Mother Imprisoned 20 Years Over Deaths of Her 4 Children Freed

Australia's Kathleen Folbigg had long insisted her children died of natural causes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 5, 2023 12:00 AM CDT
Mother Imprisoned 20 Years Over Deaths of Her 4 Children Freed
New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley addresses a press conference in Sydney, Monday, June 5, 2023.   (Joel Carrett/AAP Image via AP)

An Australian woman who spent 20 years in prison was pardoned and released Monday based on new scientific evidence that her four children died by natural causes as she had insisted, the AP reports. The pardon was seen as the quickest way of getting Kathleen Folbigg out of prison, and a final report from the second inquiry into her guilt could recommend the state Court of Appeals quash her convictions. Folbigg, now 55, was released from a prison in Grafton, New South Wales state, following an unconditional pardon by Gov. Margaret Beazley. New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley said former justice Tom Bathurst had advised him last week there was reasonable doubt about Folbigg’s guilt based on new scientific evidence that the deaths could have been from natural causes.

“There is a reasonable doubt as to Ms. Folbigg's guilt of the manslaughter of her child Caleb, the infliction of grievous bodily harm on her child Patrick and the murder of her children Patrick, Sarah and Laura,” Daley told reporters. “I have reached a view that there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Ms. Folbigg of those offenses,” Daley added. Bathurst has conducted the second inquiry into Folbigg's guilt, initiated by a petition that said it was “based on significant positive evidence of natural causes of death” and signed by 90 scientists, medical practitioners and related professionals. Prosecutors acknowledged to his inquiry in April that there was reasonable doubt about her guilt.

Folbigg was serving a 30-year prison sentence that was to expire in 2033. She would have become eligible for parole in 2028. The children died separately over a decade, at between 19 days and 19 months old. Evidence discovered in 2018 that both of her daughters carried a rare CALM2 genetic variant was one of the reasons that the inquiry was called. Lawyer Sophie Callan said expert evidence in the fields of cardiology and genetics indicated that the CALM2-G114R genetic variant “is a reasonably possible cause” of the daughters’ sudden deaths. For one of her sons, Callan said there was “persuasive expert evidence that as a matter of reasonable possibility, an underlying neurogenetic disorder” caused his sudden death.

(Read more Australia stories.)

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