On Saturday Queensland Police announced that the naked, decomposed body of a young girl found in a river was 12-year-old Tiahleigh "Tiah" Palmer. Fishermen had found her body and called police Thursday afternoon, but her body was so degraded it took an autopsy to determine the girl's identity. "As we stand here today, we haven't got a cause of death," Detective Superintendent David Hutchinson told press at the conference. "But it's being treated as a homicide case for that very reason; we don't know what happened."
Last night around 400 people attended a candlelight vigil at Havenbah Park, across the road from Marsden State High School where Tiah was a student. The school's Chaplain conducted the service, while two of her friends sung A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. A group of boys also performed the haka. There were tears and purple balloons, which was Tiah's favorite color.
Tiah had spent much of her short life in and out of foster care. Her mom, Cyndi Palmer, had been jailed several times since 2011 and Tiah had been passed from carer to carer. One of them, a woman named Julie Pemberton, told the Daily Mail "She was no angel but no child is. She was my devil. She was Tiah and I wouldn't want her any other way."
Tiah was last seen by friends around 8 AM on Friday, October 30. Her carer dropped her off near her school in Brisbane's south but she failed to show up in class. She was reported missing later that day but it wasn't until after Friday's post mortem that the public were informed. A journalist asked why this took six days to happen. "Look, from the time she was reported missing on the Friday there were an extensive amount of inquiries conducted by the police," explained Detective Superintendent Hutchinson. "Keep in mind that in this period [police] were receiving information of sightings of Tiah in various locations, so inquiries were ongoing."
Tiah was found without her school uniform, which police are now looking for. The uniform includes a blue skirt and striped short sleeve shirt. She was also wearing a purple floral backpack, with a white embroidered Mambo logo on the front.
Anyone driving around Marsden State High School with a dashboard camera on Friday, October 30 is being asked to come forward. Police also want to hear from anyone who has been in the vicinity of the Pimpama River near Kerkin Road North in the past week. This is around 21 miles from where Tiah was last seen but police aren't speculating about how she got there. They're also refusing to speculate on whether her body drifted downstream from somewhere else.
This wasn't the first time Tiah had disappeared. As the Daily Mail reported, her former guardian had known her to run away several times. "She did run away a couple of times in my care like most kids do but she was never gone for more than two hours. She'd been running away a lot more frequently this year and I don't know why."
Detective Superintendent Hutchinson told reporters that they're also exploring the possibility that she'd planned to run away. "We are reasonably confident that if she planned on going somewhere that day that she probably spoke about it," he explained. "She probably spoke to other girls either on that day, the previous day, or in the lead-up to it."
A memorial Facebook page was set up for Tiah on Saturday. As of publishing the page has attracted 3,300 subscribers with many leaving messages. "It was hard to pick which flowers to get for you today Tiahleigh cause they were all just as beautiful as you," wrote one.
According to the page, Tiah's mother Cyndi deactivated her Facebook page over the weekend. Members of the incensed public had taken to blaming her for Tiah's death, which a friend defended her over, writing "you should be ashamed of yourselves... unless you're going to offer her LOVE AND SUPPORT you should probably shut your mouths."
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