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.

Shock 7.30 Report revelations

A friend of Kathy’s has spoken to the 7.30 Report about the terrifying moment Laura Folbigg stopped breathing in her care.

After Laura, Kathy’s fourth child, was born Karren offered to help look after her and undertook a CPR course to ensure she was prepared for emergencies.

Karren was babysitting Laura one day while Kathy ran some errands. About 20 minutes after Laura fell asleep on Karren’s couch, Kathy called to check on her 12-month-old daughter.

Karen was shocked to discover Laura lying on the lounge, her face “a funny colour, like it had drained”.

“I actually got on the floor and bent over. I couldn’t hear her breathing, couldn’t feel her breathing. I sort of went into panic mode. I put my arms under her and scooped her up and was about to put her on the floor to start CPR, and she took a big gasp in and then a couple of breaths, and it was all good from there.

“But it was very scary. I believe she had stopped breathing. I did everything that I was trained to do to see whether she was breathing or not, and to me there was no breath, none at all.”

Dr Matthew Orde, a forensic pathologist at Vancouver General Hospital, told the ABC it is possible Laura suffered an acute, life-threatening event, or ALTE.

“The episode described by Karren Hall, when Laura was 12 months of age, could well be an ALTE,” he said.

kathy-laura-2

Karren’s experience with Laura raises the possibility that Kathy’s children had a genetic abnormality which rendered them at risk of sudden death.

However, at a directions hearing in Sydney earlier today, the presiding judge, Reginald Blanch, revealed Kathy’s ex-husband, Craig Folbigg, refused to provide DNA evidence to a lawyer ahead of the inquiry into the deaths of their four children.

Craig filed a complaint with the Law Society of NSW about being contacted by his ex-partner’s legal team.

The court heard a DNA sample had already been provided by Kathy for genetic testing. The inquiry will now ask Craig to provide a sample as well.

Meanwhile, a confidential briefing note written by one of Australia’s top forensic pathologists has been obtained by the ABC which raises fresh questions about the conviction of Kathy in 2003 for smothering all four of her children: Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura.

Click here to read more.

A second directions hearing was held today in preparation for the inquiry into Kathy’s convictions.

At the hearing, further interested persons were able to seek leave to appear. The second directions hearing also provided the final opportunity for interested parties with leave to make submissions regarding the scope of the inquiry.

It was revealed during the hearing that Kathy’s ex-husband, Craig Folbigg (pictured above), had refused to provide DNA evidence to a lawyer ahead of an inquiry into the deaths of their four children.

Folbigg filed a complaint with the Law Society of NSW about being contacted by his ex-partner’s legal team.

Kathy has supplied a DNA sample from Silverwater Correctional Complex.

Justice Blanch said he’d recently met with geneticists who said DNA samples were important as they could overturn Kathy’s conviction.

“(We were) told in that meeting that it would be the best outcome if we had some DNA material from both Mrs Folbigg and Craig Folbigg,” he said.

Counsel assisting Gail Furness SC today said the inquiry should focus on new research and medical advances including multiple “natural” infant deaths in the one family. She suggested there could be three weeks of scientific and medical hearings before Kathy potentially gave evidence.

Blanch said he “would be happy” to call Kathy to give evidence in the upcoming hearings, adding “it would be a matter entirely for her”.

“In fairness to her, if she wants to give evidence she should be able to give evidence,” he said.

Hearings are anticipated to begin in the first week of March and the inquiry is expected to run for six to 12 months.

 

 

 

What Christmas means to Kathy

Kathy sent a letter to a friend last week, revealing how it feels to have spent so many Christmases incarcerated and what the day means to her. We thought you’d like to read her moving words …

Christmas no longer holds the magic for me that it once did.

Being of Christian faith, with a cross hanging around my neck and knowing the true meaning of Christmas, doesn’t bring me the comfort it should.

For me, Christmas is a time of supreme loneliness that is so soul felt it’s hard not to be pulled into the pit of despair that some around me have succumbed to.

Others take the stubborn enjoy-it route, hanging onto all the old customs and memories of Christmases past and the rites that are involved – present giving, card making, best wishes galore …

Decorations are handmade, since even tinsel or commercially bought decorations are no longer allowed here.

We redesign or re-cook our regular food to trick ourselves that we are all enjoying a Christmas feast. Lollies and sweet concoctions are cobbled together.

Brief phone calls are made on Christmas morning – we are allocated just six minutes to be part of our family and friends’ day.

Occasionally, there are “Secret Santa” gifts, though the gesture is disregarded if someone doesn’t like their fellow inmate enough to spend $2 on them.

Smiles, laughs, hugs and best wishes are bestowed … many are not sincere, but it sounds good for a few hours. It’s the one day out of 365 that we all get along and civility rules.

This either works well, creating a makeshift family away from your family, or we all separate and the day is done by 4pm.

My Christmas wishes and heartfelt thoughts are usually extremely selective, I don’t bestow them unless they are truly meant.

I think of all my wonderful friends and family out there, missing them even more, lamenting my many, many missed Christmas celebrations.

If I send a card or Christmas wish, it’s only to my nearest and dearest out there in the world that I’m patiently waiting to re-enter. I dream of when I’ll get to celebrate – truly celebrate – with people of my choosing and share my love with those who have so wonderfully supported me all these years.

There is a television in my cell, so I spend the weeks before Christmas watching festive advertisements like the rest of the world. I’m awed by all the shopping, drool over the foods and think “oh, how cute and gorgeous” when I see the excited kids.

Christmas is for them, it always has been. I’m mesmerised by their innocence and gusto for life; their wonder and awe of future possible.

After missing 16 Christmases, I have no doubt I’ll be like a big kid myself when I finally enjoy one outside these four walls.

I have missed the stress of shopping, preparations, hot stoves, washing up, paper everywhere, even decorating the tree … I will never complain about those tasks again.

I may even take myself to a church service to celebrate my basic faith.

I would never,  ever share my mixed feelings towards Christmas with those inside here who try so hard to keep their celebratory vibes going. For some, it eases the pain and loneliness of being away from loved ones … If it makes the day better for them, I am all for it.

So I smile, laugh and contribute as much as I can tolerate. And then I go off quietly and say to myself … OK, another day over, another year done, my countdown continues … 

Bless my friends – I feel honoured to have such special people in my life. I thank God, if he is listening, for all the good, wonderful human beings I have met and known … Christmas always reminds me of that.

Christmas means … what … for me? Another day. And one Christmas closer to when I have the chance to truly celebrate and share in the love and joy of that day.

One day …

Kathy would love to receive Christmas cards and messages. You can send them to her at this address:

Kathleen Folbigg

LMB 130

Silverwater NSW 1811

 

One of Kathy’s close friends, Megan Donegan, has set the record straight about her diaries.

Megan contacted a journalist at news.com.au last week to read her an entire day’s entry in an attempt to clear up the misinformation.

However, the interview was published with the headline “Best friend of Australia’s worst female serial killer Kathleen Folbigg opens up about friendship”.

The diary entry relates to a day when Kathy said she ‘lost it’ with Laura. The “losing it” was Kathy taking Laura from her high chair and putting her on the floor, while Kathy shut herself in her room for five minutes.

Megan noted to Justice for Kathleen Folbigg: “This is mother guilt. There is nothing wrong with Kath’s reaction that day, she was a hell of a lot more restrained and aware of her own frustrations than many, many parents. She did the RIGHT thing by removing herself to calm down. every parent has these moments as kids DO challenge you.”

exhibits

Kathy discussed the diaries herself in phone calls with fellow high school friend Tracy Chapman that were broadcast on the ABC’s Australian Story recently.

During the call, Kathy said her words following her children’s deaths was a result of taking “on that responsibility so heavily with each child” as their mother.

“Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I see the signs? Why wasn’t I paying more attention?” she said.

Megan revealed to news.com.au how much she looks forward to weekly phone calls with Kathy, where inmates are allowed just six minutes for each conversation. The pair pack a lot into the calls, because Kathy is someone you can “talk to about anything”.

“She has the biggest laugh,” she said. “Of course she’s depressed where she is but she’s not letting it eat away at her. She can laugh about things we’re talking about and find amusement in the mundane.”

Megan met Kathy while they were both Year 7 students at Newcastle’s Kotara High School in the 1980s.

They remained close throughout the harrowing years that Kathy lost her four children.

Megan said that after Caleb died at just 19 days old, Kathy was concerned when she fell pregnant again with her second child Patrick.

“She was super excited to be having another baby, but she was afraid of it happening again,” Megan recalled. “She was apprehensive as any parent would be after having lost a child.”

Megan also discussed a moment in 1999, when Kathy took her by the hand and led her into Laura’s bedroom at the wake in Singleton, near Newcastle.

“Kathy’s not the type of person who was comfortable crying in front of people,” she said. “So she dragged me into Laura’s bedroom so she could cry, then washed her face, and walked back out.”

Megan told news.com.au she had “never once” doubted Kathy’s innocence.

“We spent so much time together she became like an extra person in my family,” Megan said.

“She came to my nieces’ and nephews’ christenings. And we’d go for a drive on Sundays and have a picnic. She was always with us. Even now, she is the godmother of my eldest child.”

A directions hearing was held this week in preparation for the inquiry into Kathy’s convictions.

A report from a clinical psychologists suggested Kathy’s diary entries, which were crucial to the prosecution argument against her, did not contain a clear admission of guilt.

However, Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Gail Furness, said the report did not generate enough doubt to warrant further examination of the diary entries.

Instead, the scope of the inquiry will focus on medical evidence that has come to light since 2003.

 

A directions hearing was held this week in preparation for the inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions.

A Sydney courtroom was packed on Thursday for the first mention of the inquiry. Legal representatives appeared for Folbigg, NSW Police and NSW Health, while Kathleen’s supporters were also in attendance.

Former chief District Court judge Reginald Blanch QC – who is leading the inquiry – said proceedings were unlikely to begin until February or March next year and would examine new evidence from forensic pathologists.

Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Gail Furness told the hearing the convictions were based on circumstantial evidence and four new reports from medical experts suggest the deaths could be explained by unidentified natural causes.

“Three of the reports concern the cause of the deaths and one is addressed to the use of diary evidence. None of those authors gave evidence at the trial,” Furness said.

Monash University forensic pathologist Professor Stephen Cordner concluded in his report that “there is nothing from a forensic pathology viewpoint to suggest that any of the children had been killed”.

Furness said the report by Cordner indicated there were natural causes of death for two of the children, Patrick and Laura, and natural causes were a plausible explanation for the other two deaths, Caleb and Sarah.

A peer-reviewed report on Cordner’s work, which will also be examined, suggested the “jury was almost certainly misled by statement made by experts regarding the rarity of multiple cases of SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome]”.

Furness submitted that the inquiry should focus on any new research or medical evidence about sudden infant death, and expert medical opinion as to the causes of death of each child.

She said a report from a clinical psychologists that suggested Kathleen’s diary entries did not contain a clear admission of guilt did not generate enough doubt to warrant further examination.

Folbigg’s barrister Robert Cavanagh (pictured above leaving the court) said he did not disagree the focus should primarily be on medical evidence.

The court heard Legal Aid has funded a senior barrister to represent Kathleen, who is expected to be briefed by the end of the year, when the inquiry will return for another directions hearing. The first hearings could be as soon as late February 2019.

Outside court, barrister Isabel Reed, who has been one of the lawyers working on the review, said her client was “as well as could be expected”.

Documents and information about the inquiry, including sitting dates, will be listed on its website, folbigginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au.

 

 

A directions hearing for Kathy’s case has been listed for 10am on Thursday, October 25, 2018 in courtroom 2.1 of the Industrial Relations Commission in Sydney.

Any person who considers that he or she has information that may assist the inquiry has been asked to contact the following:

The Secretary

Inquiry into the conviction of Kathleen Megan Folbigg

GPO Box 25, Sydney, 2001

Or email: folbbigg.inquiry@justice.nsw.gov.au

Announcements in relation to the inquiry will be made on the inquiry’s website at http://www.folbigginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au

Also, here is the information that was contained in “Direction pursuant to section 77(1)(a) of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001” by General David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d)
His Excellency, Governor of New South Wales:

Pursuant to section 77(1)(a) of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001 his Excellency, the Governor of New South Wales, has directed that an inquiry be held into the convictions of Kathleen Megan Folbigg for three counts of murder, one count of manslaughter and one count of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm in respect of her four children on 21 May 2003.

WHEREAS it appears that there is a doubt or question as to part of the evidence in the
proceedings leading to the conviction of Kathleen Megan Folbigg on 21 May 2003 of the
following offences:

1. the manslaughter of Caleb Folbigg on 20 February 1989;
2. maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm upon Patrick Folbigg on 18 October 1990,
with intent to do grievous bodily harm;
3. the murder of Patrick Folbigg on 13 February 1991;
4. the murder of Sarah Folbigg on 30 August 1993; and
5. the murder of Laura Folbigg on 1 March 1999;

AND WHEREAS that doubt or question concerns evidence as to the incidence of reported
deaths of three or more infants in the same family attributed to unidentified natural causes;

PURSUANT to section 77(1)(a) of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001, I direct that an inquiry be conducted into the said convictions in accordance with the provision of Part 7 of the said Act; and

PURSUANT to section 81(1)(a) of the said Act I hereby appoint the Honourable Reginald
Oliver Blanch AM QC, formerly a judicial officer within the meaning of the Judicial Officers Act 1986, to conduct an inquiry into the said convictions, having particular regard to the said evidence, with the powers and authorities conferred on a commissioner by Division 2 of Part 2 of the Royal Commissions Act 1923 (except for section 17).

We’re thrilled to hear that Gail Furness, SC, will assist retired NSW District Court chief judge Reg Blanch, QC, in the inquiry into Kathy’s case.

The team at Justice for Kathleen Folbigg believes the appointment of Furness is a positive development.

“We are very happy to know that Reg and Gail are heading up the inquiry given their backgrounds and history of appointments to date,” said Tracy Chapman. “Their reputations for getting to the heart of matters fairly gives us hope that the matters raised by barristers Isabel Reed, Robert Cavanagh and their team more than five years ago.

“Obviously, we’d like to see Kath set free, but one step at a time. This is a significant move in the right direction.”

Furness was the counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including the questioning of Cardinal George Pell about his management of abuse survivor John Ellis’ legal compensation case against Sydney Archdiocese.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Speakman confirmed Ms Furness’ appointment on Monday.

We are still waiting to hear whether the inquiry will be held in Newcastle or Sydney. Isabel has approached the Attorney-General about having it in Newcastle, but that will probably be decided at the directions hearing.

Kathy will not be at the directions hearing, but is expected to attend the full inquiry.

Click here to read a story by Joanne McCarthy in The Newcastle Herald, which refers to the inquiry going ahead with a “star lawyer appointment”!

What it’s like to visit Kathy in jail

It was great to finally see Kathy again at Silverwater Detention Centre on Saturday.

It’s been a long time between visits – I’d only managed to drive up from Sydney to Cessnock to see her once during her time there.

She’s anxiously preparing for the judicial inquiry into her case, after almost three years of waiting to hear if she’d be given the chance.

It hasn’t been easy riding that emotional rollercoaster of hope and fear for so long. No one thinks of the person trapped in the process.

Kathy has been in jail for more than 15 years now. She still has more than 10 years of her sentence to serve.

I arrived on Saturday for a 12.40pm visit, but no one ever gets inside until it’s waaaaaay after 1pm. It takes forever to process everyone’s visitor forms, check their fingerprints and irises and usher them through the metal detectors.

The guards wrap the visits up just before 3pm.

You feel sad for the kids who only get to see their mums for such a short period of time.

There were lots of kids there on Saturday, sweet-faced ones with ponytails, little terrors darting around the waiting room, tired bubbas sobbing in their prams.

Visiting jail is totally bizarre, yet completely normal experience.

I’ve seen a little girl in a pink dress playing hopscotch beside a barbed wire fence, pausing to wave and shout “Bye Daddy” as she glimpsed her father being taken back to his cell.

I’ve watched a visitor coo when a prison guard showed her snapshots of his new baby.

And I’ve overheard some fascinating conversations. One of the most colourful was when a woman wearing fuzzy bed socks and chain-smoking started ranting loudly about being called up for jury duty for the second time in just a few months. She told the authorities: “Look, my daughter’s in jail for f@#kin’ murder. I don’t feel like being on a f@#kin’ jury right now. And they got straight back to me that I didn’t have to f@#kin’ do it.”

When we finally get inside the visitors’ room, we sit on pastel-painted metal stools, bolted to the floor and arranged around a little bolted-down metal table, like some Tim Burton-style nightmare version of fairy toadstools.

Kathy wears a white canvas jumpsuit, secured with an electrical cable tie at the neck. We sip cans of Diet Coke and snack on bags of Mars Bar Pods and Kettle Chips from the junk food machines in the hallway.

We talk about her latest upheavals in protective custody and her hopes of getting a job to ease the boredom and pay for the ever-increasing number of items that are on “buy-up”. When I first started visiting you could sent pyjamas, underwear, books and other items, but they’ve all been banned now.

We discuss her return to Silverwater and how she vomited repeatedly from the stress of being locked in a prison van to be transported from Cessnock jail back to Sydney.

She never fails to amaze me with her strength and resilience in the face of the challenges her daily life presents.

When visiting hours end, all too soon, everyone hugs and cries as they separate.

I watch a couple embrace and the woman call over her shoulder as she returns to her cell: “See you in court on Thursday! I love you!”

So mundane, yet so otherwordly at the same time.

I walk out of the security doors and into the sunlight I feel so grateful to be free.

I don’t have many jail pictures to share with you, because they are verboten for security reasons.

There was a total furor when one of Kathy’s cellmates once sold photographs (and lies) from inside the prison to a weekly magazine.

But here are a few snaps to give you a brief glimpse of what it’s like …

 

Something to think about

One of Kathy’s supporters sent us a message that we wanted to share with you.

Here’s what they had to say:

For those of you who thought or assumed that Kathleen gave birth to four completely healthy babies, here is some more information you may not be aware of: on October 17, 1990, Patrick was placed in his cot to go to sleep.

At about 3.30am the following morning, Craig Folbigg was woken by the screams of his wife. He rushed in and Kathleen called an ambulance. The ambulance officers administered oxygen and Patrick responded almost immediately. Patrick was then treated in hospital over a number of days. He was diagnosed as suffering from a major form of epilepsy.

Caleb, Kathleen’s first baby, was diagnosed with a “lazy larynx” after Kathleen and Craig consulted a pediatrician because he had been experiencing difficulty breathing and feeding at the same time.

Sarah was sent home with a sleep apnea blanket to monitor her breathing while she slept, and Laura was also sent home with a sleep breathing monitor. Due to the scarcity of resources, that type of equipment was only ever sent home with babies where there was a genuine need.

In between her pregnancies, Kathleen and Craig consulted geneticists for advice on whether they should have more children.

It is worth thinking about that.

These were all babies with health difficulties right from the start. What do you make of that?

What will the former chief judge of the District Court, the Hon Reginald Blanch AM QC, makes of that when he conducts the inquiry into Kathy’s convictions?

There are a growing number of experts coming forward to offer their assistance and join the respected forensic pathologists who contributed to the Petition that led to the inquiry.

There has been so much progress in medical fields since Kathy’s conviction and many new theories about what might have caused her children’s deaths.

We are so grateful there is finally an inquiry into Kathy’s case. It’s been a long time coming.

 

 

An update on Kathy

It’s been a huge few weeks for Kathy and her supporters following her appearance on Australian Story and NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman subsequent announcement of an inquiry into her convictions.

To top it all off, Kathy was also suddenly transferred last Saturday from Cessnock Jail back to Silverwater Correctional Centre.

So we wanted to give you an update on how she’s going.

Fortunately, Kathy has already had a few visitors at Silverwater, who’ve given her big hugs and report that she’s in good spirits.

While we were initially concerned about the move, she tells us it’s a better alternative to the conditions at Cessnock, which were pretty limited and basic.

Barrister Isabel Reed, who has been one of the driving forces behind gaining an inquiry, said Kathy is over the moon that an inquiry has been granted, but will need time to distill the news.

Fellow barrister Robert Cavanagh has also argued that Kathy needs to be released from jail during an inquiry into “how a miscarriage of justice occurred”.

“You can’t have a conviction where there’s a natural cause of death and yet that’s what’s occurred here and she’s been in jail for 15 years because of it,” he told The Newcastle Herald.

Kathy was also quoted in New Idea saying that those who still feel she is guilty should “do some proper research into my case and the expert opinions included in my Petition and open their minds.”

She admitted that her past 15 years in jail have been incredibly challenging.

She copes by taking it “One day at a time, minute by minute, one foot in front of the other. You make your world the immediate space around you to survive emotionally or depression rules. To survive you need to adjust and adapt. You can’t comprehend what it is like behind prison walls, it’s such a tough, difficult place.”

Kathy thanked her legal team “who have been absolutely incredible and I can’t thank them enough for giving me a reason to hope”.

And she looked to what the future might hold if the inquiry leads to her release.

“I’d like to do some advocacy work to make sure other people don’t go through the hell that I have,” she said. “The manner prosecutions are handled needs an overhaul and Australian needs an independent review body for these sort of cases. I’d also like do do some social justice work, as the current prison system is broken. It’s a revolving door because prisoners with high security classifications aren’t taught life skills, they receive limited education and little support post incarceration.”

We will keep you up to date on Kathy and the inquiry over the coming months.