Australian dingo mystery takes on a new twist
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ 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 Sunday 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 the southern city of 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, the giant Australian monolith also known by its Aboriginal name Uluru, but said the photos did not include one of the baby's bloody 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 and Sam Neill. Cole told the newspaper he felt "pretty lousy and guilty'' when Chamberlain was convicted.
"How do you think I felt?'' he said. "It was on my conscience, of course it was, but I couldn't do anything by then.''
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 to police because shooting a dingo in the national park surrounding Ayers Rock could have earned him a fine.
Police told the newspaper they would investigate Cole's claims.
Cole said he was coming forward now to clear his conscience. He said he had contacted Chamberlain and the makers of an Australian movie currently being filmed about Azaria's disappearance.
Cole said he did not know what became of the baby's body. He said it possibly was buried in the garden of one of the three men he was camping with, all of whom since have died.
Chamberlain could not immediately be contacted for comment. - AP