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Australian mother sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing her four children
( 2003-10-24 16:01) (Agencies)

A woman who suffocated her four infant children _ each before the birth of the next _ was sentenced to 40 years jail by an Australian court Friday.

A New South Wales state supreme court jury in May found Kathleen Folbigg guilty of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of one.

Folbigg had suffocated all four babies because she had a low stress threshold and had resented them intruding on her life, the court was told.

She was found guilty of the manslaughter in 1989 of her first child, Caleb, when he was 19 days old. The remaining three children _ Patrick, Sarah and Laura _ ages 8-19 months, were murdered between 1991 and 1999.

Outside the court, Folbigg's lawyers said she maintained her innocence and would appeal.

Medical authorities had initially said the first three children died of natural causes.

Ambulance workers and even Folbigg's husband had noted nothing suspicious. Family, friends and neighbors thought her a loving mother burdened with a shocking series of tragedies.

But police began investigating after the fourth death.

Folbigg's husband eventually became a key prosecution witness.

Supreme Court Justice Graham Barr said on Friday that Folbigg's ability to deal with children had been impaired by a personality disorder caused by childhood abuse.

``She was not by nature a cruel mother,'' he said. ``She generally looked after her children well ... (but) she was not fully equipped to cope.''

He sentenced her to 40 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 30 years.

Folbigg showed little emotion during her sentencing.

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