Convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg told a close friend she used her incriminating diaries to “dump” her negative emotions in her grief and blamed herself, feeling that she had “failed as a mother, a woman”, letters tendered in an inquiry into her conviction show, reports Rhiannon Down in The Australian (Feb 15, 2023).
The inquiry will examine more than 130 pages of private correspondence between Folbigg and her childhood friend, Tracy Chapman, from shortly after she was imprisoned in 2003 to 2021, which speak to the strength of her diaries as evidence of her guilt.
Folbigg denied that she was responsible for her children’s deaths in one letter penned behind bars, referring to a damning line in her diaries in which she had said she was her “father’s daughter”. Her father murdered her mother when she was just 18 months old. “I did what I had been told to do years before by a grief counsellor,” the letter said. “Write it all down empty your soul, free your heart & mind. Lovely advice that turned out to be wasn’t it. I am my fathers (sic) daughter definitely, not referring to him being a murderer.
Folbigg’s diaries written over the decade that her four children Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura died were a compelling piece of evidence in her trial in which she was convicted for three counts of murder and one of manslaughter. Another letter refers to passages of her diaries which alluded to her feelings that her children had chosen to leave her and were spirited away by supernatural forces.
“The diaries were used to “dump” every negative emotion, feeling thought I’ve ever had,” the letter said. “I eternally worried that my mood would transfer and create an edgy child etc. I thought I was to blame, I blamed myself … I convinced myself that I had failed as a mother. A woman even.
In its second day, the inquiry heard from scientists Carola Vinuesa and Todor Arsov, who together found the novel variant in the calmodulin or CALM2 gene, with the hearing becoming bogged down by questioning over a fainting episode Folbigg suffered when she was 11 or 12.
Professor Vinuesa told the inquiry that she had spoken to Folbigg on the phone and visited her in prison to discuss her genetic mutation, which she believed to be “pathogenic”. “I’m not the person that is going to say if she killed them or not and cannot draw a definitive conclusion,” she said. “What I can do is have a personal opinion as an extension of my professional work. I can draw some conclusions from our work … I don’t think anyone in this room can say she killed them or not, but there is reasonable evidence that we have some natural causes of death.”
Professor Vinuesa also defended her role in the case, fending off questions that cut to her objectivity in relation to the case. “I did try to approach it objectively; when I was approached I had never heard of Ms Folbigg. I have to this day not been paid a cent. It has taken us numerous reports and numerous hours of my work out-ofhours,” she said. “I do this because I believe in the science that we do and I would like to draw some conclusions in the science. I take personal interest in the work but it is not about the individuals, it is about the science.”
When questioned on the likelihood that the children died from a genetic condition, Professor Arsov said: “We can’t say anything categorically in this inquiry but we can talk about probably or likelihoods”.