Asia-Pacific

Dingo baby case re-opens in Australia with new inquest

Australia is launching a new inquiry into the 1980 death of baby Azaria Chamberlain, whose parents always said she was killed by a dingo.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were convicted over the 10-week old baby's death in 1982 but later cleared after evidence indicated a dingo attack.

A third inquest, held in 1995, recorded an open verdict, but the parents say that has left room for doubt.

Mr Chamberlain said he had been told an inquest could take place in early 2011.

Image caption Azaria's parents were cleared over her death in 1988

Both he and his now former wife, Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton, had been asked to submit new evidence to the Northern Territories registrar of births, deaths and marriages, he said.

Mr Chamberlain told ABC News there would always be people who "out of prejudice and lack of knowledge or lack of facts" would blame him and his former wife.

He said the open verdict in 1995 had "sullied the waters" and "made us look like we might have been potentially guilty again".

"It's justice for Azaria. Her spirit does not rest because the truth was never told about how she actually died," he said.

Mr Chamberlain said his lawyers were now gathering evidence about other dingo attacks, including the killing of a nine-year-old child by two dingoes in 2001.

"They confuse human prey with animal prey and look upon them as fair game no matter what they are, a kangaroo, a calf, a lamb, a wallaby or a baby," he said.

Any inquest should also investigate the original police investigation, said Mr Chamberlain, following long-standing accusations from both parents that the forensics teams lost or mishandled evidence.

Chance discovery

Virtually ever since Azaria disappeared from a campsite near Uluru (Ayers Rock) in 1980, Australia has been engrossed by the question of whether she was taken by a dingo, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

Two years after her death, Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton was found guilty of her baby's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, while Mr Chamberlain was found guilty of being an accessory.

Both were later exonerated on all charges, after the chance discovery of a fragment of Azaria's clothing in an area dotted with dingo lairs.

In August this year, Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton issued an emotional open letter calling for the dingo attack to be officially acknowledged.

Three coronial inquests, two appeals and a Royal Commission have so far failed to conclusively find the cause of Azaria's death.

But while her parents have been exonerated by law, they remain the victims of innuendo and gossip, says our correspondent, and as long as the cause of death officially remains unknown, the rumours will continue.

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