Foster dad gets life for killing Tiahleigh

File photo of Rick Thorburn (2016). Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt Queensland foster father Rick Thorburn will spend at least 20 years in jail for what police have called the ultimate act of betrayal – snuffing out the life of a young girl he was meant to love and protect.

Thorburn has been jailed for life, meaning he’ll spend at least two decades behind bars, for killing his 12-year-old foster daughter Tiahleigh Palmer and dumping her body in a Gold Coast river in 2015.

The 57-year-old murdered the girl who was in his care after his son Trent confessed to having sex with her and became concerned she was pregnant.

Tiahleigh’s badly decomposed body was found on the banks of the Pimpama River, six days after her foster father claimed he’d dropped her safety at school.

In sentencing Thorburn in Brisbane on Friday, Supreme Court Justice David Boddice said his crimes were cold and callous.

“You murdered this defenceless child who relied on you for protection,” he said.

Outside the court, Tiahleigh’s mother, Cindy Palmer, said no amount of jail time would ever ease the pain Thorburn had caused.

“As her mother, no sentence will ever be enough,” she told reporters, having removed a T-shirt she’d worn in court that bore the words “hate you” on the back.

She said Thorburn had killed a beautiful girl with her life ahead of her.

“Rick Thorburn took that away from me, from our family and most of all Tiahleigh,” she said.

Police involved in the long-running investigation that convicted Thorburn, and his wife and sons for covering up the crime, said Tiahleigh had suffered the ultimate act of betrayal by someone who should have protected her.

“She was put into a foster care situation, with people who were supposed to provide and care for her, and those people have allowed this to happen and been part of it. It is an absolute tragedy and inexcusable,” Regional Crime Coordinator Kerry Johnson told reporters.

“The courts have seen fit to sentence him to life imprisonment. I hope that in his cell he thinks about – everyday – what he has done, the life he cut short.”

Earlier, Thorburn wiped away tears on Friday morning as he replied “guilty” to charges of murder, interfering with the 12-year-old’s corpse, perjury, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

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