Since filmmakers released A Cry In The Dark in 1988, dozens of sitcoms and reality shows over the years have referenced the phrase "A dingo ate my baby!" The expression is based on a true incident. The story of 2-month-old Azaria Chamberlain's death begins in August 1980, when a young Australian family lost their infant daughter during a camping trip. The Azaria Chamberlain death story gripped the world, as the public watched the Chamberlains endure a media trial.
In 1982, Australian courts sentenced Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton to a life sentence in prison for killing her child. Azaria’s father, Michael Chamberlain, received an 18-month sentence as an accessory. Both parents adamantly maintained a dingo took Azaria from their tent. They also alleged the wild dog killed and devoured the infant.
At the time of Azaria’s disappearance, there were no documented cases of dingoes attacking or killing humans, even small children. But over the years, similar cases have come to light, helping to vindicate the Chamberlain family. In 1986, Australian authorities released Chamberlain-Creighton from prison. In 2012 - 32 years later - investigators officially ruled Azaria’s death as the result of a dingo attack.
The Baby Disappeared From Her Parents' Tent
In 1980, Australian couple Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain had two little boys and a new baby girl, Azaria. They were a quiet, religious family, belonging to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In August, the family decided to take a camping trip to central Australia, around the famed Uluru rock.
On the night of August 17, 9-week-old Azaria disappeared from her parent's tent. Her panicked parents notified authorities. Extensive searches yielded no clues. Chamberlain-Creighton told the police she believed a dingo had taken the child, claiming she had seen the wild dog go into the tent.
Bloodstained Clothes Were Found Nearby
On August 24, a week after Azaria vanished, a tourist named Wallace Goodwin found a bloodstained jumpsuit, singlet, booties, and diaper a short distance away from where the baby had disappeared. Forensic investigators believed someone had ripped the jumpsuit after the infant’s death.
Goodwin later testified that as a regular camper, he had noticed a change in the wild life’s behavior, specifically the dingoes. He reported the animals approached the campsite without hesitation, whereas they used to avoid human interaction. Goodwin also maintained he had not touched the infant’s clothes, which he found with the legs of the jumpsuit sticking up in the air.
Michael Chamberlain Was Noticeably Calm During The Search
Following Azaria’s disappearance, a chain of almost 300 people formed to search the surrounding area for a trace of the baby's whereabouts. Reportedly, Chamberlain-Creighton frantically helped to lead the search chain while her husband appeared calm.
Michael Chamberlain spoke to a fellow tripper and stated: "She's probably dead now," referring to the alleged dingo attack. He followed this up with the affirmation that he was a "minister of the gospel." Chamberlain allegedly did not participate in the initial search, although he publicly denied these rumors.
An Inquest Suggested Foul Play
Initially, the coroner agreed with the Chamberlains: he concluded that a wild dog took baby Azaria. However, he did think the infant's bloody clothing showed signs of interference by "person or persons unknown." In September 1981, authorities opened a second inques.
Investigators claimed to have discovered suspicious markings on the baby's jumpsuit - specifically, around the garment's neck. Examiners proposed someone had intentionally slit the child's throat. Analysts also maintained in ultraviolet photographs of the same garment, the image of a small, adult hand appeared. Based on these and other findings, Australian authorities arrested both Chamberlains and charged them with Azaria's murder in February 1982.