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Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

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Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by vee8 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:07 pm

Madeleine: 'Dingo baby' mother recognises police hostility, 'forensic' discoveries and hysterical public

By LINDY CHAMBERLAIN

Last updated at 23:27 15 September 2007


This is a difficult time of year for me, bringing the kind of anniversary that any parent would dread.

It is just over 27 years since my baby daughter, Azaria, was snatched by a dingo - a wild dog - and carried away into the darkness of the Australian outback forever.

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Rush to judgment: Lindy Chamberlain, pictured on her release from jail in 1986, warns that members of the public cannot possibly know the truth about Kate McCann

The unusual circumstances, and the frenzied speculation that followed, made it one of the most notorious cases of a missing child the world has known, and it ended in the greatest miscarriage of justice Australia has ever seen.

Damned by police hostility, "forensic" discoveries and an increasingly hysterical public, I was jailed for murdering my own daughter, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

It is a state of affairs that Kate and Gerry McCann will recognise only too well.

And, as they reluctantly refocus their lives from the search for Madeleine to the case for their defence, I can say with some confidence that they have good reason to be worried.

For the parallels with my own case, while not exact, are inescapable.

Once again we have newspapers and TV stations obsessed by a single story. I can see the same public-longing for a neat solution to a tragedy. There are detectives under huge pressure.

And at the heart of it, there is a woman who has failed to play the emotive, feminine role scripted for her in this terrible soap opera.

The rush to judgment seems irresistible; but if I have learned anything it is this: that, from our position in front of the TV screens or outspread newspapers, we ordinary members of the public do not - and cannot - know the truth of what occurred that May night in Praia da Luz.

It was August 1980 when I took that fateful August camping holiday at Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory with my then husband Michael, our two boys, Aidan, six, Reagan, four, and, the latest addition to our family, Azaria, aged just nine-and-a-half weeks. We were staying at the public campsite, in the shadow of the mountain.

The simple, crucial facts are as follows. Azaria and Reagan were inside the tent asleep and I was outside, preparing food for Aidan. Three people heard Azaria cry. When I went to check, I saw a dingo emerge from the tent and disappear. I saw that Azaria was gone.

"How did it feel?" It is a question I have faced repeatedly, as you might imagine, and now, with the McCanns taking up airtime even here in Australia, I am being asked it once again.

Anyone who has actually been through the loss of a child would know that it is a question not worth asking - because there is no answer that others could understand. There are no words I could use. It is indescribable.

Like the McCanns, I was accused of behaving irresponsibly. How could I leave my children - even momentarily - in a tent that was not zipped up? This, after all, was the outback.

Yet we had been told it was safe at Ayers Rock, even though we later learned that there had been attacks around that time.

The result was the worst judgment call of my life.


Appalling ordeal: Lindy says that like the McCanns, she was accused of behaving irresponsibly

I have little doubt that the McCanns feel the same way, even though the distance between their restaurant table and Madeleine's bed was shorter than the length of my back yard at home.

What happened subsequently to destroy my life was nothing to do with a "judgment call", however, and everything to do with the circumstances that now threaten to drag down Kate and Gerry.

I understand the spectre of forensic evidence looms large for them. It was key to putting me behind bars in October 1982, and it is this aspect of my case that must be particularly alarming for the McCanns.

They have been told there is "body fluid" and "DNA" in their rented car. I was told there was a lot of my child's blood in our car.

But in my case, at least, these findings were far from forensic. The "tests" had been incompetent. Rigorous analyses conducted later showed the "blood" to be no more than copper dust, spilt milkshake and a sound-deadening chemical that was over-sprayed from the wheelarch of the car.

The most they found was a small patch of "nose excreta" with some blood attached. In other words, somebody had picked their nose and wiped it on the car seat.

In another strange echo, the McCanns' fate appears to be in the hands of scientists from England - just as mine was.

When they flew to Darwin, to give evidence, their contribution proved both incompetent and fatal.

One man claimed there was a small female handprint in blood on my baby's growsuit. That was just the dust and not even a handprint. The other man was the socalled dingo expert from London who, it emerged, had never ever set eyes on a dingo.

Even when forensics are abused, people have a tendency to go along with it.

And by the time they find out that you were innocent all along, your reputation is ruined. I was spat at and abused in the street. I was continually followed by the media. For years, I was the most reviled woman in Australia.

Looking back, perhaps the clearest comparison of all with the plight of the McCanns is the atmosphere of speculation and the terrible appetite for quick answers.

There comes a point where the public is so worked up, it wants solutions even though there aren't any; the next instalment, when there isn't one.

There is only one truly solid fact out in the open, and that is that Madeleine has gone missing.

Too many of our ideas about investigations come from TV programmes and novels. Within an hour of watching, viewers have seen all the forensic evidence and solved the crime. Better still, we have been led to feel we know the answer from early on.

Real life is not like that. Sometimes, as in my case, it can take years of hard work to establish the truth for all to see.

In the long run it cost us 2.3million in a country where you are supposedly innocent before being proved guilty.

Do I blame the media? It is hard to make a blanket judgment. A great many lies were printed. There were certainly cases where pictures of me were manipulated to make them look more sinister.

But there were some journalists who behaved honourably and helped to clear my name.

The same cannot be said of some officers in the Northern Territory police force. Like Kate McCann, I was told, "if you just admit you did it, you can go home". I had the full interview treatment.

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The emptiness never diminishes: Lindy says she wonders what daughter Azaria might have been like

In fact, I know the police started the rumour we were guilty in the first place. We can trace it back. The police don't normally use CB radio when they want to talk to each other. But they did that day.

Within hours the rumours were all over the country. From what I have seen, it looks as if something similar may be happening once again.

There is a further disturbing aspect of these cases, which is a question of looks and temperament. I lost out on both counts. My face is severe in repose. I didn't look friendly. When I showed my emotions, it was edited out so the public thought me hard. Later I tried to hide my emotions because of the media pressure and the criticism.

Some people think that Kate, too, is "not behaving right". People don't like it when a person is strong and does not show signs of hysteria. They say to themselves: "I'd break down if that were me, therefore she must be guilty."

But these people are both doctors. If your GP was the hysterical type, would you want to go to see her?

If you have ever had people hissing and booing you while you walk in front of the cameras, you too might try to keep your thoughts to yourself.

You can't win. If you cry, you're being overdramatic. If you don't cry, you're a hard-faced *****.

I want to make it clear that I do not know the McCanns and I do not know whether they are innocent or guilty. I am certain, however, that they do not deserve this level of vilification.

It is as if we have run over the hour allotted for the "show" and the viewers are saying, "Where's the answer?"

We're looking at it as if it were reality TV. Yet these people have to live their lives moment by painful moment. When the public atmosphere is like this, questions of justice or truth start to take second place.

I believe that the roots of our anxiety are deep. In particular, we need to feel that we can keep our children safe and to acknowledge to ourselves that we can't is to open ourselves to feelings of terror.

But we must not get sucked in. None of us knows the truth because we weren't there. Nobody should be speculating. Nobody even knows if little Madeleine is dead. There is a trade in children, after all.

The huge shame of what's happening now is that if the police blame the parents, the public will stop looking for her.

I have advised a number of families over the years and have been asked if I would consider helping the McCanns.

My answer is that I would talk to anybody if I thought it would help. But in saying that, the only things that truly help are to say, "Hang in there" and to give them a hug. We must each carry our own cross, hard as it may be.

I am particularly concerned at suggestions that, such is the stress of the investigation, the McCanns might end up separated from their twins.

But my own experience says this is the opposite of what should happen. My surviving children have come through it all now and I am convinced that the thing holding them together was having their parents around. They are involved.

Even small children know what's going on. When we were at court and the children were looked after by my parents, seven-year-old Aidan would come in and turn on the TV himself, saying: "It's news time. I need to know what they're saying about Mummy."

For the sanity of the McCanns and their twins, they ought to be together.

I had been in jail for more than three years when, in 1986, there was finally a breakthrough. The missing item of Azaria's clothing, a jacket, was found while police were looking for a missing British tourist.

The following year, thanks to pressure from a local reporter, I was released from jail and - in an unprecedented move - a Royal Commission was established. The forensic tests were done again, correctly. After 14 months of hearings, Michael and I were cleared.

We had to go back to court again to be formally exonerated, and yet again for compensation. Even today, no one has officially apologised.

Almost three decades on, I have a good life, even if it is very different from the one I might have expected.

For a long while I was unemployable because of the publicity, as was my new husband, Rick.

So, together, we now buy and renovate properties to earn a living.

My children are well and in the coming months both Aidan, now 34, and my daughter Kahlia, born three years after Azaria died, are getting married. I'm in the middle of the preparations as I write.

I think I am much the same person I was, although perhaps I have more empathy than in the past.

I am convinced that we cannot make judgments about other people without walking in their shoes - with the same painful corns and irritating stones.

I never forget. It can never be truly over.

The emptiness never diminishes. Azaria would be 27 now, I wonder what she might have been like, how her laugh would be, what woman she might have become.

I pray that Kate and Gerry McCann might still be spared this sadness.


Comments (7)

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I hope that someone out there heeds the advice of this truly remarkable woman! I have simply been dumbfounded at that endless slurs directed at the McCanns. It's been cruel beyond belief. And I strongly belive that conduct of this nature should be criminalized, complete with very harsh penalties, in recognition of the fact that once a reputation has been ruined in this way, the victim/s can never regain their lives again, even if they're eventually exonerated.

- Akpan, Canterbury, Kent, UK, 16/9/2007 08:59

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Thank you Lindy. People need to know about this.

- Mary Morton, Sydney, Australia, 16/9/2007 07:42

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Thank you Lindy Chamberlain I am grateful for for sharing your story and your support of Kate. I am sorry for your loss. If one woman continues to suffer at the hands of power in this ego-driven world, then all women suffer. And if one child suffers, all children suffer. Kate and Madeleine may well be the catalyst for the crumbling ego driven world so that we can all live in love, joy and compassion. Good hearts are with you Kate and Madeleine ~ Peace and wellbeing to all.

- Helen, Sydney, Australia, 16/9/2007 05:34

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I clearly remember the time when Lindy Chamberlains' trial was being conducted, and even then, as a young bloke, I couldn't understand the wave of public opinion, fuelled by the media frenzy, that swung against her and her family. We had all been taught from an early age that people were innocent until proven guilty, and this entire fiasco was simply throwing that belief out the window.

Don't follow in the same footsteps that the majority of the Australian population did back then...by presuming guilt, simply because the media are twisting facts, making suppositions and playing the same game as the police in this case.

You all need to provide 100% support for the McCanns and focus on facts only...not hyperbole as provided by all of these experts, with the media throng in hot pursuit.

Hopefully, the parents will be able to "enjoy" some positive results from investigations, and at least then we will all get some closure on a very traumatic and sad chapter in their lives.

- Rick Brittain, Cairns, Australia, 16/9/2007 00:59

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Lindy Chamberlain's grace and dignity just leaps out from what she has written here. She lost a child and suffered terrible injustice. It's pathetic that the incompetent people who let themselves get swept away in the nasty climate of the time, and let the conviction happen, have not apologised. But considering the calibre of these people, not surprising. I was ten when Azaria went missing, and in the subsequent years the way Lindy was treated in Australia was obviously unfair, even to a child. She deserves peace for the rest of her life.

- Alissa, Melbourne Australia, 16/9/2007 00:20

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A brave and most helpful article, by someone who knows.

God help anyone who loses a child in "mysterious" (ie unusual and inexplicable) circumstances.

- Jill, UK, 16/9/2007 00:00
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Re: Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by vee8 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:08 pm

This should be forcibly RAMMED down every anti-Madeleine's throat till they gag on it.
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Re: Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by Rosie on Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:44 pm

Nobody should be speculating. Nobody even knows if little Madeleine is dead. There is a trade in children, after all.

The huge shame of what's happening now is that if the police blame the parents, the public will stop looking for her

There is so much that resonates from reading this again and sadly the more time has passed since I first read it until this day, the more parallels can be drawn.

Look at this quote, the people that refuse to see, hear or believe, these words from Lindy form the deepest darkest fear for Kate and Gerry McCann.

The police actively STOPPED looking for Madeleine from day three after she disappeared and because of the antics of people like Bennett, Amaral, Morais, Flores etc which I regard to be nothing short of grossly inhumane and like Lindy I think they should be made a criminal offence, people to this very day are being prevented from looking for Madeleine, by slurs, innuendos and plain lies.
I wonder how many people Lindy and her husband and family had to witness making obscene amounts of cash out of their missing baby? Is there a "fat defective" ex policeman writing books and cashing in using her missing daughter as a pension top up fund?

I hope Lindy and her family manage to gain peace of mind and I pray to God that the same happens for Kate and Gerry and the twins.
Although this particular tragedy is not over yet, some day soon, I truly believe Madeleine will be found and when she is, those people that purposefully caused her parents, brother and sister immeasurable pain, will have to find a way of cleansing the filth that has attached itself to their souls, but I do not think there is cleaner strong enough to erase what they have taken part in.

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Re: Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by May on Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:10 am

I totally agree with everything you have just posted Rosie.
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Re: Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by dianeh on Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:06 pm

I have written many many times on here about Lindy Chamberlain.

The parallels to the McCann case are many, and most spectacularly is the belief by the police and prosecution that Lindy and Michael had killed Azaria, and covered it up.

The press was fed lie after lie, which they dutifullly reported to us unsuspecting and gullible public, who never thought for a minute that we were being told lies. The 2 biggest lies were a dingo would not kill a live baby, and that there was foetal blood in the car.

The truth.

An aboriginal tracker tracked the dingo from the tent to a ranger's house. This ranger has a 'pet' dingo, and there were puppies at the time. The tracker even identified the dingo in question from the tracks. He was then villified.

This same dingo dragged a 2 yo girl from her family's car and tried to drag her away. Luckily her father saved her. This father was prevented from testifying in court during the original trial, because the court would not grant permission for the details of the family to be released to the defense.

On the foetal blood. Never was. The test use had a very high failure rate, in that it showed false positives. And most of the tests were negative anyway, with only one or two being positive. The makers of the test informed the NT government that this was the case, and that the evidence should not be used in court. But the prosecution still used the evidence, and failed to inform the defense that they had been notified of the inappropriateness of the tests. This was condemned during the appeal, as the prosecution has a duty to inform the defense of evidence that can aid the defense. There was clearly a miscarriage of justice.

And the true miscarriage of justice is that no charges were laid against those that suppressed evidence which would prove what happened to Azaria.

And that idiot Carly thinks that Lindy is guilty. She must truly be a moron.
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Re: Worth remembering, Lindy Chamberlain.

Post by Peaceful1 on Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:45 pm

I remember that case well, even though I was still in the UK then, I remember thinking at the time, this woman is innocent.
I never doubted her story once.
Rosie, agree with all you say.
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