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Foster brother feared Tia was pregnant

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/09/2016 Ed Jackson

Tiahleigh Palmer's foster brother Trent Thorburn feared he had made the 12-year-old pregnant days before his father allegedly murdered the schoolgirl, a court has heard.

Police have told the Beenleigh Magistrates Court Thorburn admitted in an online conversation with his cousin on October 28, 2015 that he had sex with Tiahleigh and said he was concerned she might have been pregnant.

She was last seen alive two days later and her body was found on the banks of the Pimpama river on the Gold Coast on November 6.

Her foster father Rick Thorburn has been charged with her murder but was in an induced coma on Wednesday after reportedly swallowing pills either at Logan Central Police Station or at the Beenleigh Watch House following his arrest on Tuesday.

His lawyer Kelly Thompson said it was unclear when the 56-year-old would be brought out of the coma as his matter was adjourned until December 21.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Elen French told Trent Thorburn's bail application that despite repeatedly denying any sexual aspect to his relationship with Tiahleigh, police had received a statement from his cousin saying he had told her he had sex with his foster sister.

"She said he made the disclosure on Facebook messenger and that she had saved a copy of the conversation, which was subsequently provided to police," Sgt French told the court.

"During that conversation, he says he had sex with the victim on the prior Monday and he had only done so because she had threatened to kill his dog."

Sgt French said Thorburn, 19, had betrayed the girl's trust.

"He abused his position as big brother and took advantage of her. A consequence of that is her young life has been taken," she said.

Facing charges of incest as well as perjury and perverting the course of justice, Thorburn showed little emotion from the dock as allegations of his abuse of Tiahleigh were read out to the court.

Police also allege Tiahleigh herself revealed Thorburn's criminal behaviour in a conversation with a friend shortly before her disappearance.

Sgt French said Tiahleigh had said "Trent tried to touch me" to her friend.

It was also claimed Tiahleigh had informed her foster mother Julene Thorburn but the 54-year-old had taken no action against her son.

The Marsden State High School student's biological mother Cindy Palmer breathed a sigh of relief when Magistrate Pamela Dowse denied Thorburn bail, adjourning his matter to November 9.

Julene and the Thorburns' oldest son Josh, 20, have also been charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice and will face court next month.

The allegations against the Thorburns have also raised questions about the selection of carers in Queensland.

Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman revealed on Wednesday the Thorburns had been approved as foster carers in August 2014.

The family had also operated a day care centre, Ms Fentiman said, before police shared intelligence about the family with authorities in April.

"Their family day care approval was immediately revoked and their foster care approval was immediately suspended," Ms Fentiman said.

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls said the case showed the need for an investigation into the state's foster care system.

But Foster Care Queensland executive director Bryan Smith defended the system, telling AAP the state had "one of the most in-depth and stringent arrangements around the approval of foster carers in Australia".

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