How science helped free 'Australia's most notorious serial killer' from prison
An Australian woman who spent 20 years in prison for murdering her four children was pardoned and released on Monday after an inquest into her innocence.
Kathleen Folbigg, now 55, was dubbed "Australia's worst serial killer" after she was convicted in 2003 of murdering her four children.
According to prosecutors, her children, aged between nine weeks and three years, were strangled to death by Folbigg, who has always denied the allegations, claiming each of their deaths was due to natural causes.
Once the most demonized name in Australia, Folbigg has been exonerated thanks to a Spanish scientist, Carola García Vinuesa, who, along with her colleagues, managed to show that the children could have died of natural causes.
"The theory that she killed her children had no evidence. The only evidence was circumstantial, because she was the one who found them dead," García Vinuesa said.
The first to die was her son Caleb, 19 days old. One night, Kathleen woke up because she needed to go to the bathroom. She checked on her baby and realized he wasn't breathing.
Her husband came running and they tried to revive the child, but by the time the ambulance arrived he was dead.
After that she lost Patrick when the child was only eight months old. Ten-month-old Sarah and 18-month-old Laura later died. Two of the children had died of sudden infant death syndrome. The trauma was so great that Folbigg's relationship with her husband deteriorated and the couple decided to divorce.
Years later, the ex-husband found Folbigg's personal diary. Some of the lines the ex-wife had written sounded like alarm bells, like when she wrote that her daughter Sara had "escaped with little help". He was so shocked that he gave the diaries to the police.
How did a Spanish scientist get involved in this case?
In Australia, a jury convicted Folbigg of suffocating her four children, but she always maintained her innocence.
No one believed her story, until García Vinuesa decided to help her.
Shkencëtarja spanjolle nuk kishte dëgjuar kurrë për rastin e Folbigg, deri në një pasdite kur mori një telefonatë nga një ish-student.
“Dy nga fëmijët e Folbigg-ut kishin qenë shumë të sëmurë para se të vdisnin dhe kjo më bëri vërtet të vë në dyshim çështjen, kështu që kontaktova avokatët e Folbigg-ut për t'u thënë atyre se ia vlente të bëja kërkime gjenetike”, shton ajo.
Ata vendosën të hartojnë një listë të gjeneve që mund të shkaktojnë vdekje të papritur.
Hapi tjetër në hetimin e tyre shkencor ishte të vizitonin Folbigg në burg dhe të renditnin gjenomin e saj.
"Ne zbuluam se kishte një mutacion në një gjen që kodon kalmodulinën dhe ky është një nga shkaqet më të njohura të vdekjes së papritur në foshnjëri," tha García Vinuesa.
García Vinuesa's team found a gene mutation in two of Folbigg's daughters, while the other two children had severe epilepsy and breathing problems.
In the original trial, the jury never had access to Folbigg's full diaries, only excerpts taken out of context in the wake of her children's deaths.
"Those notes weren't a confession, she just said she felt guilty. In this latest inquest into Folbigg's case, nine experts—forensic experts, psychiatrists, linguists—analyzed it and agreed that they were the expression of a mother sad and did not contain an admission of criminal guilt," says García Vinuesa.