Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 1 News List

New claim made in Australia's 1980 baby death mystery

AP , SYDNEY

One of Australia's most enduring mysteries, the fate of a baby killed by a dingo in the Outback 24 years ago, took another twist yesterday with a newspaper quoting an elderly man as saying he retrieved the baby's body from the jaws of a wild dog he shot.

The stunning claim by 78-year-old Frank Cole to the Sunday Herald Sun tabloid in Melbourne could not immediately be corroborated.

He told the paper he had photos of the night in August 1980 that Azaria Chamberlain went missing from a campsite near Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru, but said the photos did not include one of the baby's body.

Police initially did not believe the claim of Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, that a wild dog known as a dingo snatched the infant, and she was convicted of murder in 1982. She was freed on appeal in 1986 and formally cleared of the murder two years later after fresh evidence -- an item of Azaria's clothing -- backed up her version of events. However, the baby's body has never been found.

The saga was made into the 1988 movie A Cry in the Dark, starring Meryl Streep.

Cole told the newspaper he felt "pretty lousy and guilty" when Chamberlain was convicted.

He said he had shot the dingo thinking it was a rabbit to provide food for a dog while on a camping trip with three friends. He did not report what had happened because shooting a dingo could have earned him a fine.

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