Canberra, Australia ( Associated Press) – An Australian state attorney general on Wednesday refused to pardon a mother who pleaded guilty to beheading her four children nearly 20 years ago, and instead a new investigation Was ordered whether there could be a medical explanation for the tragedies.
The investigation will be the second in three years scientific evidence that all four of Kathleen Folbig’s children may have died of natural causes.
A growing number of scientists say Folbig, now 54, may be the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice.
The dispute between legal and scientific opinion has increased with advances in genetic research since 2003, when Folbig was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter.
In March last year a petition to the governor of the state of New South Wales called for a pardon “based on significant positive evidence of natural causes of death”, including two Nobel prizes by 90 scientists, medical practitioners and related professionals. The award winners were signed along with.
Attorney General Mark Speakman, who advised the governor on such petitions, said on Wednesday that the case required a transparent response rather than a pardon.
“I can well understand why members of the public might shake their heads and roll their eyes in disbelief at how likely Ms. Folbig is to clear her name, and (ask) the justice system why someone like that. Allows those guilty of what has been done … many murders get another chance,” Speakman said.
“There is certainly enough question or doubt that this new scientific evidence raises to justify some sort of intervention,” Speakman said.
Folbig was sentenced to 30 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2028. None of his children survived till his second birthday.
Her first child, Caleb, was born in 1989 and died 19 days later, determined by a court to be a lesser offense of murder. Their second child, Patrick, was 8 months old when he died in 1991. Two years later, Sarah died at 10 months. In 1999, Folbig’s fourth child, Laura, died at the age of 19 months.
An autopsy found that Laura had myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle that can be fatal. Patrick suffered an epileptic seizure and the cause of his death was a seizure and airway obstruction due to an infection. The other two deaths were recorded as sudden infant death syndrome.
The criminal case against Folbig was circumstantial and relied on the interpretation of vague entries made in the diary, one of which her husband read and reported to the police.
In addition to the new scientific evidence, Folbig’s lawyer, Rani Rego, said he hoped the new investigation would consider reports from psychiatrists, psychologists and linguists who say the diary contained no murder confessions.
“We are confident that overwhelming evidence will eventually free Kathleen Folbig and prove her innocence,” Rego said in a statement.
Speakman said he declined an invitation from the Australian Academy of Science, an independent organization representing scientists, to interpret the evidence against Folbig’s crime.
Academy chief executive Anna-Maria Arabiya said she respected the government’s decision to conduct a second investigation, despite many scientists agreeing “there is overwhelming evidence to justify Ms. Folbig’s immediate release.”
In 2015, Folbig’s lawyers successfully petitioned for a judicial inquiry into his sentence based on concerns raised by several forensic pathologists.
Retired Justice Reginald Blanche concluded in 2019 that Folbig was “untrue” and “unreliable” in his attempts to hide his guilt.
Blanche also heard fresh evidence from Carola Vinusa, co-director of the Australian National University’s Center for Personalized Immunology, that both the girls and their mothers shared a recently discovered genetic mutation that leads to abnormal heartbeats and sudden death in children. joined.
In 2020, Oxford University Press’s cardiology journal Europas published findings describing genetic mutations in Folbig girls by 27 scientists from Australia, the United States, Canada, France, Denmark and Italy. The team also reported that the boys carried different and rare forms of the gene that when faulty caused the mice to die young from epileptic seizures.
Retired New South Wales Chief Justice Tom Bathurst will conduct a new investigation. Speakman said he could potentially recommend that Folbig be pardoned or that his sentence be commuted.
“Whatever the outcome of this investigation, this is an extraordinary tragedy,” Speakman said.