Kathleen Folbigg inquiry: Experts cast doubt on convictions over children’s deaths

Folbigg, now 55, is serving a minimum 25-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2003 of the murder of three of her children, Patrick, Sarah, and Laura, and the manslaughter of her first child, Caleb.

Former NSW chief justice Tom Bathurst, KC, is heading the inquiry into Folbigg’s convictions and is considering whether there is reasonable doubt about her guilt. Public hearings resumed in Sydney on Monday.

DNA sequencing after her convictions revealed Folbigg and her daughters had a novel variant in a gene that produces the calmodulin protein, CALM2. The variant, G114R, was not found in Caleb or Patrick. New research suggests the variant may cause cardiac arrhythmias – irregular heart rhythms – and sudden unexpected death.

[F]ederal independent MP Monique Ryan, a paediatric neurologist and now the member for Kooyong, submitted a report in September reaffirming her view in 2019 that aspects of Patrick’s history “were unusual or inconsistent with a single hypoxic ischaemic insult [a brain injury caused by lack of oxygen], inflicted or otherwise”.

The Crown had argued during the trial that the diaries contained admissions of guilt and were “an intimate, personal and exact analysis” of her mind, Callan said.

But she said the inquiry would hear from a psychologist and two psychiatrists who expressed a different view.

Psychiatrist Dr Yumna Dhansay concluded Folbigg’s diaries “do not contain any admissions of guilt” about harming her children and “should be interpreted as having been written by a grieving mother”, Callan said.

A second psychiatrist, Dr Kerri Eagle, was expected to say that “nothing in the diaries from a psychiatric perspective … would clearly indicate, in and of itself, an admission”.

Callan said psychologist Patrick Sheehan had concluded “the statement of personal responsibility [in the diaries] … was more in keeping with a troubled person attempting to cope with, and make sense of, the death of the children”.

On Monday, Danish research scientists Professor Michael Toft Overgaard and Professor Mette Nyegaard returned to the witness box. They told the inquiry last year that it was “likely” Sarah and Laura Folbigg died as a result of the genetic variant.

Source: 12ft | Kathleen Folbigg inquiry: Experts cast doubt on convictions over children’s deaths

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