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Mother of 12-year-old murdered by foster father gives emotional tribute as killer is sentenced to life

Rick Thorburn will serve at least 20 years behind bars, for the murder of his 12-year-old foster daughter Tiahleigh Palmer. 

The Brisbane Supreme Court has heard Mr Thorburn killed Tiahleigh in October 2015, after his son confessed to having sex with her.

The court heard Thorburn told his family “it was all taken care of”, after killing the 12-year-old and leaving her naked body on a Gold Coast river bank.

The 57-year-old formally pleaded guilty to murder at today’s hearing, along with perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice and interference with a corpse.

Prosecutor Carl Heaton QC informed the court, “Rick explained they would do things like they normally do. He told the family ‘we have to protect Trent, we need to keep a story to ourselves that she went to school'”.

The police investigation into Tiahleigh’s death lay dormant for seven months, until an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip revealed the secret family meeting held by the Thorburns.

Supreme Court Justice David Boddice labelled his crimes “cold and callous” as he handed down a life sentence to Tiahleigh’s killer.

Thorburn won’t be eligible for parole for 20 years.

Macquarie Media reporter Harry Spicer was in the courtroom, and spoke to Chris Smith.

Outside court, Tiahleigh’s biological mother Cindi told the media, “today’s outcome marks the end of a long and painful fight for justice for Tiahleigh. But as her mother, no sentence will be enough.”

“Tiahleigh was a beautiful young girl who had her entire life to look forward to. Rick Thorburn took that away from our family and more importantly from Tiahleigh. I need time to process today’s sentencing and grieve.”

Detective Inspector Damien Hanson says Thorburn committed “the ultimate act of betrayal”.

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

Here Cindi and Detective Inspector Hanson’s full comments below 

Image: Queensland Police