I had dinner with a few of the Justice for Kathleen Folbigg team last night.
They are in town for the second inquiry into Kathleen’s convictions, which resumes today after being abruptly adjourned in November 2022.
As I walked into the serviced apartment where they are staying, Kathleen was on speaker phone.
Her fortitude humbles me. She laughed and joked with us despite the fact we were heading out for dinner while she was locked in her cell.
She’s spent 20 years locked in cells.
I ate steak with Bernaise sauce and salad. She’s taking multi-vitamins to combat the lack of fruit and veggies in her prison diet.
The inquiry is being led by NSW former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tom Bathurst KC. It has been reviewing new research into a gene variant called CALM2 G114R, which might have caused Sarah and Laura’s deaths. Tests on their DNA samples showed this mutation was inherited by the girls from Kathleen.
The two weeks of scheduled hearings were cut short after just two days when professors Michael Toft Overgaard and Mette Nyegaard told the inquiry they had made a “significant discovery” regarding the gene that carried the mutation, called calmodulin.
The Danish genetics experts are returning to give further evidence and will be followed by scientists Carola Vinuesa and Todor Arsov, who together found the novel variant in the calmodulin or CALM2 gene; medical expert Matthew Cook; expert in the genetics of cardiac arrhythmias Peter Schwartz; and forensic medicine expert Stephen Cordner.
As reported in The Australian, former Macquarie banker Peter Yates been forced to raise $80,000 to fly scientists from the UK, Denmark and eastern Europe to give evidence at the government-ordered inquiry, as the NSW Government won’t finance their flights.
While the Crown is being funded and resourced by the Attorney-General’s Department; Kathleen’s team have been relying on Legal Aid.
“Instructing solicitor Rhanee Rego and barristers Gregory Woods KC and Robert Cavanagh have been working pro-bono for months because Legal Aid only provided 35 days of funding,” The Australian noted.
“Rego’s efforts alone are said to have reached more than 1000 hours … Most miserly of all is the matter finding accommodation for the legal team. Rego lives in Newcastle and Legal Aid won’t stump up the funds for even a budget hotel in Sydney, the cost of which is about $8000 for the duration of the hearings. It’s the same story for the barristers.”
As journalist Yoni Bashan notes: “Such lopsided arrangements can only signal a half-hearted commitment to the fair and full-throated defence of Folbigg’s case.”
Those are just some of the eyebrow raising elements to the way the inquiry is being conducted.
I spent many moments at dinner last night with my mouth open in shock as I heard about the machinations.
It will be an interesting few weeks. Stay tuned and Godspeed my friends.
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