Kathleen Folbigg, a woman who spent 20 years in prison after being convicted of killing her four infant children, has been pardoned after new evidence suggested they may have died naturally. A recent inquiry heard scientists believe the children’s deaths may be attributed to gene mutations. Ms Folbigg was jailed for 25 years in 2003 for the murders of three of her children, and the manslaughter of her first son. The case has been described as one of Australia’s greatest miscarriages of justice. The unconditional pardon does not quash Ms Folbigg’s convictions, and a decision on whether to refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal could take up to a year.
As seen in the coverage by BBC News, Kathleen Folbigg, a woman who was once labeled as “Australia’s worst female serial killer,” has been granted a pardon after new evidence suggested that she did not kill her four infant children. Folbigg spent 20 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of killing sons Caleb and Patrick and daughters Sarah and Laura over a decade.
However, a recent inquiry heard scientists believe that the children may have died naturally. The 55-year-old’s case has been described as one of Australia’s greatest miscarriages of justice. Ms. Folbigg, who has always maintained her innocence, was jailed for 25 years in 2003 for the murders of three of the children and the manslaughter of her first son, Caleb.
Each child died suddenly between 1989 and 1999, aged between 19 days and 19 months, with prosecutors at her trial alleging that she had smothered them. Previous appeals and a separate 2019 inquiry into the case found no grounds for reasonable doubt and gave greater weight to circumstantial evidence in Ms. Folbigg’s original trial.
But at the fresh inquiry, headed by retired judge Tom Bathurst, prosecutors accepted that research on gene mutations had changed their understanding of the children’s deaths. On Monday, New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley said Mr. Bathurst had concluded that there was reasonable doubt that Ms. Folbigg was guilty.
As a result, the NSW governor had signed a full pardon and ordered Ms. Folbigg’s immediate release from prison. “It has been a 20-year-long ordeal for her… I wish her peace,” Mr. Daley said, adding his thoughts were also with the children’s father, Craig Folbigg.
At the latest inquiry, Mr. Folbigg’s lawyers pointed to the “fundamental implausibility” of four children from one family dying of natural causes under the age of two. The unconditional pardon does not quash Ms. Folbigg’s convictions, Mr. Daley said. That would be a decision for the Court of Criminal Appeal if Mr. Bathurst chooses to refer the case to it – a process that could take up to a year.
If her convictions are overturned, she could then potentially sue the government for millions of dollars in compensation. Her case has been compared to that of Lindy Chamberlain, who in 1982 was found guilty of the murder of her nine-week-old daughter, despite her claim that a dingo had taken the baby. She was awarded A$1.3m (£690,000, $US 858,000) in 1992 for her wrongful conviction.
However, some advocates say that the case highlights systemic issues with the criminal justice system, including the use of circumstantial evidence and the pressure on prosecutors to secure convictions. The case also raises questions about how scientific evidence is used in court and the need for ongoing research into gene mutations and their impact on infant mortality.
To draw things to a close, the case of Kathleen Folbigg highlights the importance of a fair and just criminal justice system that is based on sound evidence and rigorous scientific research. It also underscores the need for ongoing research into gene mutations and their impact on infant mortality, as well as the need for greater scrutiny of circumstantial evidence and the pressure on prosecutors to secure convictions.