Kathleen Folbigg Inquiry kicks off
The long-awaited Kathleen Folbigg Inquiry commences on 14 November 2022.
It will include evidence that indicates Kathleen’s two daughters, Laura and Sarah, inherited a genetic mutation on the CALM2 gene, a gene associated with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death.
A study on the mutations was published in 2021 with evidence is so strong, a petition was signed by 90 eminent scientists, include two Nobel laureates – Professors Elizabeth Blackburn and Peter Doherty. The petition now has 151 signatures including world experts in cardiac arrhythmias.
As journalist Quentin McDermott notes in The Australian: “On Monday, the guilt or innocence of Kathleen Folbigg, a mother convicted of killing all four of her children, will come down to this: did the genetic variant she carries and which, scientists say, she passed on to two of her children trigger their deaths?
“That judgment will be made by a former chief justice of NSW, Tom Bathurst AC KC, as he presides over a fresh inquiry into her convictions that could see her walk free after 19 years in prison.”
Last year John Shine, a former president of the Australian Academy of Science, said: “We have very strong, robust scientific evidence that the mutations in these children could certainly have played a major role in their susceptibility to sudden death.”
Describing Kathleen as “a victim of the genetic lottery”, he added: “She’s extremely unlucky because the chance of having the particular mutation she’s got is very, very low. It’s almost non-existent in the rest of the population.
“However, once you have that mutation in the family, then your genetic blueprint has that mutation. And so the chance of passing that to your children and their children is incredibly high.”
While this scientific opinion by one of the world’s foremost genetic experts points to far more than reasonable doubt, McDermott points out that some argue this is another factor in play in whether Kathleen’s innocence will be acknowledged – “the crude political consideration of setting free a mother once labelled ‘the most hated woman in Australia'”.
“The signs are the Liberal NSW government is unlikely to free Folbigg if it can help it ahead of next year’s state election in March – and potentially the ultimate responsibility for deciding Folbigg’s fate may then fall to a Labor attorney-general. How sad if, in the end, it all comes down to politics,” McDermott writes.
The Inquiry will include face-to-face hearings in two blocks.
The first hearing block in the Inquiry will commence on 14 November 2022 and is listed for two weeks.
During the first hearing block, it is intended that cardiac and genetic evidence will be adduced.
The second hearing block in the Inquiry will commence on 13 February 2023 and is listed for two weeks. During the second hearing block, it is intended that psychology, psychiatry and other evidence relevant to Kathleen’s diaries will be adduced.
The hearing in the Inquiry will commence at 9am on 14 November 2022 and will take place on Level 4 of the Chief Secretary’s Building, 121 Macquarie Street, Sydney. Public entry to the Chief Secretary’s Building is via Bridge Street, Sydney.
The hearing in the Inquiry will be live-streamed on the Department of Communities and Justice Youtube channel here:
Limited seating is available for members of the public at the hearing. Members of the public are encouraged to view the proceedings online via the livestream.
Mother’s Guilt podcast series: The Kathleen Folbigg story
Have you listened to the Mother’s Guilt podcast series: The Kathleen Folbigg story.
The Mother’s Guilt eight-part podcast traces the case from the 1960s, starting with Kathleen’s childhood and teens and into her marriage to Craig and their four separate losses.
Kathleen’s friends from childhood, high school and during her marriage appear in episode two discussing their close bonds with her. They have maintained her innocence throughout the many years she has been in prison and hope the science presented in the inquiry finally sets her free.