Not many people get the chance to do something extraordinary in their lives. Even fewer are brave enough to pursue it.
My high school friend Tracy Chapman is one of those people.
Tracy is the driving force behind the campaign to free for our high school friend Kathleen Folbigg from jail.
Kath has been incarcerated for 18 years, found guilty of killing her four children. Numerous appeals have failed, but 130 eminent scientists recently signed a petition calling for her to be pardoned.
And it wouldn’t have happened without Tracy’s unwavering determination.
That’s Tracy sitting on the fence in high school and at the 50th birthday of our friend Megz.
She appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, speaking out about injustice in the case.
She has campaigned for many years to keep the case in the public eye and never lost hope. She talks to Kath almost every day on the phone and visited her in prison every week or two before COVID-19 restrictions.
I don’t think the tide of opinion about the case would have turned if Tracy wasn’t involved. She won’t give up until Kath is free.
Kath is very lucky to have such a loyal friend by her side.
Tracy’s passion astounds me and often brings a tear to my eye. I wish I had her drive and commitment to fight for what she believes in, no matter what the cost.
As the Justice For Kathleen Folbigg site notes:
Scientific evidence showing reasonable doubt in the Kathleen Folbigg case was the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation on Sunday night.
A petition was signed earlier this year by 90 eminent scientists, medical experts and science advocates, who included two Nobel laureates, and two former chief scientists, calling for Kathleen to be pardoned.
A subsequent letter sent to the Governor supporting the petition was signed by 66 members of the Royal Society of NSW.
Their petition relies on fresh, peer-reviewed scientific evidence published in the British-based cardiac journal Europace last November suggesting the deaths of Folbigg’s two daughters, Sarah and Laura, were “likely” caused by a genetic mutation, CALM2 G114R, and that the deaths of her two boys, Caleb and Patrick, may have been caused by a different genetic mutation.
The study concludes that the two female Folbigg children likely died – with 90-95% certainty – from having a lethal cardiac mutation. The two male Folbigg children possess rare epileptic gene mutations, which are currently under scientific investigation.
Last night, many of those scientists spoke about their concerns surrounding legal handling of the case and called for her release.
But the NSW Government is refusing to listen.
The 60 Minutes special report also revealed that jurors never heard key evidence before sentencing Kathleen.
Australian National University Professor of Immunology Carola Vinuesa (above) said: “At the time of Kathleen’s trial, even though it has just been discredited, it still permeated the idea that four deaths in a family is just too rare. Well, we know it isn’t. These things happen.”
At the time of the original trial, the same tragedy had happened to at least eight other families overseas.
Why is the Attorney General, Mark Speakman, continuing to ignore calls for Kathleen’s release?
Quentin McDermott has since revealed in The Australian that Kathleen has written a four-page letter to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman begging him to “soften your heart” and grant her a petition for pardon.
Her letter pays tribute to the scientists: “To them, this isn’t only about helping Kathleen Folbigg, but rather about a need for scientific proof to be listened to, respected and heeded. I pay homage to all scientists involved. They have removed the stigma of being perceived as an evil monster, removed the anxiety and fear that I have suffered every day for over 30-odd years.”
She also discusses her love for her children and her devastating grief.
She concludes by saying: “Please soften your heart.”
McDermott also reveals that Speakman has rebuffed an offer from leading scientists to help him and his colleagues assess the complex science that underlies the petition.
Speakman told John Shine, president of the Australian Academy of Science: “I do not propose to convene private consultations with individuals or organisations in relation to further information advanced in support of Ms Folbigg’s petition.”
How much longer can the NSW Government hide from the growing scientific evidence that Kathleen did not kill her children? How does Speakman sleep at night with the knowledge that a woman may have spent 18 years behind bars for crimes she did not commit?
Kath has suffered enough.
I am disappointed in myself for not doing more to help her. I lost my job many years ago for speaking out and it took the fight out of me.
I became wary of the media and their motives. Sometimes humanity gets lost in the chase.
Kathy shouldn’t be collateral damage in the war between the legal and scientific worlds or the battle for the most clickable headline.
I was relieved to see fewer “child killer” headlines in the press yesterday.
Thank you Tracy for being who you are and always fighting for what you believe in. We need more people with big hearts and steely resolves like yours in this world.