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The Dingo's Got My Baby

The Dingo's Got My Baby

What is the story behind the famous quote: "A dingo's got my baby"? How did it become a media sensation, a cultural meme, and a source of controversy? In this article, we will explore the history and the impact of the case of Azaria Chamberlain, the baby girl who disappeared from a campsite in Australia in 1980, and whose mother Lindy was accused and convicted of murdering her.

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The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain

On August 17, 1980, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, along with their three children, went camping at Ayers Rock (now known as Uluru) in the Northern Territory of Australia. Around 8 p.m., Lindy put her nine-week-old daughter Azaria to sleep in a tent near their car. A few minutes later, she heard a cry and went back to check on her. She claimed that she saw a dingo (a wild dog native to Australia) running away from the tent with something in its mouth. She shouted: "A dingo's got my baby!"

Despite an extensive search, no trace of Azaria was ever found. The only evidence was a bloodstained jumpsuit, booties, and nappy that were discovered about four kilometers from the campsite. The police initially believed Lindy's story, but soon became suspicious of her behavior and lack of emotion. They also found inconsistencies in her statements and the forensic evidence. They suspected that Lindy had killed Azaria in the car, cut her throat with a pair of scissors, and then staged the dingo attack.

The Trial and Conviction of Lindy Chamberlain

In 1981, a coroner's inquest ruled that Azaria had been taken by a dingo. However, the Northern Territory government ordered a second inquest in 1982, which overturned the previous verdict and charged Lindy with murder and Michael as an accessory. The case went to trial in October 1982, where the prosecution presented evidence such as bloodstains in the car, alleged fetal blood on Azaria's clothing, dingo tracks that did not match the scene, and expert testimony that a dingo could not have carried a baby without leaving marks or traces.

The defense argued that the bloodstains were from other sources, such as spilled milk or sound-deadening compound; that the fetal blood was actually from a chemical reaction; that the dingo tracks were erased by wind or rain; and that there were eyewitnesses who saw or heard dingoes near the tent. They also claimed that Lindy's calm demeanor was due to her religious faith (she was a Seventh-day Adventist) and that the media had portrayed her as a cold-blooded killer.

The jury deliberated for six hours and found Lindy guilty of murder and Michael guilty of being an accessory. Lindy was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and Michael to 18 months suspended. Lindy gave birth to her fourth child, Kahlia, while in prison.

The Media Frenzy and Public Opinion

The case of Azaria Chamberlain attracted worldwide attention and became one of the most publicized trials in Australian history. The media coverage was often sensationalized, biased, and inaccurate. Some reporters fabricated stories, invaded the Chamberlains' privacy, and harassed their friends and relatives. Some headlines called Lindy "The Dingo Witch" or "The Angel of Death".

The public opinion was also divided and polarized. Some people believed Lindy's story and sympathized with her plight. Others doubted her credibility and accused her of lying or being insane. Some people even made jokes or parodies about the case, such as "The dingo ate my homework" or "Maybe the dingo ate your baby" (a line from a Seinfeld episode).

The case also raised issues of sexism, classism, racism, and religious intolerance. Some people criticized Lindy for not conforming to the stereotypical image of a grieving mother. Some people also resented her for being an educated woman who challenged the authorities. Some people also discriminated against her for being a Seventh-day Adventist, a minority sect that was seen as cultish or strange. Some people also blamed her for disrespecting the Aboriginal culture and land by camping at Uluru, a sacred site.

The Exoneration and Apology of Lindy Chamberlain

In 1986, a chance discovery changed the course of the case. A British tourist named David Brett fell to his death from Uluru and his body was found near a dingo's lair. In the lair, the police also found a piece of Azaria's clothing: a matinee jacket that Lindy had always maintained she had put on her daughter on the night of her disappearance. The jacket had been missing for six years and its existence had been denied by the prosecution. The jacket also had dingo teeth marks on it.

The discovery of the jacket led to Lindy's release from prison and a royal commission into the case. The commission found that there was no evidence to support the conviction of Lindy and Michael and that they had been wrongly accused. The commission also criticized the police, the prosecution, the forensic experts, and the media for their mishandling of the case.

In 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeals quashed the convictions of Lindy and Michael and declared them innocent. In 1992, they received $1.3 million in compensation from the government. In 2012, a fourth coroner's inquest finally confirmed that Azaria had died as a result of a dingo attack.

In 2013, the Northern Territory government officially apologized to Lindy and Michael for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, said: "I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry for what you went through."


The case of Azaria Chamberlain is one of the most tragic and controversial cases in Australian history. It is also a case that shows how the media, the public, and the justice system can fail to uphold the truth and justice. It is a case that reminds us to be critical of what we see and hear, to be compassionate to those who suffer, and to be humble in our judgments.

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