|Born||Kathleen Megan Donovan
14 June 1967
|Criminal penalty||30 years imprisonment|
Span of killings
|State(s)||New South Wales|
Kathleen Megan Folbigg (née Donovan) (born 14 June 1967) is an Australian serial child killer. Folbigg was convicted of murdering her three infant children, Patrick Allen (at age eight months), Sarah Kathleen (at age 10-months) and Laura Elizabeth (at age 19 months). Folbigg was also convicted of the manslaughter of a fourth child, Caleb Gibson (at age 19 days). The murders took place between 1991 and 1999, coming to an end only when her husband discovered her personal diary, which detailed the killings.
Folbigg was originally sentenced to 40 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 30 years, but on appeal this was reduced to 30 years, with a non-parole period of 25 years. Folbigg maintains her innocence, claiming the four children died from natural causes.
On 8 January 1969, Folbigg's biological father, Thomas John Britton, murdered her mother, also named Kathleen, by stabbing her 24 times. Following her father's arrest on the day after the murder, Folbigg was made a ward of the state and placed into foster care with a couple.
On 18 July 1970, Folbigg was removed from the care of the foster couple and placed into Bidura Children's Home.
In September 1970, Folbigg moved into a permanent foster care placement. This arrangement lasted until she was a young adult. She left school at the age of 15. In 1987 she married Craig Gibson Folbigg.
Caleb Gibson Folbigg was born a healthy baby on 1 February 1989. Caleb was known to breathe noisily and was diagnosed by a paediatrician to be suffering from a mild case of laryngomalacia, something he would eventually outgrow. On 20 February 1989, Folbigg put Caleb to sleep in a room adjoining the room she shared with her husband.
During the night, Caleb stirred from midnight until 2 a.m. Found by Folbigg, the death was attributed to Cot Death.
Patrick Allen Folbigg was born on 3 June 1990. Craig Folbigg remained at home to help care for his wife and baby for three months after the birth. On 18 October 1990, Folbigg put Patrick to bed. Craig Folbigg was awakened by the sounds of his wife screaming and found her standing at the baby's cot. He noticed the child wasn't breathing and attempted to revive him by cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An ambulance was called and Patrick was taken to hospital. Patrick would later be diagnosed to be suffering from epilepsy and cortical blindness.
On 18 February 1991, Folbigg telephoned her husband at work, saying "It's happened again!"
Folbigg's trial lasted seven weeks. The prosecution alleged Folbigg murdered her four children by smothering them in periods of frustration. During a jury replay of Folbigg's police interview, she attempted to run from the courtroom.
The defence made the case that Kathleen did not kill or harm her children and that Kathleen did not think that Craig was responsible either. Although prosecution witnesses were concerned about the lack of prodromal (early warning) symptoms in any of the children, the defence posed natural explanations for the events such as Cot Death and, in the case of Laura's death, myocarditis. The defence highlighted that Folbigg was a caring mother, pointing to journal entries that showed the care and concern that she gave her children. Some of Laura's acquaintances gave statements to investigators about her caring nature.
The defence pointed out that there were no direct admissions to the killings in Folbigg's journal entries, and that any entries indirectly suggesting her responsibility could be chalked up to a typical grieving mother's guilt. Folbigg appeared genuinely distraught to ambulance and police responders to the scene. They pointed out that no physical evidence could link Folbigg to murder; it was an entirely circumstantial case with very little consensus among the scientific experts who testified at trial.
On 21 May 2003, Folbigg was found guilty by the Supreme Court of New South Wales jury of the following crimes: three counts of murder, one count of manslaughter and one count of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm. On 24 October 2003, Folbigg was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment with a non-parole period of 30 years.
On 17 February 2005, the court reduced her sentence to 30 years' imprisonment with a non-parole period of 25 years on appeal. Due to the nature of her crimes, Folbigg resides in protective custody to prevent possible violence by other inmates.
- Szego, Julie; Stephen Cauchi (30 August 2003). "Killing them softly". The Age. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
- "Supreme Court of New South Wales - Court of Criminal Appeal Decisions: FOLBIGG v R". Australasian Legal Information Institute. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
- "Supreme Court of New South Wales - Court of Criminal Appeal Decisions: R v Folbigg". Australasian Legal Information Institute. 17 February 2005. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
- Glendinning, Lee (23 May 2003). "A day later, little Laura was dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
- Benns, Matthew (2003). When the Bough Breaks: The True Story of Child Killer Kathleen Folbigg. Sydney: Bantam Books.
Emma Cunliffe, "Murder, Medicine, and Motherhood" Hart Publishing, 2011