Tiahleigh Palmer’s killer Rick Thorburn’s explodes under cross-examination before sentencing
Tiahleigh Palmer’s killer Rick Thorburn’s explodes under cross-examination before sentencing

Tiahleigh Palmer's killer to serve more time for child sex offences

TIAHLEIGH Palmer's killer Rick Thorburn will have to serve two extra years behind bars before being eligible for parole, after being sentenced for 13 child sex offences.

Thorburn, 60, pleaded guilty in November to rape, two counts of attempted rape and 10 counts of indecent treatment of a child under 12.

Thorburn was sentenced in Beenleigh District Court late yesterday, after losing a court application to retract his guilty plea to the offences committed against two girls.

The court heard the offences were committed in 2015 and 2016 at Thorburn's Chambers Flat home.

Rick Thorburn being escorted by police from the Logan Central Police Station on September 20, 2016. AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Rick Thorburn being escorted by police from the Logan Central Police Station on September 20, 2016. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

The two sisters, aged 11 and four, were sexually abused by Thorburn, who was unemployed, while his wife was in another room or dropping children at school.

"You were in a position of trust. Instead, you abused them disgracefully," Judge Craig Chowdhury told Thorburn.

Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Kelso said Thorburn's offences were deliberate and predatory.

Ms Kelso said the offences came to light after the younger girl told her father what was happening and her parents reported it.

The older girl was digitally raped at the home and also exposed to pornography while Thorburn drove her to school.

Thorburn ignored one girl when she said "no" to him and he tried to bribe one of the girls with chocolate to get her to touch his penis.

Both children had since seen psychologists and while the younger girl had "bounced back" the older girl was still struggling, the court heard.

Judge Chowdhury said there had been significant impact on the children and their family.

He sentenced Thorburn to five years' jail for the rape and lesser concurrent jail terms for the other offences.

The sentences are to be served concurrently with the life sentence he has been serving for Tiahleigh Palmer's murder since 2018.

Judge Chowdhury extended Thorburn's parole eligibility date by two years, to September 12, 2038.

 

Aerial photo of the scene in the Tiahleigh Palmer’s murder case. Photo Supplied Channel 9
Aerial photo of the scene in the Tiahleigh Palmer’s murder case. Photo Supplied Channel 9

 

 

EARLIER

Earlier, during Thorburn's court application to retract his guilty pleas, he twice exploded in anger while under cross-examination, swearing at prosecutor Elizabeth Kelso and media.

After he was later returned to the courtroom, Thorburn reached a point under cross-examination when he refused to answer more questions.

"Now I know I'm never getting out of jail, I don't care. Let's finish it," Thorburn told the court.

"...I'm never getting out...It could be 50 years, I don't care. I don't want to answer any more questions. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Let's go home, done, finished".

 

Cindy Palmer (centre), the mother of murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer, speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Friday, May 25, 2018.
Cindy Palmer (centre), the mother of murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer, speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Friday, May 25, 2018.

 

Applying to retract his plea, Thorburn had claimed extreme memory loss and that he had been effectively bullied into pleading guilty to the charges by his lawyers in November, last year.

But Judge Craig Chowdhury strongly rejected all of Thorburn's claims, including that after an event in prison in September he did not even know what the word "jail" meant.

He said he did not accept that he did not understand the nature of the child sex charges or that the evidence was not explained to him.

Judge Chowdhury called Thorburn "a poor witness" and said he was not truthful and he had been attempting to avoid his decision to plead to serious charges.

Judge Chowdhury said Thorburn's evidence about his sudden memory loss reminded him of something out of a Kafka novel.

"It certainly didn't ring true," he said.

The judge said Thorburn's lawyers had properly given him strong and firm advice about his prospects if he went to trial and the benefits of pleading guilty.

Police gather evidence at the home of Rick Thorburn in regards to the murder of Tiahleigh Palmer. Pic Darren England.
Police gather evidence at the home of Rick Thorburn in regards to the murder of Tiahleigh Palmer. Pic Darren England.

Thorburn, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his foster daughter Tiahleigh, 12, claimed to have no memory before an incident in prison in September last year.

He said the last thing in his memory was being in a prison cell and being held down on the ground and then being taken to another cell.

Thorburn said at that time, despite not suffering any injuries that day, he did not know who he was, where he was or even the meaning of the word jail.

He said when his wife Julene later visited him, he did not know who she was.

Julene Thorburn was at the court today to hear her husband's evidence, arriving disguised in a scarf completely covering her head and sunglasses.

She left court after his application was dismissed.

Rick Thorburn’s wife Julie Thorburn at court today, November 20, 2020. Pic Annette Dew
Rick Thorburn’s wife Julie Thorburn at court today, November 20, 2020. Pic Annette Dew

Thorburn said that on November 8, last year, when he pleaded guilty to the child sex offences, he even had no memory of previously pleading guilty to Tiahleigh's murder.

Thorburn said since his memory loss he had not been able to read properly or write much and he said he could not sign his own signature properly, and he just wrote his initials.

Thorburn claimed that when he went to court on November 8, last year, he thought he was going to be pleading not guilty.

He said his wife had told him people were telling lies about him and he did not do anything.

Thorburn said his wife kept telling him to make sure he pleaded not guilty because he didn't do it.

Thorburn had pleaded guilty to child sex offences of rape, two counts of attempted rape and 10 counts of indecent treatment of a child.

The offences allegedly occurred at Thorburn's Chambers Flat family home, in 2015 and 2016.

Thorburn killed Tiahleigh on October 29, 2015, after discovering his son Trent, then 18, had sexually abused her.

Tiahleigh Palmer. Photo Supplied/Channel 9
Tiahleigh Palmer. Photo Supplied/Channel 9

Thorburn believed Tiahleigh may have been pregnant, a court heard.

Despite being aware Thorburn had killed Tiahleigh, his son Trent and wife Julene lied to police and during a coercive hearing.

In 2017, Julene was sentenced to 18 months' jail for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice, serving six months before her sentence was suspended for three years.

Trent was sentenced to four years' jail, suspended after 16 months, for incest and perjury.

His brother Josh Thorburn received a 15-month sentence for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice,

Originally published as 'Predatory': Thorburn to serve more time for child sex offences



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