A coroner has ruled that a dingo snatched baby Azaria Chamberlain in the Australian desert over 30 years ago. The ruling ends a notorious case that saw the baby's mother jailed and later cleared of the murder.
A 32-year-old legal case was closed on Tuesday when coroner Elizabeth Morris ruled that a dingo was responsible for the death of nine-week old Azaria, who disappeared from a tent in a camping ground near Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, in 1980.
"I find that a dingo took Azaria and dragged her from her tent," Morris told a courtroom in Darwin, adding that the evidence was sufficiently "adequate, clear, cogent and exact."
"It is clear that there is evidence that in particular circumstances a dingo is capable of attacking, taking and causing the death of young children," she said.
Morris went on to express her condolences to the Chamberlain family, who had always maintained that a wild dog had taken their baby.
"Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special loved daughter and sister Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss," she said.
Azaria's mother Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, who was jailed for three years over her daughter's death before she was exonerated, said she was relieved the family's 30-year fight for justice had come to an end.
"Obviously, we are relieved and delighted to come to an end of this saga," she told reporters outside the courtroom.
"No longer will Australia be able to say dingoes are not dangerous and only attack when provoked. We live in a beautiful country, but it is dangerous."
The mother's role in the case had long divided opinion and fascinated the Australian public. It even inspired a Hollywood movie in 1988, starring Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.
Her conviction and that of her then husband Michael, who was given a suspended term for being an accessory, were overturned in 1988 after a piece of Azaria's clothing was found near a dingo lair.
It was the fourth coroner's inquiry into the 9-week-old girl's disappearance. An inquest in 1995 recorded an open finding.
The case was reopened after new information from the Chamberlains' counsel about dingo attacks came to light. It included evidence relating to a nine-year-old boy who was killed by a wild dog in 2001 and a two-year-old girl who died in 2005.
ccp/mr (AFP, AP, Reuters)