Tiah’s murderer ‘should never be released’

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston says confessed killer Rick Thorburn should never be released.The prospect of Rick Thorburn ever leaving jail after murdering his foster daughter Tiahleigh Palmer is incomprehensible and upsetting, prominent child safety advocate Hetty Johnston says.

Thorburn was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to the 12-year-old Logan schoolgirl’s 2015 murder in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday.

But the 57-year-old, who killed Tiahleigh after his son Trent confessed to having sex with her and he became concerned she was pregnant, could be released in 20 years after a mandatory non-parole period expires.

Ms Johnston, the founder of Bravehearts, has criticised the period as too lenient when it comes to the murder of children, calling on the state government to legislate a minimum life sentence.

“I’m really quite upset that parole could ever be a possibility for this man,” she told the ABC.

“There is no way a man who could knowingly, cold-blooded, calculatingly kill a little girl and leave a body to rot on the river bank should ever, ever be able to re-enter society.

“It’s incomprehensible. Anyone who kills an innocent child should never have any expectation they should see the outside of a jail ever again.

“We need to fix it so it’s really clear.”

Tiahleigh’s decomposing body was found on the banks of the Pimpama River on the Gold Coast in October 2015, six days after she went missing while in the care of the Thorburn family.

Trent, who admitted to having sex with his foster sister, was jailed in September 2017 for four years for incest, while his mother Julene spent six months behind bars for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Ms Johnston said Tiahleigh had been repeatedly let down.

“This is a child who was failed through her parents, failed through her foster parents … there’s been a lot of failures in that little girl’s life and I feel incredibly sad for her,” she said.

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