Killer mum’s kids were low risk at dying from SIDS: experts
TWO expert witnesses told a judicial inquiry on Monday that convicted child killer Kathleen Folbigg's four children were a low risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The judicial inquiry before former district court chief judge Reginald Blanch opened to examine the conviction of Folbigg, who was jailed for 30 years in 2003 for killing her four children.
Folbigg was found guilty of the manslaughter of her first child, Caleb, who was 19 days old, and for the murder of Patrick, eight months, Sarah, 10 months and Laura 19 months.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman ordered the inquiry after a campaign by Folbigg's supporters argued medical advances had cast doubt over evidence at her trial to the effect that it was unheard of for four siblings to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
But Professor Rosemary Horne, deputy director of the Hudson Institute's Ritchie Centre at Monash University, told the inquiry: "SIDS is very rare and having more than one in a family is also very rare."
She said she had consulted experts internationally and "none of them could recall having three or more deaths in the family".
Professor Horne said the death of the eldest child, Laura, was "certainly very uncommon" with similar circumstances only being found in around one per 100,000 deaths.
Professor Dawn Elder, head of paediatrics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said if there were no genetic or environmental factors linked to the deaths "we do have to consider whether there has been an unnatural cause".
The prosecutor at Folbigg's trial said the chances of four children dying from natural causes were as likely as a person being "hit by lightning four times". He said: "I can't disprove that one day some piglets might be born with wings and that they might fly."
Gail Furness, SC, counsel assisting the inquiry, said Folbigg had notified the inquiry she will give evidence next month.
At her trial she declined to testify and her voice was heard through her diary entries.
In those she wrote: "I know I was short tempered and cruel sometimes to her (Sarah) and she left. With a bit of help". She also wrote that her husband Craig was worried about Laura but she knew she was fine "because it was me not them. With Sarah all I wanted was her to shut up. And one day she did."
Ms Furness said the inquiry would hear "there had been significant changes in genetic testing since the time of the trial" which could show any underlying disorders. The case may be referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal if the inquiry finds reasonable doubt about the convictions.