Australia pardons mother accused of killing her four babies after review of case

The Australian authorities announced on Monday the pardon of Kathleen Folbigg, in prison for two decades for the murder of her four babies, after reviewing his case as a result of an investigation coordinated by a Spanish scientist who linked the deaths to genetic failures.

“She has been pardoned. I would also like to say that we took the opportunity, unsurprisingly, to ensure that Mrs Folbigg was released without delayThe Attorney General for the Australian state of New South Wales, Michael Daley, said during a press conference in Sydney.

Authorities last year ordered a review of Folbigg’s case by the death between 1989 and 1999 of their children Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura -when they were between 19 days and 18 months old-, after a group of scientists indicated the possibility that the deaths were due to a rare genetic mutation.

The pardon has come after former judge Tom Bathurst, who was in charge of reviewing the case, came to the conclusion that “There are reasonable doubts as to the guilt of Kathleen Folbigg for each of these crimes,” Daley specified.

In the review it was considered that there is a reasonable possibility that three of the Folbigg children died of natural causeswhile the coincidence and trend tests for the death of the fourth baby were not consistent, in line with Bathurst’s conclusions.

The 55-year-old woman was released after receiving the Pardon from New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazleyand secluded herself on a farm in the north of the state next to her friend and staunch supporter, Tracy Chapman.

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In a statement, Chapman thanked the support received and stated that the last 20 years “have been terrible for Kathleen”especially for the “pain and suffering that he has had to endure after the loss of his four children.”

“They all miss each other every day”, qualified in reference to deceased minors.

For her part, Folbigg’s attorney, Rhanee Rego, viewed the pardon as a “decisive moment of a long and painful journey” and expressed that the case exposes that the “legal system can make mistakes.”

“This case should revive the discussion to strengthen interactions between law and science, to make important reforms so that the legal system makes decisions based on the best scientific evidence available, not on speculation,” he said in statements to the local press.

A team of scientists, coordinated by the Spanish immunologist Carola Garcia de Vinuesa and led by the Danish Michael Toft Overgaard, concluded in 2020 that the deaths of Folbigg’s babies could be due to genetic causes.

The scientific research, published in the specialized magazine europacefrom the European Association of Cardiology, links a genetic mutation (CALM2) of two Folbigg daughters, Sarah and Laura, with sudden cardiac death.

In addition, the study, made up of an international team of 27 scientists, found that the children carried rare variants of a gene which kills rodents by epileptic seizures.

Folbigg was sentenced in 2003 to 40 years in prisonreduced to 30 years in 2005, for the murder of three of his children and for the homicide of another of them and has unsuccessfully appealed his sentence on several occasions, defending his innocence and assuring that his children died of natural causes in the town from Hunter Valley, about 120 kilometers from Sydney.

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The case was reopened following a letter sent in March 2021 to the Australian authorities by a hundred scientists – including two Nobel Prize winners – to request pardon and the immediate release of Folbigg.

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