Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

When you read a book, you remember things from it. I carry authors with me but the strongest one, the loudest one, the author voice that speaks most often in my head is the voice of Lindy Chamberlain. Her book – Through My Eyes – is one of my most prized books. It’s actually starting to fall apart because over the last 10 years I have read it so often, especially as I was climbing out of that nasty hole known as depression. Lindy may not know this, but I consider her a great friend of mine. ;) In the way that many of my blog friends have become great friends of mine even though I have never met them.


For those of you unfamiliar with Lindy Chamberlain, her daughter Azaria was taken by a dingo at the big red rock known as Uluru these days, formerly known as Ayers Rock. Lindy was later jailed for killing Azaria in one of the worst abuses of our legal system ever seen here in Australia. You can read more on Lindy’s website but if you want the real full story, you’ll need to read the book, which you can also buy on the website – Lindy will sign it, too. I really need to grab a new copy myself. You may have seen the movie Evil Angels based on her story with Meryl Streep as Lindy.

I hear so many people say “I’m not a good writer” and I am always shocked to hear it. I don’t think there is such a thing as a good writer. I think writing is about communicating, expressing your thoughts and ideas, letting people inside yourself by writing what is in your head. Either I get what you’re saying, or I don’t. That’s not due to the quality of the writing. Sometimes people I connect most of the time write something I can’t connect with. That’s not because they’re a bad writer, that’s because I don’t understand it. As Chani said to me in her comment on my post from yesterday “Sorry to be so disconnected. I simply don’t understand”.

So how can any of us understand what Lindy went through? To have your baby stolen from you and killed, to go through two inquests and a trial, to be sent to jail when you are pregnant with your next child and have that child taken from you while you stay in jail for something you’re innocent of.. these are not everyday experiences. However we all experience loss and grief, we’ve all been accused of something we didn’t do at some point in our lives – I think that’s true. Most of us were not arrested and sent to jail, for many of us it might have been something that happened in a moment, at school, at work, a misunderstanding. On top of all this, Lindy brings such a strong and clear voice to the telling of her story.

What made me think of Lindy today was a post I read about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. I’m sure many of you have heard of that event. What I’m seeing happen to those people rings a familiar bell having read Lindy’s story – but on the other hand the press are being downright polite to those people compared to how the press skewered Lindy. Those people left their child in a ground floor unit which was unlocked and they went quite a distance away. Lindy was within hearing distance of the tent where she’d momentarily left her baby intending to return to go to sleep.

So what is going on with the media? As Juliet says – “There is much disquiet and puzzlement at the UK media’s kid-glove approach towards the McCanns”. I haven’t seen any of the media because I live in Australia but the UK tabloids are known to be some of the loudest in the world. If they’re not asking the same kinds of questions Juliet is asking in her post, is something wrong? Are strange things afoot?

Aussies reading this will probably agree with me when I say Lindy Chamberlain is a major part of history in this country. If you ask people what they think about her, you’ll get a mixed bag of opinions. Some people still think she is guilty of murdering her baby. They don’t know the facts, and they seem to have missed entirely that the Chamberlains were exonerated (found not guilty) by a Royal Commission. Knowing the facts as I do it is difficult to believe they were ever found guilty. If you are Australian and you do not own a copy of this book, you should grab a copy and get educated on the truths instead of the myths.

Tourism was such a major industry for the Northern Territory and the people in charge wanted the *dingo* found innocent because they wanted people to feel safe camping at Ayers Rock, a major tourist drawcard. Australia is not a safe place. Those of us who live here know some of the risks but even we do not know everything. We know about the venomous snakes. We know about the spiders. We know about some of the dangers lurking in our oceans. We have to be responsible about these things, so tourists can make the right decisions, so tourists can be aware of the dangers.

Some years later a 9 year old boy was killed by two dingoes on Fraser Island. Three years later a dingo was found stalking a baby in the hotel room of some tourists. The problem is made worse by the fact that tourists feed the animals.

There’s another situation happening in Queensland now, with the Irikanji jellyfish. Here’s a little background on the situation from the 7:30 report. Tourism is a huge industry there so would you want to tell people there is a possibility of deadly jellyfish in the water? It’s irresponsible not to tell people. There have already been deaths. Money needs to be put towards research and anti venom.

I’m not one to judge – as I’ve said before I leave that to Judge Judy. As far as the McCann’s are concerned, I have absolutely no idea what happened to their child. I personally would never have left children alone in an unlocked hotel room. I don’t wish to judge them on the fact that they did so. I do think questions have to be asked, especially in light of this supposed “pact”some people have made with the McCann’s . I am surprised that they aren’t being shredded by the media and I find that very unusual. It leaves me wondering, is there more to this story than meets the eye? Are we all so blind now – the mere mention of pedophiles and people shut up and stop asking important questions?

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13 thoughts on “Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

  1. From what I have read about the McCann story, a lot of people are playing “Blame the Victim”, a favourite game in the media. Why play it? Because it allows the wider community to avoid asking the questions about *why* it’s considered unsafe to leave sleeping children in a room while you are not there with them.
    It’s easier to say of the victims “It’s their fault” rather than question why our society has become so screwed up that some people abduct and harm children.

  2. I don’t know many details about the McCann case. I do know that I was stunned to find out that they had left their child (children?) in an unlocked hotel room while they ate dinner. I just can’t imagine that. Yes, they are the victims…but I just assumed that most people would know that something like that just isn’t safe these days.

  3. From what we’ve been hearing here in the Land of Questionable But Always Sensational Media, there are hints of human trafficking.

    Parents simply shouldn’t leave their kids alone in a motel room while they go eat dinner.

    As Emily said… room service.

    I remember reading about Lindy Chamberlain many years ago. There was a true crime book out on that case.

  4. Hi, Snoks, excellent post and thanks for referencing mine with regard to Madeleine. I remember the Lindy Chamberlain case well as it was quite closely covered by the newspapers in the UK, and can’t think of anything that could be more traumatising than losing a child in such terrible circumstances than to then also be accused of and imprisoned for that child’s murder. There,too, though, it wasn’t wise to leave the child alone, and a risk the mother obviously wouldn’t have taken with hindsight.

    Aurelius, the victim in this case is Madeleine, and chances are she would be safe and well now if she hadn’t been left alone. The parents, if they are not involved are victims, too, but they are the secondary victims of an avoidable situation which their absence helped to create. They have each other and their friends for support, their missing child, if she is even still alive, does not.
    Sorry if I sound like a ranter – just am so angry at them and keen to know what has happened.

  5. I have to admit that I haven’t paid tons of attention to this case. I did see the parents interviewed early on and it does seem to me that they’ve just been heavily coached by others on a few points including the belief that you have to believe that your child is alive until you have evidence otherwise.

    I would not be at all surprised to learn that at least the mother and maybe the father has been sedated. I’d probably have to be.

    Without having heard more about the pact, I could make one guess and that is simply that the McCanns have been told that it is wisest that as few people as possible connected to the case comment.

    I say that only because I was involved for a short time in a situation that included domestic abuse. Based on what I was told by a hotline and on what I read, I called together a group of people close to the situation. I shared what I’d learned and we decided as a group to go with the expert advice. It seemed counter intuitive but it is what we decided to do.

    Finally, my first response to their denying that what they did was wrong (which I totally agree that it was wrong-very wrong) is that they may not be emotionally able to accept what they did. They might just barely be holding it together and if they felt that their going to dinner and leaving the children made Madeleine vulnerable, they might not be able to stand up to it. Just a thought.

    It is hard to know what to think without being there and having all the information. I think there is a balance, more easily talked about than maintained, between asking the right questions and assuming the worst. I’m glad I don’t have that responsibility.

  6. i admit that i don’t know a lot about Madeline, but sounds like some more probing should be done.

    thanks for bringing up the chamberlain case. i knew almost nothing about it and visiting the website was very educational.

  7. Intriguing things to ponder. I have heard bits and pieces about both stories.

    I’m not sure what the right approach is, honestly.

    I do know the media needs to stop trying cases. I’m not owed what they claim I am to rationalize what they do.

    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  8. Aurelius – blame the victim is something I am really familiar with having worked in internet scams for so long. People keep saying how stupid or greedy do you have to be to fall for that? On the other hand, whenever I’ve gone on holidays with my sisters kids, we’ve brought food back to the room.

    Joh – I was only 5 years old at the time, but even so I remember hearing a lot about it.

    Gwendolyn – That seems to be the major issue for a lot of people, that they left the kids alone in an unlocked room. I also can’t imagine it. Then again, I can’t imagine people riding motorcycles without helmets either, and people still do that.

    Emily – Maybe the hotel didn’t have it? But most restaurants will do take away, even if they put alfoil over a plate for you.

    Chani – If you get a chance to read Lindy’s book I highly recommend it, she is so inspirational and surprisingly able to find the humor even in terrible times.

    Julie – The distance from the tent to the eating area Lindy had walked to was 20.8 metres. I’m sure she’s absolutely kicked herself a million times for taking Azaria with her or not zipping up the tent – had she done so it is unlikely the dingo would have been able to get in BUT on the other hand the dingoes at those campsites were very capable animals and able to open wrapped candy bars as well as a number of other incredible feats, the dingo *may* have been able to unzip the tent, given this was back in the early 80’s and camping stuff wasn’t as advanced as it is now.

    The theory put forward by the prosecution as far as Lindy was concerned was that she had slit Azaria’s throat with a pair of nail scissors in the front seat of their car. It was ridiculous.

    Mary-LUE – if I were to assume the worst, what I’d be assuming is that Madeleine was not stolen at all – that something happened to her and the rest of the story is a coverup But like I say, I’m not a judge. I do think questions need answering but who is going to be the one to make sure they are answered? It’s not really in the UK’s jurisdiction and I’m not sure the police in Portugal are asking the right questions and/or there may be language issues.

    Christine – I am so surprised that I’ve not mentioned it before, I could have sworn I had. :)

    Julie – I don’t think the media will quit doing that, especially in the US. However it is interesting the UK media seem to be “keeping off” this one.

    I think our option is to turn away from the media as much as possible, which I have already done myself. ;)

    Laurie – I can’t imagine it either. When we went to the Gold Coast we were staying in a hotel without room service however plenty of places delivered, and there was an Italian place a short walk away where we could call and order then one of us could run down and pick it up instead of all of us going.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!


  9. Interesting non-sequitur in your post about whether or not there is “good” and “bad” writing. I think I disagree with your conclusion; I think there is “good” and “bad” writing. I find a lot of writing which is, as best I can make out, only intended to pass along information, but is so poorly constructed as to leave me wondering at the end exactly what the writer was trying to say. This seems particularly true with modern “journalism”.
    Also, in fiction writing, most of it is pretty bad, in my opinion. Since I love to read, I usually, but not always, read on in spite of bad writing. On the other hand, good writing is one of the delights of my life.

    I have no clue about facts of missing child cases, either nearby or far away. I hesitate to judge parents, and who can fathom the ways of the press, and the “journalists” who do the writing?

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