Kathleen Folbigg has made an emotional statement outside a Sydney courthouse after she was acquitted of murder and manslaughter convictions over the deaths of her four children.
Folbigg, 55, was released from prison after 20 years earlier this year after being pardoned following the conclusion of a second inquiry into her murder and manslaughter convictions over the deaths of her four children — Sarah, Caleb, Laura and Patrick.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Kathleen Folbigg speaks after being acquitted in NSW Court of Appeal.
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She always maintained her innocence, saying her children died from natural causes.
On Thursday, Chief Justice Andrew Bell and Justices Julie Ward and Ian Harrison handed down the Court of Criminal Appeal judgement, finding there was reasonable doubt as to her guilt.
All of Folbigg’s convictions were quashed and a verdict of acquittal was entered on each count.
Following the judgement, Folbigg, flanked by her best friend Tracy Chapman and her lawyer Rhanee Rego, made an emotional statement outside court.
Kathleen Folbigg speaks to the media after being acquitted at the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal on Thursday. Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP
“I’m grateful for the huge efforts of my friends and family, my legal team, scientific professionals,” she told reporters.
“The time this has taken in seeing today’s result has cost me a lot, not just financially but emotionally.
“For almost a quarter of a century, I faced disbelief and hostility. I suffered abuse in all its forms.
“I hoped and prayed that one day I would be able to stand here with my name cleared.
“The case against me was always about my diaries and Meadow’s law.
“They cherry-picked words and phrases from my journals.
“Those books contained my private feelings which I wrote to myself.
“No one expects those type of things to be read by strangers let alone opinionated on.
“They took my words out of context and used them against me.
“They accused me of something I never wrote about, never did and never would do.
“I hope that no one else will ever have to suffer what I suffered.
“I am grateful that updated science and genetics has given me answers as to how my children died.
“However, even in 1999, we had legal answers to prove my innocence — they were ignored and dismissed.
“The system preferred to blame me rather than accept that sometimes, children can and do die suddenly, unexpectedly and heartbreakingly.
“I think the system and society needs to think before they blame a parent of hurting their children.
“My children are here with me today and they will be close to my heart for the rest of my life. I love my children and I always will.
“I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have a chance with support to rebuild my life but there are many other people who are not so lucky.
“In our lucky country, Australia, this should not be the case.
“We need to be humble and open to improving the system to ensure truth is revealed because truth and correct legal outcomes matter.”
Kathleen Folbigg (centre) with longstanding friend and supporter Tracy Chapman (left) and her lawyer Rhanee Rego. Credit: Seven
Chapman, who has been Folbigg’s biggest supporter over the last two decades, told reporters the journey had been “epic”.
“(Folbigg) faced unimaginable losses in two decades of wrongfully incarceration,” Chapman said.
“The 20-year fight for Kathleen has been a Herculean effort in all our parts — it’s cost jobs, it’s cost loss of income and shattered lives in relationships for many of you they don’t know about.
“As we close this chapter, remember the true value of friendship, and I hope you all do — friendship is important.
“Persistence, definitely really important, and standing steadfast and true in truth.
“I never doubted your innocence, Kathleen, never for one second.”
In her statement, Rego said Folbigg was finally a “free woman”.
“After 24 years, the legal system has finally listened to Kathleen Folbigg,” she said.
“Today she is a free woman — a woman who demonstrated courage and resilience to reject the claims made against her.
“But this story is about more than just about Kathleen Folbigg.
“It is a story about the good in this world, about a large group of people who saw an injustice and did something about it.”
Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura. Credit: Supplied/ AAPA page from one of Folbigg’s diaries that was used in evidence against her. Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP
Rego also said lessons could be learned from the case and called for system reforms.
“If we really want to make some good and something to come from this tragedy, New South Wales will evaluate critically their system of post-conviction review,” Rego said.
“And Australia will consider moving to an independent body for review such as a criminal cases review commission like those established elsewhere in the world.
“The outmoded system we have in this country, and in New South Wales, is not good enough.
“An innocent woman suffering can and should be recognised and become a major impetus to improve our legal system.”
Journey to acquittal
Folbigg was jailed in 2003 after being found guilty of the manslaughter of her son Caleb, maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm, with intent to do grievous bodily harm on Patrick and the murders of Patrick, Sarah and Laura.
She was initially sentenced to 40 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 30 years. An appeal later reduced her sentence to 30 years, with a non-parole period of 25 years.
She appealed the convictions over the last two decades, but to no avail.
A first inquiry in 2019 upheld her convictions.
However, at the conclusion of a second inquiry earlier this year, Folbigg was pardoned.
Folbigg was jailed in 2003. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAPFolbigg with her lawyer Rhanee Rego on Thursday. Credit: AAP
Last month, Chief Justice Thomas Bathurst referred Folbigg’s case to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal after he found there was an “identifiable cause” for three of the Folbigg children’s deaths.
The former NSW chief justice also found Folbigg’s diary entries — controversially used during her trial to help secure her conviction — did not contain reliable admissions of guilt.
As her convictions still stood, Folbigg needed an acquittal from the Court of Criminal Appeal to finally clear her name.
That came on Thursday as Justices Bell, Ward and Harrison handed down their judgement.
“Having ourselves reviewed the report, we do so find, for similar reasons that led Mr Bathurst to the same conclusion,” Chief Justice Bell said in handing down the judgement.
“First and most significantly, the ‘substantial and extensive body of new scientific evidence’ … substantially diminished any probative force of what had been relied on at the original trial as powerful coincidence and tendency evidence.
“Secondly, in relation to the diary entries, it may readily be understood how certain entries, viewed in isolation, had a powerful influence on the original jury in a manner adverse to Ms Folbigg.
“Viewed in their full context, however, as they must be, and informed by the expert psychological and psychiatric expert evidence referred to extensively in the report and which was not before the jury, we agree with Mr Bathurst’s conclusion that the diary entries were not reliable admissions of guilt.
“Thus, while the verdicts at trial were reasonably open on the evidence then available, there is now reasonable doubt as to Ms Folbigg’s guilt.”