Some 90 scientists have come out in support of a mother convicted of smothering her four children and dubbed ‘Australia’s worst female serial killer’. New genetic evidence supports Kathleen Folbigg’s insistence that her four victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In a new petition sent to the governor of New South Wales, the scientists called for her immediate release and an end to a ‘miscarriage of justice’.
Folbigg was sentenced to 40 years in prison for smothering her four children in 2003 between the ages of 19 days and 19 months. Her husband turned her into the police after reading one of her diary entries, which described how Sarah, one of her children, left ‘with a bit of help’.
Folbigg told the authorities that she wrote it out of angst and despair of young motherhood and the statement referred to her hope that God had taken her baby. At her trial, Allan Cala, a doctor called as an expert witness, testified that he had never seen a case of four children dying in the same family.
The New York Times reports that it was discovered that Folbigg had a rare mutation in what’s known as the CALM2 gene after she have consent for her genome sequencing whilst in prison in October 2018. ‘Defects in any of the three CALM genes essentially create heart arrhythmias that can cause cardiac arrest and sudden death in infancy and childhood,’ the NYT reported.
The results were submitted to an international peer-reviewed journal with the support of Professor Michael Toft Overgaard, a world expert in CALM mutations. ‘Mutations in this gene are one of the best recognised causes of sudden death in infancy and childhood, both while asleep and awake,’ the petition for her release reads. ‘Ms Folbigg’s convictions were based on the prosecution’s theory that she smothered all four children. Yet there is no medical evidence to indicate smothering. The Governor should have no doubt that the case against Kathleen Folbigg is entirely circumstantial. It is based on the proposition that the likelihood of four children from one family dying of natural causes is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible. This logic … permeated the trial and the 2019 inquiry.’
Bob Moles, a law professor at Flinders University, said that the admission of such statements showed a major flaw in Australian justice. ‘One of the main problems we have is a willingness of courts to admit scientific evidence that is not really scientific,’ he said.
There have been a number of similar cases in the UK notably Angela wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in the UK in 2002 for the murder of her seven-week-old son who died in 1991 and her 18-week-old who died in 1999. Her first child, Gemma, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1989 at the age of 13 weeks, although she was never charged in connection with Gemma’s death.