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Toronto Sun

"Murder in the nursery"
Australian mom killed her 4 babies

TORONTO SUN, By Michele Mandel, May 23, 2003

It seemed a tragic coincidence - at first.

Craig and Kathleen Folbigg's first son died in his sleep at 19 days old. Their next child, Patrick, died two years later at nine months.

Still, it was after their fourth baby died before Australian police suspected something was terribly wrong.

In Sydney's New South Wales State Supreme Court this week, Kathleen Folbigg, 35, was found guilty of killing all four of her babies.

The jury's work would have been made much easier if they had been allowed to read Folbigg's entire secret diary. In it, she practically confesses to following in her dad's deadly footsteps.

"Obviously I am my father's daughter," the Australian woman wrote in her diary Oct. 14, 1996, having already killed three of her four children.

"But I think losing my temper and being frustrated and everything has passed. I now just let things happen and go with the flow. An attitude I should of had with all my children, if given the chance, I'll have it with the next one."

Folbigg was pregnant at the time with her fourth child. She would go on to kill her as well.

This week, with a jury rejecting her defence that all four had died naturally of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Folbigg became Australia's worst convicted female serial killer.

It was only after the verdict was returned that people learned that murder runs in her family. Her father killed her mother after she had abandoned them when Folbigg was just 18 months old. After refusing his pleas to come home to their crying baby, he stabbed her 27 times with a butcher knife.

With her mother dead and her father shipped off to prison, Folbigg was first sent to a church orphanage and later placed with foster parents.

She seemed to put her tragic past behind her until her older foster sister married and had a baby. Angry at all the attention diverted to the infant, Folbigg turned bitter and cold. But no one suspected that she would turn that anger on the defenceless children she would later bear over a decade.

Folbigg smothered 19-day-old Caleb in 1989, eight-month-old Patrick in 1991, 11-month-old Sarah in 1993 and 19-month-old Laura in 1999. Court heard the odds of four unexplained infant deaths happening in one family with children under two years old were one in a trillion.

Her first child's death was blamed on SIDS. After her husband begged for another child, Patrick was born. He was four months old when Folbigg "discovered" that he, too, had died. But she had screamed this time, too soon. Ambulance attendants revived him, but he was left with massive brain damage. Folbigg wanted to leave her husband then -- and the child. Her husband and sister-in-law talked her out of it.

Four months later, she struck again. This time, she made sure Patrick was dead.

Medical authorities would blame an epileptic fit.

While her husband was devastated, Folbigg seemed to move on easily, going to work at a baby store and going dancing with her friends.

Yet she was the one who insisted on having more children, even leaving her husband for several weeks when he refused her demand for a fourth after Sarah died at 11 months.

Ultimately, she won and Laura, that fourth baby, would survive the longest. In her diary, Folbigg wrote that her youngest and most well-behaved child must have received messages from her dead brothers and sister. "She's a fairly good-natured baby, thank goodness," she wrote. "It has saved her from the fate of her siblings. I think she was warned."

But Laura, too, would suffer their tragic fate.

Folbigg laughed and joked at Laura's wake and was back at the gym the first Monday after her cremation.

Why didn't any doctor, hospital or social worker realize what was going on?

The Folbigg children's deaths failed to attract suspicion partly because the family moved regularly and changed doctors and hospitals for the births.

It was only after her fourth child died that alarm bells finally sounded. At 19 months, Laura was considered too old to be a victim of SIDS. When the cause was deemed "undetermined" the coroner ordered a police investigation.

And what of Folbigg's husband?

"I had had the odd suspicions," he would tell the court, "but it was really hard to get my brain around it."

After Folbigg left him following Laura's death, he found one of her diaries in their bedside table. He couldn't believe what he read.

"I started to think, 'Oh God, did she do this?'" he said.

"It was too horrible to think of. It frightened me; it worried me; it sickened me."

He went to the police.

On Wednesday, June 11, 1997, Folbigg wrote in her diary: "My brain has too much happening, unstored and unrecalled memories just waiting. Heaven help the day they surface and I recall. That will be the day to lock me up and throw away the key. Something I'm sure will happen one day."

And so it shall. Sentencing submissions begin in August.

Copyright 2003, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc.