Kathleen Folbigg had her first child at 21, and like most new moms kept a diary of the times her baby fed, slept, burped and bathed.
But the records stopped abruptly after 19 days when the baby died, and over the next decade until 1999, as Folbigg lost her second, third and fourth child, the guilt she felt as a “failed” mother seeped onto the page.
In 2003, Folbigg’s diaries were used as evidence that she had smothered her babies, a theory embellished by claims from prosecutors that losing four children in one family was so rare that it was almost impossible without human intervention.
At trial, Folbigg was found guilty of three counts of murder and one of manslaughter, and spent 20 years in prison before being freed by the New South Wales attorney general earlier this month.
Folbigg’s release came after scientists discovered a previously unknown mutant gene in her two daughters that could have been fatal, creating “reasonable doubt” about her convictions and grounds for a pardon.
Confirmation of a likely genetic cause for the children’s deaths has implications far beyond Australia