Julene Thorburn
Julene Thorburn

Tiahleigh’s foster mum jailed for 18 months

TIAHLEIGH Palmer's foster mother callously lied to police about the schoolgirl's murder to protect her family and lifestyle as she didn't want to lose her "breadwinner" husband, court has heard.

Twelve-year-old Tiahleigh disappeared on October 30, 2015, and her body was found six days later on the banks of the Pimpama River.

Julene Thorburn, 55, lied to police and the Crime and Corruption Commission about the child's death, and today pleaded guilty in the District Court in Beenleigh to charges of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

She was sentenced to 18 months' in jail.

Her teenage son, Trent Thorburn, had confessed to her he had sex with Tiahleigh and believed she may be pregnant.

Julene confided in her husband, Rick, and it is alleged he killed Tiahleigh to cover up his son's conduct.

Crown prosecutor David Nardone said the family matriarch was caught out in her lie after a recording device planted in their Chambers Flat home captured her telling her husband and two sons to "stick to the same story" that Tiahleigh vanished after being dropped off at school.

Tiahleigh Palmer disappeared in October 2015.
Tiahleigh Palmer disappeared in October 2015.

He said she told police she lied during the investigation because she was "protecting her family and lifestyle" and because of the "shame and embarrassment".

Judge Craig Chowdhury said he found it hard to understand why she didn't come forward earlier after Tiahleigh was "left like the carcass of an animal just dumped on the riverbank".

"She obviously was concerned about losing the main breadwinner," the judge said.

Mr Nardone noted "her own motives outweigh that sense of decency".

Her other son, Joshua Thorburn, pleaded guilty to the same charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

Trent Thorburn was sentenced to four years in jail for incest and perjury in September.

Judge Chowdhury said the community expected people to "have the courage and decency to co-operate with authorities" when it came the killing of a child.

He said it was extraordinary that she lied in part to protect her lifestyle.

But Judge Chowdhury said he had no doubt she felt considerable pressure to keep her husband's secret after finding out what he was capable of.

The sentence will be suspended after she serves six months behind bars.

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