Lindy Chamberlain pardoned despite dingo story not being believed

  • 03/01/2017
Linda Chamberlain Azaria dingo
Lindy Chamberlain was pardoned in 1987 after being sentenced to life for her baby daughter's death in 1980 (AAP file)

Authorities didn't believe Lindy Chamberlain's story that a dingo stole her baby Azaria, but they also didn't believe she should have gone to jail for murder, newly released cabinet documents have revealed.

The former New Zealand woman who famously shouted "the dingo's got my baby" after Azaria's disappearance on a family camping trip in Uluru was jailed for the murder of her nine-week-old daughter after a trial that gripped Australia.

At the time of the disappearance in August 1980 Azaria's bloodied jumpsuit and nappy were found half-buried near a dingo's den, but a jury accepted prosecutors' claims Mrs Chamberlain killed her daughter with scissors in the family car, then staged a dingo attack.

But it was the discovery of Azaria's matinee jacket six years later that changed things.

Azaria Chamberlain dingo
Azaria Chamberlain disappeared in August 1980 (File)

By then Mrs Chamberlain had served three years of a life sentence. Her then-husband Michael Chamberlain, who was found guilty of being an accessory, had been given an 18-month suspended sentence.

"[It] opened up a whole can of worms ... we had to find some way to get the whole case reviewed," former Northern Territory chief minister Stephen Hatton told the ABC.

"We didn't believe the dingo story, but we didn't believe Lindy should be in jail for murder, we thought it was a harsh outcome."

New legislation was introduced to allow for a review with a wide scope "given other doubts and questions in the minds of some of the public", according to then-Northern Territory attorney-general Marshall Perron in the cabinet documents released for the first time on January 1.

Most of the evidence at trial related to Azaria's clothing, but after the jacket was found it was decided its condition might shed further light on the baby girl's disappearance.

A review eventually led to both Lindy and Michael Chamberlain being pardoned in 1987.

After a fourth inquest in 2012 the cause of death on Azaria's death certificate was changed to "the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo".