Aus Tiahleigh Palmer's Kiwi mum 'tormented' by deception of Australian foster mother
Slain Australian schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer's foster mother will spend the next six months behind bars for lying to authorities about the 12-year-old's disappearance to try to protect her "family and lifestyle".
Julene Thorburn fronted Queensland's Beenleigh District Court on Friday, where she pleaded guilty to one count each of perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Judge Craig Chowdhury sentenced the 55-year-old to a head term of 18 months, to be suspended after she has spent six months behind bars, describing her crimes as "dreadful offences".
The judge said it seemed Thorburn was worried about losing the family's "main breadwinner", her husband Rick, who has been committed to stand trial charged with Tiahleigh's murder.
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"It is extraordinary that your motivation was largely to protect the family, but also to maintain a lifestyle, which is really quite discreditable," he said.
Crown prosecutor David Nardone said Tiahleigh's biological mother, Cindy Palmer, was "tormented" by Thorburn's deception and the time it took for her to reveal her statements had been misleading.
"From Mrs Palmer's point of view, Mrs Thorburn has failed terribly," he said.
Tiahleigh was last seen alive on October 30, 2015, with her decomposing body found on the banks of the Pimpama River six days later.
Outside court, Cindy Palmer said no sentence would ever make up for the loss of her "happy" and "angelic" daughter.
"As a mother, she had a duty of care - your maternal instincts tell you to look after children," she said, clad in a #Justice4Tiahleigh t-shirt.
Nardone said Thorburn gave false information to police and the Crime and Corruption Commission because she wanted to protect "her family and lifestyle".
The court heard she was also motivated because of the "shame and embarrassment", as well as a desire to protect her son Trent, who had admitted to having sex with Tiahleigh.
The court heard an electronic surveillance device planted in the family home also picked up Thorburn telling the family they would have to "stick to the same story" after questions were raised following the child's disappearance.
As he heard submissions, Judge Chowdhury said he could grasp why someone would want to protect their family.
But one would think "pangs of conscience" would occur once the schoolgirl's body was discovered dumped on the banks of a Gold Coast river "like the carcass of an animal", he observed.
But Thorburn's defence barrister John Fraser said she was "essentially" a good person and loving mother, telling the court she had fielded abusive phone calls and received "vile threats" over social media.
Thorburn's eldest son Joshua was jailed for three months in July after pleading guilty to the same charges.
Trent Thorburn was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in September after pleading guilty to four charges, including perjury and incest.
Julene Thorburn's suspended sentence will be operational for a period of three years.