Blood expert remembers Azaria case

PROFESSOR Barry Boettcher has no doubts that a dingo killed Azaria Chamberlain on the night of August 17, 1980.

He was convinced from the time he was asked in March 1982 to examine scientific evidence that the Crown was using in its case against the Chamberlains.

A blood specialist who was living a normal academic’s life at the time, Professor Boettcher had done some specialist work on a couple of court cases when the Chamberlain defence team asked him to review the evidence of the Crown’s forensic biologist, the late Joy Kuhl.

‘‘I became involved just after the second inquest when the Chamberlains were charged with murder,’’ the emeritus professor said yesterday.

‘‘I remember looking at the work notes of Mrs Kuhl and I thought if it was Azaria’s blood you would not get the results she observed.

‘‘I knew then that there was something very wrong.’’

Professor Boettcher showed the Crown’s tests for ‘‘foetal haemoglobin’’ were capable of producing so many false positive results that they were effectively useless.

Indeed, a supposed spray of Azaria’s blood in the boot of the Chamberlain’s car was eventually found to be soundproofing compound applied at the time of manufacture.

Moira Boettcher, who had a young family at the time and a woman’s instinct for likely trouble, said yesterday she was worried when she knew her husband was going to throw himself into the Chamberlain case.

‘‘But it was something that I knew that he had to do, and I supported him all the way in doing it,’’ Mrs Boettcher said.

She said her husband had become a sort of whistleblower, determined to find the truth and to right wrong in the judicial system.

The Chamberlain case was followed by a number of other high-profile court cases, including the inquest for Victorian toddler Jaidyn Leskie.

Even today, the 77-year-old is working to free people – a current case involves a convicted murderer – from what he believes to be wrongful imprisonment.

He says he was criticised by some at the university for his support of the Chamberlains, but he believed being a professor gave him ‘‘the right to profess – to speak out on subjects of my academic expertise, which this was’’.

Professor Boettcher said he was relieved when Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris delivered her verdict on Tuesday, saying it finally gave ‘‘closure’’ to a family that had been through so much.

He said so much evidence pointed to a dingo – starting with the Aboriginal trackers who found footprints of a dingo dragging something away from the tent – that he did not understand how the case became viewed as a murder.

‘‘To lose a baby is bad enough, but then to be treated in such a way is just dreadful and I have felt for them all along,’’ Professor Boettcher said.

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