A dingo was responsible for the death of Azaria Chamberlain in 1980, a Northern Territory coroner has found.
Coroner Elizabeth Morris told a packed courtroom on Tuesday that a dingo was to blame for the attack at Uluru, which originally saw Azaria’s mother Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton jailed for murder and her husband Michael given a suspended sentence for being an accessory after the fact.
Both were later exonerated after a royal commission in 1987.
In the final moments of handing down her finding, an emotional Ms Morris apologised to the Chamberlain family.
Ms Morris said she was satisfied the evidence was ‘‘adequate, clear, cogent and exact and excluded all other reasons possible’’.
She told the court: ‘‘(Azaria) died at Uluru on 17th August 1980 as a result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.’’
She said an amended death certificate was available immediately to them.
Outside the court, an emotional Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton thanked lawyer Stuart Tipple for his ‘‘unrelenting persistence, without which we wouldn’t have been able to fight so long.’’
‘‘We are relieved and delighted to come to the end of this saga,’’ she said.
‘‘No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and will only attack if provoked.
‘‘We live in a beautiful country but it is dangerous and we’d ask all Australians to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions and not wait for somebody else to do it for them."
Michael Chamberlain, Azaria’s father, thanked the ‘‘courageous and independent coroner’’ for her finding, saying she was ‘‘speaking for the dead’’.
‘‘This has been a terrifying battle,’’ he told reporters.
‘‘Bitter at times, but now some healing and a chance to put our daughter’s spirit to rest.’’
He said justice can be achieved no matter how hard it seemed. ‘‘It has taken too long [but] I’m here to tell you, you can get justice even when you think all is lost,’’ he said.
Mr Chamberlain recalled being told by a senior judicial officer after the previous inquest that he would never get justice in the Northern Territory. ‘‘Well, the truth is out,’’ he said.
He thanked the media for its ‘‘reporting based on facts’’ and the family’s supporters throughout the ordeal.
‘‘If you know you are right, never give up on getting it right when a serious issue could affect the life and livelihood of others.’’
During the inquest both the counsel assisting the coroner, Rex Wild, QC, and the lawyer representing Azaria’s parents, Stuart Tipple, agreed a dingo was the most likely cause of the baby’s death.
The finding means Ms Chamberlain-Creighton, as she is known after remarrying, and her ex-husband Michael Chamberlain have finally won recognition that a dingo killed their child.
The inquest was the fourth into the death of Azaria since the nine-week-old child disappeared on a camping trip.
The decision will mean that Azaria’s death certificate will be changed.
In 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal overturned all convictions against the Chamberlains but a coronial inquest in 1995 delivered an open verdict.