Tiahleigh Palmer's Foster Father Pleads Guilty To Murder

Friday, 25 May, 2018

Mr Heaton recommended a non-parole period of 20 years for the charge of murder and no allowance for a sentencing discount because of Thorburn's guilty plea.

Rick Thorburn has pleaded guilty to murdering schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer.

Trent Thorburn was sentenced to four years in jail on incest and perjury charges, but was released in January after spending 16 months in prison.

Cindy Palmer, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer outside the court in Brisbane on Friday.

The 12-year-old girl was found dead on the banks of a Gold Coast river in 2015, six days after she went missing while in the care of Thorburn and his family.

Thorburn told police he dropped her safely at Marsden state high school on the day she went missing.

Tiahleigh had been in care since she was seven.

"Your offending involves truly appalling conduct", Justice Boddice said.

"You showed no respect for her, even in death - you murdered this defenceless child who relied on you for protection".

Tiahleigh was last seen alive on the morning of October 30, 2015.

The Thorburns' eldest son, Joshua, was sentenced to three months in jail in July 2017 after pleading guilty to same charges as his mother.

Prosecutor Carl Heaton QC told the court that Thorburn had told his family he had killed the girl.

While still inside the courthouse, Tiahleigh's family held a prayer session, clapping and hugging each other.

The court heard a plea of guilty to a murder charge is very rare and in this case stopped "a lengthy trial" with more than 250 witnesses. On the next evening, Thorburn came home at around 11pm, covered in mud and dirt, and told his family "it's done".

They lived their lives normally the next day, and their story would be that Tiahleigh had vanished after leaving for school.

Tiahleigh’s biological mother arrives at a Brisbane court
Tiahleigh’s biological mother arrives at a Brisbane court

"Rick Thorburn took that away from me, from our family and most importantly from Tiahleigh". "I'm going to leave home tomorrow morning, as if I'm going off to school as if I'm going to collect some auto parts". I will never forgive you for that. "I know a good place".

Thorburn, who shed tears in the dock, is being sentenced in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

"But as her mother, no sentence will ever be enough", she said.

"Tiahleigh was a lovely, young girl who had her whole life to look forward to".

Between about 8pm and 10pm on 29 October, Rick Thorburn murdered her, the court heard.

Detective Superintendent Kerry Johnson said outside court that he hoped Thorburn would spend time in his cell thinking about what he had done.

"We need to think this through, deal with this properly", he said.

"It's an absolute tragedy and inexcusable".

After killing Tiahleigh, Thorburn made deliberate and sustained deceptions to try to cover up his crimes.

He and his family lied to police throughout months of their investigations and in Crime and Corruption Commisison hearings. Police believe that Rick then killed Tiahleigh because he feared his son would go to prison.

Tiahleigh Palmer.The Thorburn family home.

Rick Thorburn to Julene: No, but don't you tell anyone ever, no matter what - that's when things will f-k up.

Julene responded: No I'm not, this can not go on like this, it's not fair to everyone.

Defence barrister Greg McGuire revealed Thorburn had spent time in care after the death of his mother when he was nine years old.