A candlelight vigil has been held for Lilie James after she was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend.
Grieving members of the community gathered in Sans Souci, in Sydney’s south, on Saturday evening to remember the 21-year-old water polo and swimming coach.
Ms James was found dead inside a gym bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the city’s CBD just before midnight on Wednesday.
Police suspect Netherlands-born Paul Thijssen, 24, killed her after she broke off their brief, secret relationship.
The body of Thijssen was spotted by workers on a construction site at Vaucluse in water at the base of a cliffs near Diamond Bay Reserve about 8am Friday, near where officers had earlier been searching for him.
Residents of Ms James’s local Kogarah Bay area, including Georges River Deputy Mayor Elise Borg, turned out in droves to pay their respects to the young woman on Saturday, many lighting candles in her honour.
A candlelight vigil has been held for Lilie James after she was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend
A candlelight vigil was held by locals at Sans Souci (pictured) in Sydney’s south on Saturday
Candles were lit (pictured) as members of Ms James’ community gathered to pay their respects on Saturday
It comes as details emerge about Thijssen, who had also worked at St Andrew’s as an assistant sports coach after graduating in 2017.
Daily Mail Australia previously revealed some fellow students at the school disliked the 24-year-old and viewed him as ‘arrogant’.
Other students have since spoken up to describe him as ‘weird’, ‘creepy’ and a ‘flirt’.
A current student said he had a ‘wandering eye’ that unsettled the girls on the sports team he worked with.
Another said Thijssen had recently ‘boasted’ about his relationship with Ms James to a group of students.
‘He was a creep who was flirtatious with the girls,’ the student told The Saturday Telegraph.
‘I am absolutely shocked by the circumstances but there’s no doubt that he was a creep.’
Lilie James’ body was found in the gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD
CCTV has since been released of Thijssen walking calmly down a street in Vaucluse less than two hours after he is believed to have killed Ms James
Paul Thijssen, 24, was a hockey and cricket coach at St Andrew’s Cathedral School
A body found in water at the bottom of a cliff has been identified as Paul Thijssen, who is believed to have killed his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend hours before his own death
CCTV has since been released of Thijssen walking calmly down a street less than two hours after he is believed to have killed Ms James.
He was seen arriving in his silver Lexus at Chris Bang Crescent in Vaucluse at 8.47pm on Wednesday. About fifteen minutes later, security cameras filmed him walking steadily along the footpath.
He allegedly then dumped the hammer he is suspected of beating Ms James with in a bin before returning to his car.
Thijssen sat in his car until 9.49pm and then drove to another location nearby where he waited two hours before phoning police.
Police confirmed on Friday the body found in waters off Vaucluse belongs to Thijssen, after cross referencing finger prints with prints from the Netherlands embassy.
A silver Lexus sedan was seen being towed from Diamond Bay Reserve on Thursday
Authorities spent Friday morning working to retrieve the body from the water, with a Westpac rescue helicopter and a police jetski.
After a tricky operation, hampered by rough weather conditions, the body was retrieved just after midday.
Around three hours later, Stateside Mortuary officers wheeled a stretcher inside a blue police tent on the Vaucluse reserve and removed the body. It was then taken in a van away from the scene.
Two detectives had meanwhile arrived with a stack of evidence bags at the semi-detached flat Thijssen shared with a fellow former St Andrew’s Cathedral School student and hockey player in Kensington in Sydney’s east after 4pm on Friday.
Daily Mail Australia has been told that Thijssen had lived in the cramped flat since August with his old school friend who works in exercise physiology.
Detectives are seen arriving at the home of Paul Thijssen in Kensington in Sydney’s east on Friday afternoon
Police arrived at the address an hour after officers finally removed the body of a man now confirmed to be Thijssen from the rocks in Vaucluse
Two detectives arrived with a stack of evidence bags at the semi-detached flat Thijssen shared with a fellow former St Andrew’s Cathedral School student and hockey player in Kensington in Sydney’s east after 4pm on Friday
Principal pens powerful letter to parents
The principal of the school where Ms James was found murdered has penned a powerful letter to parents condemning what occurred on its grounds.
As the St Andrew’s community comes to terms with the tragedy, Principal Julie McGonigle sent a letter to parents on Friday.
She vowed to support all affected families, and said the tragedy would not ‘define’ the community.
Lilie James (pictured), 21, was found dead with horrific head injuries inside St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the city’s CBD around midnight on Thursday morning after her father contacted police when she failed to return home
Detectives are seen at the house Thijssen lived in with a flatmate
She wrote: ‘We are deeply concerned for the families directly involved in this incident and I am personally committed to aligning our communications with what is respectful to them and in lock step with the NSW Police.
‘I will not move at a pace that ignores those priorities.
‘Thank you sincerely for the love and support you are generously giving at this time – as I will share with staff today – the horrors of evil, do not and will not define our community, that is my oath.
‘Thank you for partnering with me in that commitment.’
Ms McGonigle said Ms James was ‘adored by all’ and also shared a heartfelt message from her colleagues.
‘Lilie’s bright, bubbly personality will be dearly missed. She was a vibrant, smart, compassionate young lady who impacted the lives of many at our school and we are utterly heartbroken by this news,’ they said.
The principal said in any of her dealings with Ms James, she was ‘full of vitality, energy, enthusiasm and a natural fit in our community’.
The school has closed for two days, with the exception of students sitting exams. The gym remains a crime scene.
Pictured: Dr Julie McGonicle, the head of St Andrews Cathedral School
Police went to the gymnasium (pictured) on Wednesday night after Lilie failed to return home
The principal emailed parents on Friday morning vowing to support the families involved in the tragedy
Lilie James’s family breaks their silence
As the school community mourns the beloved water polo coach, Ms James’ grieving family broke their silence to pay tribute to their ‘vibrant’ daughter.
‘We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful Lilie James,’ they said in a statement.
‘She was vibrant, outgoing and very much loved by her friends and family.
‘We are tremendously grateful for the support of the community at this difficult time.’
A source close to the family told Daily Mail Australia everyone in Ms James’ circle is ‘completely numb’.
‘It’s numbing – there are no other words that can describe the pain we’re in,’ they said.
‘Everyone is completely numb.’
Police rescue crews carried equipment down towards the cliff
Officers were seen packing water bottles and other equipment into a crate
Police rescue crews communicate with the team above on the cliff as they negotiated the tricky operation
Ms James was reported missing to police when she failed to return to her family’s Kogarah Bay home, in Sydney’s south, on Wednesday night. She was later found beaten with a hammer.
Thijssen, who she had been in a secret relationship with for just weeks, later rang Triple Zero and told operators there was a body in the school’s gymnasium they should investigate. Some of his possessions were found at the cliffside.
While Ms James’s family and friends try to come to terms with their ‘everlasting grief’, police are desperately trying to piece together the events of the tragic night.
Superintendent Martin Fileman said officers were presented with a ‘confronting’ scene when they arrived at the school due to the severity of her injuries.
A post-mortem examination will be conducted to establish the cause of death.
Police and emergency crews are pictured at the scene on Friday morning
A man could be seen putting on a harness as officers prepared to winch him down the rocks
A jet ski could be seen poised off the rocks as the rider waited for a boat to arrive at the site
Detectives are talking to witnesses and also combing CCTV from the school to piece together what led to the killing.
Ms James was studying sports business at the University of Technology, having graduated from Danebank Anglican School in 2020, while coaching at St Andrew’s part-time.
Supt Fileman said the circumstances of the death would also be confronting for students as it involved school staff.
‘We’re currently working in with the school to ensure the welfare of the students and they have measures in place to make sure those students are taken care of,’ he said.
Meanwhile, tributes have poured in online for the talented young dancer, actor and swimmer whose life was tragically cut short.
‘There was nothing you couldn’t do, beautiful girl. Fly high Lil, we will miss you forever,’ one friend said.
‘Lilie was the most kind, caring, funny and supportive friend there is,’ another friend wrote.
‘I could never think that we would lose our friend in these circumstances. Our world is so cruel. Thank you for the memories and the good times Lilie.’
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