Azaria Chamberlain 40 years on: the Queensland link

The North West Star of August 18, 1980, with Michael and Lindy Chamberlain inset.
The North West Star of August 18, 1980, with Michael and Lindy Chamberlain inset.

Monday marks the 40th anniversary of one of Australia's most controversial deaths, a death with a strong Mount Isa connection.

Baby Azaria Chamberlain was barely two months old when she died at Uluru on August 17, 1980.

She was with mother and father Lindy and Michael Chamberlain when she went missing from her tent, presumed taken and eaten by dingoes.

The Chamberlains were on holidays from Mount Isa when the incident happened.

Michael Chamberlain was a New Zealand Seventh Day adventist minister who met and married Lindy in Tasmania in 1969 and they had their first son Aidan.

In 1974, Chamberlain began his media career, producing radio scripts. In 1976 the family moved to North Queensland, where second son Reagan was born and where Chamberlain continued his media activities in radio and the Cairns Post.

The family moved again this time to Mount Isa where he produced and presented a radio program called The Good Life. His work was respected for its lively and informed commentary on lifestyle and culture throughout far north Queensland.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain with baby Azaria's empty basket. Photo: North West Star archives.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain with baby Azaria's empty basket. Photo: North West Star archives.

Daughter Azaria was born in Mount Isa on June 11, 1980. Two months later, the family went for a holiday in the Northern Territory arriving at Uluru on August 16.

Azaria disappeared the following night.

"Dingo takes Mt Isa baby" read the headline in the North West Star, August 18, 1980 and the first coroner in 1981 indeed agreed a dingo had taken the child.

However with the Seventh Day Adventist Church still misunderstood in Australia, national newspapers fueled suspicions the Chamberlains killed their baby possibly as a religious sacrifice.

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Police received an anonymous tip from a man, falsely claiming to be Azaria's doctor in Mount Isa, that the name "Azaria" meant "sacrifice in the wilderness" (it actually means "God helped").

NT detectives came to Mount Isa to interview the Chamberlains and build a case against them.

There was also evidence presented that the tracksuit trousers Lindy wore on the night were bloodstained when taken to a Mount Isa dry cleaners two months after the incident, though this was never proven.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain attend court in Darwin. Photo: North West Star archives.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain attend court in Darwin. Photo: North West Star archives.

At a second inquest in 1982 coroner Gerry Galvin committed Lindy to trial for murder and Michael for being an accessory after the fact.

On October 29, 1982, in the NT Supreme Court, the couple were found guilty as charged. Lindy was jailed and Michael got a suspended sentence. Daughter Kahlia was born in Darwin on November 17, 1982.

In 1984 the High Court dismissed the Chamberlains' appeal and Michael resigned as an pastor to look after his sons while Kahlia went to foster parents.

North West Star August 18, 1980.

North West Star August 18, 1980.

In 1986 after the discovery of Azaria's matinee jacket at the base of Uluru the NT government released Lindy and ordered the inquiry. On June 2, 1987, Royal Commissioner Trevor Morling exonerated the Chamberlains. It wasn't until 2011 that the NT coroner admitted a dingo took the baby and apologised to Michael and Lindy.

But the trials put too much strain on their marriage and they divorced in 1991.

Michael remarried and had another daughter and later wrote books and taught at schools in NSW. He died in 2017.

Lindy remarried to Rick Creighton in 1992.

This story Azaria Chamberlain 40 years on: the Queensland link first appeared on The North West Star.