Kathleen Folbigg was a loving mother of four children; Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura. On May 23, 2003, she was found guilty by jury of the murder of Patrick, Sarah and Laura, and guilty of the manslaughter of Caleb, in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
There was no physical evidence the children were murdered. The prosecution relied on circumstantial evidence to present their case. Kathleen has spent the last 15 years in prison and continues to maintain her innocence.
In June 2015, three Newcastle-based Barristers submitted a Petition to the Governor outlining grounds upon which Kathleen’s convictions should be reviewed. This Petition contains fresh and compelling evidence consistent with Kathleen’s innocence, including a report from one of Australia’s leading forensic pathologists who concluded that there is no basis in forensic pathology that any of the children were smothered.
Three years later, Kathleen and her supporters are still waiting for the Governor to respond to the Petition.
Canadian legal academic Emma Cunliffe has written an article for The Guardian about Kathleen Folbigg asking “She killed her four children – but what if we got it wrong?”
Cunliffe (pictured above in an interview for ABC News) wrote a book earlier this decade called ‘Murder, Medicine & Motherhood’ about Kathy’s conviction. She spent six years researching the case and concluded Kathy shouldn’t have been found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.
As early as 2012, Cunliffe wrote to the attorney general requesting an inquiry into her convictions, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Why would the attorney general make such a monumental decision without intense public pressure?
Finally, in March this year, Cunliffe got her inquiry, after incredible perseverance on the part of Kathy’s supporters, friends and legal team.
It should have been a chance for the NSW government to ensure that justice had truly been served, but instead it became a witch hunt.
As Cunliffe notes, during Kathy’s time on the stand at the inquiry, she was “challenged 70 times to admit that she had smothered her four children”.
“When the questioning permitted, Folbigg explained that she blamed herself for her children’s deaths because she believed it was a mother’s responsibility to protect her children from every harm,” Cunliffe noted. “She described how her grief and depression compounded over the course of a decade of loss. Her diaries provided an outlet to which she confided her fears and in which she tried to find hope for a happier future. ”
However, her testimony was reduced by the media to “smirks” and a belief that supernatural forces had taken her children.
Cunliffe adds: “The press reports have largely ignored medical evidence heard by the inquiry that now establishes the likelihood of natural causes of death for each of Folbigg’s children: bacterial infection, epilepsy, a physical malfunction of the upper airways, myocarditis. In two of the children, sudden infant death syndrome would be an appropriate diagnosis. The doctors are unanimous that there is no physical evidence that any child was ever deliberately harmed, let alone smothered.”
In a tweet during the inquiry, Cunliffe wrote: “Kathleen Folbigg testified today at the Inquiry into her convictions. This Inquiry’s procedure has been unusual to the point of raising concerns – both about procedural fairness and about how well the truth seeking purpose of the Inquiry is being served.”
Tracy Chapman has discussed her unwavering belief in Kathy’s innocence during a Channel 7 Sunrise segment this week.
When asked if she has ever doubted Kathy, her childhood friend replied “never”.
She added: “Having known her for all my life, I’ve never wavered in how I feel for her, never wavered in my thoughts of innocence because that person is not capable of doing that.”
Watch the segement below:
Tracy has since noted to Justice for Kathleen Folbigg that Kathy didn’t regard her writing as a “diary”. It’s significant that she wrote the word “journal” on the cover, as therapists had advised her to use “journaling” as a process to getting rid of negative thoughts as she processed her grief.
“I refuse to use the word diaries any longer,” Tracy said. “Diaries imply a totally different use or purpose. Kath had been journaling for many, many years to help herself live well by dumping all sorts of thoughts, ideas, concerns, fears, elations – as per the intended function and use of journaling. They really do have therapeutic and wellness usefulness.
“Kath used her journals according to their technical use or purpose. At no time was anything sinister, overtly stated or implied, and this is an incredibly important fact.”
ABC News has published an article on a consultant psychologist’s report that was submitted to the inquiry that found there is no evidence Kathy has a psychotic illness, severe mood disorder or any other brain injury consistent with homicidal conduct.
In his report, Dr Michael Diamond said he asked Kathy about the diaries and records that “she made no effort to hide her diaries because she simply viewed them as part of her life and not as something dangerous or secret”.
“I asked her specifically if she left her diaries out in order for her husband to find what she had written.
“She said it was not intended for her diaries to be read by others. Writing her diaries ‘was simply a way of getting things out’.”
Kathy has sometimes been painted as an angry woman whose children were fearful of her rage. But her friends say she was no different to any mum battling with sleep deprivation and the daily demands of motherhood.
On January 28, 1998, she wrote of Laura in a journal entry: “I’ve done it. I lost it with her. I yelled at her so angrily that it scared her, she hasn’t stopped crying. Got so bad I nearly dropped her on the floor & left her … I feel like the worst mother on this earth. Scared that she’ll leave me know [sic]. Like Sarah did.”
However, another lifelong friend Megan Donegan has noted that every mum loses their temper occasionally when they are tired and dealing with a truculent toddler.
“Imagine this … your one year old throws their food across the room… your first frustrated thought or reaction is to throw your hands, go RAAA. The baby screams because it actually wants that food, you have had bugger all sleep, you take the baby out of the high chair and put it on the floor, walk into your room for five minutes just to chill before you go back and deal with the baby.
“You write in your diary that night that you lost it … because to you that’s what ‘losing it’ is … frustrations with kids’ tantrums … but … you have had three babies die … you don’t know why and and you grasp at anything – you think its your fault, that you’re being punished for not being all susie-homemaker and able to take that.
“Someone reads your diary and says that means you must have killed your kids. You sit in the witness box being asked to explain why you were frustrated or made feel that everyone else didn’t ever feel like that.”
One of Kathy’s relatives has also spoken out following the Sunrise segment, saying: “I stayed over at Aunty Kath’s place many times. Of course I was only a small child back then, but the one thing I remember most about her is how caring , joyful and loving she always was. I will always back her. Love you, Kathy.”
These words from those who love Kathy are starkly at odds with the picture painted in the media of a “monster”.
Tracy also noted that there have been many “gobsmacking” revelations about the conduct of professionals who involved in Kathy’s case that have come to light during the inquiry.
Those revelations weren’t covered by the media, which only reported on the first day of the inquiry and then returned when Kathy was on the stand, in search of sensational headlines from her testimony.
“I think once it’s fully analysed there’ll be a lot more said about it,” Tracy concluded.
One of Kathleen Folbigg’s closest friends has explained why she tearfully hugged Craig Folbigg outside NSW Coroners Court in Sydney this week.
The moment came after Kathy spent three days on the stand explaining her diaries, while Craig sat in the public gallery.
Tracy Chapman said: “Craig looked me in the eye, sad and broken. So I hugged him. I told him that in 16 years Kathy has not said a bad word about him.
“We just want the pain and hurt to stop. She just wants peace because everyone has suffered enough.”
She says they both broke down in tears at that moment, with Craig putting his forehead against hers as they sobbed.
Tracy hadn’t considered the effect the moment would have on the media mob outside the court.
“It wasn’t planned that way at all,” she said. “I could just see his pain and wanted to acknowledge that.”
She is disappointed that some media have reported it as something bizarre or her being manipulative or even that she was turning on Kathy after hearing her testimony.
“I think it says a lot about the world,” she said. “We are openly encouraging hostility, negative emotions based on me turning on her. Why was it not just seen as the purely raw, honest, empathetic gesture of caring/feeling? Kathy isn’t the only one grieving the loss of her four children, so is Craig. And it’s been harrowing for everyone to relive the trauma over the course of the inquiry.”
Craig held his brother John back when he lashed out at Tracy.
John later told the media: “We kept our thoughts regarding her actions, her supporters vitriolic outbursts, our pain our grief at not only the loss of four beautiful babies but of the loss of this part of our family group to ourselves.”
Kathy’s supporters have insisted they made no vitriolic outbursts during the inquiry.
Comments have been made on the Justice for Kathleen Folbigg Facebook page that Kathy must be feeling betrayed by Tracy.
“I think she would be thinking not a good friend but a traitor,” one wrote.
However, Tracy said she has discussed her gesture with Kathy and she is fully supportive of her actions.
Kathleen Folbigg has spent her final, devastating day on the stand at the inquiry into her convictions.
Under examination from her barrister, Jeremy Morris SC, Kathy said: “The problem that landed me in the position that I am in is assumptions being made and things been made out of context and nobody understanding what I was trying to say when I was writing in those diaries.”
She also sought to clarify some misinterpretations made regarding her testimony over the last few days.
She said that while she still wonders if some supernatural power took all four of her children, she was not suggesting “some ghost or entity” did so.
“I have no answers as to why I have survived my children … I was constantly trying to search for that answer,” she said.
“I’m certainly not saying some ghost or entity or whatever came down and took my children.”
A June 1997 entry in Kathy’s diary reads: “Don’t think I’ll suffer Alzheimer’s Disease, my brain has too much happening, unstored and unrecalled memories just waiting, heaven help the day they surface and I recall, that will be the day to lock me up and throw away the key, something I’m sure will happen one day”.
Kathy explained in court: “I was reflecting and wondering whether I could end up in a mental institution if I was to recall all of the memories that I’d ever had in my life”.
She also revealed the terrible toll losing her four children took on her.
She said she believed she had only two options after the death of her third baby – to leave her husband or die.
She told the court that she would write letters to her husband Craig rather than talk to him. She read out one letter in which she talks about her feelings after the death of their baby daughter Sarah.
“The more I think about what our lives will be like, just you and me, the more I’m scared, I don’t think that I could handle it,” she wrote.
“I clearly remember how close I got to leaving you before Sarah was born, I thought that having her would solve the problems, I was wrong, that was a mistake.
“She (Sarah) was by no means a mistake.
“I love her more than anything and wouldn’t have my life go in any other direction … but she is gone and I am now faced with all the feelings and thoughts I had before but worse.
“Having her solve the problem of fulfilling your life and making you happy with life again but now because of cruel fate all that’s happened is turned your life into misery once more, how much misery and tragic deals of life is a couple supposed to bare?
“I suppose this last one has broken me, I don’t know about you.
“The bottom line is I don’t want this life any more, I want to have a major change.
She went on to write that she felt like her life had “expired”.
“The only two options I have left are – try life on my own or die, my survival instinct is too high for option two,” she wrote.
Morris also pointed to a number of diary entries where Kathy had written about plans for her children’s future and schooling.
He then asked her if she loved each of her children.
“Yes,” she replied.
He added: “Did you love Sarah?”
“Absolutely, yes,” she replied.
He asked: “Did you feel grief at her death?”
“Of course, I still feel it now,” she answered.
She also expressed her love for her other three children.
After leaving court, Kathy’s longtime friends Helen Cummings and Tracy Chapman gave each other a supportive hug after days of high emotion.
Helen said: “I hope no mother in the world who has lost her babies through unexplained circumstances EVER has to go through what this mother has during these past few days.”
John Folbigg, the eldest brother of Kathy’s ex-husband Craig, spoke to the media outside the court.
“The chapter unfolding now we feel was unnecessary and most definitely unwelcome,” he said.
“However we have endured it, and as ultimately it would, we feel, help to ensure that the justice that Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura received in 2003 is upheld.”
After receiving final submissions, Judge Reginald Blanch will prepare a report for the Governor.
It was another harrowing day in court for Kathy as she gave evidence regarding her diaries at the judicial inquiry into her convictions.
Dr Emma Cunliffe, who is a legal expert on Kathy’s case, tweeted during the hearing: “Kathleen Folbigg is today facing extremely lengthy, hostile cross-examination from Margaret Cunneen SC for Craig Folbigg (ongoing). She is remarkably calm, reflective and articulate about the disturbed thought patterns that attended her depression and bereavement.”
Kathy denied suggestions put to her by barrister Margaret Cunneen SC that “homicidal rages” or “psychological mood swings” led her to smother her babies.
She said she falsely believed her moods affected her children who “decided they didn’t want to be with me anymore”.
Cunneen said: “Of course, you know, that babies don’t decide whether or not to live?”
Kathy replied: “At that stage in my life, I did not know that. My concerns were almost paranoia.”
In a December 1996 entry, before the birth of her fourth child, Laura, Kathy wrote in her diary: “I know now that battling wills and sleep deprivation were the causes last time”.
Former NSW District Court judge Reginald Blanch, QC, who is heading the inquiry into her convictions, asked: “When you say the causes last time, the causes of …?”
“The causes of them dying,” she answered, having earlier told Blanch, “it was a wrong belief and a warped belief that my children had decided they weren’t staying with me any more.”
Kathy repeatedly expressed her innocence on the stand.
“I didn’t kill my children and these diaries are a record of just how depressed and how much trouble I was having and all of the issues that go with that,” she said.
Her friend Tracy Chapman notes: “Research shows in our mid 20’s to early 30’s we have poor cognition, limited critical thinking skills and judgement capacity. Hence the mish mash of diary entries that Kathy had been asked to put on paper by counsellors to help get the trauma of losing her children out of her head.
“Could Kath see how these may be interpreted by others? No. And they weren’t intended for others.
“Could she see their ambiguity and possible future interpretation. Definitely not … She was innocently dumping confused thoughts to help clear her head as she’d been asked to do by professionals.
“Kath’s diaries have been weaponized, which is the exact opposite of what they were intended for.”
The Daily Mail has again acted without journalistic ethics, headlining a story about the inquiry “Diary of a monster”.
According to the MEAA’s Journalist Code of Ethics, journalists should “Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.”
The Daily Mail has shamefully and completely failed on that front.
It was a harrowing day in court for Kathleen Folbigg and her supporters as the third week of the judicial inquiry into her convictions commenced.
According to her friend Tracy Chapman: “This week will go down in history as a true reflection of all that’s wrong with how women are treated in a legal system that unconsciously detaches itself from the realities of a woman’s lot as a mother, with its related challenges, expectations, desires, concerns and frustrations.”
Dr Emma Cunliffe, who wrote the book “Murder, Medicine and Motherhood” about Kathy’s conviction, agreed. She tweeted: “Kathleen Folbigg testified today at the Inquiry into her convictions. This Inquiry’s procedure has been unusual to the point of raising concerns – both about procedural fairness and about how well the truth seeking purpose of the Inquiry is being served.”
After watching the inquiry via video link at Silverwater Jail for the first two weeks, Kathy appeared in the witness box at 10am this morning and was subjected to hours of intense questioning.
She broke down in tears – as did many of her supporters – when she described the moments she found her children dead.
“When I found the children I was always alone,” she told the court. “He (Craig) wasn’t the one who found them I was.”
When asked about a diary entry in which she wrote that she was worried about being alone with her child, Kathy said it referred to being “scared to death of not finding my child alive”.
She added: “I do feel responsible, I was their mother. I’ve always felt I didn’t do enough. Something went wrong and I was always searching for why.
“I was constantly doubting my ability as a mother.”
Kathy’s ex-husband sat in the public gallery during Kathy’s questioning, with his brothers, his solicitor and a barrister by his side. The Folbigg brothers smiled as she wept in court.
Eid previously told the media that Craig wanted to be certain all “reasonable and appropriate evidence” was examined and “in light of the fresh inquiry he wants to be sure nothing is missed that could be relevant”.
Justice for Kathleen Folbigg remains baffled as to why making sure “nothing is missed that could be relevant” does not extend to Craig’s DNA.
While on the stand today, Kathy repeatedly denied killing her children.
“I miss all my children all the time,” she said.
During questioning by the Director of Public Prosecutions barrister Christopher Maxwell QC, Kathy denied disposing of some of her diaries because entries about her dead children were “incriminating”.
“I have never hid my diaries,” she told the court. “They were always in places where people could see them.”
After being noticeably absent since day one of the inquiry, the court was inundated with media today for Kathy’s appearance.
When Kathy gave her supporters in the public gallery a brief smile at one point, it was disappointingly captioned by The Daily Mail as: “Serial killer Kathleen Folbigg has smirked in court ahead of giving evidence during an inquiry into her convictions for killing her four children.”
It’s a disturbing example of how the smallest, most innocent of gestures can be twisted. Kathy’s supporters are devastated that her acknowledgement of them has been portrayed this way.
Justice for Kathleen Folbigg is appalled – but not surprised – that a well-meaning smile from a woman who lost her beloved children more than 20 years ago has been used against her in the press.
Kathleen Folbigg’s supporters have gathered in Sydney for the third week of the judicial inquiry into her convictions.
They will join her in the court as she enters the witness box at the Forensic Medicine and Coroner’s Court complex in Lidcombe on Monday.
We know that seeing their loving faces in the room will mean so much to Kathy on such a stressful day.
A group of former school friends visited Kathy at Silverwater Jail on Sunday to give her a hug prior to the momentous week ahead.
They say that she is nervous but glad to be finally speaking in a court of law about her diary entries.
Tracy Chapman said: “It means a lot to know there are a growing number of you seeking justice on her behalf. She asked us to say thank you for everything you’ve all done thus far and she hopes to get the opportunity to thank you all in person someday soon.”
Quentin McDermott at ABC News reports: “At 10 o’clock, Kathleen Folbigg will step into the witness box in a bid to clear her name, and — for the first time in a court of law — give her version of what she meant when she wrote in her diaries about her four infant children who died.”
Kathy previously explained the meaning behind some of the passages to Tracy in a series of telephone conversations from Cessnock jail, broadcast on Australian Story.
“Those diaries are written from a point of me always blaming myself,” she said. “I blamed myself for everything. I took so much of the responsibility, because that’s, as mothers, what you do.”
Read Quentin’s full article by clicking here.
Tracy notes: “Buckle up for the final week of the inquiry all, it’s an incredibly important week, and I guarantee it will be one hell of a wild ride.”
Finally, these kind words from another supporter express how many of us are feeling: “Loving prayerful thoughts for everyone tomorrow, especially for Kath. We pray that she will be calm in her spirit, have clarity of mind, be unfazed by the legal arguments, and feel tenderly wrapped with the quiet strength her heart will need.”
Friends of Kathy visited her at Silverwater Correctional Complex today prior to the second week of the inquiry into her convictions.
They hugged her tightly, knowing how difficult she found the first week of the inquiry.
Kathy watched the proceeding alone via video link each day. She admitted it was incredibly tough to listen to details of the autopsies that were performed on her children. Some of the information provided in court had not been heard before, such as the fact her daughter Laura was subjected to a second, incredibly invasive autopsy.
This week has been set aside to hear evidence relevant to genetics, cardiology and neurology.
The week beginning Monday, April 29, 2019 has been set aside for Kathy to give evidence about her diary entries. The evidence from Kathy will be restricted and the cross-examination of her will be restricted to those particular issues.
Naturally, Kathy feels anxious about appearing in court, but she is determined to speak for herself and her beloved children.
The substantive hearings will be held at the Forensic Medicine and Coroner’s Court complex located on 1A Main Avenue, Lidcombe.
She thanks everyone who has given their support, it has helped ease her pain during this difficult time.
Pictured: Counsel assisting the Folbigg inquiry, Gail Furness, SC, delivering the inquiry’s opening address at Lidcombe Coroner’s Court.
Solicitor Danny Eid was granted leave to represent Craig Folbigg at Kathy’s inquiry during a brief directions hearing in Sydney today.
Outside the court Eid said Craig wanted to be certain all “reasonable and appropriate evidence” was examined and “in light of the fresh inquiry he wants to be sure nothing is missed that could be relevant”.
However, making “sure nothing is missed” doesn’t extend to providing DNA to the inquiry.
The inquiry has previously heard that Craig complained to the Law Society of NSW after being approached by a solicitor for his former wife over DNA and “absolutely refusing to provide a sample”.
Justice for Kathleen Folbigg wonder how such a refusal ensures everything “relevant” is examined?
Eid said Kathy’s diary entries were a source of interest for Craig’s legal team.
Former District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch, who is heading the inquiry, was told Kathy’s lawyers were still preparing a number of reports to be presented to the inquiry, including a psychiatrist’s report.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Gail Furness, SC, told the inquiry Blanch had already indicated a psychiatrist’s report would be of little assistance.
“At the moment I can’t begin to understand what possible assistance it could be to the inquiry,” Blanch said.
A lawyer for Kathy said the report would be submitted to Furness “and a determination made if it’s of assistance or not”.
Substantive hearing dates for the hearing of expert medical evidence by the inquiry were held the week beginning Monday, March 18, 2019. They focussed on evidence relevant to forensic pathology and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).
The week beginning Monday, April 15, 2019 has been set aside to hear evidence relevant to genetics, cardiology and neurology.
The week beginning Monday, April 29, 2019 has been set aside for Kathy to give evidence about the diary entries, possession of the diaries and her disposal of the diaries. The evidence from Kathy will be restricted and the cross-examination of her will be restricted to those particular issues.
Proceedings were much quieter on the second day of the Kathleen Folbigg inquiry, without a camera in sight at Lidcombe coroner’s court.
Kathy’s friends Megan and Tracy say the second day in court went well, with four forensic pathologists giving evidence into whether there has been a miscarriage of justice in her convictions.
Megan was impressed with the expert opinions given regarding SIDS and the probable causes of death for Kathy’s four children.
For example, consulting forensic pathologist Johan Duflou noted that he believed Laura died from myocarditis and Patrick from a fit.
The petition that led to the inquiry included a report by Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine director Professor Stephen Cordner, who said the trial included evidence given under circumstances where a “default diagnosis of murder” was discussed.
“The default diagnosis of murder came into play as an incorrect inference arising from the following question which was asked of some of the doctors: ‘Have you ever heard of a family with three or four sudden unexplained infant or childhood deaths?
“The uniform answer was no, with the inference being that murder was therefore the only alternative. This default position was wrong.
“The fact that an infant can be smothered without leaving signs, the misunderstanding of asphyxia (in particular that it is a diagnosis and/or that it can be diagnosed), and there being no families in the literature with three or four SIDS, contributed significantly to a homicide hypothesis which in fact has little forensic pathology content.”
Questioned by counsel assisting the inquiry, Gail Furness, SC, about whether SIDS always meant a natural death, Professor Cordner stated at the inquiry that it did not.
“We all understand whenever we use the word or term SIDS, there’s always the possibility there may be an unnatural explanation, or there may be a natural explanation we can’t uncover,” he noted.
“So to the extent there was a thought that SIDS was a natural cause of death, I’m not sure I’d completely agree with that.
“It is a term some people may hear as natural death, but I don’t believe that forensic pathologists generally believe they are absolutely saying it is a natural death.”
The second day of the inquiry mainly focussed on Kathy’s first child Caleb’s death, with discussion of the other autopsies to continue on day three.
Pictured: Kathy’s lawyer Jeremy Morris SC.