'Dingo's got my baby' car now a museum piece

Last updated 13:46 20/08/2014

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The car of the New Zealander at the centre of the "that dingo's got my baby" case will be displayed in Australia's National Museum in Canberra.

Christchurch-born Michael Chamberlain was paid an undisclosed sum by the museum for the canary yellow 1977 Holden Torana, in which police alleged his 9-week-old daughter Azaria was murdered in 34 years ago this week at Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock.

He and his then wife, Lindy, originally of Whakatane, were found guilty of murdering Azaria in 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The convictions were later quashed.

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As well as the murder trial, there have been four inquests and a royal commission into the death. The family was finally given closure in 2012 when Northern Territory deputy coroner Elizabeth Morris ruled a dingo was responsible for Azaria's death.

Her verdict was what the first inquest, in early 1981, had also concluded, and what the Chamberlains had insisted since Lindy yelled: "That dingo's got my baby."

At a ceremony this week watched by family, lawyers, academics, journalists and others who had fought to overturn the Chamberlains' convictions for Azaria's death, Michael said he knew the museum would take better care of the car than he did.

"I love this car," he said.

It still has the number plates, 4ENSIC.

The Torana, which was stripped to its shell in the inquiries after Azaria's disappearance, had been sought by the museum to add to its array of artefacts, clothing, letters, photographs and film about the story.

Chamberlain, watched by his daughter, Zahra, son Aidan, daughter-in-law Amber, and first grandchild, Amelia, 9 months, said: "The case represents a gross injustice but also freedom of forensic science, which eventually saw Lindy and I exonerated in 1988.

"It was one of the worst perversions of justice and forensic science in Australian history.

"We had lived by the credo that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. It was dead wrong."

The first coroner, Denis Barritt, found in February 1981 that a dingo was responsible, but later that year, a British pathologist, Professor James Cameron, advanced the view that there had been a murder.

During a new investigation, the Torana was seized and Sydney forensic biologist Joy Kuhl claimed baby's blood was in the car and on possessions.

Royal commissioner Justice Trevor Morling found in 1987 that a reasonably instructed jury in possession of further evidence would have been compelled to acquit. The royal commission revealed there was no blood in the car, or on the Chamberlains' possessions.

Stuart Tipple, the lawyer who had doggedly represented the Chamberlains for years, said: "Our system of justice failed, but people power revealed the truth."

And John Bryson, author of Evil Angels, said there had always been voices of reason in the judiciary.

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Justice James Muirhead, the trial judge, had been so appalled by the jury's guilty verdict that he had gone on to campaign against trial by jury.

Ray Watterson, a justice campaigner from Newcastle University, said the dingo was now recognised as the apex predator that it had always been.

His students had found 200 cases of dingo-human incidents, some fatal, in Australia in the 20 years since Azaria disappeared.

Museum director Mathew Trinca said: "This story should never be forgotten by Australians. I think this collection will help the process."

-Stuff.co.nz/Newcastle Herald

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