After 20 years behind bars, Kathleen Folbigg, a pardoned child killer, knew a thing or two about surviving in prison.
Fellow inmates and prison staff have variously described Folbigg as “manipulative, violent and controlling.”
But she was also a “cave mother” who took other high-risk female inmates under her wing.
Folbigg was first incarcerated at the outlawed Silverwater Women’s Correctional Center as a baby killer, but was placed in a protective wing to prevent other female inmates from attacking or trying to kill her.
The 55-year-old claims she was in solitary confinement at Silverwater, which doesn’t exist in the NSW prison system, but had limited interaction with other protected inmates as she got used to life inside.
Senior prison wardens say Folbigg soon learned the ropes of prison life and would try to “manipulate staff, play them off against each other,” as well as quickly assert her position as an “alpha-female prisoner” in the prison hierarchy.
In her letters to her best friend Tracy Chapman, Folbigg described having arguments with other female inmates, including once when she claimed the wing had suddenly turned on her for no reason.
Kathleen Folbigg is released after serving 20 years in prison for the murder of her four children after being pardoned
The 55-year-old spent years in Silverwater Women’s Prison (pictured), where she notoriously beat up a fellow inmate in 2017
In 2017, she had to be transferred from Silverwater to another prison after punching a fellow inmate in the stomach during a fight over a toaster.
Folbigg claimed she was responding to taunts when she “snarled” at Tara Mammen for taking the communal electronic device in her cell.
After attempts to appeal the decision were unsuccessful, Folbigg was ordered to serve an additional four months in prison for the assault.
In Silverwater, Folbigg lived in the gritty Willet East wing of the women’s prison, where she became something of a “hollow mother” to some of the prison system’s most depraved offenders.
The women living in the Willet East unit are some of Australia’s worst female criminals who have offended children.
Serious female offenders who have spent time in maximum security at Silverwater Women include baby killers Keli Lane, Kristi Ann Abrahams, and Rachel Pfitzner.
Some of Australia’s most notorious female offenders have spent time incarcerated at Silverwater Women’s maximum security facility
Katherine Knight is depicted with her partner John Price, whom she killed before cutting off his head and skinning his body. She then boiled his head in a pan and served his body parts on plates for his three children. Knight was the first Australian woman to be sentenced to life without parole
REASONS FOR THE RELEASE OF KATHLEEN FOLBIGG
Kathleen Folbigg was released from prison on Monday after being pardoned by the NSW Attorney General.
The pardon was granted after an investigation found “reasonable doubt” about her guilt for four convictions.
Folbigg was convicted in 2003 of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of a fourth child, all of whom died between 1989 and 1999.
The beliefs were cast into doubt by scientific evidence that her two daughters carried a genetic mutation that could cause fatal heart problems.
An April 2023 inquiry into her convictions produced credible evidence that the four children may have died of natural causes.
Under the pardon, her convictions will not be overturned, but she will not have to serve the remainder of her 30-year prison sentence.
Australia’s worst female killer, cannibal Katherine Knight, who de facto skinned her and cooked his body parts for dinner, was also housed at Willet during Folbigg’s time there.
Folbigg is said to have acted as a “positive role model” and taught “life skills” to the other women, including counseling female baby killers and high-risk rapists.
One inmate who was imprisoned for sexually and indecently assaulting her own three children even penned a gushing letter describing how Folbigg helped her get out of her comfort zone and “made me feel like an important and wanted woman.”
While incarcerated in Silverwater, Folbigg wrote about finding love when she got out of prison.
Folbigg was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in 2003 after her babies Patrick, Sarah, Laura and Caleb died in suspicious circumstances between 1989 and 1999.
The largely circumstantial relief of the process relied heavily on diary entries Folbigg had made of her children’s deaths, including statements such as Sarah “went away with a little help” and Laura’s “quite good character” “saved her from the fate of her brothers and sisters’.
The mother of four was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was not eligible for parole until 2028, but had consistently maintained her innocence.
On Monday, NSW Attorney General Michael Daley pardoned Folbigg due to ‘reasonable doubt’ about her children’s deaths after an inquiry – set up by Supreme Court Justice Tom Bathurst KC – found new evidence suggesting the children died of natural causes. died.
New medical evidence published in March 2021 cast doubt on Folbigg’s guilt after it emerged that Sarah and Laura Folbigg carried a genetic mutation – known as CALM2 G114R – that can cause heart problems and lead to sudden death.
Folbigg is pictured at the Supreme Court of NSW in April 2003
Folbigg was convicted of the murder of her son Patrick (right), as well as manslaughter of her first child Caleb (left)
Medical experts say there may have been a genetic mutation that caused the deaths of Sarah (left) and Laura (right).
DNA sequencing showed that Folbigg and her daughters shared the variant, but Caleb and Patrick did not.
In a memorandum outlining his findings, Mr. Bathurst felt there was “a reasonable possibility that three of the children died of natural causes”, and a reasonable possibility that Sarah and Laura’s deaths were due to the CALM2 genetic mutation -G114R.
In the case of Mrs Folbigg’s fourth child, Mr Bathurst found ‘the evidence of chance and tendency central to the crown case (2003) falls away’.
On Tuesday, Folbigg released a short video statement thanking her supporters after enjoying her first night of freedom at Ms Chapman’s home on the NSW north coast.
‘Hello, this is Kathleen. I am extremely humbled and grateful to have been pardoned and released from prison,” said Ms Folbigg.
“My eternal gratitude goes out to my friends and family, especially Tracy and all her family, and without them I would not have survived this whole ordeal,” she said.
Kathleen Folbigg (pictured) enjoys her full day of freedom
“Today is a victory for science, and especially for truth. And for the last 20 years I’ve been in prison, I’ve always and always will think about my kids, grief and my kids, and I miss them and love them dearly.”
However, Craig Folbigg, the father of the four children, is “frustrated and disappointed” by the pardon.
“He is a victim of this case,” his lawyer Danny Eid said Monday.
“He’s frustrated and disappointed to endure another chapter.”
Folbigg’s convictions must be overturned in the Court of Criminal Appeal before compensation options can be discussed, with speculation she could be awarded anywhere from $1 million to $20 million.
Her story has already been secured by Channel Seven for over $400,000 after a bidding war with Channel Nine.
KATHLEEN FOLBIGG: A TIMELINE OF HER LIFE
June 14, 1967 – Kathleen Folbigg is born.
January 8, 1969 – Folbigg’s father, Thomas John Britton, killed her mother by stabbing her 24 times. Folbigg became a ward of the state and placed in foster homes.
1982 – Folbigg left school at the age of 18.
1987 – Folbigg married Craig Folbigg.
February 1, 1989 – Caleb Folbigg is born.
February 20, 1989 – Folbigg had Caleb sleep in a room off her bedroom. She later found him dead in his bed.
June 3, 1990 – Patrick Folbigg is born.
October 18, 1990 – Kathleen Folbigg put Patrick to bed before Craig was awakened by his wife’s screams. Patrick was taken to hospital and diagnosed with epilepsy and blindness.
February 18, 1991 – Folbigg called her husband at work to tell him Patrick had died and said, “It’s happened again!”
October 14, 1992 – Sarah Folbigg is born.
August 29, 1993 – Sarah passed away.
1996 – The Folbiggs move from Maitland, New South Wales to Singleton in the Hunter region.
August 7, 1997 – Laura Folbigg was born.
February 27, 1999 – Laura passed away.
May 21, 2003 – Kathleen Folbigg was found guilty of murder and manslaughter by a jury and later sentenced to 40 years in prison.
February 17, 2005 – The court reduces her sentence to 30 years with a non-parole period of 25 years.
August 22, 2018 – NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman announced that there would be an investigation into Folbigg’s convictions.
April 29, 2019 – The investigation begins in Lidcombe, Sydney.