Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Her Father's Daughter - The Kathleen Folbigg Story

Damning Evidence

When Detective Sergeant Bernard Ryan was assigned to investigate Laura Folbigg s death, he could have looked at the case as just one more tragic cot death. But, following the coroners finding, he decided to consider all the possibilities.  

Detective Ryan began his investigation routinely by interviewing Kathleen and Craig Folbigg. When he learned that Laura was the fourth child to have died in a similar fashion, however, his suspicions grew.

Kathleen Folbigg
Kathleen Folbigg

Then the case took an unexpected turn. Kathleen, who had left her husband after Lauras death, had moved out without taking many of her possessions. While Craig was cleaning up, he made an unpleasant discovery.

In a bedside drawer he found her diaries, whose contents, he later told the court, made him want to vomit. He took them to the police.

He told police that he had the odd suspicion," but after finding the diaries his suspicions became horribly real.

Detective Ryan learned that Kathleen had been keeping diaries most of her life, but had thrown most of them away. The ones Craig found obviously had been overlooked.

Her entries indicated a woman torn by mixed emotions. On one hand, she wanted children to prove she could do it, just like other women could, and described the feeling of having a child growing inside her and being impatient for the birth: We're all waiting, little one, when will you come?

On the other hand, she wrote about the frustrations of being a mother, including her inability to breast feed despite numerous, fruitless attempts with each child.

She also wrote about the resentment she felt after each birth when the attention shifted away from her to the new baby, describing it as a feeling of abandonment just like she had experienced as a child, where she was in a family but never felt like part of it.

She wrote about her wild mood swings and how she watched fish swim in a tank to try and calm herself: I don't know, how do I conquer this? Help is what I want.

Her writings also disclosed her innermost fears. She worried that Craig would leave her. She felt threatened when he teased her about her weight, and wrote about how she couldn't deal with his perpetual flirtations. At one point, when he rejected her advances because of her pregnancy, she wrote, Craig's roving eye will always be of concern to me.

Must lose extra weight or he will be even less in love with me than he is now. I know that physical appearance means everything to him, she wrote.

When she was pregnant with Laura, she wrote: On a good note, Craig said last night he accepts that I'm not going to be skinny again. That's wonderful, but I know deep in my heart he wants his skinny wife back.

Time after time she wrote about her weight and Craigs preoccupation with it. Got to start changing my life and becoming a hot-looking energetic mother for my daughter and a sexy wife for my husband.

An entry on November. 13, 1996, indicated the isolation she felt, even from her own family. Why is family so important to me? she wrote. I now have the start of my very own, but it doesn't seem good enough. I know Craig doesn't understand. He has the knowledge and stability and love from siblings and parents, even if he chooses to ignore them. Me I have no one but him. It seems to affect me so. Why should it matter? It shouldn't.

Once, she was home alone when a storm struck. She wrote how she was torn between wanting Craig home to comfort her and then not wanting him there because of how bad he makes her feel: I actually relish in the fact he has a weight problem now. All the years of him tormenting me have come back to get him.

Another entry searched for identity: Thirty years. The first five I don't really remember, the rest, I choose not to remember. The last 10-11 have been filled with trauma, tragedy, happiness and mixed emotions of all designs. If it wasn't for my baby coming soon, I'd sit and wonder again what I was put on this earth for. What contribution have I made to anyone's life?

Other entries seem more sinister. She wrote how stress made her do terrible things and spoke of flashes of rage, resentment and hatred toward her children.

The diaries also indicate that she had no control over her depression and feelings of resentment. She wrote about wanting to wake her husband and ask for help.

One entry marked 9:45, Wednesday, June 11, 1997 reads: 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.

Some entries spoke specifically about her treatment of her children: I feel like the worst mother on this earth. Scared that she [Laura] will leave me now. Like Sarah did. I knew I was short-tempered and cruel sometimes to her and she left. With a bit of help.

Laura Folbigg, video still
Laura Folbigg, video still

She's a fairly good-natured baby - thank goodness, it has saved her from the fate of her siblings. I'm sure she's met everyone and they've told her, don't be a bad or sickly kid, mum may, you know, crack. They've warned her - good.

Other entries showed some remorse: My guilt of how responsible I feel for them all, haunts me, my fear of it happening again, haunts me.

When I think I'm going to lose control like last time I'll just hand baby over to someone else ... This time I'm prepared and know what signals to watch out for in myself. Changes in mood etc.

Faced with this damning, though circumstantial evidence, Sergeant Ryan began to build a case against Kathleen Folbigg. From the time he started the long process of interviews and depositions to compile a chain of evidence, Ryan was often warned by doctors that he faced an uphill battle proving his case in court.

But as he dug into Kathleens past, Ryan also uncovered a terrible secret.

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