Australian woman jailed for 20 years for children deaths pardoned

New scientific evidence shows Kathleen Folbigg’s four children may have died of natural causes as she had claimed.

Australia woman
Kathleen Folbigg appears via video link during a convictions inquiry at the Coroners Court of New South Wales in Sydney [File: Joel Carrett/AAP Image via AP]

A woman imprisoned for 20 years over the deaths of her four children has been pardoned by New South Wales state after a judicial review found there was reasonable doubt about the original convictions.

Kathleen Megan Folbigg was convicted in 2003 for the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of the fourth.

Folbigg, 55, maintained her innocence and said the children had died of natural causes.

An initial inquiry in 2019 found the evidence reinforced Folbigg’s guilt. However, a second inquiry by former Chief Justice Thomas Bathurst revisited her convictions in 2022 after new evidence suggested two children had a genetic mutation that could have caused their deaths.

The children, aged between 19 days and 19 months, died over a decade.

Her first child, Caleb, was born in 1989 and died 19 days later in what a jury determined to be the lesser crime of manslaughter. Her second child, Patrick, was eight months old when he died in 1991.

Two years later, Sarah died at 10 months. In 1999, Folbigg’s fourth child, Laura, died at 19 months.

Evidence discovered in 2018 that both daughters carried a rare CALM2 genetic variant was one of the reasons that the inquiry was called.

New South Wales state Attorney-General Michael Daley pardoned Folbigg on Monday after summary findings from the Bathurst inquiry found reasonable doubt about each conviction.

“The result today is confirmation that our judicial system is capable of delivering justice, and demonstrates that the rule of law is an important underpinning of our democratic system,” said Daley.

“Given all that has happened over the last 20 years, it is impossible not to feel sympathy for Kathleen and Craig Folbigg.”

Daley said the unconditional pardon would allow Folbigg to walk free but would not quash her convictions.

In a memo to the attorney-general, Bathurst said there was a reasonable possibility three of the children died from natural causes, two due to a genetic mutation known as CALM2 G114R and one because of an underlying neurogenic disorder.

Such doubts then undermined the prosecution’s case in relation to the manslaughter of her fourth child, Bathurst added.

“Further, I am unable to accept the proposition that the evidence establishes that Ms Folbigg was anything but a caring mother for her children,” he said.

Folbigg was serving a 30-year prison sentence that was to expire in 2033. She would have become eligible for parole in 2028.

Source: News Agencies