‘Did not kill’: Lindy’s secret prison letter
Lindy Chamberlain has revealed the heartbreaking letter she had smuggled out of jail, after being thrown behind bars for four years following the death of her baby daughter, Azaria.
On the night of August 17, 1980, while on a family camping trip in Uluru, Ms 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 Ms Chamberlain jailed for life in 1982 - before she was eventually cleared in 1986.
Now, in a two-part miniseries, titled Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story, Sam Neill takes a critical look at the investigation in to Azaria's death, detailing what lead to Lindy's prosecution, conviction, time in prison for murder and her eventual exoneration.
While the documentary is a retelling of the story that is cemented in Australia's history, the series also airs the family's home movies, private letters and a recently unearthed recording of Azaria as a four-week-old baby.
In May 1984 - four years after Azaria's death - the Governor-General was presented with a petition demanding a judicial inquiry into the Chamberlain case. It was signed by 131,000 people, with the National Freedom Council adamant the campaign wouldn't come to an end until Lindy was free.
In 1986, Ms Chamberlain 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.
But in the weeks leading up to her release, Ms Chamberlain was tormented by a cruel waiting game on when she may be allowed to walk free.
The date rested on one man - Northern Territory Attorney-General Marshall Perron. It was Perron himself who sparked speculation that Lindy's release was imminent by saying that he'd make a decision before Christmas.
But former Attorney-General Gareth Evans, who had met with Mr Perron and advised Ms Chamberlain should be released on licence, said Mr Perron had the eyes of the country on his decision, and that "he did not want to be seen to be succumbing to pressure".
"I think he was feeling, himself, probably something needed to be done," Mr Evans said.
"But as he made it very directly clear to me, he did not want to be seen to be succumbing to pressure."
Looking at spending her third Christmas in jail with no release date set, Ms Chamberlain had a heartbreaking letter smuggled out of her cell detailing how unjust her treatment had been.
"I've tried to co-operate, but still this farce continues," she wrote.
"For nearly three years, I have worked as an inmate of this prison for 30 cents a day, trying to do whatever I was asked pleasantly.
"I have sought an inquiry whereby the NT Government had a chance to redeem their own name. In return, they have ignored decency and justice and still scoff at it.
"As from 1pm Darwin time today, I'm refusing to work in any way whatsoever for this prison.
"I did not kill my lovely daughter and refuse to be treated as a criminal any longer."
Before her release, Michael Chamberlain and their three children Aiden, Reagan and Kahlia - who was born while Lindy was behind bars - could only visit Lindy three times a year, with media "desperate" to catch a glimpse of Australia's most infamous family entering the prison.
Ita Buttrose, who went to the Mulawa Women's Prison to interview Ms Chamberlain, said her time behind bars was "very, very isolating" and these visits - including her interview visit- were deemed a "treat".
"Everyone in Australia judged this woman before she ever got a trial," Buttrose said
"Even when she was in jail, she was still being judged."
TOURIST'S BODY LEADS TO KEY DISCOVERY
It wasn't until after her third Christmas behind bars, on the 2nd of February, 1986, that the body of a British tourist was found at the base of Uluru. The discovery of the man, David Brett, set off an unstoppable chain of events that finally lead to Ms Chamberlain's release.
Mr Brett's body was found immediately adjacent to the gully where Azaria's jumpsuit, singlet and nappy had been found. And just 70 metres from his body, which had been mangled by dingoes, the searchers made a startling discovery of Azaria's matinee jacket.
"She was wearing it on the night of her disappearance," Mr Chamberlain said of the discovery.
Lindy's confirmation that it was Azaria's matinee jacket became significant new evidence, given the Crown prosecutor had insisted the jacket Azaria was wearing had never existed.
"All the way through, I'd said there was a matinee jacket and the Crown said it was a fanciful lie," Ms Chamberlain explained, proving she had told the truth forcing the Northern Territory Government to act.
Five and a half years after the death of her daughter Azaria, Ms Chamberlain was free, with the Northern Territory's Attorney-General insisting she'll remain free no matter what the outcome of the new inquiry is.
Speaking of her release, Ms Chamberlain said she was "grey and couldn't eat" - but was particularly overwhelmed by the onslaught of praise - and words of poison - received on her doorstep by strangers.
"I have tremendous respect and admiration for you and the way you've survived such a monumental trauma. You inspire me," one letter read.
"You cunning, evil snake in the grass heathen. May you suffer everlasting torment all your days," another wrote.
"Azaria won't rest in peace because her mother was too weak to tell the truth. You made a lot of money from your baby's death."
In 2012, 32 years after Azaria's death, the Chamberlains' version of events was officially supported by a coroner.
"I can lay down the fighting, it's like a weight is off my shoulders," Ms Chamberlain said of the coroner's ruling in 2012.
"It's like a weight's off my shoulders. I'm not leaving something for my kids to deal with. I'm not leaving a legacy for my grandchildren to say, "That's not true … My grandmother didn't do it.
Now, they'd just go, Well, you're stupid. Just look at history."
The full two-part series of Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story can be viewed on 10 play.
Originally published as 'Did not kill': Lindy's secret prison letter