Mother who spent 20 years in prison for killing her four children has convictions overturned

14 December 2023, 07:33

Kathleen Folbigg has had her convictions for killing her four children overturned
Kathleen Folbigg has had her convictions for killing her four children overturned. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A woman who spent two decades behind bars for killing her four children has had her convictions overturned.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Australian Kathleen Folbigg, 56, was convicted of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of the fourth - but new evidence suggests they may have died of natural causes.

She was pardoned in June, because that was seen as the fastest way to get her out of prison, but the convictions were quashed this week.

Ms Folbigg had been sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2003 for the killings.

Applause filled the New South Wales courtroom as a judge overturned the convictions.

Read more: Australian man, 23, dies after being buried in sand 'in hole dug to roast a pig'

Read more: Mushroom cook Erin Patterson charged with murder over beef wellington lunch that left three dead

Kathleen Folbigg
Kathleen Folbigg. Picture: Alamy

Chief Justice Andrew Bell said: "While the verdicts at trial were reasonably open on the evidence available, there is now reasonable doubt as to Ms Folbigg's guilt.

"It is appropriate Ms Folbigg's convictions be quashed."

Ms Folbigg thanked her supporters, lawyers and the scientists who provided new evidence for helping overturn the convictions.

She said: "For almost a quarter of a century, I faced disbelief and hostility. I suffered abuse in all its forms. I hoped and prayed that one day, I would be able to stand here with my name cleared.

Kathleen Folbigg was sentenced to 30 years for the killings
Kathleen Folbigg was sentenced to 30 years for the killings. Picture: Getty

"I am grateful that updated science and genetics have given me answers of how my children died.

"The system preferred to blame me rather than accept that sometimes children can and do die suddenly, unexpectedly and heartbreakingly."

She is now set to demand "significant" compensation from the government for her time spent in prison, her lawyer said.

Kathleen Folbigg speaks to the media after her convictions were overturned
Kathleen Folbigg speaks to the media after her convictions were overturned. Picture: Alamy

Ms Folbigg's first child, Caleb, was born in 1989 and died 19 days later. She was convicted of manslaughter in connection with his death.

Patrick, her second child, was eight months old when he died in 1991. Sarah, her third, died at ten months in 1992. Her fourth child, Laura, lived to 19 months before dying in 1999.

Prosecutors claimed she smothered them. Scientists later found evidence that Sarah and Laura carried a rare CALM2 genetic variant that could have been behind their deaths. Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, may also have contributed to Laura's death.

Patrick's death may have been caused by a rare neurogenetic condition.

These scientific factors undermined the legal argument of a pattern of behaviour that underpinned Ms Folbigg's manslaughter conviction for Caleb's death.

Ms Folbigg was originally pardoned on the recommendation of an inquiry that was prompted by a petition signed in 2021 by 90 scientists, medical practitioners and related professionals, raising the new evidence.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

William appeared at Ascot

Prince William shares tender moment with Kate's mother as she suffers mishap at Ascot

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

'I just want my baby back': Mother of missing Brit Jay Slater, 19, issues plea after 'false sighting' delays search

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins

Keir Starmer comes out on top after LBC phone-ins – as Rishi Sunak seen as ‘overwhelmingly negative’

OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein is pictured with CEO Stockton Rush, who died on the Titan sub

Oceangate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send 1,000 people to Venus

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Theo Paphitis speaks to LBC.

'They've lost the plot': Ex-Tory donor and Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis reveals why he's switched support to Labour

Exclusive
Sir David Ormand has criticised the Conservatives for suggesting Keir Starmer is a security risk

Former spy boss criticises 'disreputable' Tory suggestion that Putin and Xi would welcome Starmer as Prime Minister

Justin Timberlake was arrested on Tuesday

'We'll have a lot to say': Justin Timberlake's lawyer vows to 'vigorously defend' singer after DWI arrest

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday

Rishi Sunak set 'to become first PM to lose seat' in election wipeout with Conservatives down to just 53 MPs, poll finds

Starmer and Neville

Keir Starmer tells Gary Neville he needs to win British people's trust, as he warns turning UK around will take 10 years

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives for a visit to Great Wood Farm Early Years Centre, Grantham in East Midlands, June 17

Sunak close protection officer arrested over alleged election date bets

Allen Morgan, 73, said he was locked in a "passionate but forbidden" affair with his now wife Margaret, 75, when he hired a hitman to kill his then-partner Carol

Pensioner found guilty of conspiring to murder wife after hiring hitman amid 'passionate but forbidden' affair

Charlie Cosser

Teenager jailed for life for murdering 17-year-old Charlie Cosser on dance floor at party

Police were called to a property at Shorncliffe Road shortly after 3pm on Sunday

Baby girl mauled to death in dog attack at family home in Coventry

The tourists trying to stop Stonehenge being vandalised

Moment hero tourists grab Just Stop Oil spraying paint on Stonehenge, as activists 'damage rare lichen'

Anthony Hill disappeared on Monday morning

CCTV images show last sighting of Martin Lewis' MoneyExpertSaving colleague before going missing on 37th birthday