When the Bough Breaks: The True Story of Child Killer Kathleen Folbigg


Is there anything more chilling than the words “Child Killer”?

When The Bough Breaks: The True Story of Child Killer Kathleen Folbigg is a disturbing read. Journalist Matthew Benns details the story of Folbigg, Australia’s worst female serial killer. Folbigg was convicted in 2003 of killing her four children – Caleb (19 days), Patrick (nine months), Sarah (10 months) and Laura (19 months) between 1991 and 1999 and sentenced to 40 years jail. Each baby was discovered not breathing by their mother and the first three deaths were initially determined to be of natural causes. But it was the death of Laura that found Detective Sergeant Bernie Ryan put his career and reputation on the line to prove that Folbigg had murdered her children. Ryan is the hero of this story – a cop who doggedly pursued the truth about Folbigg. It was Folbigg’s own diaries that convinced Det Ryan that she had murdered her own children. The diary entries are simplistic yet shocking: “With Sarah, all I wanted was her to shut up. And one day, she did.”

The prologue of the book probably had the most devastating effect on me – Benns writes from the imagined view of 19-month-old Laura on the day of her murder, a baby terrified of her mother’s rage and longing for her father’s protection. As a mum, my gut was churning reading this and I wanted to reach into the book and grab little Laura and pull her to safety.

Interestingly, and some say proof that murder was in her DNA, Folbigg’s father stabbed her mother to death in 1968.

A very good book but extremely upsetting.

Published by Random House.

For more information of the Kathleen Folbigg case:

Killing them Softly (The Age, August 30, 2003)

Of Woman Born (Australian Story program transcript, March 15 2004)


1 comment
  1. […] in Australian criminal history of mother who have murdered their children , including Keli Lane, Kathleen Folbigg and most recently Kristi Abrahams. Mallett, who was a presenter on the recent Channel Ten show […]

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