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, something dreadful happened to Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. They decided to take advantage of Australia’s cooler winter weather to go camping 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 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 to one volunteer 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 new coroner also noticed a small adult handprint on the baby’s 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 to the crime.

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 her and judging her. “If I smiled, I was belittling my daughter’s death. If I cried, I was acting,” she said at the time.

Because the Chamberlains were members of the Seventh Day Adventists Church, a religion not commonly practiced in Australia, the public scrutinized them even more intently. Rumors started that their daughter’s name, 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 who fell to his death close to the rock. 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 for the ordeal.

Strangely, the story didn’t end there. In 1996, the State decided that it wanted 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. Nothing new was discovered, but the investigation into what really happened in the shadow of Uluru was the left open this time…

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 sort of behavior from wild dogs was more common than anyone thought…

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 to this day.

Can you imagine a simple family camping trip turning into a decades-long, grief-stricken nightmare? How awful. Thank goodness these parents were finally cleared.

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