After more than two decades in jail, Kathleen Megan Folbigg – once labelled Australia’s “worst female serial killer” – is being pardoned.
NSW Attorney General Michael Daley made the recommendation on Monday morning (5 June) to the NSW Governor, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, who accepted the endorsement.
The Singleton mother was found guilty of murdering her three infant children, Patrick Allen (eight months), Sarah Kathleen (10 months) and Laura Elizabeth (19 months), over 20 years ago.
She was also sentenced for the manslaughter of her son Caleb Gibson (19 days).
The deaths took place between 1989 and 1999.
Although jailed for the crimes, Folbigg always maintained her innocence, claiming the quartet died from natural causes.
In 2021, she lost her appeal to overturn the findings of a 2019 judicial hearing that also found her guilty of murdering her four children.
But, leading Australian scientists lobbied to free her, due to new genetic evidence.
It included peer-reviewed findings by an international team of 27 experts published in a top international cardiology journal, Europace, in November 2020.
It showed two of Folbigg’s children had genetic mutations that predisposed them to sudden death in childhood from lethal heart arrhythmias.
Forensic pathologists declared natural causes of death for the other two children.
Mr Daley also released summary findings prepared by the Hon Thomas Bathurst AC KC.
He’s been leading the inquiry into the convictions of Folbigg.
In a memorandum, Mr Bathurst stated he had reached “a firm view that there was reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Ms Folbigg for each of the offences for which she was originally tried”.
Based on these findings, Mr Daley recommended to the Governor that the Royal prerogative of mercy be applied to unconditionally pardon her.
“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,” he said.
“I thank the team on the inquiry for the work they have done so far.
“I also thank Mr Bathurst for the thorough and robust assessment he provided me which helped enable this outcome.
“I thank the previous Attorney General Mark Speakman and the NSW Governor her Excellency the Hon Margaret Beazley, KC, AC, for establishing this inquiry.
“Given all that has happened over the past 20 years, it is impossible to not feel sympathy for Kathleen and Craig Folbigg.
“I am glad that our legal system in NSW contains provisions that allow for the continual pursuit of truth and justice.”
Key points from Mr Bathurst’s memorandum to the Attorney General include:
- There is a reasonable possibility that three of the children died of natural causes.
- In the case of Sarah and Laura Folbigg, there is a reasonable possibility a genetic mutation known as CALM2-G114R occasioned their deaths.
- Mr Bathurst was “unable to accept… the proposition that Ms Folbigg was anything but a caring mother for her children.”
- In relation to the death of a fourth child, Mr Bathurst found that “the coincidence and tendency evidence which was central to the (2003) Crown case falls away.”
- In relation to Ms Folbigg’s diary entries, evidence suggests they were the writings of a grieving and possibly depressed mother, blaming herself for the death of each child, as distinct from admissions that she murdered or otherwise harmed them.
Mr Bathurst advised that due to the volume of submissions and evidence, it would take some time for the formal report to be finalised.
He will continue to prepare a report to the Governor pursuant to s 82 of the Crimes (Appeal & Review) Act 2001 NSW.
For more news stories:
- Maitland Town Hall’s $9.7m refurbishment unveiled
- New England Highway overpass set to open at Belford
- Whale watching season has lift-off with record numbers
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, real estate, entertainment, lifestyle and more delivered straight to your inbox with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.