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Kathleen Folbigg: Mother who suffered 20 years for killing her four babies is forgiven

Kathleen Folbigg: Mother who suffered 20 years for killing her four babies is forgiven


Brisbane, Australia

A woman convicted of Australia’s worst female serial killer has been pardoned after serving 20 years behind bars for killing her four children in what appears to be one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in the country.

New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley intervened to order Kathleen Folbigg’s release, based on the preliminary findings of an inquest that had found reasonable doubt of her guilt in all four deaths.

Daley said at a press conference Monday that he had spoken with the governor and recommended an unconditional pardon, which was granted, and she would be released from Clarence Correctional Center the same day.

This has been a terrible ordeal for all concerned, and I hope our actions today can bring some closure to this 20-year-old case, said Daley, who added that he had informed Folbiggs’ ex-husband, the babies’ father, of the decision. his.

Folbigg was jailed in 2003 on three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in the deaths of her four babies over a decade starting in 1989. In each case, she was the person who found their bodies, although there was no physical evidence that she had caused their deaths.

Instead, the jury relied on the prosecution’s argument that the odds of four babies from one family dying of natural causes before the age of 2 were so low as to be compared to pigs flying.

They also pointed to the contents of her diary, which contained passages that, taken apart at the time, were interpreted as confessions.

By 2019, an inquiry into her convictions found there was no reasonable doubt that she had committed the crimes. But another investigation was launched last year after new scientific evidence emerged that suggested a genetic explanation for the children’s deaths.

In her closing submissions, Sophie Callan, lead counsel assisting the inquest, said that on the totality of the evidence before this inquest there was a reasonable doubt as to Ms Folbiggs’ guilt.

She also told the inquiry that in his closing submissions the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions had indicated that she was also open to the Inquiry concluding that there was reasonable doubt about Ms Folbiggs’ guilt.

Patrick, the second child of the Folbigg family, died at eight months

Folbigg was just 20 when she married Craig Folbigg, a man she met in her hometown of Newcastle on the New South Wales north coast.

Within a year she became pregnant with Caleb, who was born in February 1989 and lived just 19 days. The following year, the Folbiggs had another son, Patrick, who died at eight months. Two years later, Sarah died at 10 months. Then, in 1999, the Folbiggs’ fourth and oldest child, Laura, died aged 18 months.

A police investigation into the deaths of all four children began the day Laura died, but it was more than two years before Folbigg was arrested and charged. By then, her marriage had fallen apart and Kathleen’s husband was cooperating with the police to build a case against her.

He turned over her diaries to police, which prosecutors argued contained the deepest thoughts of a mother tormented by guilt over her role in the deaths of her children.

Examination of the infants’ remains failed to find any physical evidence that they had drowned, but with no other plausible reason to explain their deaths, suspicion focused on Folbigg.

In 2003, as he sentenced her to 40 years in prison, Judge Graham Barr recalled that Folbiggs was troubled after her father had killed her mother when she was just 18 months old and she had spent much of her formative years in foster care.

According to court documents, Barr said Folbiggs’ prospects for rehabilitation were slim.

She will always be a risk if given the responsibility of caring for a child, he said. This should never happen.

The death of 18-month-old Laura Folbigg prompted a police investigation.

That initial conviction now stands in stark contrast to the latest inquest, which looks set to paint a very different picture of Folbigg as a loving mother who was devastated and bewildered by the successive deaths. of her babies.

In ordering her release on Monday, Daley released a memorandum of findings from retired judge Tom Bathurst, who said after reviewing the evidence he was unable to accept the proposition that Ms Folbigg was anything more than a caring mother to the children. her.

In the case of two daughters, Sarah and Laura Bathurst, they found that there was a reasonable possibility that a genetic mutation known as CALM2-G114R caused their deaths and that Sarah could have died from myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, identified during her autopsy .

In the case of Patrick, who had an unexplained ALTE, an apparent life-threatening event, when he was four months old and died at eight months, Bathurst found that it was possible that his death was caused by an underlying neurogenic disorder .

During Folbiggs’ 2003 trial, the prosecution used evidence of coincidence and tendency to claim that Folbigg had also killed Caleb. In other words, since she was allegedly responsible for the deaths of three children, it is likely that she killed him as well.

However, Bathurst found that reasonable suspicion in the deaths of his siblings meant that the case for prosecution in Caleb’s murder fell.

Kathleen Folbigg enters the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney, May 19, 2003.

Regarding her diaries, Bathurst said the evidence suggested they were the writings of a grieving and possibly desperate mother, blaming herself for each child’s death, as opposed to admitting she had killed or otherwise harmed them.

Bathurst also cast doubt on evidence from Craig Folbigg, who had claimed his wife was abusive to their children and had repeatedly moaned at them.

The balance of evidence (was) that she was a loving and caring mother, wrote Bathurst, whose full report will be published at a later date.

The Folbiggs case has been compared to that of Lindy Chamberlain, who swore a dingo took her baby Azaria from the family’s camp at Uluru in 1980.

The case polarized public opinion and Chamberlain was jailed before evidence emerged that she was telling the truth.

In 1986, Azarias’ matinee jacket was found half-submerged in the dirt, prompting officials to release Chamberlain, later known as Chamberlain-Creighton. Two years later, a court overturned her conviction, and in 2012 a coroner ruled that a dingo was indeed responsible for Azaria’s death.

Like Chamberlain-Creighton, Folbiggs’ release from prison could be the start of a long process to clear her name.

Daley told reporters Monday that Folbigs’ pardon meant only that she did not have to serve the rest of her sentence and that it would be up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn her convictions.

He said it was too early to talk about compensation, as that would require Folbigg to start civil proceedings against the New South Wales government, or approach it asking for a free payment.

Daley acknowledged that after 20 years of believing Folbiggs was guilty, some people may not accept her innocence.

There will be some people who have strong views. There is nothing I can do to deny those views, (and) it is not my role to do so, he said.

But he suggested that the events of the past two decades should inspire compassion for a woman who has lost so much.

We have four little bubba’s that have died. We have a husband and wife who lost each other. A woman who spent 20 years in prison and a family who had no chance. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel something, he said.




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