A baby disappears from a tent near Uluru in the sandy desert of central Australia. The Aboriginal trackers say she has been taken by a dingo. But amidst a melange of sinister rumours, suspicion falls on the parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. There are no eyewitnesses, no body, no confession, no motive — and, apparently, credible evidence of their innocence. Yet the mother is convicted of murder; her husband, of concealing her crime.
The case captures the public imagination like no other in Australia’s history, and virtually divides the nation. Two appeals fail, and Lindy spends more than three years in prison before being released pending a royal commission. The convictions are quashed, but more than three decades pass before there is a finding that little Azaria was actually taken by a dingo.
Ken Crispin, QC, appeared for the Chamberlains at the royal commission. In The Chamberlain Case, he provides an authoritative account of this saga, against a backdrop of Aboriginal spirituality and the Chamberlains’ own religious beliefs. He examines the case against them at the trial, and the evidence that subsequently emerged — blood, dingoes, clothing, tracks — and he asks disturbing questions. Why were so many people convinced they were guilty? How could our legal system have failed? And could any of us fall victim to a similar miscarriage of justice?