Kathleen Folbigg is pardoned; Australian official quotes ‘New

Usman Deen

Global Courant

Twenty years ago, Kathleen Folbigg was convicted of smothering her four young children. Australian tabloids called her the country’s worst female serial killer.

But Ms Folbigg, sentenced to 40 years in prison, insisted she was innocent. And in recent years, a growing number of scientists have begun to claim that she was telling the truth. Genetic evidence, they said, indicated that the children most likely died of natural causes.

On Monday, New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley announced that Ms Folbigg, 55, had been granted a full pardon and released from prison. He cited the preliminary conclusion of an official inquiry that there was “reasonable doubt” about her guilt.

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“What’s the difference between today and what happened in the past is that new evidence has come to light,” said Mr. Daley. “It is appropriate that we have the mechanisms to reconsider the source of questions in light of new evidence.”

There was no immediate comment from Ms. Folbigg or her lawyer.

The former Chief Justice of New South Wales who led the official inquiry, Tom Bathurst, said in a statement Monday that he could not agree with “the proposition that Ms Folbigg was anything but a caring mother to her children”.

He said he had concluded there was a reasonable chance that three of the four children had died of natural causes, and that prosecutors’ argument that she killed the fourth was based on “coincidence and tendency evidence” that no longer held up .

All four of Mrs. Folbigg’s children died before age 2: Caleb, at 19 days, in 1989; Patrick, at 8 months, almost two years later; Sarah, 10 months old, in 1993; and Laura, at 18 months, in 1999.

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At first, the deaths seemed to be just a series of horrific tragedies. Two were deemed to have been caused by SIDS, a third by suffocation. A coroner concluded that Laura had died of an “indeterminate” cause.

But after Mrs. Folbigg had found one of her diary entries, which stated that Sarah had left the world “with a little help”, he reported her to the police.

There was no direct evidence that Ms. Folbigg smothered the children, as prosecutors claimed. She told authorities that her diary entries reflected the stress of motherhood and that “a little help” referred to her hope that God had brought her baby home.

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But at her 2003 trial, prosecutors argued that pigs were more likely to fly than four young children so young to die of natural causes, in the same family, in the space of 10 years. A jury agreed, and Mrs. Folbigg, then 35, was found guilty of murder in the deaths of Patrick, Sarah, and Laura, and of manslaughter in Caleb’s.

But in recent years, geneticists have discovered that Ms. Folbigg and her two daughters had a rare genetic mutation in what’s known as the CALM2 gene. In 2020, an international team of scientists published a research paper concluding that the mutation was likely to lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

Since scientists started asking questions about the matter, two official investigations have been conducted. The first, in 2018, found that there was no reasonable doubt about Ms Folbigg’s guilt.

The second investigation, led by Justice Bathurst, began last year after more than 90 prominent scientists, including two Nobel laureates, submitted a petition to the governor calling for Ms Folbigg’s immediate release. In addition to examining the genetic study, the second study heard evidence from psychiatric experts who said Ms Folbigg’s diary entries contained no clear admission of guilt.

Kathleen Folbigg is pardoned; Australian official quotes ‘New

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