Two days next month will be dedicated to the final two hours of Queensland schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer’s life.
Tiahleigh was murdered by her foster father in 2015, the 12-year-old’s mostly naked and partially submerged body found on the banks of the Pimpama River in the Gold Coast hinterland on November 5, a week after she was last seen alive.
Foster father Rick Thorburn pleaded guilty to Tiahleigh’s murder in the Brisbane Supreme Court in May 2018 and was sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for parole in 2036.
Thorburn’s wife and two sons were also jailed over the Logan schoolgirl’s death.
His wife, Julene Thorburn, served six months in jail after pleading guilty in November 2017 to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
His son Trent, who admitted to sexually abusing Tiahleigh, his foster sister, was jailed for a maximum of four years in September 2017 after pleading guilty to four charges, including incest.
Older son Joshua was sentenced to three months in July 2017 after pleading guilty to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
On Tuesday, during a pre-inquest hearing, Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley locked in June 8 and 9 for the coronial inquest into Tiahleigh’s death.
Five witnesses were due to give evidence — Rick Thorburn, Julene Thorburn, Trent Thorburn, Joshua Thorburn, as well as Detective Inspector Chris Knight, who led the homicide investigation.
Counsel assisting the coroner Kate McMahon said Tiahleigh was last seen alive by an independent witness about 5.45pm on October 29, 2015.
That night, Tiahleigh had been at a hip-hop dance class and complained of stomach pains.
Also that evening, Trent Thorburn told his mother he had had sex with Tiahleigh and he was worried she might be pregnant.
Julene and Rick Thorburn spoke that night and concluded Tiahleigh’s stomach pains could be a sign she was pregnant and their son Trent could go to jail for what he done.
Between 8pm and 10pm that night, Julene went to visit her sister and Trent and Josh were also out. When they returned, Tiahleigh was gone and Rick addressed his family.
“He said: ‘Tiahleigh is no longer with us’ … he said he had taken care of it and asked them to not ask any questions,” Ms McMahon told the pre-inquest hearing on Tuesday.
Ms McMahon said during that two-hour window, Rick Thorburn murdered Tiahleigh, but he had never explained how he killed her.
The next day, October 30, Tiahleigh’s school noticed she was missing and raised the alarm. Rick Thorburn claimed he dropped her off at school that morning and even helped police search for her.
Rick Thorburn had dumped Tiahleigh’s body in the Pimpama River.
On November 5, three fishermen found Tiahleigh’s body in the river.
Tiahleigh’s biological mother, Cindy, was not in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday because she was overseas. She will return in time for the two-day coronial inquest next month.