front feet.

    A local farmer told me he shoots wedge tailed eagles as they will skin a lamb alive!!

  18. spangled drongo June 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Val, we were camped at Bowra Station near the Warrego, birding, and there were plenty of Brolgas on the cultivation there. I don’t do much photography as there are others in the group that are much better at it.

    With blighted eyes and blistered feet,
    With stomachs out of order,
    Half mad with flies and dust and heat
    We’d crossed the Queensland Border.

    “But where,” said I’ “s the bloomin’ stream”,
    And he replied, “we’re at it”.
    I stood awhile, as in a dream,
    “Great Scott”, I cried, “is THAT it?”

    [Excerpts of global warming on The Paroo River by Henry Lawson circa 1890]

    However it’s been a fabulous stream of late.

    Ian, because dingoes are cowardly, cunning, sneaky, jackall-like, surviving opportunists, they have never been well regarded by anyone who has had much to do with them and crossing them with almost anything would improve them. When cats, dogs, foxes and pigs are fat and sleek the dingo is still skin and bone.

    The fact that they would rob your camp while you were absent or take an unattended new born baby yet a pack of several hundred would not attack one lone man butchering a bullock sums them up. John Sayer’s comment above is interesting.

    Debbie, are those Brown Bitterns still about down your way? What was the name you had for them?

  19. John Sayers June 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    SD – when our first ships sailed into Sydney Cove the local Aboriginal tribe were a dingo society – the chief’s dingo was the lead dingo and his wife’s bitch was the lead dingo bitch.

    Apparently some smart arsed soldier rode into their camp and threw out poisoned meat killing all the dingoes that ate it, including the chief’s. The tribe went into mourning for over a week.

    When they discovered that the white man’s dogs barked at strangers they all wanted to trade their dingoes for a whiteman dog because when you live in a society based on payback it’s handy if you have a protectionist dog.

  20. Debbie June 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Certainly are SD.
    We call them bull birds. They make a very distinctive sound. They’ve moved to the low lying swamps as the rice harvest is over. They’ll no doubt be back next season along with a plethora of other water birds.
    We could do without those whistler ducks though. They turn up in plague proportions (despite the fact that they’re supposed to be endangered) and they make a real mess.
    We love the brolgas. Nearly every year about 50 pairs of them congregate in one of our paddocks for a couple of days. I don’t know why they do that. It’s a marvellous spectacle. After that we nearly always have about 6 pairs hanging out on our properties for the full season.
    Some of the farmers here do have Alpacas John. They seem to help.
    Our biggest problems in our sheep are town dogs and crows. The crows are especially bad when ewes are lambing. They will gang up on a new born lamb and kill it if the ewe is not up and at it straight away.
    Foxes also cause us a few problems although they’re usually a much bigger problem for the native birds and they also get the tortoise.
    Have seen a wedge tail take a lamb a few times. It’s infuriating but it doesn’t happen that often. The crows are a much bigger nuisance.
    I’m glad we don’t have dingoes. Friends from other areas have told us what a huge nuisance they are.
    So are the feral dogs that are roaming some of the national parks. I believe they’re often cross bred with dingoes.

  21. Geoff Brown June 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Val gives the link
    beautiful http://www.pleasetakemeto.com/australia/toorale/information

    And the link goes to:

    “Toorale is a barren isolated town in the New South Whales outback.” I’ve heard of Southern Right Whales but what are these New South Whales and what are the doing in the outback

  22. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Geoff, that’s a funny comment, New South Wales is one of the Australian States and yes it has a lot of the outback which spangled has talked about in previous comments here; I’ve been to Bourke where Tooralee is located and didn’t see any Southern Right Whales though if you spent enough time in one of the local pubs I’ve got no doubt you could see anything

    and I was thinking we got a long way in our discussion today from the Chamberlains and just coming back to their experience I suppose the lesson for each of us to learn from their terrible experience with the legal system is ‘that could be me’; that’s the lesson I’ll take from it anyway and I do applaud them and their lawyer for their courageous and non vindictive stance during the time from 1981 to 2012 when due process occurred

    Did anyone see the cartoon in the Oz today, starts off with Lindy saying ‘a dingo took my baby’ then there’s a box with dates 1981-2012 titled ‘due process’ and the third box is the magistrate saying to Lindy ‘a dingo took your baby’

  23. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    the Hilton bombing case is another case which comes to mind http://www.sosnews.org/newsfront/?p=132
    it occurred in 1978 and it took until 1991 for one of the convicted bombers (anderson) to be released
    I worked for a time in the firm which represented anderson

  24. val majkus June 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    another major injustice case is the Birmingham Six – that case took from 1975 from conviction to freedom read about them here http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/mar/12/gareth-peirce-birmingham-six

    as the article says Has there been a happy ending? Research shows the wrongly convicted suffer irreversible psychological damage far greater than that sustained even by the survivors of major physical trauma. Yet the state fails to provide any expert (or indeed any) aftercare; more than one appellant who has emerged seemingly triumphantly from the Court of Appeal has within weeks been reduced to sleeping on the pavements.

    Happily this did not happen in the Chamberlain case but the Chamberlains are to be pitied and admired for their courageous stance in the face of events that thankfully will not happen to most of us

  25. Stephen Williams June 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I think that she should never have been convicted, however there was human involvement. I can see why the coroner was inclined to make a finding of ‘Death by Dingo’. The coroner should explain how she interpreted the evidence of human involvement and why she thought it did not contribute to the death. There were very good reasons for previous inquests to come up with open findings.

  26. Geoff Brown June 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Val: “Geoff, that’s a funny comment, New South Wales is one of the Australian States…” In fact the state that just won the 2nd state of origin.

    The point was, val, that your link said; “…“Toorale is a barren isolated town in the New South Whales outback.” The New South Whales outback….. Whales…. have a look at your link. Did the author of the piece in your link know that it is Wales and not Whales? I don’t think so!

  27. val majkus June 14, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    I’m such a dill!

  28. jennifer June 14, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    You are no dill.
    Back on topic… Yes, the scientists got it wrong in then Azaria case. Terribly wrong.

  29. val majkus June 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    thanks Jen, you’re too kind

    I’m off to the big smoke tomorrow (Brisbane) a long way from brolgas and whistling ducks

  30. val majkus June 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    btw Lindy is on The Project tonight (channel 10)
    She’s there to be heard so I’m going to listen

  31. Debbie June 15, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    I bet there are dingoes and other wild dogs in the outlying areas, cleaning up unsuspecting wildlife and scavenging from human refuse.
    Apparently the dingoes have started to become a huge nuisance on the outskirts of Darwin. They have developed a taste for pet ‘designer dogs’ among other things.

  32. spangled drongo June 15, 2012 at 8:24 am #


    “Yes, the scientists got it wrong in then Azaria case. Terribly wrong.”


  33. bazza June 15, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    How shameless using this sad topic to launch an attack on scientists. At least most have an open mind on evidence, unlike denialists and dingos perhaps. ( as spangled noted :dingoes are cowardly, cunning, sneaky, jackall-like, surviving opportunists)

  34. Debbie June 15, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Perhaps you need to be less sensitive and pay attention to why those attacks are happening?
    It is NOT a wholesale attack on scientists. It is rather a criticism of specific behaviour patterns that are not exclusive to scientists.
    Just for a start, Jen is a scientist.

  35. Robert June 15, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    There is something in the clammy, matey manner of Flannery that appeals greatly to a certain audience. It really would not matter what he claimed as truth or admitted as error. They just love him.

    For the rest of us, Tim Flannery is not just a sly careerist but utterly dull, and his public prominence a complete mystery.

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