Next steps in Kathleen Folbigg inquiry

The second inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions for killing her four children was adjourned for a second time on February 24, following police producing 500 hours of secret recordings from a device planted in her home in 1999.

The inquiry also abruptly adjourned in November 2022 just two days into what was expected to be two weeks of scheduled hearings.

The adjournment came after professors Michael Toft Overgaard and Mette Nyegaard told the inquiry they had made a “significant discovery” regarding a gene called calmodulin.

New research into a gene variant called CALM2 G114R suggests it might have caused Sarah and Laura’s deaths. Tests on their DNA samples showed this mutation was inherited by the girls from Kathleen.

The inquiry, which is being led by NSW former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tom Bathurst KC, resumed on February 13.

On the final day of evidence, police tabled the recordings, which the inquiry heard had been discovered in December and provided to the inquiry.

Bathurst said it was a “matter of concern they were produced so late”.

He will decide, following the third installment of the inquiry, whether the evidence raises reasonable doubt about Kathleen’s guilt.

If his decision is yes, the case could go back to the Court of Criminal Appeal to consider a pardon or retrial.

Why the new evidence matters

Research was published in 2021 into a newly-discovered variant of a gene which produces calmodulin, a functional protein.

According to this research and subsequent tests into its function, the variant reduces the body’s ability to properly regulate calcium and sodium ions in heart cells. 

As Cosmos explains: “Mette Nyegaard and Michael Toft Overgaard expressed their view that no variation to any of the three calmodulin-coding genes – CALM1, CALM2 and CALM3 – could be considered benign, due to the protein’s role in regulating the heart’s ion exchange. This process elicits the human heartbeat.

“In Kathleen Folbigg, the CALM2 gene she passed onto the girls was found to have mutated at position 114, replacing the smallest amino acid glycine with the second-largest, arginine. This is the position where calmodulin proteins normally bind to sodium ion channels in heart cells, meaning the final, so-called ‘Folbigg variant’ (technically CALM2 G114R) is impeded in this task.

“The subsequent misregulation of sodium, they say, could give rise to irregular heartbeats in children.”

There is also no evidence that Kathleen’s children were smothered, which was the view of Dr Allan Cala, the forensic pathologist at her trial.

Other forensic pathologists disagreed. Professor Stephen Cordner – whose retrospective forensic assessment triggered the 2019 inquiry – and Dr Matthew Orde, declared the absence of injuries on the children made it difficult to conclude deliberate suffocation.

In the 2019 inquiry, other pathologists who presented their assessments of the four deaths shared that view.

Professor Peter Fleming, a world-renowned expert in sudden infant death syndrome, strongly emphasised his view that while forced suffocation may leave no signs of injury, as argued by Cala, he would expect to find injuries in older children like Sarah and Laura.

The inquiry will resume on April 26 for closing submissions.

Sign our petition for justice

It is clear there is reasonable doubt in this case. Please sign Kathleen’s public petition calling for her immediate release and share it with your friends and family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: