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.

The Australian Academy of Science has issued a strongly worded statement regarding the NSW Court of Appeal decision that it found there was no legal error in the inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s conviction, which was led by former judge the Hon R O Blanch AM QC in 2019.

The Academy said on March 24: “There are medical and scientific explanations for the death of each of Kathleen Folbigg’s children.

“Today the NSW Court of Appeal has dismissed Kathleen Folbigg’s appeal, which requested that the findings of the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry be overturned. The appeal reviewed the legal processes undertaken by the Inquiry but did not consider an assessment of the scientific evidence available since the Inquiry.

“The incorrect conclusions about the genetics evidence found by the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry, were adopted by the NSW Court of Appeal in their conclusion today. The Europace peer reviewed scientific paper , which validates the findings of the mutation in Sarah and Laura Folbigg, displaces the findings and non-scientific reasoning at the Inquiry,” said Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA FAHMS.

“These points were made clear in the petition recently submitted to the NSW Governor and which is currently being considered by the NSW Attorney-General as a separate matter to today’s Inquiry. 

“The petition argues that Ms Folbigg should be granted a pardon based on the significant scientific evidence of natural causes of death for her children.

“This includes new peer-reviewed genetic findings by an international team of 27 scientists published in a top international cardiology journal last year.”

Australian Academy of Science President Professor John Shine AC PresAA FAHMS(Hon) FRS was among 22 Fellows of the Academy and 90 scientists to sign the petition.  

“It is deeply concerning that there is not a mechanism to appropriately weigh up all medical and scientific evidence in a case of this nature,”  Professor Shine said. “There is now an alternative explanation for the death of the Folbigg children that does not rely on circumstantial evidence.”

Human geneticist and researcher Professor Jozef Gecz FAA FAHMS added: “The science in this particular case is compelling and cannot be ignored. Despite the new knowledge gained from sequencing the human genome almost 20 years ago, we still have some way to go when it comes to both understanding the complexities of genetic disorders and educating the community about these issues.” – 

Former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC FAA FTSE added: “Expert advice should always be heard and listened to. It will always trump presumption.”

ANU Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA FAHMS, who was an unpaid expert witness in hearings that took place during the 2019 inquiry into the convictions of Kathleen, issued a separate statement saying:“Today, the incorrect conclusions about the genetics evidence found by the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry were adopted by the NSW Court of Appeal in their conclusion. The evidence set out in The Europace paper, which validates the findings of the mutation in Sarah and Laura Folbigg and were published after the 2019 inquiry displaces the findings and non-scientific reasoning at the Inquiry.

“As pointed out in our report to the 2019 Inquiry (which was endorsed by international calmodulin and cardiac genetics experts), the International Calmodulin Registry and peer-reviewed literature document that the Folbigg girls’ deaths were not outliers with regards to already known CALM-related sudden unexpected deaths. It is unfortunate that incorrect statements regarding these facts have once again been given such weight.”

Pictured main (from left): Academy President Professor John Shine, Professors Carola Vinuesa, Fiona Stanley and Jozef Gecz and Former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubbwho have all signed the petition.

Disappointingly, the Court of Appeal in NSW has announced that it found there was no legal error in the inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s conviction, led by former judge the Hon R O Blanch AM QC in 2019.

The inquiry sought to establish whether there was a reasonable doubt as to Kathleen Folbigg’s guilt.

Despite the finding, Kathleen’s supporters remain steadfast in their commitment to fight for her to be pardoned.

“This was a civil proceeding, quite separate from the pardon petition signed by 90 scientists,” said Kathleen’s friend Tracy Chapman.

The inquiry heard scientific evidence of research undertaken since the convictions, connecting a genetic abnormality common to Kathleen and her two girls with cardiac conditions.

According to the Court: “Neither this nor other medical evidence was found to have raised a reasonable doubt as to guilt. The Court was not entitled to reassess the findings of fact made by the former judge. Its role was confined to determining if there had been legal error. The Court held that the former judge had applied the correct legal test to the evidence and followed fair procedures in holding hearings and preparing his 500 page report.”

Tracy released a statement saying: “We’re content that we respectfully challenged the system – as is our legal right. You don’t always win in the manner you expect. There’s a lot of value in learning from the experience, whether you win or lose. You have to give it a go, or the system isn’t being utilised effectively.

“Today wasn’t our day to successfully take Judge Blanch to task in relation to the way he conducted the 2019 inquiry and his findings, but it has got many more people looking at this important case now than ever before, and many more people are starting to ask valuable questions about how we got here.

“Many international eyes are now on this case and certainly, many more Australian’s are rightly asking why Kath’s still in prison after 18 years when there’s mounting scientific evidence relating to her innocence.

“Today’s decision went against Kath, but it only strengthens our resolve to keep going until the truth is self evident. We will never give up.”

As the BBC noted recently: “If Folbigg is freed and her convictions are overturned, her ordeal will be seen as the worst miscarriage of justice in Australia’s history – worse even than the case of Lindy Chamberlain, who served three years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murdering her baby, Azaria, at Uluru.”

“The science in this case is compelling and cannot be ignored,” said human geneticist and researcher Professor Jozef Gecz.

Child and public health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley added: “It is deeply concerning that medical and scientific evidence has been ignored, in preference of circumstantial evidence. We now have an alternative explanation for the death of the Folbigg children.”

Our fight for justice continues and the scientific evidence to support our case continues to grow.

Read the judgment here: https://bit.ly/2P1sgG3
Summary: https://bit.ly/3vMWNrE

How much longer can the NSW justice system chose to ignore growing medical evidence that supports Kathleen Folbigg’s innocence?

Today 90 eminent scientists—including two Australian Nobel Laureates, medical practitioners, science leaders and prominent Australians—have signed a petition calling for Kathleen’s immediate pardon and release from jail.

The petition argues she should be granted a pardon based on the significant scientific evidence of natural causes of death for her children.

The group submitted the petition to the Governor of NSW, the Honorable Margaret Beazley AC, earlier this week.

The petition includes medical and scientific explanations from leading experts in their field that address each of the Folbigg children’s deaths.

The petition concludes: “The executive prerogative of mercy is designed to deal with failures of the justice system such as this one. It is incumbent on the Governor to exercise her power to stop the ongoing miscarriage of justice suffered by Ms Folbigg. Not to do so is to continue to deny Ms Folbigg basic human rights and to decrease faith in the NSW justice system.”

Health lawyer David Wallace, who also signed the petition, told ABC News: “It’s quite rare for scientists, collectively, to step out of the field and make a comment on a legal matter.

“I’m not aware of a similar example where you’ve got 90 top scientists specifically petitioning on a wrongful conviction-style case.”

Childhood friend Tracy Chapman speaks to Kathleen every day on the phone and also visits her regularly at the prison in northern NSW where she is serving her sentence.

“It’s been 18 years – pretty much we’re coming up to 18 years since 2003 – when she was incarcerated,” she told the ABC.

“It’s very surreal. It’s always been a surreal situation. But at the end of the day, I guess we’ve got more answers now about what’s happening and what had happened … in terms of losing the four children, than we’ve ever had before.

“I feel a lot more hopeful than I ever have before.”

In response to today’s developments, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman told the ABC in a statement that the petition to the NSW Governor would “be given appropriate consideration” and noted that Kathleen had been found guilty of killing her four children in the NSW Supreme Court, with the verdict backed up by the later inquiry.

“As the Attorney-General will make a recommendation to Her Excellency the Governor to resolve the petition, it would not be appropriate for the Attorney-General to provide further comment at this stage,” Speakman said.

But, as the scientists concluded in their petition: “A reasonable person should have doubt about Ms Folbigg killing her four children. Deciding otherwise rejects medical science and the law that sets the standard of proof.

“Ms Folbigg’s case also establishes a dangerous precedent as it means that cogent medical and scientific evidence can simply be ignored in preference to subjective interpretations of circumstantial evidence.’’

Click here to watch Professor Carola Vinuesa explain the genetic findings that point towards natural causes of death.

Pictured main (from left): Academy President Professor John Shine, Professors Carola Vinuesa, Fiona Stanley and Jozef Gecz and Former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb, who have all signed the petition.

A former law professor at University of Newcastle, Ray Waterson, has described Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions as standing among the “most contentious and troublesome in Australian history, alongside those of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain”.

In an article he has written for The Newcastle Herald, Waterson notes that on April Fool’s Day 2003, Mark Tedeschi QC, the state’s most senior public prosecutor, “representing the community of NSW”, opened the trial against Kathleen, alleging she had deliberately killed all four of her infant children.

“By the end of the trial, 29 days later, Tedeschi had convinced the jury of her guilt,” he adds. “The Upper Hunter’s Kathleen Folbigg was convicted and sentenced to 40 years jail over the deaths of her four infant children in the decade from 1989. Caleb at 19 days, Patrick at 8 months, Sarah at 10-and-a-half months and Laura at 19 months.”

Next week, the NSW Court of Appeal will begin hearing an application by lawyers on Kathleen’s behalf, 32 years after the death of her first born child.

In October 2020, Kathleen was been granted the right to continue her fight for justice in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal. On February 15, her lawyers will attend a four-day hearing with three judges presiding.

The decision followed former NSW District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch QC finding in 2019 that evidence presented to a judicial inquiry reinforced that she was responsible for the deaths of her four children. However, her lawyers will argue that Blanch did not ‘come to grips’ with evidence that proves her innocence and showed apprehended bias against her.

The lawyers have also complained about the way Blanch conducted the inquiry, including that he allowed her to be questioned by her former husband’s barrister, and that he failed to give adequate reasons for his findings. 

“In the absence of clear-cut medical evidence about the causes of the children’s deaths, the prosecution relied heavily on selected extracts from diaries kept by Kathleen Folbigg to make out its case that she had smothered them all,” Waterson writes.

“None of the diary extracts relied on by the prosecution were actual admissions of guilt by Kathleen Folbigg for the smothering deaths of any of her children. The prosecution claimed, however, that the extracts contained ‘virtual’ admissions of her smothering guilt.

“At the inquiry Kathleen Folbigg was pressed to give explanations for the meaning of diary entries that were shown to her. Blanch dismissed her explanations as ‘simply unbelievable’ and unreservedly supported the trial’s guilty verdicts.”

He also says that if the Court of Appeal finds against the inquiry, consequential proceedings “will likely see Kathleen Folbigg walk free from jail”.

“The Folbigg case would then be added to Australia’s record of infamous convictions, alongside the Chamberlain case,” he writes. “Deeper questions might then be raised, about the competence and integrity of our criminal justice system. A more searching spotlight might be turned on key players in the justice game, including the police, prosecutors, lawyers and judges.”

Click here to read the full article

Kathleen Folbigg has been granted the right to continue her fight for justice next February, in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.

Her lawyers have four days set down from February 15, 2021, with three judges presiding.

The decision follows former NSW District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch QC finding in 2019 that evidence presented to a judicial inquiry reinforced that she was responsible for the deaths of her four children. However, her lawyers will argue that Blanch did not ‘come to grips’ with evidence that proves her innocence and showed apprehended bias against her.

The lawyers have also complained about the way Blanch conducted the inquiry, including that he allowed her to be questioned by her former husband’s barrister, and that he failed to give adequate reasons for his findings. 

“I remind everyone that there is no physical evidence that Kath killed her children,” said her friend Tracy Chapman. “There is, however, mounting new evidence that there were medical reasons behind the tragic deaths of her children.

“Her journals have been taken out of context and not given due consideration to her diagnosis of complex grief disorder, PTSD and the role of journaling in that context. It’s a shameful state of affairs, but the truth doesn’t lie. And denying the truth sure as hell does not change the facts.”

In a peer-reviewed study soon to be published, researchers in Australia, Canada, the United States, France, Italy and Denmark said genetic mutation in Kathleen’s two girls’ DNA had likely been deadly. The Danish scientists said the mutation, called CALM2 G114R, had been inherited from her.

The CALM2 mutation causes a condition called ‘Calmodulinopathy’, which can cause sudden cardiac death in very young children, the paper’s lead scientist said.

The scientists also believe Kathleen’s sons, Caleb and Patrick, had another genetic mutation that could have led to their deaths.

Click here to watch a segment on The Project about the new evidence

New genetic evidence revealed at a symposium hosted by the Australian Academies of Science and Law shows a “strong possibility” that Kathleen Folbigg’s daughters had a genetic mutation that caused their death.

Carola Vinuesa (below), a Professor of Immunology at the Australian National University (ANU), and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, discussed the scientists’ findings in her speech at the symposium this afternoon.

vineusa

The findings by an international team of 27 scientists from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the United States and France, have also been peer-reviewed and published today in the international cardiology journal, Europace.

The scientists say they have examined the presence of a novel, never-before reported, genetic mutation in Kathleen’s children Sarah and Laura that they inherited from her.

Scientists in Denmark (pictured main), who have carried out biochemical experiments, say the results show the mutation, known as the CALM2 G114R variant is “likely pathogenic” and “likely” caused the girls’ deaths.

Professor Peter Schwartz, senior author of the paper and a world-leading authority on genetic causes of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden, unexpected death, said: “The significance of our evidence is that there is a strong possibility that the two female Folbigg children died a natural death, due to a lethal arrhythmia favoured by the presence in these two children of a disease-causing mutation inherited from the mother.

“This mutation causes a ‘Calmodulinopathy’ — an extremely severe arrhythmic disease that can manifest in three main clinical variants, all predisposing to sudden cardiac death in infancy and childhood, or also later in life.”

Professor Schwartz added: “The two girls with the Calmodulin mutation fit the pattern well known in genetic disorders and — more likely than not — they both died a natural arrhythmic death due to their disease.”

The international team also reported a different genetic mutation found in Folbigg’s two boys, Patrick and Caleb, that could explain their deaths too.

kathy-4

A judicial inquiry into Kathleen’s convictions last year concluded the evidence heard “reinforces her guilt”.

Later this month, a date will be set for a new hearing, which will review the findings made by Justice Reginald Blanch at the inquiry.

Kathleen’s legal team is arguing that on multiple counts, in relation to the evidence presented at her trial and uncovered since then, there is reasonable cause for doubt that she smothered all four of her children.

Her lawyers are expected to argue that the fresh genetic evidence presented this week raises further reasonable doubt about her convictions for murdering Sarah and Laura, and strengthens the argument for her case to be referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Kathleen’s friend Tracy Chapman notes: “The inquiry had very specific terms of reference, which meant key pieces of scientific evidence weren’t introduced. We feel this new evidence is a clear indicator of reasonable doubt.”

Professor Schwartz told Quentin McDermott at the ABC: “I have no idea whether Kathleen Folbigg is innocent or guilty, but I think that she was sentenced on the basis of incomplete evidence and of incorrect opinions.

“A fair judicial system would acknowledge this and look again at the case on the basis of the novel evidence.”

Click here to read McDermott’s exclusive report on the findings

Folbigg lawyers call for new review

Lawyers acting for Kath have issued a summons calling for a further judicial review of her case.

The summons states that Justice Blanch “failed to apply the correct legal test of ‘reasonable doubt’ to the evidence before the inquiry”.

Those summonsed by Folbigg’s legal team include Justice Blanch, Craig Folbigg, the office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Solicitor’s office, and Gail Furness SC, who acted as counsel assisting Justice Blanch in the inquiry.

At a brief directions hearing Thursday morning, the matter was adjourned for two weeks.

You can read more about the hearing in an article by ABC journalist Quentin McDermott by clicking here.

 

 

We will keep fighting for justice

It was announced earlier this week that NSW Governor Margaret Beazley has accepted the findings of the Kathleen Folbigg inquiry.

The convictions for the deaths of her four children will stand.

The Justice For Kathleen Folbigg team had hoped the Governor would closely examine the expert submissions into the case and see that there was reason to question a guilty verdict.

When the Justice team saw Kathy a few weeks ago she was praying that Margaret Beazley would not simply rubber stamp the judge’s findings.

But it wasn’t to be.

Anyone who has read the reports submitted to the inquiry by genetic experts, psychiatrists and pathologists would know they all suggest reasonable doubt.

Reasonable doubt is a standard of proof used in criminal trials. When a criminal defendant is prosecuted, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge has a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, they should pronounce the defendant not guilty.

However, the strong medical evidence was pushed aside in favour of weaponising – yet again – Kath’s journals, despite experts suggesting her words were consistent with someone suffering survivor guilt.

Reading psychiatrist Michael Diamond’s recent assessment of Kath, as she opened up about the trauma she felt as she lost one child after another, is heartbreaking.

She told him she felt constant terror following the birth of each of her children, petrified that she would lose them. She wept uncontrollably as she told him about each of their deaths.

We are disappointed that Kath’s ex-husband Craig’s refused to provide DNA for genetic testing and that his refusal was swept under the carpet.

If the government was truly interested in making the correct judgement it would have insisted on the DNA being provided. Craig – if he has nothing to hide – should have no reason to refuse such a test.

The team vows that this is not over. Kath is innocent and we will keep on fighting until we are heard.

 

Justice For Kathleen Folbigg is shocked by the Attorney General’s announcement last night regarding Kathleen’s inquiry.

As are many experts who contributed their opinions to the inquiry.

World-leading genetic expert Professor Peter Schwartz is concerned that the judicial system has made a mistake in its conviction of Kathleen Folbigg.

Professor Schwartz revised his original opinion about the case after closely examining new genetic evidence.

However, the Attorney General has chosen to ignore science.

Mark Speakman announced last night, after normal working hours, that the convictions should stand.

Justice For Kathleen Folbigg is perplexed, dismayed and very concerned that despite the large body of evidence presented at the inquiry that reinforced there is no physical evidence that Kathleen killed her children and far more evidence to show other more plausible explanations, His Honour Reginald Blanch and Counsel Assisting continued with the recommendation that Kathleen’s conviction should stand.

We can assure you, it’s not over. Not until this gross injustice is recognised, the convictions overturned and this broken, arrogant, biased system apologises for its treatment of Kathleen.

Justice For Kathleen Folbigg has many concerns regarding the handling of the inquiry.

These concerns began when the submission dates came and went. They continued as the court dates unfolded. We intend to make a formal complaint regarding some of them as they are so despicable. They can then be added to the record of gross injustices in this case.

It’s certainly not over. The legal team has assured us they are in this for the long haul. We are in this for the long haul.

While we are disappointed and angered by Speakman’s recommendation, that doesn’t mean we will give up and stop calling the system out for the mistakes it’s made.

We have truth on our side. It might take time to uncover it, but it will happen, we can assure you of that. We will pursue all avenues afforded to us to bring this truth to light.

Kathleen Folbigg is innocent, the system got it wrong. We will have justice for Kathleen Folbigg.

Supporters of Kathleen Folbigg are devastated that Chief Judge of the NSW District Court Reginald Blanch, who conducted the inquiry into her convictions, has concluded he does not have “any reasonable doubt” as to her guilt.

In a 500-page report released tonight, Judge Blanch rejected the evidence presented at the inquiry, which included a world-leading genetic researcher Professor Peter Schwartz calling for a re-evaluation of Kathy’s convictions, based on a genetic variant he said “justifies fully re-opening the case”.

Professor Schwartz wrote a letter to the inquiry following an approach by Professor Carola Vinuesa, who gave evidence to the inquiry in April.

Professors Schwartz and Vinuesa said: “We think it is likely that the two female Folbigg children died as a result of the CALM2 G114R variant, while the two male children died from different causes that could also be genetic.”

The letter, made public this week, said the identification of a genetic variant known as “CALM2 G114R” in Folbigg and two of her children raised “significant doubts” over her conviction.

The CALM2 variant is a gene associated with life-threatening cardiac episodes during infancy and early childhood.

“My conclusion is that the accusation of infanticide might have been premature and not correct,” Professor Schwartz wrote.

However, in a statement, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said he had spoken to Craig Folbigg — the convicted killer’s ex-husband — regarding the report.

“I acknowledge that the decision to commence an inquiry has further aggravated what already was an unimaginable tragedy,” he said.

“I am sorry for the toll that the inquiry has taken on Mr Folbigg and family members over the last year.

“I hope that the conclusion of the inquiry, and the report’s findings, might provide comfort in some way to the relatives of Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, and will dispel community concern regarding Folbigg’s convictions.”

No, Mr Speakman, it has not dispelled our concern. We are deeply shocked that Judge Blanch is so set on refusing to see reasonable doubt where it so obviously exists.

Speakman concluded his statement by saying: “Ms Folbigg will continue to serve her sentence of 30 years imprisonment. She will be first eligible to apply for parole in 2028 at the conclusion of her 25 year non-parole period.”

Our hearts go out to Kath at this heartbreaking time.

But as supporter Tracy Chapman notes: “We will not give up. We cannot. truth and justice is important for us all.”