It was obvious to us, and our fellow campers, that Azaria had been taken by a dingo. Aboriginal trackers confirmed this, as did the finding of the Coroner Denis Barritt at the inquest. How then did my wife Lindy come to be convicted of murder and to be sentenced to life imprisonment at a trial in Darwin two years later? And why did it take another six years for that verdict to be quashed by a Federal Royal Commission and a Federal Appeals Court?
As the author says in his preface, few adult Australians would not have heard of the Azaria Chamberlain case. In August 1980, nine week old Azaria disappeared from the tent where she slept at Ayers Rock (now known by its traditional name, Uluru). Azaria’s mother, Lindy, saw a dingo near the tent before discovering her absence and campers, trackers and searchers all saw evidence of dingo footprints and drag marks. Yet Lindy Chamberlain was eventually charged, found guilty and imprisoned for the alleged murder of her daughter, and Michael Chamberlain, her husband, was found guilty of being an accessory to this fact. The evidence used to convict them was both flimsy and flawed, seemingly based more on people’s liking of dingoes and misunderstanding of the Chamberlain’s Seventh Day Adventist religion, than on any scientific fact. Misreporting and manipulation by the media aided the swell of public opinion against the Chamberlains, and mishandling by investigators and the legal system meant that this was a case which even 32 years later is still both raw and incomplete.
In Heart of Stone Michael Chamberlain shares his heartbreaking and courageous journey from proud new father, to grieving father, to victim and on to a strong campaigner for justice. He gives an intimate insight into his life and that of his family and supporters through the troubled years since Azaria’s death, and explains both how and why he sought – and continues to seek – justice.
It is doubtful that any other legal case has ever or will ever, arouse as much public interest and speculation as this case did and Heart of Stone provides readers with a chance to explore the case intimately, as well as to question how and why the Chamberlain family became victims of a terrible miscarriage of justice as well as of a powerful groundswell of public judgement. For those who remember the case and perhaps formed their own judgements at the time, Heart of Stone may also cause a rethink.
Heart of Stone: Justice for Azaria , by Michael Chamberlain
New Holland, 2012
Avaialble from good bookstores or online