More than 30 years after being thrust into Australian folklore as a central figure in one of the country’s most notorious murder trials, Michael Chamberlain still railed against the “gross injustice” that shaped his life.
Mr Chamberlain, father of Azaria who was snatched by a dingo at Uluru in 1980, died aged 72 in Gosford Hospital on Monday – losing his battle with acute leukemia.
Born in New Zealand in 1944, Mr Chamberlain moved to Australia in 1964, where he became a pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
He married former wife Lindy in 1969.
The young couple were put under the spotlight when their nine-week-old daughter Azaria was snatched from a tent during a family holiday at Uluru in August, 1980.
They were ultimately convicted, Lindy for murder and Michael for being an accessory after the fact.
Lindy served more than three years of a life sentence imposed in 1982 – giving birth to their fourth child Kahlia in Darwin Prison.
Michael was handed an 18-month suspended sentence for being an accessory.
The pair was later exonerated at a 1987 royal commission, but Mr Chamberlain remained bitter.
After divorcing, remarrying, earning a PhD in education, becoming a teacher and writing several books, he still lamented the case as a “gross injustice”.
‘It was one of the worst perversions of justice and forensic science in Australian history,’ he said in 2014.
‘We had gone as babes in the woods. A Catholic lawyer described us as lambs to the slaughter.
‘We had lived by the credo that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. It was dead wrong.’
He also believed the time Lindy spent behind bars had damaged her.
In 1990 the couple’s marriage fell apart – Michael going on to marry Ingrid Bergner in 1994 with whom he had daughter Zahra in 1996.
Lindy Chamberlain also remarried, becoming Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.
Despite the charges against the Chamberlains being cleared, a coronial inquest into Azaria in 1995 delivered an open verdict.
The fourth coronial inquest into the case, held in 2012, ruled that a dingo was responsible for the baby’s death.
That was what the first inquest, back in early 1981, had also concluded, and what the Chamberlains had steadfastly said since Lindy yelled those infamous words: “That dingo’s got my baby.”
The disappearance of Azaria prompted one of Australia’s longest-running legal sagas, and one that has captivated and polarised the nation.
Despite the 2012 verdict, Mr Chamberlain said he still had plenty of questions he wanted authorities to answer.
‘I have peace and gratitude in my heart that Azaria’s spirit now lies rested, and I have gratitude and peace in my heart because justice has been done for us,’ Mr Chamberlain said while talking to AAP in 2012 while releasing his book Heart of Stone: Justice for Azaria.
’But why did this happen to us? Why did it take so long? And why were there consistently a whole lot of mistakes made?
‘It was systemic; it just wasn’t one or two. It wasn’t isolated and I have to ask the question, was it by accident?’
Mr Chamberlain made a tilt at state politics in 2003, running as a Liberal Party candidate in the seat of Lake Macquarie in NSW.
He didn’t win, but achieved a 5.2 per cent swing against incumbent MP Geoff Hunter.
He then taught at an Aboriginal high school in Brewarrina, NSW for three years before returning the NSW Central Coast where he taught at Gosford High School until 2008, when he retired.
The University of Newcastle last year appointed him a Conjoint Professor at its School of Education, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Mr Chamberlain published three books, including Beyond Azaria: Black Light White Light, that detailed his personal feelings following the death of his daughter and the severe public scrutiny he and his family were placed under.
He became Ingrid’s full-time carer after she suffered a stroke in 2011.
Mr Chamberlain had three other children with Lindy – Reagan, Aidan and Kahlia as well as Zahra.