Detectives carrying evidence bags have arrived at the home of a man suspected of killing a 21-year-old sports assistant – with chilling CCTV emerging of him walking calmly down a street less than two hours after her death.
Lilie James was found beaten to death in a gym bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD just before midnight on Wednesday.
Police suspect her ex-boyfriend and colleague Paul Thijssen, 24, killed her after she broke off their brief, secret relationship.
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.
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.
Police had arrived at the address an hour after officers finally removed the body of a man believed to be Thijssen from the rocks at Diamond Bay. The remains have been taken away from the Vaucluse reserve in a mortuary van.
Detectives are seen arriving at the home of Paul Thijssen in Kensington in Sydney’s east on Friday afternoon
Police had arrived at the address an hour after officers finally removed the body of a man believed to be Thijssen from the rocks at Diamond Ba
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
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
Chilling CCTV emerges of Thijssen
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.
The 24-year-old 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.
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 the ‘horror and evil’ that 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 vowing to support the James and Thijssen families, and that it 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
Paul Thijssen, a Netherlands-born former student at the school, is suspected of killing her after she ended their brief relationship
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.’
The school has closed for two days, with the exception of students sitting exams. The gym remains a crime scene.
Facebook posts emerge from Thijssen about visa issues
Dr McGonigle’s powerful statement comes as Facebook posts emerge showing Thijssen bragging about relentlessly hassling Australian authorities every single day for a working holiday visa.
In December 2021, the hockey coach, who is originally from the Netherlands, revealed he had successfully secured a visa in Australia after bombarding the Federal government with daily emails.
‘Hi all, I just want to spread some good news,’ he wrote in a group dedicated to foreigners living Down Under.
‘I applied from Europe for my 2nd 417 WHV last Monday, and got it granted today.
‘I emailed the working holiday department every day after I applied, and my guess is that maybe this might’ve actually helped.
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
Thijssen bragged about being pushy with Australian authorities while trying to get a working holiday visa approved in 2021
‘Just want to give you some encouragement to keep on hoping, they’re definitely approving new applications now!’
While some commenters asked for advice on what to write, another said she thought it was ‘funny’ Thijssen contacted authorities so persistently.
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.’
Workers at a construction site in Vaucluse called police about 8am on Friday after spotting a body in the water at the base of a cliff, close to Diamond Bay Reserve, where officers had earlier been searching for Thijssen.
Police rescue crews carried equipment down towards the cliff
One officer was seen carrying a police marquee as police set up a command centre for the operation
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
Officers were seen pushing a body bag up the hill on a stretcher
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.
Authorities spent Friday morning working to retrieve the body from the water, with a Westpac rescue helicopter and a police jetski.
The man’s body, which appeared to be naked, battered and bloated, could be seen slumped between rocks at the base of the cliff.
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 the blue police tent on the Vaucluse reserve and removed the body.
Wrapped in a dark red sheet, the body was taken and placed into a waiting van to be driven away from the site.
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
A silver Lexus sedan was seen being towed from Diamond Bay Reserve on Thursday
Detectives are talking to witnesses and also combing CCTV from the school to piece together what led to the killing.
Thijssen graduated from the school in 2017 and worked there as an assistant sports coach, according to his Linkedin profile.
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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