Australia mother slams 'lies' 30 years after dingo took baby

By Talek Harris

SYDNEY, Tuesday 17 August 2010 (AFP) - Lindy Chamberlain Tuesday remembered "beautiful little Azaria" and slammed Australia's media, 30 years after a dingo apparently snatched her baby at Ayers Rock in a case which caused a worldwide sensation.

Chamberlain said she had forgiven the press and authorities' actions over the child's disappearance, for which she spent three years in jail, but hit out at media errors and "lies" which led to her murder conviction, since quashed.

"Our family will always remember today as the day truth was dragged in the dirt and trampled upon," Chamberlain wrote in an open letter on her website (www.lindychamberlain.com).

"But more than that it is the day our family was torn apart forever because we lost our beautiful little Azaria. She will always ever be what this ongoing fight for justice has been all about."

Azaria was just nine weeks old when she went missing on August 17, 1980 during a camping trip to Ayers Rock, since renamed Uluru, the evocative red monolith in the heart of Australia's Outback.

Chamberlain was jailed for murder two years later, despite an initial inquest which backed her explanation the baby was snatched by a dingo, Australia's native wild dog. The body was never found.

The convictions of Chamberlain and her then husband Michael, who was given a suspended term for being an accessory, were overturned in 1988 after the chance find of a piece of Azaria's clothing near a dingo lair.

A third inquest in 1995 recorded an open finding, in a case which continues to fascinate the Australian public and still makes front-page headlines, three decades later.

It inspired 1988 hit film "A Cry in the Dark", starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, along with books, TV mini-series and even an opera, and was followed closely by foreign media, making it a global cause celebre.

Chamberlain, now 62, said she would not allow the events to "fester and ruin my life", but said there were details of the case she was unable to reveal.

"I have taken back control of my own life and head space and move forward. I am moving forward, not looking backward," she said.

"Unfortunately the way the law stands now I cannot tell you of any internal deals, deliberate lies, affairs or favours that I may know of that may make what happened in my case a lot clearer."

Key evidence included traces of blood in the family car, which supported the prosecution case that Chamberlain slit Azaria's throat and hid her body in a camera bag before burying it in the desert.

Meanwhile media aired wild allegations that the Chamberlains, who were Seventh-Day Adventists, belonged to a strange cult which had killed babies and that Azaria's name meant "sacrifice in the wilderness".

Chamberlain rubbished a rumour that she "hit on" policemen involved in the case ("They wish!") and said media had muddled details of the length and location of her imprisonment in recent reports.

Others involved in the case, including an Aboriginal tracker who helped search for Azaria and Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh, who was part of Chamberlain's defence team, continue to back her story.

"It seemed quite possible that a half-tame dingo would wander into the camp site," Cavanagh told AAP news agency, pointing out other dingo attacks on children including in 1998, when a 13-month-old was dragged two metres.

"I remain convinced it was a dingo, but then I was convinced 30 years ago that it was a dingo."

Chamberlain, who is now married to American Rick Creighton and lives in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, urged Australians to "give up the desire for gossip and sensationalism" and "grow a backbone".

"Come on Australia. Surely you cannot be proud of the fact that you can let yourself be duped again and again and come back for more of the same," she wrote.

"We used to be a proud nation who saw through corruption and were willing to give a fair go. How many times do you have to be hoodwinked and led along by the nose before you demand something better from our courts, police force, politicians and media?"

MySinchew 2010.08.17