"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.
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
"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
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
These included the 1996 entry made after the deaths of her
first three children, in which she wrote, "obviously, I am my father's
Kathleen Folbigg was born illegitimately on June 14, 1967 to
Kathleen May Donovan and immigrant hoist driver and petty criminal, Thomas Jack
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
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
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
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
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.
Craig came from a large family and expected they would have
Kathleen had no trouble conceiving their first child, Caleb
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
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
Laura was born on August 7, 1997, a blonde baby with a
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
"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'
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
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
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.
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.
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.