Kathleen Folbigg, 55, was unconditionally pardoned Monday for the killing of her four infant children between 1989 and 1999. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2003, with the term later reduced on appeal to 30 years with a minimum of 25 years. File photo by Danny Casey/EPA-EFE
June 5 (UPI) -- An Australian woman who has spent 20 years in jail for killing her four children has been freed after a special commission of inquiry threw the convictions into doubt, New South Wales officials said Monday.
NSW attorney-general Michael Daley said Kathleen Folbigg, who was once dubbed the country's worst serial killer for the murder of children Patrick, Sarah and Laura and the manslaughter of Caleb, had been pardoned by the state's governor.
"I have reached the view there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Kathleen Folbigg for each of those offenses," Daley said.
"I also notified her lawyers. I also had a conversation with [husband] Craig Folbigg to let him know in advance and I am thinking of him today as well. It will be a tough day for him."
In a memo to Daley, inquiry head, Thomas Bathurst, said he had reached a "firm view that there was reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Folbigg for each of the offenses for which she was originally tried."
Bathurst's draft report found there was a reasonable possibility three of the children had died of natural causes with a genetic mutation, known as CALM2-G114R, being found to have a strong likelihood of being behind the deaths of daughters Sarah and Laura.
The former Supreme Court chief justice also found apparently incriminating diary entries, used by the prosecution against Folbigg at her trial, in fact suggested she was not confessing but blaming herself as a grieving mother.
However, Craig Folbigg opposes the pardoning of his ex-wife, according to a statement from his lawyer, Danny Eid.
"Mr. Folbigg's view of the guilt of Ms. Folbigg has not changed whatsoever. Ms. Folbigg has not been acquitted of the crimes, and her convictions are not displaced."
The official pardon follows a long campaign by Folbigg's supporters who welcomed her release but said adjusting to life outside after 20 years behind bars would be difficult for her.
"She doesn't know a lot about the modern world, computers, iPhones, traffic rules, new buildings," said friend Helen Cummings. "In 20 years so much has changed."
The decision was also welcomed by state opposition leader Mark Speakman who initiated the judicial review last year when he was attorney general.
"When Mr. Bathurst is firmly of the view that there is a reasonable doubt, when the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] has conceded that there is a reasonable doubt, then it was the right thing for the attorney-general to today set in place Ms. Folbigg's release from prison," Speakman said.
"This is a day of high emotions. There are no winners from this story, it's a terrible story of four lives lost, of a grieving father, and a woman who's been incarcerated when she shouldn't have been for 20 years."