The growl came first, low and throaty, piercing the darkness that had fallen across the remote Australian desert. A baby’s cry followed, then abruptly went silent. Inside the tent, the infant girl had vanished. Outside, her mother was screaming: “The dingo’s got my baby!”
With those panicked words, the mystery of Azaria Chamberlain’s disappearance in the Australian Outback in 1980 became the most notorious, divisive, and baffling legal drama in the country’s history. Had a wild dog really taken the baby? Or had Azaria’s mother, Lindy, slit her daughter’s throat and buried her in the desert?
Thirty-two years later, Australian officials hope to finally, definitively, determine how Azaria died when the Northern Territory coroner opens a fourth inquest on Friday. Lindy Chamberlain, who was convicted of murdering her daughter and later cleared, is still waiting for authorities to close the case that made her the most hated person in Australia.
To the rest of the world, the case is largely known for its place in popular culture: countless books, an opera, the movie “A Cry in the Dark” starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, and the “Seinfeld” sitcom’s spoof of Lindy’s cry, “Maybe the dingo ate your baby!”