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Australian court re-examines famed dingo case

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Australia is for the fourth time investigating the death of baby Azaria Chamberlain, who her parents say was taken by a dingo in the desert about 30 years ago.

Anne Lade, a former police officer hired by the court to investigate the 1980 death, told a packed courtroom on Friday that in the years since Azaria disappeared, there have been numerous dingo attacks on humans, including three fatal ones.

Azaria Chamberlain's mother, Lindy, was convicted and later cleared of murdering her child and has always maintained that a wild dog took the baby.

Rex Wild, a lawyer assisting the coroner, described several of the attacks and said he believed the evidence showed that a dingo could have been responsible for Azaria's death.

"Although it [a dingo killing a child] may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 ... it shouldn't be by 2011-12,'' he said.

"With the additional evidence in my submission, your honour should accept on the balance of probabilities that the dingo theory is the correct one.''

Azaria's death certificate still lists the cause of death as "unknown".

'Dangerous' dingoes

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and her ex-husband Michael Chamberlain sat through Friday's hearing which they hope
will see Azaria's death certificate changed to say she was killed by a dingo.

"It gives me hope that this time that Australians will finally be warned and realise that dingoes are a dangerous animal," Chamberlain-Creighton told journalists outside the court.

"And I also hope that this will give a final finding which closes the inquest into my daughter's death which so far has been standing open and unfinished."

Nine-weeks-old Azaria vanished during a family vacation to Ayers Rock, the giant red monolith now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru.

Fellow campers told police they heard a low growl followed by a baby's cry shortly before Chamberlain-Creighton, who had been making dinner at a nearby barbecue area, went to check on her daughter.

Chamberlain-Creighton said she saw a dingo run from the tent and disappear into the darkness. There were dingo prints outside the tent, and spots of blood on the bedding.

Azaria's body was never found, though her torn and bloodied jumpsuit turned up in the surrounding desert.

Public opinion

Officials, doubtful that a dingo was strong enough to drag away a baby, charged Lindy with murder.

Prosecutors said she slit Azaria's throat in the family car, which initial forensic tests said was splashed with baby's blood, and buried her in the desert. Lindy was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Years later, more sophisticated tests found that the "blood" in the car was a combination of milk and a chemical sprayed during manufacture.

Three years into Lindy's prison sentence, a jacket Azaria had been wearing was found by chance near a dingo den. Lindy was released from prison and her conviction was overturned.

Still, three separate coroner's inquests have failed to agree on a cause of death for Azaria. The last inquest, held in 1995, returned an inconclusive finding, with the coroner saying there was not enough evidence to prove a dingo was responsible.

Since then, the Chamberlains have gathered new evidence of around a dozen dingo attacks on children, three of them fatal, said their lawyer, Stuart Tipple. That evidence was presented to Morris, the coroner, for consideration at Friday's inquest.

Australians have followed the case closely since it began, and most have strong opinions. Although public support for Lindy has grown over the years, many still doubt that a dingo could have killed Azaria.


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