Tracy Grimshaw speaks to Lindy Chamberlain – Tonight at 6.30pm on Channel Nine - here’s what she had to say – FULL TRANSCRIPT
On this historic day in the Northern Territory, the NT Deputy Coroner, Elizabeth Morris, ended 32 years of speculation and innuendo by putting what appears to be the final seal on the Azaria Chamberlain case.
A Current Affair’s Tracy Grimshaw was in Darwin and spoke to Lindy today about the findings in her only media interview.
Tracey Grimshaw – Lindy, Congratulations
Lindy Chamberlain – Finally there
TG – Did you think this day would ever come?
LC – I must admit I was beginning to wonder wether it would be left to my kids or grandkids to hear this, but it’s finally done.
TG- You have that document that you have fought decades to get, right there on your lap, would you like to show it to me?
LC – (holds it up) This is the death certificate, finally, says the cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo. That is the fourth inquest that was held 12th of June 2012. Elisabeth Moss, NT coroner. Wouldn’t you know it had to be a woman to get it right.
TG – What does it mean to you to have this finding?
LC – Well so many things that are sort of umm, all kind of mixed up together. It’s such a vindication for truth, but it’s, how do I put this? It’s almost like words fail you, to get what you feel into words is probably impossible, but just to, well I don’t have to be there to see Greg Lowe (fellow camper at Uluru) say “You bloody beauty”, he’ll be dancing around his kitchen in Tasmania, could well be drunk by now because he would have had a few beers to toast it. I can’t forget Max and Amy Whitaker and that who have all been told they were liars because they were the eyewitnesses and they couldn’t possibly be right, because there was the God of sciencein the middle of all this.
TG – You raise a glaring point, thats been a consistent point throughout this case, is that all the people that were with you on that nighthave supported your version of what happened.
LC – Even the police. that were there on the night have been supportive, it’s the ones that took over after that were a different story.
TG – You have been pardoned, you’ve been exonerated, you’ve been compensated, why did you have to keep pushing for the result you had today?
LC – Well it was always unfinished business and while you have an open finding it can always be opened at any stage and there was so many misconceptions and rumours, even today and yesterday – stuff in the paper from people who purportedly should know what’s happening saying “Oh yeah, but…”. There was always this point or that pointand they give personal opinion, like Frank Morris – last night I saw him saying – “Oh yeah I really shouldn’t have picked up the clothes, I probably should have asked the boss”.
TG – Frank Morris was the original investigating police officer
LC – I’m sorry I keep jumping around, I know these people so well by now that I forget that some of the public do and some of the public weren’t even born when this happend. I still have questions.
TG – What questions do you still have?
LC – Why did Frank Morris at the first inquest come up to me and say “I’m sorry i was only doing my job?” What’s he apologising for? Picking up the clothes and rearranging them and not telling anybody ’til he got caught out and had to tell the truth? It’s a rookie mistake and that’s all it is. I don’t believe that along the track he had any malicious intent, however he came up later and said “I’m glad that you could hang in there and stand up for the truth, because I didn’t have the courage to do that”
TG – The coroner, in this case,heard evidence of something like 239 dingo related attacks in Australia since 1990. If Australians had been allowed to believe you back in 1980, do you think some or many of those might have been prevented?
LC – I definitely think some of those would have been prevented, there are some however that wouldn’t of been like yesterdays, no I only saw it yesterday, but the Sunday Territorian had the front page of Kakadu family child, don’t leave food around because we’ve got marauding dingoes around, so they were very carefully putting it all away and what did the dingos do? Rip their tents to shreds and pull all their bedding out, which is not food and these animals do, do that when they get over confident around people. They look nice but it’s a case of beware ’cause they are a very beautiful but cunning animal.
TG – The coroner noted today that there is no other case like the disappearance of Azaria, but there had been dingo attacks before Azaria was taken, one only a matter of weeks before. Why do you think everyone struggled to believe you?
LC – That’s the million dollar question isn’t it. If I could answer that I’d probably be a seer. But we need to go back much further than that, we had evidence of attacks before the coroner back to 1880. The reason I kpt fighting for the dingo finding was because despite the three other deaths by dingos or cross dingos, since Azaria died, there’s still nothing by law until today to say there has been any sort of dingo attack.
TG – Can we be more blunt though, can we go right to the core of this and say that the reason you were persued is not just because people were sceptical about the fact a dingo could so this, I mean you believe there were bigger reasons afoot than that don’t you?
LC – Well there was definitely some political intrigue in the NT. Yes.
TG – Of what nature?
LC – Do you want to get me sued still? They’re not dead yet, when people are dead you can tell the truth, but in Australia between now and then you can’t.
TG – But you believe someone had it in for you
LC – At least one gentleman in particular could do with not being around so we could tell the truth
TG – So you’re waiting for one person to die before…
LC – Or two. Then definately, there was some very personal ambition.
TG – When you cosider what you’ve been through for three decades, that must gaul you?
LC – Well, gaul me? It certainly used to upset me but at some stage you have got to learn to move on. I will not let that event contral and colour my life, I won’t let it affect my decisions in the future. I’m giving myself permission to take back control of my own life and to go ahead and live my life. I can use what happend to me as illustrations and a way to help other people, as a way not to let those sort of things happen to me again. I’m not saying what you did to me was alright – It was not alright, but I’m not going to let that control me in the future.I’m handing that responsibility back to you, that’s your fault. Wether it’s the situation that happend or the person, and I’m moving on, I’m going on with my life and until you learn that you are stuck. I moved on a long time ago.
TG – If you have had to forgive people who had political or financial incentives to go after you, have you also had to forgive the media because alot of people have suggested what happened to you and Michael was a trial by media?
LC – Well alot of it was trial by media and yes there were people in the media who were real skunks, to put it mildly. But there were also people in the mediawho were very posotive and worked very hard to get the truth out there. There are people in all fields that should be ashamed at how they behaved over this and individuals at home as well because nobody sat on the fence – that was uncomfortable, someone would push them to one side or the other.
TG – Do you acknowledge now that there were certain elements of yours and Michaels behaviour in the wake of Azaria’s disappearance that made people uncomfortable about you?
LC – Definitely. We’re human and we have all sorts of reactions, sometimes I think why did I do that or many times I thought why did michael react like that? But I also learnt that when I was married to him that he didn’t react like other people and when you know Michael you just go “Oh Yeah” that’s typical of what he’d do.I suppose he did the same thing as me and people will say you looked like such a hard person and then I meet you in reality or I do public speaking somewhere and they go “Wow your such a different person to the one we see on TV”. Even Meryl Streep did that, she thought “I had it all down pat your wrong and now youv’e blown me out of the water in just ten minutes and I have to go look at it all again” then she said “Now i’m really cross that there isn’t scope in the way that movies are written because of what it’s about, to show your lighter side because your always into mischeif” My dad used to say that that was my middle name and those that know me, know that I’m not particularly serious
all the time. I get through the serious stuff and then back to the happy stuff fairly quickly.
TG – The perception of you I think at the time was that you were cold and i have found you to be quite an emotional person in the times that I have met you.
LC – Yeah embaresssing isn’t it! Aiden’s (Azaria’s brother) like his mother – he cried through most of it this morning. Apart from his little time in the box that’s the first time he has ever gone to court. He’s like I don’t want to be there but I do, I don’t want to be sorry later – I have just got to do this. For him to put his emotions out in public, that’s not a thing blokes do is it? But he’s like I gotta be there I have to do it. All the kids say it’s your fault we cry mum. I blame my dad who was the same, we’re soft touches
TG – You know I was watching Aiden today and thinking about the enormous shadow that this has cast over his entire life. I think it’s something that is sometimes forgotten, the toll that this has taken on your two boys.
LC – I think it was Aiden that said to you, I really want to be known for something else rather than one of the rock people.
TG – One of the rumours back at the start of all of this is that Aiden at the age of 6 had killed his baby sister and you had covered up for him.
LC – The other one was that Regan had done it, and I’d covered up for him. It wasn’t until they did the mini-series that they said “Do you realise that Aiden blames himself?” Because he didn’t shut the tent. I never even thought of it, so I got him in and said “Son, the zip was broken so it’s my problem more than yours, but they would have got in anyway”
TG – You were talking before about forgiveness and the people you have needed to forgive, I thinks it’s natural for any parent in a situation like yours to struggle with guilt, given that you are on the planet to protect your kids. Did you have to struggle with that in the beginning?
LC – I don’t think I have ever struggled with guilt, I have certainly thought I wish somebody had told me because all three kid’s would’ve slept in the car that night, like they had a couple of nights before, it was like hmmm, I don’t know if this is a secure environment, I think they need to sleep in the car. We had slept outside on the ground sothe fact that we were never warned when the bus tours were, that was something that was preventable and I am the type of person that if is told something like that would go “OK, I will make my own precautions.” But we were never told and you think OK, I am in the middle of a very couple of thousand people that night, who thinks you will be attacked in the middle of that? Your like no, I’m safe here, but we wern’t so I regret that I wasn’t super cautious. How would i have known?
TG – Shouldn’t you have known? A 3 year old girl had been dragged out of a car three weeks earlier by a dingo.
LC – We didn’t know that
TG – I know, shouldn’t you have been told?
LC – All the bus tours were being told, but they were not telling the cars which were families with young kids. They are the ones that needed the warnings more than the bus tours.
TG – When you think back are you angry?
LC – No
TG – Were you angry?
LC – Sad, really sad more than angry.
TG – It would have been Azaria’s 32nd birthday yeaterday and you were arriving here for yet another court appearance
LC – That was not easy, birthdays are always hard to get over. They are the happy times and I choose to remember the happy times. It is choice, you choose, 80% of how you feel is how you choose to feel. You can wake up and say I’m going to be miserable today and you usually are because it’s a conscious choice. You can say I am not going to be miserable and I am going to find the good thingsin what’s happening today, and sure you get ups and downs but you can choose to dwell on that and say I am angry about this, I’m mad about that – we’re absolute idiots if we think that people who hurt us, are going to make it better for us. They are not, they hurt us for a reason and it’s up to us to say will I let them control how I feel today? For me – No way, I won’t.
TG – Do you think very often of the young woman she might have been?
LC – (nods, lip quivering with tears in eyes)
TG – I’m sorry
LC – Don’t start me.
TG – You were going alright
LC – I was but you know there are things that hit you, and like the coroner said today you never get over the death of anyone. You can pass on and learn to deal with it better, and I don’t care who they are one of the worst pieces of advice is that you will forget in time. You never forget.
TG – The coroner struggled to talk about it towards the end of her findings
LC – I noticed that and wondered if she’s had something in her past that made her relate.
TG – Were you struck by that, because it’s a very different treatment than you have had over the years in the Territory
LC – I have had authority figures all very different, over at least the last 20 years it’s been intresting to see the average Territorian say “enough is enough, the public are behind you, we wish the government would get on with it” I personally want the government to stop spending the publics money.Those that loan me money to pay for our expenses were $5.5 million to the end of the Royal Commission and have grown since then. they have just forgiven me for the intrest, but depite the media interviews, I still haven’t done enough to cover that
TG – You’ve talked about money, you’ve talked about compensation. Have you any legal advice if you can sue, now that all the boxes have been ticked in your case.
LC – I haven’t even bothered to ask. I’m not going there. People have to take responsibility for what they have done themselves, if I sue the NT government for this, who pays? The public who had no choice in this and nothing to do with this. I think there is a time when you say enough is enough and get on with your life and let it go. We fought this, this longnot just for oursleves and not just because Lindy wants her own way, it’s a matter that we need justification for the eyewitnesses, Australians themselves, for them to know that these animals are dangerous. In order to stop the wrong handling of forensic things. For there to be somewhere for people to go to appeal when there is mishandling in the legal system. It’s alright when you are guilty but it’s not when you are innocent.
TG – Do you want an apology from the NT government?
LC – Look an apology would be nice, but you and I both know that if you force someone to apologise that they don’t mean it. You know they don’t mean it and all you are doing is asking them to lie. So unless it is voluntary from them, I am not intrested.
TG – Final question, is todays finding something you celebrate? Is celebrate the right word?
LC – I don’t know, someone asked me that today. It’s like, I celebrate the final triumph of truth, but I don’t celebrate her death and the two are so intertwined – I have no idea what I feel about that.