The Strange Case Of Lindy Chamberlain, Who Did Three Years' Hard Time After A Dingo Ate Her Baby

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.

Photo: Corey Leopold / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

  • The Baby Disappeared From Her Parents' Tent

    The Baby Disappeared From Her Parents' Tent
    Video: YouTube

    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

    Bloodstained Clothes Were Found Nearby
    Photo: Mark Andrews / via Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

    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 inquest. 

    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.

  • Chamberlain-Creighton Was Accused Of Slitting Her Baby's Throat With Nail Clippers

    The prosecution accused Chamberlain-Creighton of slitting baby Azaria's throat as she held her in the front seat of the family car. The authorities had claimed to find traces of blood inside the vehicle. Although law enforcement never discovered a murder weapon, the prosecution suggested Chamberlain-Creighton could have used nail clippers or scissors to kill her child.

    Years after Azaria’s disappearance, additional testing revealed that the initial forensics investigators mistook chemicals in the car’s interior for blood splatter.  

  • The Trial Was A Media Circus

    Chamberlain-Creighton was heavily pregnant when she and her husband entered the courtroom for their murder trial. The room was packed, and the media called the hearing "the trial of the century." Between tabloids and major newspapers, the trial received widespread coverage.

    Both entered pleas of “not guilty.” The prosecution laid a case accusing Chamberlain-Creighton of slitting Azaria's throat and implied Chamberlain’s involvement. The defense maintained the dingo story, but the jury didn't believe the Chamberlains. 

    In October 1982, the Crown court convicted Chamberlain-Creighton of murder and sentenced her to life in prison. She gave birth to her second daughter, Kahlia, behind bars in November 1982. The courts also found Chamberlain guilty as an accessory after the fact. He received an 18-month suspended sentence.