A 21-year-old water polo coach who was murdered and abandoned in the campus toilet of a prestigious Sydney school was a talented dancer and swimmer who had the world at her feet.
Lily James’ body was found in the gymnasium toilet at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the CBD after a family member called the police about midnight on Wednesday because she had not returned home.
The cause of death has yet to be determined, but police believe it was a homicide as she suffered horrific head injuries.
It is understood police are searching for Paul Thijssen, also in his 20s, who is the school’s head hockey coach.
He went missing near Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse, in the city’s eastern suburbs. Detectives and helicopters had been in the area since about 5 a.m.
Daily Mail Australia witnessed police towing a silver Lexus from the scene around 10am, examining a bin and packing items into brown evidence bags – including what appeared to be a set of Apple AirPods.
Lilie grew up with her parents and younger brother in Kogarah in Sydney’s south.
Lilie grew up with her parents and younger brother in Kogarah in Sydney’s south (pictured).
Lily James’ body was found in the gymnasium toilet at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the CBD
The body of a staff member has been found on the grounds of a school in Sydney’s CBD
Lilie was a champion swimmer who won a U17 tournament in 2019.
Her parents’ social media pages were filled with photos of her achievements, ranging from dance trophies in elementary school to the day she received her learner’s license in 2018.
In Kogarah, a 16-year-old Lily was seen standing in front of her family car, proudly holding a yellow L license plate.
“Let the fun begin,” her mother captioned the photo.
Another photo showed Lilie in her school uniform, putting on a graduation cap and flowers as she graduated high school in 2020.
In March, the close-knit family took a trip to Hamilton Island in Queensland.
Detectives were in the school lobby consulting with school officials Thursday morning, while forensic investigators waited outside early Thursday morning.
It is believed school staff called police to the scene.
One photo showed Lily in her school uniform, donning a graduation cap and flowers as she graduated high school in 2020 (pictured)
Lilie James, 22, was a water polo coach at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD
Two crime scenes were identified at the school where the staff member was found and at The Gap in Vaucluse, where her male colleague disappeared
The parents began receiving messages from the school’s teachers at 3 a.m., and principal Dr. Julie McGonigle later sent them an email saying the school was closed until next week and that an area not accessible to students was “a crime zone.”
In a statement, the school said no students were involved in the incident.
Superintendent Martin Fileman said the victim suffered serious head injuries.
At a press conference at the Day Street Police Station, he said the Police Air Wing and officers on site were searching the coastline off South Head and the reserve for evidence.
He would not say whether police believe the man they are looking for is alive or dead.
“We are looking for a man in his early 20s.” He is employed at the school.
“The woman is an employee of the school.” (She had) severe head injuries.
“The scene was quite confronting.”
He said the crime scene in the school’s gymnasium had previously been described as “off limits” to students “because of the hour” the body was found.
He appealed to “anyone who may have knowledge of this murder” to contact police or Crimestoppers.
The community is in shock and the school will be closed for the rest of the week
Officers combed the coast on Thursday morning at the crime scene, which is believed to be linked to the CBD crime scene
A silver Lexus sedan was seen being towed from Diamond Bay Reserve around 10am
At the second coastal crime scene in Vaucluse, police teams search the coast near Diamond Bay Reserve.
A police helicopter was reportedly circling the area between the reserve and The Gap at Watsons Bay to the north before dawn.
A male colleague of the woman, believed to be a teacher at the school, was missing in the area. Officers found some of his belongings on the reservation as well as “an item linked to the murder.”
Shortly after 9 a.m., a police rescue helicopter arrived to carry out a possible body recovery Naval Area Command continues to patrol the coast.
A police source told Daily Mail Australia they had been investigating the area since the early hours of Thursday morning.
A trash can believed to be important to the investigation was also secured behind police tape and protected from the elements under a canopy.
A rubbish bin at Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse has been taped off as part of a crime scene
Specialized police rescue teams are involved in the operation in The Gap
Shortly after 10am, a silver 2003 Lexus sedan could be seen being towed from Chris Bang Crescent overlooking the Diamond Bay reserve.
More than 25 uniformed officers searched the area, searching through gutters and bushes for evidence.
Plainclothes police officers could be seen talking to a nearby resident.
Detectives, uniformed police officers and specialized police rescue team members combed the high cliffs, which were also cordoned off with police tape.
Forensic investigations continue this morning.