'Guiltily as hell': Kiwi actor Sam Neill's fury at famous case

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Sep 2020, 11:58AM

'Guiltily as hell': Kiwi actor Sam Neill's fury at famous case

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Sep 2020, 11:58AM

On the night of August 17, 1980, while on a family camping trip in Uluru, Lindy Chamberlain's world came undone when a dingo took her baby Azaria from the family tent, and the nine-week old was never seen again.

The disappearance led to a series of court cases and inquests that saw a now 72-year-old Chamberlain jailed for life in 1982 – before she was eventually cleared in 1986.

Now, in a two-part miniseries dubbed Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story, a critical look uncovers the investigation in to Azaria Chamberlain's death, detailing what lead to Lindy's prosecution, conviction, time in prison for murder and her eventual exoneration.

Narrated by Sam Neill - who played Michael Chamberlain in the 1988 film about the case, and was also brought on to be the executive producer of the new miniseries - it reveals new details of the family's experience following the disappearance of Azaria, including exclusive interviews, home videos and letters.

An initial inquest in Alice Springs supported Lindy and Michael Chamberlain's claim that a dingo had entered the tent and taken baby Azaria. A further investigation and 1981 inquest was then held in Darwin.

Lindy Chamberlain appears in the new two-part documentary Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story. Photo / Supplied

Lindy Chamberlain appears in the new two-part documentary Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story. (Photo / Supplied)

Chamberlain was accused of killing her child and jailed for life in a 1982 murder trial, while Michael Chamberlain was sentenced as an accessory.

As a result, Chamberlain spent more than three years behind bars, despite making many appeals.

In 1986, Chamberlain, who is a Kiwi, was exonerated after a piece of Azaria's clothing was found near a dingo den. As a result, she was released from jail and received $1.3 million in compensation over her false imprisonment.

Speaking to Channel 10's The Project about the documentary, Neill told host Lisa Wilkinson of the "terrible miscarriage of justice" against Chamberlain.

"More people should have been standing up and saying, 'this is clearly wrong'," Neil said, slamming the Northern Territory police department and local politicians who refused to take part in the documentary.

"They're guilty as hell," Neill said.

"I think shame on them, you know. You were wrong. Man up because you are men, man up and admit it and apologise. It doesn't take a lot, you know. Don't go to your grave without having made your peace with what you did."

Kiwi actor Sam Neill narrates the new Channel 10 documentary. Photo / Getty

Kiwi actor Sam Neill narrates the new Channel 10 documentary. (Photo / Getty)

In the first episode of the series, Lindy broke down when describing the moment she'd learned Azaria had been taken from the tent. She said her son, Aiden, spent "years" blaming himself for the baby's disappearance.

"We didn't know that he'd blamed himself for not zipping up the tent," Lindy explained.

Lindy recalls the horror of the night her baby Azaria was taken by a dingo. Photo / Channel 10

Lindy recalls the horror of the night her baby Azaria was taken by a dingo. (Photo / Channel 10)

"[He] didn't realise that the zip was broken. But it would have made no difference, they [dingoes] were smart enough to get in."

The public wrote thousands of letters to Lindy, which were either deeply cruel or stunningly kind.

Despite some of the cruel words, Lindy kept many of those letters which paint a very vivid picture of the backlash she faced from the public.

Lindy, you should be hung up to the nearest tree," one letter read. "99.5% of the people know you are guilty."

"Murderer, murderer," another read. "You murdered the baby because it wasn't normal."

"Your husband should divorce you and get a good woman as a wife, not a murderer."

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