The headteacher of the school where 21-year-old sports assistant Lilie James was found murdered has written a powerful letter to parents condemning the “horror and evil” that took place at the site.
Facebook posts have emerged shedding light on the alarming behavior of her alleged murderer, Paul Thijssen, as the Dutch-born 24-year-old applied for an Australian visa.
Ms James was found beaten to death in the toilet of a gymnasium at St Andrew’s Cathedral School just before midnight on Wednesday.
Police suspect her ex-boyfriend and colleague Thijssen, 24, killed her after breaking off their brief, secret relationship before heading to the cliffs of Vaucluse.
Tradesman discovered a body in the water at the base of the cliff around 8 a.m. Friday. It was picked up around midday. It has yet to be officially identified.
As the St. Andrew’s community grapples with the tragedy, principal Julie McGonigle sent a letter to parents Friday promising 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 at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the city’s central business district around midnight on Thursday morning after her father contacted police when she failed to return home
Paul Thijssen, a Dutch-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 focusing our communications on what is respectful to them and in step with the New South Wales Police.”
“I will not move at a pace that ignores these priorities.”
“Thank you for the love and support you generously give during 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 this effort.”
The school will be closed for two days, except for students taking exams. The gym remains a crime scene.
Dr. McGonigle’s powerful statement comes at a time when Facebook posts are surfacing in which Thijssen boasts that he is relentlessly lobbying Australian authorities every day for a working holiday visa.
In December 2021, the ice hockey coach, originally from the Netherlands, announced that he had successfully secured a visa in Australia after bombarding the federal government with daily emails.
“Hello everyone, I just want to spread some good news,” he wrote in a group aimed at foreigners living Down Under.
“I applied for my second 417 WHV in Europe last Monday and got it approved today.
“I emailed the working holiday department every day after I applied and I suspect that may have actually helped.”
After Lilie failed to return home, police went to the gym (pictured) on Wednesday evening.
The principal wrote an email to parents Friday morning, promising to support the families involved in the tragedy
Thijssen bragged about being pushy to Australian authorities when trying to get a working holiday visa approved in 2021
“I just want to encourage you a little to keep hoping that new applications will definitely be approved now!”
While some commenters asked for advice on what to write, another said she found it “weird” that Thijssen was so persistent in contacting the authorities.
Lily James’ family breaks their silence
As the school community mourns the loss of the beloved water polo coach, Ms James’ grieving family broke their silence to pay tribute to their “vibrant” daughter.
“We are devastated and heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful Lily James,” they said in a statement.
“She was lively, outgoing and deeply loved by her friends and family.
“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support during this difficult time.”
A source close to the family told Daily Mail Australia that everyone around Ms James was “completely tone deaf”.
“It’s numbing – there are no other words to describe the pain we are in,” they said.
“Everyone is completely deaf.”
Police and rescue workers can be seen at the scene of the accident on Friday morning
A man could be seen putting on a harness as officers prepared to drag him down the rocks
A jet ski could be seen hanging over the rocks as the driver waited for a boat to arrive at the site
Workers at a construction site in Vaucluse called police around 8am on Friday after making the grisly discovery near Diamond Bay Reserve, where officers had previously searched for Thijssen.
Ms James was reported missing to police when she failed to return to her family home in Kogarah Bay, southern Sydney, on Wednesday evening. She was later found beaten with a hammer.
Thijssen, with whom she had been in a secret relationship for just a few weeks, later called Triple Zero and told operators that there was a body in the school gymnasium that should be examined. Some of his possessions were found on the cliff.
Authorities worked to remove the body from the water on Friday morning using a Westpac rescue helicopter and a police jet ski.
The body, which appeared to be naked, battered and bloated, was seen slumped between rocks at the base of the cliff.
As Ms James’ family and friends try to come to terms with her “eternal grief”, police are desperately trying to piece together the events of the tragic night.
Superintendent Martin Fileman said officers were presented with a “confrontational” picture when they arrived at the school due to the severity of their injuries.
An autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death.
Investigators are speaking to witnesses and also searching the school’s video surveillance to determine what led to the murder.
Mr. Thijssen graduated from the school in 2017 and worked there as an assistant athletic trainer, according to his Linkedin profile.
Ms James studied sports business at the University of Technology after graduating from Danebank Anglican School in 2020, while working part-time as a coach at St Andrew’s.
A silver Lexus sedan was seen being towed from Diamond Bay Reserve on Thursday
Supt Fileman said the circumstances of the death would also be challenging for the students as they were school staff.
“We are currently working with the school to ensure the welfare of students and they have taken steps to ensure these students are cared for,” he said.
Tributes have now 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’ll miss you forever,” said a friend.
“Lilie was the kindest, most caring, funniest, most supportive friend there is,” another friend wrote.
“I never thought we would lose our friend under these circumstances. Our world is so cruel. Thank you for the memories and good times, Lily.’
For confidential support, call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732