A Cry in the Dark
Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Michael Chamberlain, his wife Lindy, their two sons, and their nine-week-old daughter Azaria are on a camping holiday in the Outback. With the baby sleeping in their tent, the family is enjoying a barbecue with their fellow campers when a cry is heard. Lindy returns to the tent to check on Azaria and is certain she sees a dingo with something in its mouth running off as she approaches. When she discovers the infant is missing, everyone joins forces to search for her, without success. It is assumed what Lindy saw was the animal carrying off the child, and a subsequent inquest rules her account of events is true. The tide of public opinion soon turns against the Chamberlains. For many, Lindy seems too stoic, too cold-hearted, and too accepting of the disaster that has befallen her. Gossip about her begins to swell and soon is accepted as statements of fact. The couple's beliefs are not widely practised in the country, and when the media reports a rumour that the name Azaria means "sacrifice in the wilderness" (when in fact it means "blessed of God"), the public is quick to believe they decapitated their baby with a pair of scissors as part of a bizarre religious rite. Law-enforcement officials find new witnesses, forensics experts, and a lot of circumstantial evidenceincluding a small wooden coffin Michael uses as a receptacle for his parishioners' packs of un-smoked cigarettesand reopen the investigation, and eventually Lindy is charged with murder. Seven months pregnant, she ignores her attorneys' advice to play on the jury's sympathy and appears emotionless on the stand, convincing onlookers she is guilty of the crime of which she is accused. As the trial progresses, Michael's faith in his religion and his belief in his wife disintegrate, and he stumbles through his testimony, suggesting he is concealing the truth. In October 1982, Lindy is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour, while Michael is found guilty as an accessory and given an 18-month suspended sentence. More than three years later, while searching for the body of an English tourist who fell from Uluru, police discover a small item of clothing that is identified as the jacket Lindy had insisted Azaria was wearing over her jumpsuit, which had been recovered early in the investigation. She immediately is released from prison, the case is reopened, and all convictions against Lindy and Michael are overturned.