The Chamberlains’ Torana

Hatching a bungled murder investigation

THERE was a time when it was an acceptable jape to suggest that someone was “about as innocent as Lindy Chamberlain”. No doubt you remember her name, and the anonymous dingo, although you might be surprised to hear that she was born in New Zealand.

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll also remember the yellow Holden Torana hatchback that was at the centre of the debate over whether she killed her baby, Azaria, in 1980. She didn’t, of course, because courts of law have since decided that a dingo did steal her baby and that she therefore spent three years in prison, and drew the ire of a nation, for nothing.

Lindy was awarded $1.3 million compensation in 1992.

The yellow 1977 V8 Torana was basically a crime scene, because it was where police found “indisputable evidence” of murder after tearing the car apart. In what Lindy’s husband Michael has since described as “a gross injustice”, a forensic biologist testified that there was baby’s blood in the boot and elsewhere, and the court accepted this version of events.

A royal commission eventually discovered that the “blood” was, in fact, a mixture of bitumen, sound deadener, some spilled milkshake and copper dust. It would be funny if it wasn’t so bloody awful. Lindy gave birth to her fourth child while in prison.

The car was sold by Michael Chamberlain to the National Museum in Canberra last year, wearing the ironic 4ENSIC number plates he’d chosen when he put it back on the road.

PRICE OF FREEDOM

Dr Chamberlain, who has not revealed what he was paid for the Torana , says the car “symbolises freedom as a result of the proper a nd independent revision of forensic science, which eventually saw Lindy exonerated”.

GROUND-UP RESTO

After being utterly dismantled by the bumbling investigators, the infamous Torana was held by the Northern Territory authorities until 1990, when they shamefacedly handed the keys back to Michael, who restored it to its former glory.