Sinister detail in baby killer's diary

 

"Manipulative" is how prison officers once described Kathleen Megan Folbigg, the convicted serial baby killer who has just cost the state of NSW millions trying - and failing - to prove her innocence.

Behind bars in the country's toughest maximum security women's prison, Folbigg would manipulate other female inmates and try mental tricks with the prison officers.

As Australia's worst female serial killer, and a killer of babies, Folbigg endured a status as the most reviled type of offender and always claimed "I didn't do it".

Unsurprisingly, behind bars this familiar assertion doesn't cut the mustard.

But on the outside, Folbigg managed to convince swathes of lawyers, scientists and doctors that she really didn't kill her four infant children over the space of a decade.

In perhaps her most manipulative act to date, Folbigg has managed to put whole factions of the legal fraternity at loggerheads.

But on Wednesday, the NSW Court of Appeal found that "no error of law" had been made by the 2019 inquiry which found Folbigg's conviction 18 years ago had been not only correct, but reinforced.

Now it is likely the 53-year-old prison inmate will remain behind bars until her 2028 release.

And she will walk out of prison only as a paroled criminal, not the cruelly wronged saint her supporters believe her to be.

Murder victim infant Sarah Folbigg with father Craig and mother Kathleen (Kathy) Folbigg who has been charged with murdering four of her children.
Murder victim infant Sarah Folbigg with father Craig and mother Kathleen (Kathy) Folbigg who has been charged with murdering four of her children.

There's no happy ending for Kathleen Folbigg's violent and troubled life, which began as a baby when her father murdered her mother by stabbing her in the street.

And there's no pretending that the sinister words in Folbigg's secret diaries weren't about her culpability in murdering three of her children and unlawfully killing the other.

The diaries, which Folbigg claimed in2019 were only about her struggling to cope with motherhood, included entries which said her infant daughter made her "snap her cog".

Take the entry scrawled in one of the diaries, which Folbigg had kept since she was young in exercise books, one of which Folbigg had taken the trouble to cover with a picture of a teddy bear.

It is dated November 9, 1997 and, Folbigg writes, it is a Sunday night at 8pm.

By this time Kathleen had given birth to four children with husband Craig Folbigg.

The first three were already dead: Caleb, aged 19 days, Patrick, eight months, then Sarah, 10 months and the fourth, Laura, was just three months old.

Folbigg writes: "Craig was pretty drunk Friday nite. In his drunken stupor he admitted that his (sic) not really happy.

"There' a problem with his security level with me. He has a morbid fear about Laura.

"Well I know there's nothing wrong with her.

"Nothing out of the ordinary anyway. Because it was me not them.

"Think I can handle her fits of crying better than I did with Sarah …

"With Sarah, all I wanted was for her to shut up. And one day she did."

In another entry, Folbigg wrote four years after Sarah's death that "I miss her … but I am not sad that Laura is here and she isn't."

Sixteen months after this, on March 1, 1999, Laura Elizabeth Folbigg died, as the other children had, while home alone with their mother.

Kathleen called an ambulance and performed CPR on the toddler until paramedics arrived, but the 19-month-old couldn't be saved.

Laura was too old to have suffered Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and a GP who attended the scene informed police.

Police would seize her diaries and find Folbigg's private musings.

These included the 1996 entry made after the deaths of her first three children, in which she wrote, "obviously, I am my father's daughter".

Kathleen Folbigg was born illegitimately on June 14, 1967 to Kathleen May Donovan and immigrant hoist driver and petty criminal, Thomas Jack "Taffy" Britton.

Child killer Kathleen Folbigg calls for fresh inquiry
Child killer Kathleen Folbigg calls for fresh inquiry

When she was 18 months old, Britton stabbed Ms Donovan 24 times in a street in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Annandale, and she died before an ambulance arrived.

Britton would serve 15 years in prison and then be deported to Britain.

Kathleen was made a ward of the state after appearing in Minda Children's Court as a "neglected destitute child".

She was fostered out to relatives, but they had difficulties with her, complaining that aged between two and three she had severe temper tantrums, aggression and crying fits.

According to report by forensic psychiatrist Michael Diamond, the foster relatives made distressing observations about young Kathleen.

Dr Diamond assessed Folbigg and examined her historical case file specifically for the special judicial inquiry sparked by her supporters attempting to prove her innocence.

In his report, which was made public online in May 2019, the relatives said she had "a preoccupation with sexual problems".

The report said a medical officer considered it likely the girl had been sexually abused by her father during infancy.

The situation further deteriorated after Kathleen turned three years old, and it was concluded "she was a very disturbed little girl" who "became aggressive" towards other children.

She was fostered out, aged three, as a child with specific needs to the Marlborough family at Kotara near Newcastle.

She later had no memory of the violent and turbulent times before her mother's murder, but official files refer to her "catastrophic early life experiences and disruption of attachments within a violent and abusive family of origin".

In her foster family, little Kathy had a much older brother and sister, and a mother she claimed was cold and controlling, Dr Diamond's report said.

She was very close to the sister, who would later tell Folbigg's trial that Kathleen was "capable of looking someone in the eye and lying outright to them".

Kathleen's child welfare services file also noted she had "problematic sexualised behaviours as a very young child" and "difficulty regarding her intellectual functioning".

Young Kathleen would be "domineering towards the other children" fostered by Marlboroughs and "difficult" when they were around.

Kathleen was told she had been "chosen" by the Marlboroughs and was doted upon by their biological children.

She was a loner at school and preferred playing with boys rather than girls, felt socially isolated from others and trusted no-one.

At the age of 15 she had a boyfriend and via him was able to make friendships with girls for the first time.

Due to a breakdown with her relationship with her mother, she left school six months before sitting her HSC.

At the age of 18 she met Craig Folbigg, who was five years older than her, on a disco dance floor.

They married in 1988, when she was 20, and the couple set up home in a Newcastle suburb.

Craig worked as a clerk for the mining and steel giant BHP and Kathleen worked as a waitress for an Indian restaurant.

Laura Folbigg with her mother Kathleen Folbigg.
Laura Folbigg with her mother Kathleen Folbigg.

Craig came from a large family and expected they would have children.

Kathleen had no trouble conceiving their first child, Caleb Gibson Folbigg.

After he died aged 19 days in February 20, 1989, they placed a death notice in the paper which said "Take care of him Nanny".

It was a reference to the fact he'd be joining his late grandmother, Esme Folbigg, in the afterworld.

Kathleen fell pregnant with her second child in September the same year and after Patrick was born in June 1990, Craig took three months off work to help care for him.

Aged four months, Patrick had what Kathleen described as a "terrifying" incident.

After putting his son to bed, Craig woke to his wife screaming by the baby's cot because she had found him "limp".

He would later be diagnosed with epilepsy but what had caused it was unexplained.

Four months later, Kathleen phoned Craig to say "it's happening again" after Patrick had died, from a seizure.

It was February 13, 1991.

Dr Diamond's report says Folbigg spoke of her devastation after finding Craig in a romantic clinch in their home with a friend of hers, who was drunk.

She felt "rejection … abandonment and betrayal". Craig left BHP and started selling cars.

Kathleen started work in a babywear store, BabyCo, and became pregnant with her third child, although she was depressed and anxious.

After Sarah Kathleen Folbigg's birth on October 14, 1992, Kathleen had trouble bonding with the child and was full of fear.

Sarah died aged 10 months, on August 30, 1993 and, thereafter, Craig Folbigg became deeply depressed.

He wanted to bring the ashes of the three children home and after arguing against it, Kathleen agreed.

Their relationship reached "rock bottom", but they moved house, made amends and again, Kathleen became pregnant.

Craig sought out experts to advise them on the safety measures of having a healthy baby.

According to police statements by Craig Folbigg cited in Dr Diamond's report, he described his wife's response to the deaths of their children as "relatively detached and disengaged".

This came after "acute distress" at the time of their deaths.

Folbigg’s children (left to right): Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, in order of their births and deaths. Source:Supplied
Folbigg’s children (left to right): Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, in order of their births and deaths. Source:Supplied

Laura was born on August 7, 1997, a blonde baby with a cherubic face.

Kathleen wrote in her diary: "I think Laura is beautiful compared to Sarah … her slight difference in looks gives her a beautiful face … gorgeous and beautiful, well so far anyway.

"Looking at the video Sarah was boyish looking. Laura has definitely feminine features.

"They are chalk and cheese. And truthfully, just as well.

"Wouldn't have handled another one like Sarah."

On March 1, 1999, Laura Folbigg died after what Kathleen described was a coughing fit the little girl had while in bed.

After a suspicious GP called police, what would become a two-year investigation began.

They placed listening devices (LDs) into the Folbigg's' Singleton home.

They took in Kathleen Folbigg for questioning and began interviewing friends and relatives.

Detectives would later say the LDs recorded Kathleen Folbigg walking around the home "basically rehearsing her evidence for court".

She was heard practising "whether she cried at the right occasions" and gave the "right" evidence.

In April 2001, police arrested Kathleen Folbigg and charged her with the murders of her four children.

The deaths of the children had been passed off as SIDS and epilepsy, but pathology experts from the UK and US consulted by the police said the children had all been smothered by their mother.

Kathleen Folbigg was the only person to locate the dead children, although Craig Folbigg was present in the house and woken by his wife's screams at the death of Caleb.

The same happened on the first occasion when Patrick "died", only to be resuscitated and then die months later.

None of the children had coexisted with any of their siblings.

Folbigg had never thought her diaries would see the light of day, writing in one of them, "tell you what don't think anyone could read this and find out all my secrets. I write like a 5-year-old."

Folbigg pleaded not guilty, and was eventually granted bail while she awaited trial and was reportedly confident she would be acquitted.

However, in 2003 she was convicted of the manslaughter of Caleb, and of the murders of Patrick, Sarah and Laura between 1989 and 1999.

She is serving a maximum 30 years and is 18 years into her 25-year minimum jail term, with an earliest possible release date of 2028.

In prison, Folbigg was at first held in a segregated protection area, because her crimes meant she was in serious danger of being hurt or killed by other women inmates.

1997 : Copy of extract from Kathleen Folbigg's 1997 diary & which was tendered in evidence 05/03, as she faced charges of murdering her four children between 1991-1999. NSW / Crime / Murder
1997 : Copy of extract from Kathleen Folbigg's 1997 diary & which was tendered in evidence 05/03, as she faced charges of murdering her four children between 1991-1999. NSW / Crime / Murder

Baby killing is regarded as "the lowest of the low" and Folbigg copped abuse, threats and physical assaults.

Eventually she worked in prison jobs, and with some inmates became something of an inmate "den mother".

She continued to claim her innocence and by 2010 a group began mounting a petition to free Folbigg.

Eventually, more than 90 eminent persons including respected scientists would sign a document which said "no reasonable person" could accept she was guilty if presented with the facts.

They rejected the findings of Folbigg's trial and scoffed at then crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi's case, saying circumstantial evidence wasn't a proper argument.

Circumstantial evidence cases are a legitimate and legal part of the NSW criminal justice system.

The petition claims a genetic mutation called CALM2 G114R was found in Sarah and Laura's DNA, inherited from their mother, which can cause sudden cardiac arrest in infants.

Eventually, the Justice for Kathleen Folbigg petition led to the special inquiry in 2019, presided over by former NSW district court chief judge Reginald Blanch, QC.

Judge Blanch found significant investigations had failed to find a reasonable natural explanation for any of the Folbigg children's deaths.

He instead concluded that Folbigg's explanations before the inquiry made "her guilt of these offences even more certain"

Folbigg appealed the finding in the NSW Court of Appeal, claiming Blanch had failed in his obligation to conduct an inquiry about the potential for the deaths to have been natural.

In dismissing this appeal on Wednesday, the NSW Court of Appeal ordered Folbigg pay for the cost of its two-day hearing.

 

Child killer Kathleen Folbigg in jail
Child killer Kathleen Folbigg in jail

Folbigg's supporters now want NSW Governor Margaret Beazley to pardon her and immediately release her from jail, to end the "miscarriage of justice'' they say Folbigg has suffered.

In 2017, Folbigg was convicted of bashing another inmate inside Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre in a fight over a toaster.

She punched the inmate in the stomach for carrying the toaster into a cell - forbidden, as it is a fire hazard, telling the inmate, "You're not allowed to take the f***ing toaster in the room".

Folbigg immediately asked for CCTV footage of the incident.

Barrister Isabel Reed told the NSW District Court that this was evidence of Folbigg's instant "shock, horror and embarrassment" after the assault.

But Judge Tanya Bright rejected this and Folbigg's appeal against the severity of a four month sentence imposed for the assault.

Judge Bright said she accepted that Folbigg had an "exemplary record" since her incarceration in 2003, but that she had a very long way to go until her maximum sentence expired in 2033.


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