How Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Works


Bloodstain Pattern Analysis in Action: The Chamberlain Case
Did a dingo take the baby? The most recent ruling says yes.
Did a dingo take the baby? The most recent ruling says yes.
Theo Allofs/Photonica/Getty Images

One infamous case that comes to the minds of many people when thinking about blood spatter analysis involves a line that has since become a pop-culture catchphrase (thanks to Meryl Streep in "A Cry in the Dark" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus on "Seinfeld"): "The dingo ate my baby."

In August 1980, the Chamberlain family camped near Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) in the Red Centre desert of Australia's Northern Territory. One night, Lindy Chamberlain put two of her children, 4-year-old Reagan and 9-week-old Azaria, to bed in their tent. When she returned, the story goes, she cried, "The dingo's got my baby!" [source: Latson]

According to Lindy, when she got to the tent she saw a dingo with a bundle in its mouth. She wasn't close enough to see what it was, but when she checked on the children she saw that her daughter Azaria was missing [source: Haberman]. As the cry went out, she and her husband, Michael, along with other campers, began searching for the child. A nearby camper, Sally Lowe, went into the tent to check on the still-sleeping Reagan. Seeing a pool of wet blood on the floor of the tent, she thought that Azaria was probably already dead [source: Linder].

When a tourist found the baby's jumpsuit, it was only slightly torn and bloody, but mostly intact. Though an initial investigation backed up Lindy Chamberlain's claim of a wild dog attacking her daughter, it was not long before the parents themselves stood accused [source: Haberman].

The baby had been wearing other clothes that weren't found at the time [source: Latson].

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain outside the court in Sydney
Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

Throughout the case, the local police improperly handled blood spatter and other evidence. Forensics investigators found "blood stains" in the family car and concluded that Lindy had taken Azaria there to cut her throat. Later analysis revealed that the stains came from a spilled drink and a sound-deadening compound that came with the car. One expert identified a "bloody hand print" on Azaria's jumpsuit that later analysis revealed to be red desert sand. However, in 1982, expert testimony — and public opinion — proved enough to convict Lindy Chamberlain of murder and her husband of being an accessory to murder. The baby's knit jacket, found in 1986 near a dingo lair, helped exonerate the Chamberlains after Lindy had served three years of a life sentence, but several years of trials and hearing were yet to come [source: Latson]. In 2012, 32 years after the event, a coroner finally pronounced that a dingo was responsible for the death [sources: Haberman, Latson].

The Chamberlain case shows what can happen when people involved in handling and analyzing blood evidence lack proper training, or when investigators allow public opinion or preconceived notions to influence their analysis.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Akin, Louis. "Directional Analysis of Blood Spatter at Crime and Accident Scenes for the Private Investigator." The Forensic Examiner. Summer 2005. http://www.akininc.com/PDFs/Directional%20Analysis%20for%20PI's%20condensed.pdf
  • Brodbeck, Silke. "Introduction to Bloodstain Pattern Analysis." SIAK-Journal — Journal for Police Science and Practice. Vol. 2. Pages 51-57. 2012. (Oct. 14, 2015) http://www.bmi.gv.at/cms/bmi_siak/4/2/1/ie2012/files/brodbeck_ie_2012.pdf
  • Cotton, Fred B. "Justice Applications of Computer Animation." SEARCH Technical Bulletin. Iss. 2. 1994. (Oct. 16, 2015) http://www.search.org/files/pdf/tbanimat.pdf
  • Dallas Learning Solutions. "The Chemistry of Life." (Oct. 12, 2015) https://dlc.dcccd.edu/biology1-2/water
  • Dutelle, Aric W. "An Introduction to Crime Scene Investigation." Jones & Bartlett Publishers. Jan. 28, 2011.
  • Eckert, William G. and Stuart H. James. "Interpretation of Bloodstain Evidence at Crime Scenes." CRC Press. 1999.
  • Evans, Collin. "Murder 2: The Second Casebook of Forensic Detection." John Wiley & Sons. 2004.
  • Genge, N.E. "The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation." Ballantine Books. 2002.
  • Haberman, Clyde. "Vindication at Last for a Woman Scorned by Australia's News Outlets." The New York Times. Nov. 16, 2014. (Oct. 14, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/17/us/vindication-at-last-for-a-woman-scorned-by-australias-news-media.html?_r=0
  • Hueske, Edward E. "Practical Analysis and Reconstruction of Shooting Incidents." CRC Press. Nov. 29, 2005.
  • International Association for Identification. https://www.theiai.org/
  • International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts. "Bloodstain Pattern Analysis & Other Course(s) (Fall 2015)." (Oct. 5, 2015) http://www.iabpa.org/uploads/files/Training%20Page%20Documents/Brochure%20Courses%20Loci%20Forensics%20B.V.%20-%20Fall%202015.pdf
  • Iowa State University. "Iowa State Engineer Working to Put More Science Behind Bloodstain Pattern Analysis." April 18, 2013. (Oct. 12, 2015) http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2013/04/18/bloodstains
  • James, Stuart H. et al. "Forensic Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques, Fourth Edition." Taylor & Francis. Jan. 13, 2014.
  • James, Stewart H. et al. "Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis: Theory and Practice." CRC Press. 2005.
  • Latson, Jennifer. "Why that 'Dingo's Got My Baby' Line isn't Funny." Time. Oct. 29, 2014. (Oct. 14, 2015) http://time.com/3537456/dingo-got-my-baby/
  • Linder, Douglas O. "The Trial Transcript in Crown v Lindy and Michael Chamberlain ("The Dingo Trial"): Selected Excerpts." Famous Trials. (Oct. 14, 2015) http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/chamberlain/chamberlaintranscript.html
  • Murray, Elizabeth. "Blood Spatter Lecture." Marshall University College of Science. Feb. 19, 2008. (Oct. 26, 2015) http://www.science.marshall.edu/murraye/2008%20Forensics%20Lectures/Blood%20Spatter%202008color.pdf
  • National Forensic Science Technology Center. "Blood Spatter Animations." 2008. http://gallery.nfstc.org/swf/BloodSpatters.html
  • Nickell, Joe and John F. Fischer. "Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection." University Press of Kentucky. 1999.
  • Ramsland, Katherine. "The Forensic Science of C.S.I." Berkeley Boulevard. 2001.
  • Red Rocks Community College. "The Many Faces of Criminal Justice." 2014. (Oct. 15, 2015) http://www.rrcc.edu/criminal-justice/criminal-justice-careers#blood
  • Rosina, J. et al. "Temperature Dependence of Blood Surface Tension." Physiological Research. Vol. 56 (Suppl. 1). Pages S93-S98. 2007. (Oct. 12, 2015) http://www.researchgate.net/publication/6283606_Temperature_dependence_of_blood_surface_tension
  • Shen, A.R. et al. "Toward Automatic Blood Spatter Analysis in Crime Scenes." Proceedings of the Institution of Engineering and Technology Conference on Crime and Security. Page 378. 2006. http://mi.eng.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/BloodSpatter/BloodSpatter_ShenBrostow.pdf
  • Slemeko, Joe. "Bloodstain Tutorial." Joseph Slemeko Forensic Consulting, 2007. http://www.bloodspatter.com/BPATutorial.htm
  • Wonder, Anita Y. "Bloodstain Patterns: Identification, Interpretation and Application." Academic Press. Dec. 17, 2014. (Oct. 12, 2015)

More to Explore