BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1982: 'Trial by media' - the dingo baby case
Lindy Chamberlain was sentenced to life with hard labour for slitting her baby daughter's throat and disposing of the body while camping at Ayers Rock in central Australia.

Her claim that the baby had been taken by a dingo was dismissed - until four years later the child's matinee jacket was found partially buried in a dingo's lair - and Mrs Chamberlain was set free.

The guilty verdict aroused strong feelings in many who felt she had been given an unfair hearing.

Your memories of the dingo baby trial:

What Lindy Chamberlain was really guilty of in the eyes of many Australians was simply being perceived to be "different".

Many Australians simply took a dislike to her as a person and did not care whether she was guilty or not - they just wanted her punished anyway, regardless of the truth.

And there is no doubt that if Australia had capital punishment at the time, public pressure to kill her would have been enormous.

This may all sound very ugly, but an objective assessment of how the media played to public prejudice at the time, let alone how the authorities behaved, leaves little room for any other conclusion.

Her appalling treatment remains a great stain on Australia.
Scott D, Australia

This was trial by media and prejudice of the worst kind, which shamed Australia.

Those at Uluru on the night of Azaria's disappearance did not doubt she had been taken by a dingo; their views were not presented adequately at the trial.

At the time of her conviction, I was studying law, and wondered why I should bother, given that a furore generated by media coverage could dictate the outcome of a trial.

It was certainly justice denied, but then, Lindy Chamberlain was never going to be fairly tried in the NT, or perhaps anywhere in Australia.

Everyone had an opinion about this case, and even now, regrettably, it can cause division.

People in the suburbs related the behaviour of a dingo to that of their domestic dogs. Attacks by dingoes on Fraser Island in recent years have confirmed the threat they can pose to humans.

Lindy Chamberlain was judged because of her religious beliefs (Seventh Day Adventist) and because she apparently didn't behave according to some perceptions of how a grieving mother should behave.

The family not only suffered the loss of a beloved child but the acrimony and judgement of a nation.

John Bryson's book, later made into a film, was an important step in correcting the record.

How ironic that a tourist should fall to his death from the Rock resulting in the finding of the matinee jacket, and the subsequent overturning of her conviction.
Kate Gillespie-Jones, Australia

I know a woman who was in the same hospital with Lindy when Azaria was born. And we often talk about Azaria.

I am reading a lot of info on the net and still to this day can't find that anyone has strong enough evidence to convince me. Lindy seems like a caring mother who deserves the truth, something she may never get.
Natasha, Australia

I remember watching the evening news on October 29 1982 and being horrified at the sight of Lindy Chamberlain's anguish as she was being driven to prison after being WRONGLY convicted of slitting her baby daughter's throat in the Aussie outback.

I was shocked that the woman was sent down on such flimsy evidence, that her dingo story, which seemed totally plausible to me even back in '82, could be so cruelly dismissed out of hand.

I screamed at the TV "MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE!!" and felt helpless being thousands of miles away. I followed the case right throughout Lindy's imprisonment and subsequent exoneration.

But my abiding memory of that day in 1982 was - this woman will be proved innocent whether it takes one year or 100 years!
Adam, Ireland

I had just moved to Australia to work for two years when this case hit the news.

I have never in my life seen such a classic case of "trial by the press", in which the newspapers totally influenced the jury's idiotic decision to find Linday Chamberlain guilty of murder.

This could never have happened in Great Britain.
David Murray, Scotland

I was expecting my third child when the dingo baby trial was going on.

I read about it every day and always believed Lindy to be innocent.

About five years ago, I realised that my baby (born in October 1982) had been given the same name as one of the Chamberlain family's kids.

Step forward Aidan, named after the dingo baby's older brother!

The name hasn't held him back- he is presently reading physics at Oxford.
Carla, UK

This family suffered the loss of their child, only to be tried by the press and wrongly convicted solely on the weight on an academic opinion.
Doug Bremner, USA

 E-mail this story to a friend

Dingo skull
Experts debated whether a dingo was strong enough to kill a child

Ayers Rock
The Chamberlain family were camping at Ayers Rock when Azaria disappeared
Witness Stories

Search ON THIS DAY by date

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy