A woman who was once dubbed "Australia's worst female serial killer" was pardoned after new evidence suggested she did not murder her four infant children.
Kathleen Folbigg was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a jury determined she murdered her sons Caleb and Patrick and daughters Sarah and Laura over the course of a decade. According to a recent investigation, scientists believe they may have died of natural causes.
The 55-year-old's case has been labeled one of Australia's most egregious injustices. Ms. Folbigg, who consistently maintained her innocence, was given a 25-year prison sentence in 2003 for the murders of three of her children and the manslaughter of Caleb.
Prosecutors at her trial alleged she suffocated each of her children, who perished between the ages of 19 days and 19 months, between 1989 and 1999. Prior appeals and a separate 2019 investigation found no reasonable doubt and gave greater weight to circumstantial evidence in the original trial of Ms. Folbigg.
But at the new investigation, led by retired judge Tom Bathurst, prosecutors acknowledged that research on gene mutations had altered their understanding of the deaths of the children.
Michael Daley, the Attorney General of New South Wales (NSW), announced on Monday that Mr. Bathurst had reached the "firm opinion" that there was reasonable doubt that Ms. Folbigg was culpable for each offense. As a consequence, the governor of New South Wales signed a full pardon and ordered the immediate release of Ms. Folbigg.
She has endured this ordeal for twenty years, Mr. Daley wished her peace and added that his sympathies were also with the children's father, Craig Folbigg. Mr. Folbigg's attorneys cited the "fundamental implausibility" of four children from one family dying of natural causes before the age of two at the 2022 inquiry.
Mr. Daley stated that the unconditional pardon does not overturn Ms. Folbigg's convictions. If Mr. Bathurst chose to refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal, which could take up to a year, the Court of Criminal Appeal would make this determination.
She could potentially sue the government for millions of dollars if her convictions are overturned. Alternatively, she could receive a settlement comparable to that of Lindy Chamberlain, who in 1992 was awarded $1.3 million (£690,000, $US858,000) for her wrongful conviction in the death of her daughter Azaria.
Rhanee Rego, Kathleen Folbigg's attorney, stated that it is incomprehensible to comprehend the harm that has been inflicted upon her, including the anguish of losing her children and spending nearly two decades in maximum security prisons for crimes that science has proven never occurred.
Ms. Folbigg was greeted at the prison gate by supporters of her long-running campaign for freedom, and Mr. Daley pleaded for her privacy so she can "move on with her life."
The 2003 trial of Ms. Folbigg centered on circumstantial evidence, most notably diaries detailing her struggles as a mother.
No physical evidence of suffocation or injuries to the children was presented at trial. Ms. Folbigg's daughters, Sarah and Laura, shared a genetic mutation called CALM2 G114R, which can cause sudden cardiac mortality, according to a team of immunologists.
It was discovered that her sons, Patrick and Caleb had a distinct genetic mutation linked to the onset of epilepsy in mice.