Nearly 18 years after her conviction of killing her four children, a team of 90 scientists and medical experts have signed a petition calling for Kathleen Folbigg’s immediate release.
The petition to the Governor of NSW cites medical evidence that points towards the children dying from natural causes, rather than at the hands of their mother.
“The science shows that there are possible and likely causes of death for the two female Folbigg children,” Professor Carola Vinuesa, an immunology expert at The Australian National University, said in a statement provided to Hope 103.2.
A jury found Folbigg guilty in 2003 over the murders of her three children: Patrick (8 months), Sarah (10 months) and Laura (19 months), and the manslaughter of 19-day-old Caleb.
The deaths occurred between 1989 and 1999.
The conviction made Folbigg Australia’s worst female serial killer. The media dubbed her “Australia’s most hated woman”.
The court heard that the NSW woman had smothered the children to death, despite there being no evidence of suffocation.
Her conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, including her diary entries. In one entry, Folbigg, whose father murdered her mother, wrote: “I am my father’s daughter.”
On Thursday, the Australian Academy of Science released a petition for Folbigg’s pardon.
The scientists say that studies of the children’s blood samples revealed the two girls had a condition that causes sudden death.
“The team found a novel variant never before reported in a gene known as CALM2, which encodes for calmodulin,” Professor Vinuesa said.
“Calmodulin variations typically are associated with cardiac arrhythmia that can cause sudden unexpected death in children and adults both while awake and asleep.”
The evidence, Ms Vinuesa added, was “confirmed by multiple laboratories, all reaching the same conclusions.”
The scientists also found that Folbigg’s two boys had a genetic mutation, which causes epilepsy in mice.
The medical evidence was not available in 2003 as genetic science was still in its infancy.
“Since then, it has become possible to sequence whole human genomes… in a much faster and affordable way,” said Professor Vinuesa.
The evidence “creates a strong presumption that the Folbigg children died of natural causes,” the petition reads. “A presumption that should only be displaced by overwhelming evidence to the contrary, which we submit there is not.”
Folbigg, who began serving a 30-year term in Sydney’s Silverwater women’s prison before being moved to Clarence Correctional Centre in Grafton in January, is eligible for parole in 2028.