The man who murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer will be called to answer questions at an inquest into the 12-year-old's death next month.

Rick Thorburn, Tiahleigh's foster father, who is serving a life sentence, his wife, Julene Thorburn and their sons, Trent and Joshua Thorburn, will be among inquest witnesses.

The inquest will focus on finding out how Tiahleigh was killed on the night of October 29, 2015, how Rick Thorburn disposed of her body and what happened in the hours and moments before her death.

An inquest into the death of 12-year-old schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer will be held next month.
An inquest into the death of 12-year-old schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer will be held next month.

Kate McMahon, counsel assisting Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley, said Thorburn had pleaded guilty to murder, but had never given an account on oath or otherwise about how Tiahleigh was murdered.

Tiahleigh Palmer's body was found on the banks of the Pimpama River, six days after she was reported missing in 2015.

The court heard Rick Thorburn murdered the foster child after discovering his son Trent had had sex with her and feared she was pregnant.

Thorburn pleaded guilty in May, 2018, to Tiahleigh's murder, interfering with her corpse, attempting to pervert the course of justice and two counts of perjury.

Tiahleigh was placed in foster care with the Thorburn family in January, 2015, but was murdered nine months later.

When her body was found, six days after she went missing, it was so decomposed no cause of death could be determined.

"My only hope is to get some closure around how Tiahleigh died, because that's the one thing that's never left my mind," Tiahleigh's mother, Cindy Palmer, told The Courier-Mail last week.

Ms McMahon told a pre-inquest hearing on Tuesday that Ms Palmer was overseas but would attend the inquest on June 8 and 9.

She said the people who loved Tiahleigh wanted answers about what happened to the 12-year-old in her last hours.

Rick Thorburn pleaded guilty to Tiahleigh’s murder, but had not shed any light on her death. File picture: Dave Hunt
Rick Thorburn pleaded guilty to Tiahleigh’s murder, but had not shed any light on her death. File picture: Dave Hunt

A photo of Tiahleigh, provided by her mother, was shown on a screen in the Coroners Court.

Ms McMahon said Tia, as she was known, was last seen at about 5.45pm on October 29, 2015.

She had been at a hip hop dance and had complained of stomach pains.

Trent Thorburn told his mother that he had had sex with Tiahleigh on the previous Sunday and he was concerned she might be pregnant.

Mrs Thorburn told her husband and they discussed Tiahleigh's stomach pains and that they might be consistent with pregnancy and that Trent could go to jail.

Ms McMahon said Rick Thorburn killed Tiahleigh during a two-hour period when he was home alone with her.

Ms McMahon said when the family returned home that night Thorburn said: "Tiahleigh is no longer with us. I hope you know what that means."

She said he told them he had taken care of it and they were not to ask questions.

Cindy Palmer said the people who loved Tiahleigh wanted answers about the way she died. File picture
Cindy Palmer said the people who loved Tiahleigh wanted answers about the way she died. File picture

Ms McMahon said a police operations leader in the homicide investigation, Detective Inspector Chris Knight, would also be an inquest witness.

Trent Thorburn was sentenced to four years' jail in 2017 after pleading guilty to incest, for having sex with Tiahleigh, attempting to pervert the course of justice and two counts of perjury.

He was released in 2018, after serving 16 months' in jail.

Julene Thorburn was sentenced to 18 months' jail in November, 2017, after pleading guilty to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Her sentence was suspended in May, 2018.

Another son Joshua Thorburn was sentenced to three months' jail for attempting to pervert the course of justice and perjury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Final bid for answers as Tiahleigh's killer called to court



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