An Australian mother jailed for killing her four young children has been pardoned after 20 years behind bars, authorities said Monday, after an inquiry upended the high-profile case.
Kathleen Folbigg was dubbed “Australia’s worst female serial killer” after she was convicted in 2003 of murdering three of her children, and the manslaughter of a fourth.
Prosecutors argued she suffocated the children, who died between the ages of nine weeks and three years old, but Folbigg has steadfastly maintained each death was due to natural causes.
In 2021, dozens of scientists from Australia and abroad signed a petition calling for Folbigg’s release, saying new forensic evidence suggested the unexplained deaths were actually linked to rare genetic mutations or congenital abnormalities.
New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley said a year-long inquiry, launched in May 2022, had now established “reasonable doubt” surrounding the convictions — and that Folbigg had been pardoned.
“In the interests of justice, Kathleen Folbigg should be released from custody as soon as possible,” he said on Monday.
In the absence of firm forensic evidence, prosecutors had argued that it was extremely unlikely four children would suddenly die without explanation.
But retired judge Tom Bathurst, who led the inquiry, said subsequent investigations found medical conditions that could account for three of the deaths.
Bathurst said Sarah and Laura Folbigg possessed a rare genetic mutation, while Patrick Folbigg may have had an “underlying neurogenic condition”.
Given these factors, Bathurst found the death of Caleb Folbigg was also no longer suspicious.
He added that he was unable to accept that “Folbigg was anything but a caring mother for her children”.
The Australian Academy of Science, which helped to spark the inquiry, said it was “relieved” to see justice for Folbigg.
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The young royal, daughter of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, turned 2 years old on Sunday. As of publication, no official announcement from the royal family has been made.
The Princess of Sussex resides in California with her father Harry, mother Meghan, and brother Prince Archie of Sussex, 4. Harry and Meghan moved to the U.S. in 2020 after stepping down from their roles as working royals in January of that year.
From the toddler’s signature red hair to her tradition-steeped name, Lilibet has already made an adorable splash in the royal family. Learn more