Kathleen Folbigg appears via video link during a convictions inquiry at the NSW Coroners Court, Sydney, in May, 2019.
Kathleen Folbigg appears via video link during a convictions inquiry at the NSW Coroners Court, Sydney, in May, 2019.

New support for convicted child killer Folbigg

Sixty-six fellows and distinguished fellows of the Royal Society of NSW have joined a growing body of scientists calling for the pardon and release of convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg.

Folbigg is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for the murder of three of her children, and the manslaughter of a fourth.

The fellows, led by the society's president, Professor Ian Sloan, have signed a letter to the Governor of New South Wales, Margaret Beazley, and the NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman, backing an earlier petition lodged on Folbigg's behalf in early March.

Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

In November last year, a peer-reviewed paper authored by 27 scientists from across the world, concluded that a genetic mutation, CALM2 G114R had "likely" triggered the deaths of Folbigg's daughters, Sarah and Laura.

The letter, signed by 66 scientists, which was sent to the NSW Governor late last week, says that "newly analysed genetic data provides clear evidence of a lethal gene mutation in two children, with a second rare gene defect in the two boys."

Immunologist Professor Robert Clancy said that the list of signatories "includes scientists across a width of scientific disciplines, from most of the academic institutions in NSW. The list includes Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Laureate, and world expert in genetic biology."

Professor Blackburn, commenting publicly for the first time, told News Corp Australia: "I fervently hope that this will be a case in which science can bring justice."

Other distinguished fellows who have endorsed the submission are biologist Professor Michael Archer, former NSW Senator, Federal Health Minister and Chancellor of the ANU, Professor Peter Baume, and Professor Eugenie Lumbers, an internationally respected authority on foetal and maternal physiology.

Australian Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, photographed at The Harry Perkins Research building.
Australian Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, photographed at The Harry Perkins Research building.

It comes after News Corp Australia exclusively revealed an earlier petition signed by 90 scientists had been lodged with the NSW Governor.

The petition is now being considered by the NSW Attorney-General.

The petition's signatories included Professor Blackburn and fellow Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, as well as two former chief scientists. In all, around 150 scientists and medical experts have lent their support to calls for Folbigg's pardon and release.

In late March Folbigg lost an appeal to overturn the findings of an inquiry into her convictions which was held in 2019.

That same day, the Australian Academy of Science issued a statement strongly challenging the scientific assessments made by the three appeal court judges.

"There are medical and scientific explanations for the death of each of Kathleen Folbigg's children," the Academy stated.

"The appeal reviewed the legal processes undertaken by the inquiry but did not consider an assessment of the scientific evidence available since the inquiry."

Academy President Professor John Shine said: "It is deeply concerning that there is not a mechanism to appropriately weigh up all medical and scientific evidence in a case of this nature. There is now an alternative explanation for the death of the Folbigg children that does not rely on circumstantial evidence."

Professor Ian Sloan, president of the Royal Society of NSW.
Professor Ian Sloan, president of the Royal Society of NSW.

Mathematics Professor Ian Sloan, President of the Royal Society of NSW, has now added his voice to the growing calls for Ms Folbigg's pardon and release. 

"In the view of the signatories, there is now compelling evidence that genetic abnormalities and medical conditions rather than maternal suffocation were responsible for the death of her four children," he told News Corp Australia.

"Our concern is that insufficient attention has so far been paid to the science. I do not claim myself to be an expert in the field, but as a scientist I have reviewed the scientific evidence and have found it to be overwhelmingly persuasive.

"My cosignatories and I think it is time for the law to take a step backwards, to admit that errors might have been made, and to look seriously at the scientific case in favour of quashing the sentence of Kathleen Folbigg."

Last week the Canadian Government announced that it is taking steps to establish an independent Criminal Case Review Commission "to ensure that potentially wrongfully convicted people can have their applications reviewed expeditiously and by an independent body".

Commissions of this type already exist in the UK and New Zealand - but not yet in

Australia.

Calls are now growing for a similar commission to be established here to review cases like Folbigg's which are deemed to be potential miscarriages of justice.

Originally published as New support for convicted child killer Folbigg



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