Crime & Justice

Australia pardons woman convicted of killing her four babies after case review

Update 1: Adds statements from Folbigg’s friend, attorney

Sydney, Australia, Jun 5 (EFE).- Kathleen Folbigg, convicted of killing her four babies has been pardoned after 20 years in prison following a review of the case that linked their deaths to genetic mutations, Australian authorities announced Monday.

“She has now been pardoned. I would like to also say that we also took the opportunity, as you would expect, to make sure that Ms Folbigg was released without delay,” New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley said at a press conference in Sydney.

Last year, the Australian authorities ordered a review of Folbigg’s case over the deaths of her children Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, between 1989 and 1999 at ages ranging from 19 days to 18 months, after a group of scientists suggested the possibility that the infants may have died due to a rare genetic mutation.

Former judge Tom Bathurst, who was in charge of reviewing the case, concluded that there was reasonable doubt as to Kathleen Folbigg’s guilt, Daley said.

Bathurst said that there was a reasonable possibility that three of the children died of natural causes.

With regard to the death of a fourth child, Bathurst found that “the coincidence and tendency evidence which was central to the (2003) Crown case falls away.”

“Bathurst was “unable to accept …the proposition that Folbigg was anything but a caring mother for her children,” Daley said.

In 2020, a group of scientists, coordinated by Spanish immunologist Carola García de Vinuesa and led by Denmark’s Michael Toft Overgaard concluded that the deaths of the Folbigg’s babies may have been due to genetic causes.

The scientific study, published in the European Society of Cardiology’s journal Eurospace, linked a genetic mutation (CALM2) – present in Folbigg’s two daughters – with sudden cardiac death.

Moreover, the study – put together by an international group of 27 experts – showed that the children carried rare variants of a gene that kills rodents through epileptic attacks.

Folbigg was initially sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2003 for killing three of her children and manslaughter in the case of the fourth, although an appeal led to the term being reduced to 30 years.

Folbigg, who filed two appeals (2005 and 2011) and has had a judicial review of her case between 2018-2019 – which upheld the sentence – has repeatedly pleaded innocent and insists that her children died of natural causes in the city of Hunter Valley, around 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Sydney.

The 55-year-old woman was released after receiving a pardon from New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley, and has been confined to a farm in the north of the state with her friend and staunch defender Tracy Chapman.

In a statement, Chapman thanked them for their support and stated that the last 20 years “have been terrible for Kathleen,” especially because of the “pain and suffering she has endured following the loss of her four children.”

“They all miss each other every day,” she said, referring to the late minors.

Folbigg’s attorney Rhanee Rego called the pardon a “defining moment on a long and painful journey” and said the case exposes that the “legal system can make mistakes.”

“It is impossible to comprehend the injury that has been inflicted upon Kathleen Folbigg – the pain of losing her children (and) close to two decades locked away in maximum security prisons for crimes which science has proved never occurred,” she told local press.

The case was reopened due to a letter sent to governor Beazley in March 2021 by over 100 scientists – including two Nobel laureates – calling for the acquittal and immediate release of Folbigg. EFE


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