Michael Chamberlain, whose nine-week-old daughter Azaria was snatched by a dingo in Uluru in 1980, has died aged 72.
The former husband of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton died in Gosford Hospital on Monday evening, family lawyer Stuart Tipple told the ABC.
Azaria was taken from the family tent in August 1980, sparking one of Australia’s most sensational legal cases.
The Chamberlains were ultimately charged over their baby’s disappearance, Lindy with murder and Michael for being an accessory after the fact.
They were exonerated in 1988 and separated in 1990.
Michael Chamberlain went on to marry Ingrid Bergner in 1994 and the couple have a daughter named Zahra.
He gained a PhD in education in 2002, and in 2003 ran as a Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Lake Macquarie in the New South Wales state election.
Dr Chamberlain has published three books, including Beyond Azaria: Black Light White Light.
Mystery that gripped a nation
The disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain captivated the public imagination near to the point of hysteria.
The prosecution devised an elaborate theory that the Chamberlains had killed Azaria and faked her disappearance.
Lindy Chamberlain received a life sentence in 1982 and was imprisoned for more than three years before new evidence forced a royal commission that ultimately resulted in the 1988 exoneration of the Chamberlains by the Northern Territory Criminal Court of Appeal.
Three inquests were held between 1980 and 1995 – the first finding that Azaria had been taken by a dingo, the second which led to the Chamberlains’ convictions, and a third in 1995 which did not make a finding either way.
Former Fairfax journalist Malcolm Brown, who reported on the inquests, said the case had a severe impact on Dr Chamberlain’s life.
“It wrecked his marriage, it split his family apart and it wrecked his career,” he said.
Brown said Dr Chamberlain had resigned from his role as a Seventh Day Adventist pastor after an appeal against their convictions in 1984 failed.
“The loss of his career and his status in religion was a very severe blow to him,” Brown said.
“He was subject to terrible abuse … He came out as a strong and steadfast individual.”
Michael seen as the ‘pliable husband’
Former ABC Journalist Tony Eastley said the relationship between the Chamberlains and the media covering the trials and inquests was distant.
“The media was kept quite a distance from the family,” he said.
“The Seventh Day Adventist Church gathered the wagons around them so they were fairly aloof to the media.”
He said Dr Chamberlain “was seen to be the pliable husband in the whole affair”.
“He was slim, he was blond, he was always by her [Lindy’s] side when they came and left the courts during the murder trial.
“He was very much considered to be a second fiddle in the whole arrangement.”
Eastley said the whole affair left Dr Chamberlain “bitter”.
It was not until a fourth inquest was called that the Chamberlains were finally exonerated by NT coroner Elizabeth Morris in 2012.
At the time, Dr Chamberlain said the coroner’s ruling was a triumph of justice.
“This battle to get to the legal truth has taken too long,” he said.
“However, I am here to tell you that you can get justice even when you think that all is lost.”