Kathleen Folbigg was found guilty of killing her four babies, but could she be innocent?
Kathleen Folbigg has been in prison for almost 20 years, but now there is new evidence that could make the whole case go away.
Kathleen Folbigg has woken up in a NSW prison cell every day for the past 19 years.
The 55-year-old woman works as a cleaner behind bars seven days a week to keep herself busy before an investigation that will decide her future.
She is said to be worried and stressed out, but also patient and hopeful.
Folbigg was found guilty in 2003 of killing her four babies, Caleb, Patrick, Sarah, and Laura.
Folbigg has been called a “baby killer” and “Australia’s worst female serial killer” by the media both at the time and in the years since.
But more and more people think she might not be guilty. Tracy Chapman, who is her best friend and biggest fan, is sure that she is.
Chapman said, “She loved those kids.”
“She was so happy to be a mom, and I just don’t believe that person could have done what they did.”
Folbigg was given a sentence of 40 years in prison and 30 years without parole. After she filed an appeal, her sentence was cut to 30 years with a 25-year no-parole period. This means she could not get out of jail before 2028.
She tried to change her convictions over the last 20 years, but it didn’t work. An investigation in 2019 backed up her convictions.
Folbigg has always said that she is not guilty, and new scientific evidence that will be presented to a court on Monday could make the whole case go away.
If the inquiry finds that the new evidence casts doubt on the case and an appeal is successful, it could be one of the biggest mistakes of justice in Australia.
These are the Folbigg kids.
Folbigg’s four children all died within 10 years of each other.
Caleb was Folbigg and Craig’s first child. He was born in February 1989.
Caleb was only 19 days old when he was found dead in the middle of the night. He was on his back and wrapped in the rug that had been his bed.
Sudden infant death syndrome was given as the reason for his death (SIDS).
In June 1990, more than a year after that, Patrick was born.
Patrick had what seemed to be a life-threatening event (ALTE) in October of that year. He died a few months later, in February 1991.
A doctor found that he had a heart attack for no reason. No one knew what caused his death.
Sarah was born in October 1992, and she was “happy and healthy.” SIDS was thought to be the cause of her death a year later, in August 1993.
Laura, Folbigg’s fourth child, was born in August 1997, four years after her birth.
On March 1, 1999, Laura died. A postmortem exam showed that the person had mild myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart.
Even though the body was found, no cause of death was found.
Stupid diary entries
When Kathleen Folbigg was a child, a social worker told her to keep a diary, so she did.
Her first diary was a hardcover book with a small lock and key.
Folbigg kept many diaries, even after her marriage and the deaths of her children. Some of the entries show that she felt like a failure as a mother and that she felt guilty about the deaths of her children.
“I think I’m the worst mother in the world. I’m afraid she will leave me now. Like Sarah did. I knew I was sometimes angry and mean to her, so she left. In one entry, Folbigg wrote, “With a little help.”
“All I wanted Sarah to do was shut up. She did it one day.”
Folbigg and her husband Craig got divorced after Laura died.
In May 1999, Craig found her diary and gave it to the police.
Folbigg was caught in April 2001 and charged with four counts of murder.
Because none of the Folbigg children’s deaths showed any physical signs of wrongdoing, the case was based on circumstantial evidence, such as entries from the diaries that were said to be a “virtual admission” of her guilt.
Folbigg was accused of smothering her children because none of their deaths could be explained. She was found guilty of killing Patrick, Sarah, and Laura and causing the death of Caleb.
She was also found guilty of one count of hurting Patrick very badly with the ALTE.
But Chapman, who is her best friend, says that the journal excerpts were taken out of context.
“They have bad punctuation, and she writes like she’s all over the place, but that’s just how she writes in a stream of consciousness. Chapman said, “You just write whatever comes to mind.”
“It became a habit, and she’s always said she treated the diaries like friends.
“I see her journals as the way they were always meant to be used: as a way to help her mental health. They have nothing bad about them.”
Breakthrough in science
In 2018, a group of scientists found that Sarah and Laura Folbigg had a “G114R” variant in the CALM2 gene, which is important for the rhythm of the heart.
After the mutation was found, experts from all over the world got together to show that it caused arrhythmias and could kill.
The results were out of this world.
“Given the biophysical and functional effects of the CALM2 G114R variant, we think the variant probably caused the natural deaths of the two female children,” the researchers wrote in a study published in the medical journal EP Europace in 2020.
Scientists also found differences in Caleb and Patrick’s BSN gene, which, when deleted, has been shown to “cause early-onset lethal epilepsy in mice.”
Patrick had seizures and was told he had epilepsy before he passed away.
Scientists are still trying to figure out if this variant could have been what killed the two boys.
Carola Vinuesa, an immunology professor at the Australian National University who has been fighting for Folbigg, said that the scientific evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Folbigg was innocent and that her children died of natural causes.
“This evidence is very strong,” she said in May on Sunrise.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said that Folbigg’s convictions will be looked at again, starting on Monday. This is because new scientific evidence has come to light.
In May, Speakman said, “The evidence clearly meets the necessary level for some kind of intervention.”
The inquiry will hear what people think about the scientific results and what psychologists have to say about Folbigg’s diaries.
If the inquiry finds that the scientific evidence raises reasonable doubt, the case will likely go back to the Court of Appeal, where Folbigg’s convictions could be overturned.
Chapman says that the investigation will come down to a fight between science and the law.
She said, “I’m worried because her life does depend on it.”
“(Folbigg) doesn’t want to spend another day in (prison).”
All she wants to do is go home.
“Up until now, the Kathleen Folic story has been told without any compassion. Everything has been about the worst serial killer in Australia. That is not a friend of mine. That’s not what she says.”