Kathleen Folbigg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kathleen Folbigg
Kathleen Megan Donovan

(1967-06-14) 14 June 1967 (age 51)
Criminal penaltyThirty years' imprisonment
Span of crimes
State(s)New South Wales

Kathleen Megan Folbigg (née Donovan) (born 14 June 1967) is an Australian serial child killer who was convicted of murdering her three infant children, Patrick Allen (at age eight months), Sarah Kathleen (at age ten months) and Laura Elizabeth (at age nineteen months). She was also convicted of the manslaughter of her fourth child, Caleb Gibson (at age nineteen days). The murders took place between 1989 and 1999,[1] coming to an end only when her husband discovered her personal diary, which detailed the killings.[1]

Folbigg was originally sentenced to forty years' imprisonment, with a non-parole period of thirty years, but on appeal this was reduced to thirty years, with a non-parole period of twenty-five years. She maintains her innocence, claiming the four children died from natural causes.

Early life[edit]

On 8 January 1969, Kathleen Folbigg's biological father, Thomas John Britton, murdered her mother, also named Kathleen, by stabbing her twenty-four 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, she was removed from their care and placed into Bidura Children's Home.[2] Two months later, Folbigg moved into a permanent foster care placement. This arrangement lasted until she was a young adult. She left school at the age of fifteen, and married Craig Gibson Folbigg in 1987.


Caleb Gibson[edit]

Caleb Gibson Folbigg, born on 1 February 1989, 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; he was otherwise born healthy. On 20 February, Folbigg put Caleb to sleep in a room adjoining the bedroom she shared with her husband.[3] During the night, Caleb stirred from midnight until 2 a.m. Found by Folbigg, the death was attributed to cot death.

Patrick Allen[edit]

Patrick Allen Folbigg was born on 3 June 1990. Craig remained at home to help care for his wife and baby for three months after the birth. On 18 October, Folbigg put Patrick to bed. Craig 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. He would later be diagnosed to be suffering from epilepsy and cortical blindness.[3] On 18 February 1991, Folbigg telephoned her husband at work to report Patrick's death, saying "It's happened again!"[2]

Sarah Kathleen[edit]

Following their second loss, the couple moved to Thornton, New South Wales, a suburb of Maitland.[4] Sarah Kathleen Folbigg was born on 14 October 1992, and died on 29 August 1993.[2]

Laura Elizabeth[edit]

In 1996, the couple moved to Singleton. On 7 August 1997, Laura Elizabeth Folbigg was born. On 27 February 1999, Laura died.[2]

Justice system[edit]


Folbigg's trial lasted seven weeks. The prosecution alleged Folbigg murdered her four children by smothering them during periods of frustration. During a jury replay of Folbigg's police interview, she attempted to run from the courtroom.[5]

The defence made the case that Kathleen did not kill or harm her children and that she 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 her 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 forty years' imprisonment with a non-parole period of thirty years.[2]


On 17 February 2005, the court reduced her sentence to thirty years' imprisonment with a non-parole period of twenty-five years on appeal. Due to the nature of her crimes, Folbigg resides in protective custody to prevent possible violence by other inmates.

Judicial Inquiry[edit]

On the 22 Aug 2018, New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman announced there would be an inquiry into the convictions, to "ensure public confidence in the administration of justice".[6] It was in response to a petition presented by her supporters. “The petition appears to raise a doubt or question concerning the evidence as to the incidence of reported deaths of three or more infants in the same family attributed to unidentified natural causes in the proceedings leading to Ms Folbigg’s convictions,” he said.[7] She will remain in custody during the course of the inquiry, which is estimated to take between six and twelve months.


  1. ^ a b Szego, Julie; Stephen Cauchi (30 August 2003). "Killing them softly". The Age. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Folbigg v R [2007] NSWCCA 128 (16 May 2007), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW, Australia).
  3. ^ a b R v Folbigg [2005] NSWCCA 23 (17 February 2005), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW, Australia)
  4. ^ Swain, E (31 July 2014). "Folbigg evidence revisited". maitlandmercury.com.au. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  5. ^ Glendinning, Lee (23 May 2003). "A day later, little Laura was dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  6. ^ "Kathleen Folbigg: NSW Attorney-General announces inquiry into convictions". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Kathleen Folbigg: NSW announces inquiry into serial killer's". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Benns, Matthew (2003). When the Bough Breaks: The True Story of Child Killer Kathleen Folbigg. Sydney: Bantam Books. ISBN 1863254234.
  • Emma Cunliffe, "Murder, Medicine, and Motherhood" Hart Publishing, 2011