Tiahleigh Palmer inquest to focus on hours before her murder

An inquest into the death of murdered 12-year-old Brisbane schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer would focus on what happened in the “two hours and moments” before her death in October 2015, a coroner has been told.

Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley was told today that a two-day inquest, scheduled to start on 8 June, would attempt to establish how the young schoolgirl was killed by her foster dad, Rick Thorburn, and what happened in the two hours they spent alone before her passing in late October 2015.

Counsel assisting Ms Bentley, Kate McMahon, told a brief Brisbane Coroners Court pre-inquest hearing that Rick Thorburn was already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to the murder of Tiahleigh, but had yet to reveal how he killed her and what happened in the hours before her death.

The 12-year-old’s remains were found by a group of fisherman on the banks of the Pimpama River in November 2015, six days after she was reported missing and was last seen at the Chambers Flat home, in Brisbane’s south, she shared with foster parents Rick and Julene Thorburn and two foster brothers.

Ms McMahon said the inquest would attempt to establish how she died and establish “what happened in the two hours and moments” before her passing between 8pm and 10pm on 29 October 2015.

She said Thorburn had been at home alone with Tiahleigh during the two-hour period, while his wife and sons were away from the house, and that upon their return told them “Tia” was gone and never coming back.

The Supreme Court heard Thorburn killed Tiahleigh after discovering one of his sons had sex with Tiahleigh and feared she was pregnant.

Thorburn pleaded guilty in May 2018 to charges of murder, interfering with a corpse, attempting to pervert the course of justice and two counts of perjury.

Tiahleigh had been placed in foster care with Thorburn’s family in January 2015, but was murdered nine months later.

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

Thorburn, who lied to police for months and in Crime and Corruption Commission star-chamber hearings, will be eligible for parole in 2036.

Ms McMahon told today’s hearing that Tiahleigh’s mother, Cindy Palmer, was travelling overseas, but was expected to attend the inquest when it begins in Brisbane’s George Street Magistrates Court complex next month.

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