Saturday, February 25, 2012

Old Cases, Revisited

I've been sitting on this news article for the last few weeks. There was something about it that just stuck with me like a shred of food between flossings.

Toddler Disappearance

Last week I wrote about the Azaria Chamberlain case (you can find the post here) in Australia.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain brought their nine week old daughter Azaria on a camping trip and she disappeared. Her mother claimed that a dingo took the baby. A week later a tourist found some of the clothes the baby was said to be wearing at the time of her disappearance. Several years later, during a search for a missing person, the jacket she was wearing was found in an area with dingo lairs. Her body has never been found.

Investigators believed that Lindy had killed the child and then ditched the body during the hunt. Her parents were convicted but the convictions were overturned when the jacket turned up.

To this day, the Chamberlains maintain their innocence but there are still people who refuse to believe that a dingo would harm a human - despite evidence to the contrary.

Which leads me to this case in New Zealand.

In 1968 a toddler went missing and was presumed drowned. His mother believed that the neighbor had something to do with the boys disappearance, but police ignored the claims. His body was never recovered.

A witness claims to have seen the man burying a package in the garden about two days after the search. Recent geophysical scans of the property have revealed an anomaly in the soil. Police are planning to investigate further.

This new evidence in a 44 year old case made me wonder: If New Zealand can pursue unsolved cases using up to date equipment, why hasn't this same scan been conducted in the area where Azaria went missing 32 years ago?

With the development of more accurate forensic capabilities, much of the evidence presented in the Chamberlain case was found to be incorrect, yet the case remains unsolved. A fourth inquest is taking place in Australia now, with the hopes of some closure.

The new evidence being introduced is based on dingoes attacking infants and children in the 32 years since Azaria went missing. Not much was known about dingo attacks in the early 1980's, and in fact, there are still some that are skeptical that a dingo would harm a child. This, however, is not the case, since the wild dogs are responsible for the death of a nine year old boy a decade ago.

But it is enough evidence? Dogs attacking children is not a new phenomenon, and just the other week in Alberta, Canada, a nine year old husky caused the death of a two day old infant. If the case is closed based on this new evidence, does a whole new series of excuses for people who are accused of murdering their children get opened up?

In 2005 a twenty-five year old woman claimed that she was Azaria Chamberlain, but DNA testing has never been done. Her story matches with one that was brought up during the initial trials in the early 80's -- that a baby was found by Aboriginals and later was fostered out to a family. She has scars that could be from dog bites. Azaria's family wants justice -- is not pursuing all avenues of what could possibly have happened to her actually giving her memory justice?

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