NSW Attorney-General Orders Inquiry Into Folbigg Murder Case
Kathleen Folbigg is currently serving a 30 year sentence for killing her four children.
An inquiry into the conviction of one of Australia's most infamous serial killers has been ordered by the NSW Governor three years after a petition was launched seeking a judicial review of the case.
The inquiry will focus on evidence used to convict Kathleen Folbigg of killing her four children, Attorney General Mark Speakman announced on Wednesday -- adding that he deemed the inquiry necessary to ensure public confidence in the administration of justice.
"Today’s decision is not based on any assessment of Ms Folbigg’s guilt," Speakman said.
"The petition appears to raise a doubt or question concerning evidence as to the incidence of reported deaths of three or more infants in the same family attributed to unidentified natural causes in the proceedings leading to Ms Folbigg’s convictions.
Speakman confirmed on Wednesday that the inquiry will have particular regard to evidence of whether three unexplained deaths can occur within one family.
It has now been 15 years since Folbigg was convicted of killing her four children over the span of a decade -- in a case which rattled the nation.
Folbigg has continued to maintain her innocence, despite being convicted for the manslaughter of 20-day-old Caleb, and the murders of eight-month-old Patrick, 10-month-old Sarah and 18-month-old Laura between 1989-1990.
During her trial Folbigg chose not to give evidence, leaving the prosecution to rely heavily on evidence from a series of diary entries, to build an ultimately successful case that the mother had smothered all four of her children due to a low stress threshold and resentment.
“Scared she’ll leave me now, like Sarah did,” Folbigg wrote of Laura in one entry.
“I knew I was short tempered and cruel sometimes to her and she left -- with a bit of help”.
Renewed push for freedom
Initially ordered to serve 40 years, Folbigg's sentence was later reduced on appeal to 30 years, of which she has now served half.
Folbigg spoke for the first time of her conviction in a taped conversation with a friend which aired earlier this month on ABC's Australian Story.
In the conversation she is heard explaining the particular diary entry in which she claimed Laura left "with a bit of help."
"That quote, that was a reference to God or to some higher power or something going on that I didn't understand," Folbigg says in the tape.
"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?"
Folbigg also suggests she would testify on the stand now if she had the chance.
"I said [to my solicitors]: "I don't think I'll cope with sitting up on the stand and having some bloke just attack me over them [the diary entries]. Now, 15 years late… I'm a totally different person, so, yeah, I would have the strength to sit up there and go: 'Wait a minute, what are you trying to do here?'"
"The tears were flowing, but from the inside I just felt like I was absolutely just screaming my lungs," she said of hearing the jury's guilty verdict at her trial .
Lawyers launch petition
In 2015 Folbigg's lawyers launched a petition to the NSW Governor seeking judicial review of her case.
The petition contained a report from Australian forensic pathologist Professor Stephen Cordner who wrote: “If the convictions in this case are to stand, I want to clearly state there is no pathological or medical basis for concluding homicide.”
“It seems not to have been explicitly stated in the trial, but there is no forensic pathology evidence, no signs in or on the bodies to positively suggest that the Folbigg children were smothered or killed by any means."
Announcing the result of the petition on Wednesday, Speakman described the case as an "unspeakable tragedy."
The Attorney-General said he had notified the childrens' father and Folbigg's ex-husband of the decision and said the Commissioner of Victims Rights would be offering support to him and other family members throughout the inquiry, which is expected to take between 6-12 months.
"I am sorry for the renewed distress and pain he and his family will endure because of the inquiry," Speakman said.
Folbigg will continue to serve her sentence while the inquiry is carried out by Governor-appointed Reginald Blanch, the former Chief Judge of the District Court.
A report will be prepared by Blanch at the conclusion of the inquiry, when he will determine whether there is reasonable doubt as to Folbigg's guilty and could potentially refer the matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal for further consideration.