A foster father who murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer says he accidentally suffocated her when she tried to leave home after an argument.
Convicted sex offender Rick Thorburn is serving a life sentence for the murder of Tiahleigh on October 29, 2015.
The 12-year-old’s body was found by three fishermen on the banks of the Pimpama River on the Gold Coast on November 5, 2015.
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Thorburn told an inquest in Brisbane on Tuesday that Tiahleigh walked down their driveway with a packed bag after the two had an argument.
He put his arm around her to walk her back to the house.
When she struggled he held her tighter, Thorburn told the inquest into Tiahleigh’s death.
Reading from a statement he says he wrote about four years ago when seeing a psychologist, Thorburn said he told Tiahleigh to stop and put his hand over her mouth when she started screaming and swearing because it was late and there was a neighbour nearby.
He let Tiahleigh go when they got to the verandah and she fell to the ground.
He picked her up to put her on a seat, but she fell again and didn’t respond when he spoke to her.
“Her eyes were closed and I didn’t think she was breathing,” Thorburn said.
“I must have accidentally suffocated her with my hand over her mouth and holding her so tightly around her waist and stomach..
“I know that I am responsible for Tia’s death and it is something I struggle to live with
“I know sorry can’t take away the pain it has caused a lot of people, but I am truly sorry.”
Questioned about the statement and other details regarding Tiahleigh, Thorburn said he had no recollection.
“You can make up any story you like,” he told counsel assisting the coroner Kate McMahon.
“I don’t give a f***.”
Tiahleigh’s family hope to get some answers from the two-day inquest before Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley that started on Tuesday.
Despite internal reviews and criminal trials, no one knows what happened to Tiahleigh in her final moments, a pre-inquest hearing was told last month.
“(Thorburn) has pleaded guilty to her murder but has never given an account, either on oath or otherwise, as to how he killed her,” counsel assisting the coroner Kate McMahon said during the hearing.
“One of the primary focuses of this inquest will be to see if anything more can be learned about that two-hour period of time.”
Tiahleigh’s murder spawned two major reviews and resulted in stronger criminal checks for people seeking to become foster carers or wanting Blue Cards to authorise them to work with children.
In the hours before Tiahleigh died, she had been to a hip-hop dance class where she complained of stomach pains.
That same night, Thorburn’s son Trent confessed to his mother Julene that he’d had sex with the schoolgirl and feared the stomach pains were a sign she was pregnant.
Thornburn and his wife feared a pregnancy could mean Trent would go to jail, according to earlier proceedings.
That night, the family – Julene, Trent and brother Joshua went out, leaving Tiahleigh home alone with Rick Thorburn for two hours.
She was never seen alive again.
Her body was so badly decomposed when it was found – naked except for underpants – on the river banks that authorities haven’t been able to determine how she died.
Members of the Thorburn family were convicted of being part of the crime – Rick Thorburn for the murder, Trent for incest, and wife Julene and his other son Joshua for being part of an elaborate cover-up.
Rick Thorburn was sentenced to 20 years in jail.
The family members are all expected to be called as witnesses during the inquest.
© AAP 2021