Camping trips are a great way to enjoy a long vacation with your family at your own pace. Not only can you spend time in each other’s company, but you can do it while enjoying all that the great outdoors have to offer. It’s an experience that brings a family together like no other.
However, there’s a reason some people prefer to stay in hotels. Camping in the wild can be very dangerous, and even veterans are capable of making a rash decision in a moment of panic. What happened to one family while they were camping just might make you rethink renting that Winnebago…
On August 17, 1980, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain decided to take a camping trip with their family near the famous Uluru rock. But when they woke up on their first morning outside, their nine-week-old daughter, Azaria, was missing from their tent.
Lindy claimed that a wild dog—a dingo—must have burst into the tent and ran off with the baby, but authorities were skeptical. They believed that the story sounded unlikely and suspected that she was covering up what really happened…
Those suspicions would only deepen when, the very next week, a visiting hiker made a horrifying discovery: a pile of bloody baby clothes not far from where the Chamberlain family set up camp. This left authorities with even more questions…
Making police even more suspicious about the Chamberlains’ story was Michael’s reaction. As Lindy anxiously looked high and low alongside volunteer searchers, Michael seemed relaxed, remarking that his daughter was “probably dead by now.”
Everything changed when the coroner updated their findings. At first, they agreed with the Chamberlains that the clothing indicated a dingo attack. But then the coroner added that the clothing also showed evidence of being tampered with by an “unknown adult.”
The coroner’s findings prompted a second investigation into the case, during which a second coroner determined that the blood on the baby’s clothes indicated her throat was slit. The coroner also noticed a handprint on the clothes when held up to ultraviolet light.
Because of this evidence, in February of 1982, both Michael and Lindy were arrested for the suspected murder of baby Azaria. The prosecutors believed that Lindy cut the child’s throat in the family car, though no blood or murder weapon was ever found.
The Chamberlains stuck to their defense throughout the case: a dingo ate their baby. The jury didn’t believe it, and Lindy—who was already nine months pregnant with her next child—was given life in prison. Michael received a sentence of 18 months for being an accessory.
At the time of the sentencing, 77 percent of Australians believed Lindy to be guilty of the crime. Before and after she started serving her sentence, people were constantly watching and judging her. “If I smiled, I was belittling my daughter’s death. If I cried, I was acting.”
The Chamberlains were Seventh Day Adventists, a religion not commonly practiced in Australia, which had the public scrutinizing them even more intently. Rumors started that ‘Azaria’ meant “sacrifice in the wildness” (it actually meant “God helped”).
Strangely, it would be another disappearance near Uluru six years later that would change everything. While Lindy was still in prison, the police found the body of a missing hiker. Near his remains, they also found baby Azaria’s missing coat… right outside a dingo cave.
With this new evidence, both Michael and Lindy were cleared of all charges, and Lindy was allowed to return to her family. Despite the ruling, many people still believed that they had something to do with their little girl’s demise…
Still, in spite of popular opinion, the Chamberlains were free at last. Not only that, but the government officially admitted to falsely imprisoning Lindy. No number was ever released, but it was estimated that the Chamberlains received upwards of $3 million.
Strangely, the story didn’t end there. In 1996, the State decided to open up the case of Azaria’s murder again. The rationale? No body was found, no suspect was charged, and no clear resolution of the case ever occurred. However, nothing new was discovered.
Because of Azaria’s case, people now paid attention to how many children were targeted for death by dingoes. In 2007, a four-year-old girl was nearly killed by a dingo, and in 2001 a nine-year-old boy was eaten by one not far from where Azaria was taken.
Those weren’t the only cases, either—the list went on. In 2002, a dingo maimed a four-year-old boy before his father intervened and scared the dog away. This research made something very clear…
If the pattern of hunting, isolating, and attacking juvenile human beings was observable, then it changed just how outrageous Lindy’s original claims really were. Maybe the Chamberlains weren’t liars after all? Perhaps this behavior from wild dogs was common.
In 2012, the State finally announced that both the coroner and experts agreed with the Chamberlains’ initial story: a dingo had, indeed, killed baby Azaria. It was a turning point for the people of Australia…
Up until that moment, most of the people in Australia had scorned the Chamberlain family for what they saw as egregious claims and a murderous coverup. Now they knew the truth, and they could finally mourn for the loss of this little girl.
Sadly, the strain of 37 years under the gaze of the public was too much for Lindy and Michael’s marriage. They divorced in 1991 but were both present at the announcement from the State that effectively cleared their names in 2012. They remain good friends.
It’s no secret that people can’t get enough of the courtroom drama. However, there are some court cases, like this dingo trial, that seem almost too ridiculous to believe. As serious as their respective plaintiffs might be, these cases are often more laughable than anything else.
1. Take for example in 2011, when a monkey grabbed ahold of nature photographer David Slater’s camera and snapped a selfie of himself. Animal rights group PETA filed a lawsuit claiming that the copyright for the photograph should belong to the monkey…
2. A Raleigh, North Carolina police officer once tried to sue Starbucks for $750,000 after he spilled a free cup of hot coffee on his lap. A judge took one look at this ridiculously expensive request and he found Starbucks to be not liable for the damages.
3. A woman named Laura Rosenberg used Google Maps to find a safe walkway, but the app ended up leading her to a four-lane highway. She crossed it anyway and ended up suing Google after she was hit by a car. The court decided she couldn’t sue over bad directions.
4. Colorado Correctional Facility inmate Terry Hendrix was angry at an overturned call during a Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys playoff football game, so he actually tried to sue the NFL for $88 billion! Of course, he didn’t see a single penny.
5. In 1925, a teacher named John Scopes did something no other teacher ever thought to do: teach evolution to his classes at the Tennessee high school where he worked. He ended up getting fined $100, but the Tennessee Supreme Court eventually overturned the guilty verdict.
6. After a 59-year-old Scottish woman was viciously attacked by a seagull one afternoon, she fell hard onto the cement ground. She filed a lawsuit against the surrounding office buildings, claiming they didn’t do enough to offer her safety. The judge rejected the case because no one could determine where the seagull came from.
7. During a bank robbery, Todd Kirkpatrick pointed his gun at responding police officers, and one shot him twice. While he was in prison, Kirkpatrick tried to file a lawsuit against the city for over $6 million, claiming the other cop on the scene failed to stop the officer who shot him.
8. At Erasmus University in the Netherlands, one student never wore shoes and never washed his feet, and the school actually expelled him because the odor was too distracting to other students. In 2009, a judge ruled that smelly feet were not grounds to expel a student.
9. A 77-year-old German playboy named Rolf Eden once filed a lawsuit against a 19-year-old woman simply because she refused to have sexual relations with him. Eden claimed the refusal was age discrimination.
10. Forty-four-year-old Fredric Desnard absolutely hated his job. He felt it was too boring, and it was leading him down a road of depression. So, he decided to sue his employer. His court case is currently waiting to be heard.
11. In 1985, two teens tried to commit suicide after listening to an album by the rock band Judas Priest. The parents of both kids tried to sue the band, saying there were subliminal messages that coaxed them into it. The teens had a history of disturbed behavior, however, and the judge ruled in favor of the band.
12. After a nursing student named Jennifer Burbella failed her school’s final exam twice in a row, she tried to sue the school, claiming they didn’t put enough effort into helping her with her anxiety and depression.
13. A woman once tried to sue FedEx for placing a package too close to the front door of her home. She apparently tripped over the box and fell. She said the incident caused her severe pain, anguish, and humiliation.
14. A woman named Cathy McGowan won a radio competition that claimed she would receive a car for her correct answer; she was furious when she received a toy car in the mail instead. She sued the station for misleading her… and she actually won! The judge ordered her to be given a brand new Renault Clio.
15. There is a restaurant in Missouri called Lambert’s Cafe, and it’s known for literally throwing bread rolls across the room to tables. After the server accidentally hit one woman in the eye, she sued them for $25,000.
16. One afternoon, a gas explosion in a city took down an entire building, causing massive damage and bodily harm to those nearby. However, two women who lived in a building not far from the blast tried suing the city for $40 million, claiming mental trauma and physical harm of “like, five or six scratches.”
17. New York resident Leif Nelson absolutely loved Foster’s beer. However, when he found out that it was actually brewed in Texas and not Australia, he was furious. He tried suing Foster’s for misleading him, and he said if they started making it in Australia, he’d drink it again.
18. A Michael Jordan lookalike named Allen Heckard was sick of everyone telling him how much he resembled the former NBA star. He tried filing a lawsuit against Jordan himself and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, for roughly $800 million. He later dropped the suit entirely.
19. A devout Roman Catholic woman named Jane Mulcahy tried suing her lawyers after they helped finalize her divorce. She claimed they should have recommended a judicial separation since divorce is a sin in the Catholic religion. The lawsuit was dismissed by the judge.
20. When an eight-year-old boy named Sean Tarala ran up to hug his aunt one afternoon, he accidentally knocked her over and she broke her wrist. The boy’s aunt actually tried to sue her own nephew due to a formality with an insurance claim, but the judge never awarded her a cent.
21. After a man named Anton Purisima was bitten by a “rabies-infested” dog on a New York City bus, he tried suing several places, including the city, NYC transit, two local hospitals, and an Au Bon Pair store. He asked for “two undecillion dollars.” That’s not a fake number either; it’s $340 trillion trillion trillion!
22. When The Guinness Book of World Records wanted to name federal inmate Jonathan Lee Riches as the world’s most litigious man, Riches realized they wanted to publish statistics about him that he thought were incorrect. Naturally, he sued. The lawsuit this time? They claimed he filed 5,500 lawsuits in his lifetime, but he stated it was only 4,000. Make that 4,001?
23. A police officer from Scotland named Tracey Ormsby was handling a protest in Glasgow when she was hit with a pineapple. She tried suing the city, claiming the protest was handled poorly, and the pineapple incident gave her anxiety and depression. She wanted nearly $2 million, but she was only awarded about $4,000.