This week marks 20 years since Kathleen Folbigg was convicted for killing her four children

This week marks 20 years since Kathleen Folbigg was put behind bars, convicted of killing her four babies between 1989 and 1999 in the Hunter.

Ms Folbigg, now 55-years-old, is currently serving a sentence of at least 25 years after being convicted for killing Caleb when he was 19 days old and Patrick when he was eight months old when the family lived at Mayfield, and also for killing Sarah and Laura who were 10 and 19 months old when they died in Thornton and Singleton. 

In 2003 Ms Folbigg was charged with three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter over their deaths.

The most recent inquiry into Ms Folbigg’s convictions was ordered by the former NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman in May last year after more than 100 scientists called for Ms Folbigg to be pardoned due to the discovery of rare genetic mutations present in Ms Folbigg and her two daughters that the scientists believed proved that the children did not die at the hands of their mother. 

At the conclusion of that inquiry the Department of Public Prosecutions said they believed there was reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Kathleen Folbigg.

If former Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, who presided over the inquiry, agrees there is reasonable doubt to her guilt, the matter may be referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal which will consider a pardon or a retrial.

In the meantime, Ms Folbigg’s legal team has asked for the NSW Attorney General Michael Daley to recommend to the NSW Governor that Ms Folbigg be released immediately, that her parole be brought forward or she be pardoned.

Rhanee Rego is Kathleen Folbigg’s lawyer, based in Newcastle.

“We’re very much hoping that the Attorney General gives a recommendation to the Governor imminently so Kathleen Folbigg can be released. We are very clear that the parole and pardon requests have nothing to do with Mr Bathurst’s decision.”

“It’s a huge case and Mr Bathurst will be taking time to write his report, which he should. The evidence that has come forward, and the Director of Public Prosecutions indicating that based on the new evidence available in the Inquiry there is reasonable doubt, are very strong factors pointing to an innocent woman sitting in prison. The evidence is overwhelming in favour of Kathleen’s innocence; on that basis we are asking the Attorney General to act swiftly and humanly and release Kathleen now.

“Cases need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but sometimes there is good precedent to help guide decision makers. If you look to the case of Lindy Chamberlain for example, whose case is similar to Kathleen’s, when the evidence came forward about the matinee jacket, Lindy was released very quickly. She was pardoned before her convictions were quashed formally. We are asking the Attorney General to act in a similar way here. 

“We want to make sure that Ms Folbigg is released as soon as possible, because each day that an innocent woman spends in prison is unjustified and cruel. We are asking for a pardon or early parole to allow the Inquiry to finish its work, but enable an innocent woman to be freed now. 

“She [Kathleen] is anxious. She’s wondering why she’s still in prison when we’ve heard such strong evidence in her favour. In my view it’s cruel to keep someone in prison when we know that an innocent woman is in gaol,” Rhanee said.

Tracy Chapman is Ms Folbigg’s closest friend who has stuck by her since the very beginning. 

“It’s a problem that no one seems to want to listen to the fact that we have an innocent woman in prison now, just let Kath out.

“We’ve created a prisoner from an innocent woman and that is not ok. She’s been in solitary for five or six years, give or take, and now she’s in maximum security which is where she’s been for her whole 20 years.

“We keep saying we stand tall with our head held high because we know that the truth and the facts are finally aligning and that the most important things are that she gets to have a proper epitaph for her children.”

Tracy has been at every inquiry hearing, not only in the recent inquiry but prior to that as well and said she understands former Chief Justice Tom Bathurst has a job to do, but she wants Ms Folbigg free as soon as possible.

“At the end of the day his job is to listen to everything that was put before him and then make a comprehensive report and release his findings. They are recommendations only, it’s not his power to actually go and say that Kath must be pardoned, then it must go to the Court of Criminal Appeal and be heard so the convictions can be overturned.”

Tracy has now turned her attention to convincing the NSW Attorney General that Ms Folbigg should be pardoned. 

“For him to push back and say that he’s waiting for a report is ridiculous, he has the matinee jacket moment, we had that back in 2018, in 2019 at the first inquiry and they chose not to see it and we now have it again in the second inquiry.

“They [those who gave evidence at the inquiry] all said reasonable doubt in their own fashion. For him [Attorney General] to hide behind due process is unforgivable,” Tracy said. 

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