It’s likely you’ll remember the catch line in the title which pertains to this case, we Americans thought it was a joke; even today there are countless memes floating around, making fun of it. The true story behind the Dingo and the baby is anything but funny; an infant tragically lost her life and an entire family was metaphorically torn to shreds.
On August 17th of 1980 a family went camping in the Australian outback of Uluru. Lindy Chamberlain claimed that her 10 week old daughter, Azaria, was snatched up out of the family’s tent by a dingo, which from my understanding is like a wild dog which had generally not been considered dangerous to humans during this time period. Lindy claimed to have chased after the animal, but it had been no use; the perfect baby girl was gone.
It’s probably safe to say that literally no one accepted Lindy’s story. The public and authorities believed that Lindy had taken Azaria to the front seat of the family car where she slit the baby’s throat with a pair of scissors. After Azaria was dead, it was surmised that the mother had hidden the body within a large camera case. It was thought that Lindy and Michael, her husband and father of her children, then delivered the infant’s remains to a desolate part of the outback and buried Azaria where no one would ever find her.
The infants blood was found at the camp site, and soon Azaria’s onesie was discovered. There was nothing about the blood soaked onesie which pointed to a dingo: no saliva, no bite marks, nothing. Lindy stated that there had been a good reason for this: Azaria was wearing a coat over that onesie at the time of her disappearance. Again no one bought her story, it was just so far fetched. Lindy didn’t grieve the way the public thought she ought to, she wasn’t sobbing for the camera; rumors and speculation ran wild.
Religion seems to have played a role in Australian’s disdain for the Chamberlain family. Michael had been a 7 day Adventists pastor, and a large portion of Aussies hadn’t been familiar with this religion; many thought it to be a cult-like group which would sometimes sacrifice a baby. And since Lindy often wore Black and even dressed Azaria in black, many saw this as proof that the mother was evil. Even the infant’s unconventional name was used against her parents, the public believed Azaria meant “sacrifice in the wilderness” or something similar. Others were just plain upset that the playful dingo had been blamed for all of this.
As for physical evidence, a pair of scissors had been found among Lindy’s belongings, and “baby blood” was discovered in the family vehicle. At trial the prosecution surmised that Lindy had been inconvenienced by Azaria, that she’d been a difficult baby; when the infant wouldn’t stop crying, mother took a pair of scissors to her throat.
Lindy was found guilty in a court of law for the murder of her daughter, and she was sentenced to life behind bars; her pastor husband, Michael, was charged as an accessory after the fact. Through it all the couple held fast to their innocence: the dingo had been to blame.
A movie starring Meryl Streep played Lindy in the movie “A Cry In The Dark”; in this movie Meryl’s character uttered the phrase “The dingo ate my baby”. The joke blew up after Elaine from Seinfeld said it; most Americans had no clue was a dingo was, it was just a funny word. The problem with all of this is, we now know that a dingo really had taken off with baby Azaria; Lindy and Michael truly had been innocent of the whole thing. This mother had been telling the truth, and a woman grieving the horrific loss of her daughter was sent to prison. To add insult to injury, Lindy gave birth to her 4th baby while serving time behind bars. Minutes after giving birth, her baby girl, Kahlia, was placed in foster care.
Thankfully the truth came to light a little less than 4 years after Lindy was sent to prison. In 1986 that coat which Lindy had always claimed Azaria had been wearing when she was attacked was finally found, along with a diaper which appeared to have been chewed on by a dingo. The icing on the cake? These items had all been found in near proximity of a dingo den. The “baby blood” found in the family’s vehicle was finally determined not to have been blood at all, just a substance which looked like it. Lindy was set free to be with her husband and 3 surviving children, though the public still had their doubts.
In 1991 Lindy and her husband, Michael, were divorced; very few marriages could make it through something like this.
Finally, after 32 years of speculation and gossip, Lindy’s name was legally cleared once and for all. A coroner by the name of Elisabeth Morris concluded that a dingo truly had entered the tent, taken the baby, and mauled her to death.
Update on the family
Recently pastor Michael passed away. Lindy has been paid $1.3 million for false imprisonment; she’s remarried, has given multiple interviews, and even wrote a book. When asked what she’d have done differently, knowing what she knows now, Lindy stated that there’s nothing she’d change. She said that you don’t know how you’ll react to a tragedy like that until it’s happened, and everyone reacts differently.
There have been more than 400 dingo attacks recorded since baby Azaria was taken, and many of these were attacks on children and infants.
Many people today still believe Lindy guilty in one way or another; somehow it’s still her fault even if the only thing she did wrong was leave her infant unattended for a moment inside a bassinet within the tent. While researching this I came across a comment which said, “if she hadn’t taken the baby camping this wouldn’t have happened!”. It’s very obvious that many wholeheartedly dislike Lindy, but it’s difficult to understand why. I’d love to hear your take on this.
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