The Kathleen Folbigg Story: Reasonable Doubt And What Happens Next

Folbigg has spent the last 20 years behind bars after being found guilty in 2003 of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of her firstborn. However, she has continually professed her innocence.  

With the improvement and comprehensive knowledge of genetics and protein research, an inquiry by the Governor of NSW into her convictions re-commenced last week, with scientific findings from November edging her closer than ever to a possible release.  

So what happens next? And what’s the likely result of this latest inquiry? 

On this episode of The Science Briefing, Dr Sophie Calabretto talks to Cosmos Magazine journalist Matthew Agius about the latest developments in the Kathleen Folbigg story and the science that blew the case wide open two decades later.

“So basically, everyone just tells the facts and critiques the facts. That being said, it’s still an incredibly wild story and a monumental case in the context of law in Australia,” Agius said.

He says the most substantial new scientific evidence comes from research done by an international team. And it is related to a gene that codes for a protein called “calmodulin”.

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Calmodulin is a protein that regulates the flow of calcium, sodium, and potassium in and out of the heart cells. In Folbigg’s case, this focuses on a mutation to one of the calmodulin coding genes called “CALM2”.

The research suggests that the mutation caused the misregulation of sodium and calcium in and out of heart cells and potentially caused a cardiac arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat.

“It could explain the circumstances around the death of two of Kathleen Folbigg’s children, Sarah and Laura, who were both found to be carriers of this mutated gene,” Agius added.

Tune into the full episode of Science Explained with host, Dr Sophie Calabretto to hear the full recap of this month’s discoveries. 

Introducing The Science Briefing: a podcast about the science of everything and your new go-to podcast for your snapshot of science news. Hosted by Dr Sophie Calabretto and featuring journalists from Cosmos Magazine.