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NO EXCUSE: Julene Thorburn.

How Julene Thorburn betrayed Tiahleigh Palmer

News Corp Australia

AUSTRALIA, we need to have a big talk about the role Julene Thorburn played in covering up the murder of Tiahleigh Palmer.

While her husband Rick Thorburn is the person responsible for killing the 12-year-old, Julene's decision to help hide Tiah's death cannot be underplayed.

A surprising number of people - including some anti-violence campaigners - are excusing Julene's role in the tragedy,  saying she had no choice but to stand by her man because they believe he subjected her to coercive control and/or domestic violence.

Others says she was doing everything in her power to protect her incestuous son and that she was just a victim of circumstance.

And then there are those who mitigate her wrong-doing because "women are not capable" of such vile and reprehensible acts.

I'm here to call bulldust on all of this.

Julene Thorburn
Julene Thorburn


Julene Thorburn was not an innocent bystander caught up in a nightmare of her husband's making.

She was a victim of her own screwed up, selfish moral compass.

As a foster carer, Julene's responsibility to Tiah was exactly the same as her responsibility to her own sons. It was her job to love and protect the youngster and that meant ensuring she was safe from sexual and other violence.

However, when her husband revealed he had taken care of Tiah after their son abused her, Julene agreed to help roll out a shocking charade designed to protect the Thorburn family's way of life.

Julene knew Tiah lay dead at the family's property on the night she was killed, but - despite having ample chance to call the police - she did nothing.

Rick Thorburn. Picture: Liam Kidston
Rick Thorburn. Picture: Liam Kidston



She watched Rick Thorburn drive Tiah's body away the next day - and still she did not call the police.

When he returned to tell her he had fixed their "problem", she chose to continue playing his sick game.

She lied to authorities about where Tiah was, helping to trick them into believing the teenager had run away and therefor leading to a delay in the search for her.

And when the search for Tiah did begin, Julene stood by as her husband joined the community, authorities and Tiah's family in the desperate hunt for the school girl.

She allowed him to tell lies to journalists covering the case.

She helped Thorburn throw a posthumous birthday party for Tiah and did nothing as he cried fake tears with the girl's heartbroken mates at that event.

Pallbearers – including Rick Thorburn (centre) – carry the coffin of murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer during her funeral in Cornubia, south of Brisbane, on November 14, 2015. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Pallbearers – including Rick Thorburn (centre) – carry the coffin of murdered schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer during her funeral in Cornubia, south of Brisbane, on November 14, 2015. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled


Julene did nothing as Thorburn presented himself as grieving father of the year at Tiah's funeral, standing aside as he helped carried Tiah's coffin to the hearse.

Julene Thorburn did not tell the police the truth for 12 months - in that time she lied under oath at the Crime and Corruption Commission, she lied to Tiah's mum, she lied to Australia.

Tiahleigh Palmer went into foster care when she was seven years old. Picture: Supplied
Tiahleigh Palmer went into foster care when she was seven years old. Picture: Supplied



Julene had  opportunity after opportunity to confess to police and to ease the heartache on Tiah's loved ones, but she only started making things right when the threat of a significant jail term emerged.

Julene never used domestic violence or coercive control as a defence to her actions when she pleaded guilty to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

"It's horrific, I was ashamed. I am aware that I have maintained a deliberate lie out of fear. The fear of Trent going to jail was a big part of it. I had to protect Trent," she told police as an excuse for her behaviour. 

Tiahleigh Palmer
Tiahleigh Palmer



And even if Julene was a DV survivor, it does not give her a free pass to cover-up murder and mislead Tiah's heartbroken loved ones during the worst year of their lives.

Through no fault of her own, Tiah found herself living with a family who made money from broken kids from broken families.

She was a cashcow who was abused by at least one male in that household and when her sad secret became known she was murdered because her abuse was going to ruin their lives.

Tiah is the one we should be standing up for. Julene Thorburn does not deserve our sympathy or empathy. No more than Rick Thorburn or her sons do.

By painting Julene as the victim we are belittling Tiah's memory.

A facebook photograph of Rick Thorburn and family Josh, Julene and Trent. Rick and Trent have been charged in relation to the murder of Tiahleigh Palmer
A facebook photograph of Rick Thorburn and family Josh, Julene and Trent. Rick and Trent have been charged in relation to the murder of Tiahleigh Palmer



The reality is some women are selfish. Some women act reprehensibly.  Some women protect killers. 

How do I know?

My  mother married Barry Gordon Hadlow, despite knowing he was on parole for killing five-year-old girl Sandra Dorothy Bacon in Townsville.

My mother had four young daughters living in her Toowoomba household when Hadlow moved in.

A few years later he killed  nine-year-old girl Stacey-Ann Tracy in Roma and my mother chose to stand by his side and plead his case.

She refused to speak to police when they came knocking on the door.

She watched on as Hadlow helped the local community search for the child.

She stood up for him as he was arrested and charged.

She gave interviews defending him.

"My husband is innocent - he wouldn't hurt anyone. I trusted him more than anyone else in the world and I still do," she told one media outlet.

"Barry has been victimised his entire life for a split second of madness early in his life.

"Barry is not proud of spending nearly all his life in jail for murdering that little girl."

My mother did not divorce Hadlow until long after he was convicted.

She chose him over the safety of her own daughters and the community.

She was not a victim of domestic violence. She was not under his control in any way.

My mother protected Hadlow because he was her man and she was going to lose her way of life if he went to jail.

My mother never cried a tear for Stacey-Ann Tracy. She belittled Stacey, she belittled Stacey's family and the amazing detectives who gave Stacey justice.

She blamed Stacey for ruining her life and putting her "innocent" husband behind bars - she blamed everyone for his actions but she never once blamed him.

Yes. Some women are reprehensible and Julene Thorburn - like my mother - is one of them.

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues. Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and a member of the Femicide Australia Project.