Kathleen Folbigg has spoken from jail.
Kathleen Folbigg has spoken from jail.

The diary that sent child killer to jail

IT'S been 15 years since Kathleen Folbigg, Australia's worst female serial killer, was found guilty of killing her four babies over a 10-year period.

But interest in Folbigg's case is set to peak again, five years after her legal team started a petition to have the case reviewed.

The petition reportedly casts doubt on forensic evidence which formed a major part of the case against her and includes testimony from expert witnesses and medical professionals.

Phone calls between Folbigg, now more than halfway through her 25-year sentence, and a friend aired on Australian Story last night.

A large part of their conversation included Folbigg explaining the diary entries she wrote while grieving for her four babies - diary entries which played a large part in convicting her as a child killer.

Folbigg's husband Craig joined the prosecution's case after he found his wife's diaries.

The entries were pivotal in convicting Folbigg of the deaths, spanning from 1989 to 1999.

Among the most damning of her entries, Folbigg wrote, "I am my father's daughter."

Folbigg was 18 months old when her father stabbed her mother to death on a Sydney street.

In the phone calls aired by Australian Story, Folbigg said the diary entries were "written from a point of me blaming myself".

"I blamed myself for everything. It's just I took so much of the responsibility, because that's, as mothers, what you do," she said.

 

Kathleen Folbigg outside court in April 2001.
Kathleen Folbigg outside court in April 2001.

In another of her diary entries, Folbigg wrote Laura had been a "fairly good-natured baby".

Laura was Folbigg's fourth and longest living baby. Folbigg found her lifeless body in her cot when she was 19 months old.

In a separate passage talking about Laura, Folbigg wrote: "I feel like the worst mother on this Earth. Scared she'll leave me now like Sarah did. I knew I was short-tempered and cruel sometimes to her, and she left. With a bit of help."

But in last night's conversation, Folbigg explained the "bit of help" line.

"That quote, that was a reference to God or to some higher power or something going on that I didn't understand. I was thinking why was I not allowed to have the other three but now I've fallen pregnant again am I going to be allowed to keep this one?"

Speaking to the program, Folbigg expressed frustration about the delay in reviewing her case. Her legal team sent a petition to the NSW Attorney-General three years ago.

"We're just simply waiting for a decision. For three years now, we've been clinging to that little bit of hope," Folbigg told the program.

Folbigg's lengthy trial, where the jury eventually found her guilty of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter, went for more than seven weeks.
Throughout it, the prosecution alleged Folbigg had smothered and killed all four of her babies.

Folbigg's foster sister testified for the prosecution and, after her husband discovered his wife's harrowing diary entries, he joined the prosecution's case too.

 

Kathleen and Craig Folbigg on their wedding day.
Kathleen and Craig Folbigg on their wedding day.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the petition "raises complex questions to which I am giving appropriate consideration and have taken extensive advice".

"I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in the near future," he said in a statement.

Within the petition to get a judicial review, Professor Stephen Cordner concludes that there was no forensic evidence to prove all four of Folbigg's children were murdered.

Prof Cordner, one of Australia's most distinguished forensic pathologists, cast doubt on the evidence used to convict Folbigg back in 2003.

After combing through all of the evidence presented at Folbigg's trial, Prof Cordner concluded Caleb and Sarah died from SIDS and Patrick, who had epilepsy before his death, most likely died from complications brought on by the disease.

The professor also concluded Laura, who lived the longest, died "unexceptionally from myocarditis".

"There is no positive forensic pathology support for the contention that any or all of these children have been killed," Prof Cordner concluded in his report.

 

Kathleen Folbigg with her baby Sarah who died in 1993.
Kathleen Folbigg with her baby Sarah who died in 1993.

Folbigg was originally sentenced to 40 years for the murder of her children Patrick, Sarah and Laura and for the manslaughter of Caleb, between 1989 and 1999.

The sentence was reduced on appeal to a maximum of 30 years.

While Nicholas Cowdery, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, still believes the jury got its 2003 verdict right, he did admit the delay with Folbigg's petition had taken too long.

"I think this is an inordinate delay in dealing with this matter," he said.

Australian Story is available to watch on ABC iview.



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