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Close to Final Word on Azaria Chamberlain Dingo Case

The New York Times notes that “thirty-two years ago, 9-week old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from a campsite in the Australian outback, and her mother’s claim that a dingo took the child caused a storm of public outrage and disbelief.”

The saga reached far beyond Australia when it inspired “Cry in the Dark,” a 1988 movie starring Meryl Streep. And as popular culture transmuted tragedy into morbid comedy, a misquote from the movie, “A dingo ate my baby!,” caught on, popping up in “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and other shows.


The reason the whole story became so well known, of course, was that in reality it has remained unclear whether the dingo did it. And over the ensuing decades, the human drama and the figure of the dingo, Australia’s enigmatic wild dog, have become entangled. Like the wolf in America, the dingo is a symbol that may mean one thing to hunters or sheep ranchers and another to scientists and nature lovers.


Now the Chamberlain case, and dingoes themselves, are back in the spotlight. On Feb. 24, testimony ended in the fourth coroner’s inquest on Azaria’s death, and the office of the Northern Territory coroner, which held the inquest, said a ruling would be handed down within the next two months. This time, the Chamberlain family hopes that the coroner will conclude, once and for all, that a dingo killed Azaria.

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