Justice for Tiahleigh as murderer jailed

Support for the murdered schoolgirl … reforms to the system have been flagged.From the discovery of a schoolgirl’s body on a riverbank to revelations of incest, murder and family cover-up, Tiahleigh Palmer’s death has stunned Queensland.

Nearly three years later and just over a month after Tialeigh should have been celebrating her 15th birthday, her killer has faced justice.

It’s the one thing Tiahleigh’s mother Cindy has sought ever since her daughter’s 12-year-old body was discovered on the banks of a northern Gold Coast river in November 2015 by three fisherman.

The shocking discovery came hours after police had appealed for help to discover the Marsden State High School student.

That was despite the fact she’d not been seen for a week.

Initial concerns about a random abduction or a mystery Facebook hook-up were dead ends.

But the reality of what had happened to Tiahleigh was even more gruesome.

On or about September 26, 2015, Tiahleigh’s foster brother Trent – then 18 – had sex with the girl.

A short time later the teenager confessed to a cousin online about the relationship and revealed his concern she might be pregnant.

The revelation of the relationship sparked Tiahleigh’s foster father Rick to a horrifying end.

He killed Tiahleigh at the family’s Chambers Flats home, south of Brisbane.

When elder brother Joshua arrived home on October 29 he was called into a family meeting where Rick ominously said he had “taken care of it” and warned his wife Julene not to go into Tiahleigh’s bedroom.

Police immediately suspected the Thorburns but with the family sticking to a lie, in apparent fear of Rick, the investigation moved slowly.

When Tiahleigh was laid to rest, her killer acted as grieving pallbearer.

Aspiring dancer Trent also performed at the funeral.

Police, however, had bugged the Thorburns’ home and were collecting damning evidence against the family.

Almost 11 months to the day after Tiahleigh was killed they swooped – arresting and charging the four Thorburns for their various roles in the crime.

Trent was jailed in September 2017 for a maximum of four years after he pleaded guilty to four charges including incest.

He was released on parole in January after serving 16 months.

Joshua and Julene spent three and six months behind bars for their parts in the subsequent cover-up.

Rick was on Friday sentenced to life behind bars, with a minimum of 20 years in jail.

It brings some closure to the case but Tiahleigh’s death will have ramifications outside the courtroom.

With the last of the family that was supposed to care for her daughter punished, the attention can now focus on how they were given that responsibility.

Since Tiahleigh’s murder Queensland’s Child Safety Department has come under scrutiny for not doing more to ensure children in care are safe.

In September last year, three reports from reviews of Queensland’s protection system, foster care system and blue card scheme were tabled in state parliament.

The Palaszczuk government says it will use the reports to make broader reforms to the system.

It may be too late for Tiahleigh, but it is hopefully one good that can come from her murder.

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