Dubbed “Australia’s worst serial killer”, Kathleen Folbigg spent 20 years in prison. The Australian had been convicted of killing her four children. But, following an investigation questioning her guilt, she was pardoned and released on Monday.
In 2003, in a highly publicized case, this mother was convicted of the murder of her three children and the manslaughter of the fourth. According to the prosecution, her children, aged nine weeks to three years, died of suffocation by Kathleen Folbigg, 55, who has always rejected these accusations by asserting that each of their deaths was linked to a natural cause.
Rare genetic mutations
By 2021, dozens of Australian and overseas scientists had signed a petition for his release. They argued that new forensic evidence suggested that these unexplained deaths were linked to rare genetic mutations or birth defects.
New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley announced on Monday that Kathleen Folbigg was pardoned after a year-long investigation that established “reasonable doubt” about the origin of these deaths. She was released on Monday morning from Grafton prison, located about six hours drive north of Sydney. “This is an important moment for justice in this state,” said Sue Higginson, a member of the Greens party who has championed her cause.
“A caring mother”
In the absence of solid forensic evidence, prosecutors had argued that it was extremely unlikely that four children could have died suddenly without explanation. But retired judge Tom Bathurst, who led the inquiry, said subsequent investigations revealed medical causes that could explain three of those deaths.
According to Tom Bathurst, Sarah and Laura Folbigg were carriers of a rare genetic mutation and Patrick Folbigg certainly suffered from an “underlying neurological pathology”. Given these factors, the magistrate ruled the death of Caleb Folbigg as not suspicious. He added that he could not accept that Kathleen “Folbigg was anything other than a caring mother to her children”. The Australian Academy of Sciences, which helped launch the investigation, said it was relieved that justice had been done for Kathleen Folbigg.