A piece in today’s Times:
An Australian mother imprisoned for the past 18 years for smothering to death her four young children should be pardoned after new evidence emerged that they carried a genetic mutation associated with sudden heart irregularities, according to a petition signed by dozens of eminent doctors and scientists.
Kathleen Folbigg, 53, was convicted in 2003 of killing her four children, Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, but has always insisted she was innocent during a series of unsuccessful hearings and appeals that has kept the case in the public eye.
A judicial inquiry in 2019 upheld Folbigg’s convictions for the murder and manslaughter of her children, who were between 19 days and nineteen months old at the time of their deaths, between 1989 and 1999.
Folbigg, who lived north of Sydney, was convicted largely on the basis of circumstantial evidence gleaned from diaries she wrote around the times of her children’s deaths.
However dozens of scientists, including the two Nobel laureates and several Australians of the Year, believe newly discovered medical evidence about a mutant gene carried by two of the Folbigg children creates a “strong presumption” that they died from natural causes.
Joined by a further 14 international experts, they have petitioned Margaret Beazley, the governor of New South Wales, to pardon and release Folbigg, ending the “miscarriage of justice” they claim she has suffered.
Among those to put their names to the petition were John Shine, the president of the Australian Academy of Science, Peter Doherty, Nobel laureate in medicine and a former Australian of the Year, and Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel prize for medicine in 2009.
The new evidence showed that at least two of her children, Sarah, ten months, and Laura, 19 months, likely died of natural causes, Rhanee Rego, a solicitor who previously acted for Folbigg, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Genetic sequencing of Sarah and Laura’s DNA, obtained from neonatal heel-prick tests, showed they both inherited a genetic mutation from their mother known as CALM2.
Rego said scientific literature showed that mutations of the CALM2 gene can cause sudden heart failure.
“It’s one of the best-recognised causes of sudden death, both awake and asleep, in infants and adults,” she said. “If it’s triggered by things like intercurrent infections or drugs like pseudoephedrine, this can actually trigger a cardiac arrhythmia.
“This is what the group of scientists have now found as the likely explanation of Sarah and Laura Folbigg’s deaths.”
Rego said it was also possible that Folbigg’s two sons, Patrick, who was eight months old when he died, and Caleb, who lived for 19 days, also carried genetic mutations which contributed to their deaths. [J4MB: It was “possible”. ]
Folbigg was arrested in 2001, two years after the death of her fourth child, Laura, following her husband’s discovery of her personal diary in which she had written during her last pregnancy: “This time I am going to call for help, this time I’ll not attempt to do everything myself any more. I know that that was my main reason for all my stress before and stress made me do terrible things.”
In 2005 a court reduced her sentence from 40 to 30 years. Folbigg has been kept in protective custody to prevent possible violence by other inmates. Her own mother was murdered by her father when Folbigg was two years old.
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.