Kathy’s longtime friends Tracy and Megan (above) have spent the day in Lidcombe coroner’s court watching the hearing into her convictions commence.

Tracy ducked out at one point to give a radio interview to the ABC. Click here to listen to it. 

It’s been a huge few weeks for Kathy’s supporters. Tracy also appeared in a 60 Minutes story on Sunday night, which saw reporter Tara Brown question an expert called Dr Ophoven, who admitted she had incorrectly relied on the controversial – and now discredited – Cot Death Theory, made famous by British Professor Roy Meadow, which stated that one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, three murder.

Dr Ophoven used the theory during an eerily similar trial to Kathy’s, that of fellow Australian Carol Matthey, who was accused of killing her four children, Jacob, seven months, Chloe, nine weeks, Joshua, three months, and Shania, three and a half years old, between 1998 and 2003. She insisted that the chance of four unexplained infant deaths from natural causes was one in a trillion.

It’s the theory that sent several UK mothers to jail in the lead up to Kathy’s trial. But a fundamental statistical error in Meadow’s Law eventually saw the theory discredited and multiple murder convictions overturned.

In the UK alone, four grieving mothers – falsely accused and wrongly convicted – walked free.

When Brown questioned Dr Ophoven on the validity of the theory she used against Folbigg, she confirmed she “was incorrect” concerning the statistical rarity of so many children from one family dying of natural causes.

“That was incorrect. I was just citing previous literature – Roy Meadow,” Dr Ophoven said. “I would never say that now, but I wouldn’t change my diagnosis now. I would just say that it would be impossibly rare.”

Watch the 60 Minutes story by clicking here. 

Clinical psychologist Dr Sharmila Betts, who examined Kathy’s diary entries, also told 60 Minutes in her opinion not even Kathleen’s darkest writings were enough to convict her.

“The diaries reveal a tortured mind, and I’d be very surprised if there are not millions of mothers who think like that,” Betts told Brown.

Meanwhile, ABC journalist Quentin McDermott has published a news story discussing new evidence in the case that argues that there are plausible natural causes of death for Kathy’s children.

It reveals that Kathy’s third child, Sarah Folbigg, may have died earlier in the night than previously thought, in August 1993.

Consulting forensic pathologist Johan Duflou said in his view, taking into account the temperature of the child’s body and the stomach contents, “this would suggest that Sarah died closer to the time she was put to bed by [Kathy’s husband] Craig at around 21:00 hours, rather than when found by Folbigg at around 01:30 hours.”

Professor Duflou’s view challenges the argument presented by the prosecution at Kathy’s trial, that she was present with all four of her children when they died.

McDermott also noted that Allan Cala, who was the chief medical expert at Kathy’s trial, is expected to give evidence on Tuesday, March 19, as will Stephen Cordner, who did not give evidence at the trial, but who wrote a lengthy report which was attached to the petition, and John Hilton, who conducted the autopsy of Kathy’s third child Sarah, and gave evidence at the trial.

“The ABC understands that Dr Cala stands by the opinion he expressed at Kathy’s trial, that she smothered all four of her children,” McDermott writes. “But, both Professor Cordner and Professor Hilton disagree.”

In his report accompanying the petition, Professor Cordner wrote that: “If the convictions in this case are to stand, I want to clearly state there is no pathological or medical basis for concluding homicide.

“The findings are perfectly compatible with natural causes.”

He added: “Put simply, there is no positive forensic pathology support for the contention that any or all of these children have been killed.”

In his own statement submitted to the inquiry, Professor Hilton said he was “in substantial agreement with the comments, views and opinions” expressed by Professor Cordner in his report.

Significantly, Professor Hilton backs Professor Cordner’s view that Kathy’s fourth and oldest child, Laura, died from natural causes — in this case the illness known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscles.

“Laura died with, and highly probably because of, florid myocarditis,” Professor Hilton wrote.

“There was no medical evidence demonstrable or demonstrated in the report of the post-mortem examination to support another cause for her death.”

Professor Duflou backed the views of Professor Hilton and Professor Cordner in his statement to the inquiry: “In my opinion, there is without doubt myocarditis of a severity which can readily cause sudden and unexpected death … in this case, no competing cause of death has been identified at autopsy; therefore based purely on the autopsy findings, the cause of death would be given as myocarditis.”

Click here to read McDermott’s story, which resulted in the barrister acting for Kathy to be blasted by the judicial officer presiding over the inquiry into her convictions – former NSW District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch QC (above) – over the documents being leaked.

According to Tracy and Megz Tuesday will be a “bombshell day” in the case.

Kathy has also confirmed in writing that she will testify on April 17 and 18.

Stay tuned.

Bound together by tragedy

It’s the moment that felt like it would never come for Kathleen Folbigg’s supporters: the inquiry into her convictions begins on Monday.

Next week has been set aside to hear evidence relevant to forensic pathology and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). April 15-16 have been set aside to hear evidence relevant to genetics and cardiology. April 17-18 have been set aside for Kathy to give evidence, if she chooses to do so.

The substantive hearings will be held at the Forensic Medicine and Coroner’s Court complex located on 1A Main Avenue, Lidcombe.

This Sunday night, 60 Minutes is running an interview with an Australian mother who suffered an identical tragedy to Kathy – four of her children dying of SIDS – but who walked free from court.

The program notes: “Kathleen Folbigg and Carol Matthey are mothers bound by terrible tragedy: both had four babies die. But while Kathleen was found guilty of murder and jailed, Carol was never convicted.”

It’s the first time in 12 years that Carol Matthey has spoken to the media since her preliminary hearing in 2007.

Kathy’s long-time friend Tracy Chapman tells Justice for Kathleen Folbigg: “I had the privilege of meeting Carol, spending time with her and hearing her story. The correlations between the two cases are astounding … The outcomes in both cases are polar opposites. The suffering of these two women, undeniable.”

Watch the preview of the segment below:

We have no idea how the finished program will pan out. Will it paint Kathy as Australia’s worst serial killer or suggest reasonable doubt?

Tune in on Sunday night and let us know your thoughts.

A group of Kathy’s supporters will attend the inquiry. We’ll try to keep you in the loop as much as we can about the proceeding.

“Next week I’ll sit watching Lidcome Coroner’s Court, heart in mouth, knowing that many years of hard work and dedication are about to decide Kath’s future,” Tracy said.

She also thanked the author Emma Cunliffe, Kathy’s legal team and friends who have worked tirelessly to make this milestone moment happen.

Intense days ahead, especially for Kathy, who has spent the last 16 years in a jail cell and is desperately hoping expert witnesses will convince the inquiry that she didn’t murder her four children.

Kathy’s supporters remain disappointed that Kathy’s former husband and the father of her children, Craig Folbigg, has refused to provide a DNA sample for analysis.

 

 

 

Kathy makes judicial request

A fourth directions hearing prior to the judicial review of Kathy’s case was held at the Chief Secretary’s Building in Bridge Street, Sydney today.

Kathy – via her legal team – has asked for permission to watch the hearings on video link from Silverwater Jail. She has yet to decide if she will give evidence at the review.

Hearings will begin on March 18 at Lidcombe Coroners Court. Forensic pathologists and sudden infant death syndrome experts will be the first to testify, followed by a panel of geneticists in mid-April.

Former NSW District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch, who’s heading the inquiry, said April 17 and 18 have been set aside for Kathy to give evidence if she chooses to do so. But she will be required to give one-month’s notice if she intends to appear at the Coroners Court.

“The scope of the inquiry will not include the evidence of Folbigg unless we are notified in writing by March 17 that she does intend to give evidence,” Blanch noted.

The inquiry will focus on medical advances and new research, including findings on multiple natural infant deaths in the one family.

Kathy’s friend Tracy Chapman has shared her frustration that today’s media reports continue to rely on sensationalist language, referring to her as a “serial baby killer”.

“I’m tired of reading this,” she said. “I hope that one day they’ll think about how such headlines stick, hurt, frustrate and affect real people, before they do it again to some other poor person.”

An update from Kath’s friends

Three of Kath’s school friends – Megan, Tracy and Alana (pictured above at a cafe near Silverwater Jail – visited her over the weekend and report that she is in good spirits and looks well.

She’s both cautiously optimistic and careful not to get too hopeful about the outcome of the upcoming inquiry into her case.

Alana said the four chatted about everything from the mundane to the life changing during the visit.

“Kath told us about savouring her first taste of fresh cream in 16 years when a prison staff member gave her a slice of sponge cake,” she said.

As for the life-changing, Alana added: “I was floored by how huge it’s beginning to feel as we count down to the inquiry in March. The evidence in Kathy’s favour is beginning to pile up and there’s a giddy desire to allow a glimmer of hope that the scales of justice will balance.”

Tracy drove down from the North Coast at 1am in the morning so she could be there for a double visit with Kath, one at 8am and one at 12pm. She collected Megan on the way. Following the afternoon visit, they immediately started the trek back, with Tracy breaking the long journey home in Newcastle.

Tracy said: “Kath thanks everyone for their continued support. Especially the legal team, as there is a massive amount of time dedicated on their part for discussion, research, preparation and collation for the enquiry, even before representation at court.

“Kath dreams of a day in the not too distant future where she gets to thank you all in person for your support.”

A fourth directions hearing has been listed at 10am on Monday, February 11, 2019, at a location to be confirmed.

Substantive hearing dates for the hearing of expert medical evidence by the inquiry have also been set down.

The week beginning Monday, March 4, 2019, has been set aside to hear evidence relevant to forensic pathology and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

The week beginning Monday, March 18, 2019 has been set aside to hear evidence relevant to genetics and cardiology.

The substantive hearings will be held at the Chief Secretary’s Building and the Coroner’s Court in Lidcombe.

 

A third directions hearing prior to Kathy’s judicial review has revealed that lawyers are negotiating with Craig Folbigg to obtain a DNA sample.

During a second directions hearing earlier this month, the court was told that Kathy’s ex-husband had filed a complaint with the Law Society of NSW about being approached by his ex-partner’s legal team.

Former NSW District Court chief judge Reginald Blanch – who’s heading the inquiry – said he’d met with geneticists who said DNA samples were important as they could overturn Kathy’s conviction.

It was noted at the third hearing on Thursday that the solicitors from the inquiry have been in touch with Craig and “are in discussions with him about it”.

“It’s a matter of calming the situation down if we can and he is talking to us about it,” it was noted.

Kathy’s lawyer Jeremy Morris SC also successfully applied for the scope of the inquiry to be expanded so her client could testify “should she choose to”.

At the second directions hearing, 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.

However, it had previously been agreed the 2019 inquiry should focus on medical advances and new research.

“I will make an order extending the scope of the enquiry to include allowing Mrs Folbigg to give evidence about the diary entries, her possession of the diaries and her disposal of the diaries and the evidence from her in relation to that will be restricted and the cross-examination of her will be restricted to those particular issues,” the judicial officer said on Thursday.

Morris said his client might testify but she’d been unable to commit while the legal team waited for police to locate certain interview tapes.

Blanch said 15 years had passed and his understanding was the evidence in question could not be located by police.

A fourth directions hearing has been listed at 10am on Monday, February 11, 2019, at location to be confirmed.

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.