Michael Chamberlain dies after battle with leukaemia, aged 72

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain's nine-week-old daughter Azaria went missing from a camp site at Uluru in 1980. Photo / File
Lindy and Michael Chamberlain's nine-week-old daughter Azaria went missing from a camp site at Uluru in 1980. Photo / File

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton has spoken for the first time about the death of her former husband Michael.

New Zealand-born Michael Chamberlain, the man who fought one of Australia's longest battles for justice - the fight to clear his family's name after their baby daughter Azaria was snatched by a dingo in 1980 - died aged 72.

In one of Australia's most high profile cases, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain tragically lost their 9-week old daughter Azaria in 1980 when a dingo crept into her tent at Uluru and took off with her in its mouth. Azaria was never seen again.

Michael Chamberlain, pictured in February 2012 at the Darwin Magistrates Court for the fourth coronial inquest into the disappearance of his daughter, Azaria Chamberlain. Photo / Getty
Michael Chamberlain, pictured in February 2012 at the Darwin Magistrates Court for the fourth coronial inquest into the disappearance of his daughter, Azaria Chamberlain. Photo / Getty

Lindy was charged with murder, and Michael an accessory after the fact. Lindy spent years in jail until new evidence came to light and proved their innocence. The couple was exonerated and Lindy was released in 1986.

But the pair had been through the wringer. They divorced in 1991.

In a statement Lindy today appealed for privacy as Michael's family grieved.

"I am on my way today to support and be with our children. Given Michael's death was unexpected, I would ask that the media please consider that Michael's wife and all of his children are deeply grieving and need some space," she said.

In 2012, Lindy and Michael fronted the Supreme Court in Darwin together when a coroner ruled that a dingo had taken and killed Azaria. It had taken 32 years, four inquests, a trial, jail time, an exoneration, and a whole lot of heartache - but the case into Azaria's death was finally closed.

Both remarried but Michael said in July last year that he still faced many challenges.

His second wife Ingrid suffered a stroke about five years ago and he had been her primary voluntary carer since.

"My life - I don't wish it on anyone," said Chamberlain, who was born in Christchurch.

"I'm looking after my profoundly disabled wife in what is essentially our hospital home.

"I've done that for the past five years, except the last seven months when we got three attendants to support us.

"She had a massive stroke. She's paralysed. She needs care in every way.

"This is a hell of a thing to happen."

During the interview, he hit back at comments made by his ex-wife Lindy about how she struggled to forgive him more than anyone, including those who played a role in wrongly convicting her for the murder of their daughter Azaria.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton revealed it wasn't the NT police, media, general public or the jury who convicted her that she had to fight hardest to forgive.

Baby Azaria Chamberlain who was taken by a dingo while the family was on holiday near Uluru on August 17, 1980. Photo / Getty
Baby Azaria Chamberlain who was taken by a dingo while the family was on holiday near Uluru on August 17, 1980. Photo / Getty

"It's my ex-husband," she told news.com.au at a National Christian Conference in Sydney.

Lindy wouldn't specify what it was she felt she had to forgive Michael for when pressed for further information. "That's private," she said.

Lindy told the audience she had fought not to "get stuck on bitterness and resentment".

"If you're holding the anger, you're not hurting them at all. They're succeeding well beyond their wildest dreams. It's you that's dying," she said.

Michael told news.com.au that he and Lindy once "had a wonderful marriage" and he was surprised to learn of her comments.

"It's two different perspectives. I've moved on," he said.

"I don't agree with her. I never have.

"If she wants to she can talk to me personally or privately but she's never done that.

"I've got nothing against her and welcome a chat.

"I wish her well in any path she chooses to follow."

Chamberlain's father Ivan served as a warrant officer in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War II, and his mother was an administrator with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Chamberlain moved to Australia in the mid-60s after studying at the University of Canterbury and also joining the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Timeline

June 11, 1980 Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain is born, the third child of Seventh Day Adventist pastor Michael Chamberlain and his wife Lindy. Her name, of Hebrew origin, means helped by God.

August 17, 1980 On the second night of a family holiday at Ayers Rock (now Uluru), Azaria, then 9 weeks old, and weighing 4.5kg is put to bed alongside brother Reagan, 4.

August 17, 1980 About 8pm, Azaria cries and Lindy goes to check on her. She is not in the tent.

Lindy cries out: "My God, my God, the dingo's got my baby!" Three hundred people, including Aboriginal trackers, search the area but find nothing.

August 24, 1980 Wally Goodwin finds Azaria's bloodstained jumpsuit, booties, nappy and singlet near the base of the Rock. Her matinee jacket remains missing.

August 1980 The nation's focus turns to Lindy and Michael and their behaviour after Azaria's death. Rumours include that Azaria means sacrifice in the wilderness and that Azaria was dressed in black. The world is fascinated; Australia is divided.

October 1980 Police statements are given by Lindy, Michael, their son Aidan, 6, and Regan at Mt Isa. Their 1977 Torana is searched.

February 20, 1981 Alice Springs Coroner Denis Barritt finds a dingo took Azaria but her body was disposed of by person or persons unknown. Forensic expert Ken Brown requests permission to do further tests on the jumpsuit.

September, 1981 The Chamberlains' Mt Isa home is raided. More than 300 items are seized, including clothing and scissors.

November 20, 1981 Northern Territory Supreme Court quashes the first inquest and orders a new one. Among the reasons is the discovery of large quantities of blood in the now-dismantled family car.

February 2, 1982 After new forensic evidence - some of it related to bloodstains - is presented at a second inquest, Coroner Gerry Galvin commits Lindy to stand trial charged with murdering Azaria. Michael Chamberlain is charged as an accessory after the fact.

September 13, 1982 The murder trial begins in Darwin amid intense public interest. Dingo jokes abound as the nation speculates about Lindy's guilt or innocence. By now, Lindy is pregnant with her fourth child.

September 1982 Sensational evidence is presented. A dingo was heard growling near the tent. Biologist Joy Kuhl says the blood in the Torana is from an infant. An expert says it would be impossible for a baby's head to fit inside a dingo's mouth. The defence then shows a photo of a doll's head in dingo's jaw.

October 29, 1982 Lindy is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Michael receives an 18-month suspended sentence.

November 17, 1982 The Chamberlains' second daughter Kahlia is born in custody. Two days after giving birth, Lindy is released on bail pending an appeal.

April 29, 1983 The Federal Court unanimously rejects an appeal. Lindy is held at Mulawa Women's Prison, then transferred to Darwin after an application for bail pending a High Court appeal fails. Kahlia goes to live with foster parents Wayne and Jenny Miller.

July 19 & 27, 1983 Solicitor Stuart Tipple applies for Lindy's temporary release after Reagan is blinded in one eye when a bottle thrown into a fire in the family's backyard explodes. The request is denied.

February 22, 1984 The High Court appeal fails in a split judgment of 2 to 3.

May 3, 1984 A petition of 131,000 signatures calling for Lindy's release and a judicial inquiry is presented to Governor General Sir Ninian Stevens. Meanwhile, new reports suggest the blood in the car was paint emulsion.

November 17, 1984 An application for release is made after Kahlia's foster parents are transferred. The application denied. Kahlia goes to new foster parents, Dr Owen and Jan Hughes.

November 1985 Evil Angels by Melbourne barrister John Bryson is published. It suggests the Chamberlains might have been wrongfully convicted.

February 3, 1986 Chamberlain solicitor Stuart Tipple is tipped off that the missing matinee jacket of Azaria has been found during a search for missing body parts belonging to a fallen climber at Ayers Rock. The jacket has been held at the Alice Springs Court House since January 31.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain, leave Alice Springs Court House, on February 2, 1982, after being committed to stand trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. Photo / AP
Michael and Lindy Chamberlain, leave Alice Springs Court House, on February 2, 1982, after being committed to stand trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. Photo / AP

February 7, 1986 Local reporter Frank Alcorta is incensed when he discovers the matinee jacket has been held in secret for days. He threatens to publish an article if Northern Territory Government does not release Lindy from jail or call a royal commission. It complies.

June 2, 1987 After a 14-month Royal Commission, Justice Trevor Morling clears the Chamberlains. He slams the evidence offered by Joy Kuhl and other key prosecution witnesses. The Northern Territory government offers the Chamberlains a pardon.

November 4, 1988 The film Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark), starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain, is released. It polarises the nation.

September 15, 1988 The Supreme Court of Darwin quashes all convictions and declares the Chamberlains innocent.

June 27, 1991 The Chamberlain's divorce becomes final. Kahlia chooses to live with Michael and visit Lindy, Reagan stays with Lindy and visits Michael. Aidan divides his time between the two homes.

February 1992 Lindy meets Rick Creighton during a speaking tour of the US.

May 25, 1992 Compensation of $1.3m is paid to the Chamberlains by the Northern Territory government.

December 20, 1992 Rick and Lindy are married. They live in Washington State, US. Four months later, Lindy gets custody of Kahlia and Reagan. Two years later, Michael meets and marries Ingrid Bergner. Their daughter Zahra is born in June 1996.

December 13, 1995 The findings of the third inquest are announced. NT Coroner John Lowndes reiterates that neither Lindy nor Michael were involved in Azaria's disappearance. He leaves the cause of Azaria's death open.

August 1998 Lindy and Rick return with Reagan and Kahlia to live in Australia.

October 2002 The opera Lindy premieres at the Sydney Opera House.

August 6, 2004 Melbourne pensioner Frank Cole takes a lie-detector test after asserting he shot the dingo that killed Azaria in August 1980, then showed the baby's body to his companions. He passes the test, but Lindy expresses doubts.

October 2004 Lindy releases her autobiography Through My Eyes.

November 2004 The television mini series Through My Eyes is broadcast on Australia's Channel 7 network. Miranda Otto plays Lindy.

August 9, 2010 Jury notes from in the Northern Territory police files reveal details of deliberations: Three women all voted for Lindy's conviction while at least four of the nine men had to be persuaded that she was guilty. The foreman dismissed the defence evidence as purely smokescreen.

December 18, 2011 A fourth inquest into Azaria's death is announced, due to commence on February 24, 2012.

June 2012: the NT coroner exonerates the Chamberlains of Azaria's death, finding a dingo took the baby

January 9, 2017: Michael Chamberlain dies after a long battle with leukaemia.

- news.com.au

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