December 10, 2023

Lilie James death: Body recovered in hunt for alleged killer Paul Thijssen of 21-year-old Sydney water polo instructor

Lilie James was found dead in the school’s gym bathroom on Wednesday night. Photo / Facebook

The body of a man suspected of killing a 21-year-old water polo instructor at an elite Sydney school has been found at a cliffside park.

Lilie James was found dead in the gym bathroom of St Andrew’s Cathedral School located in Sydney’s CBD.

She was allegedly killed with a hammer after midnight at the school, reports.

Sydney police have been searching since Thursday for an ex-boyfriend of James who went missing in relation to the alleged murder.

According to The Daily Telegraph, James had recently broken up with her colleague Paul Thijssen, a 24-year-old sports coach at the school.

Thijssen had notified police of a body at the school and CCTV footage captured him leaving the school gym, according to

His phone was traced to a cliffside park in the eastern Sydney suburb of Vaucluse by police.

A backpack and a number of belongings believed to be Thijssen’s were found in the area.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ambulances and police arrived at Diamond Bay in Vaucluse just after 8am, sectioning off a part of the cliff with tape.

A police rescue crew recovered a body from the base of the cliffs in Vaucluse earlier this afternoon.

Local news reports stated that investigators have established a forensics tent in the area.

“A police operation is currently underway to retrieve a body in Vaucluse,” NSW Police said in an earlier statement. “No further information is available at this time.”

A police spokesperson did not confirm the identity of the body found.

James had been coaching students at the school on Wednesday afternoon. Just before midnight, emergency services found her body with “serious head injuries” according to The Daily Mail.

Thijssen was pictured in CCTV footage reportedly obtained by police, Thijssen and James are seen walking into the gym bathroom. Thijssen is then seen more than an hour later leaving the school alone, says

The Daily Telegraph states a fight is thought to have broken out between the pair at the school late on Wednesday evening.

“From her injuries, it was apparent that she was a victim of homicide,” Detective Superintendent Martin Fileman told local media.

Fileman said the scene was “quite confronting” for the first responders.

James’ family said in a statement, “We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful Lilie James.

“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.”

DS Fileman said on Thursday morning they were investigating the possibility of whether Thijssen had committed suicide in the surrounding areas.

“We don’t want to make any assumptions of the fact that that person may have taken his own life, but that’s just another line of inquiry we’re looking at at the moment.”

News reports say that a team of investigators found an “item linked to the homicide” in the area.

DS Fileman says investigators believe there is no history of domestic violence between Thijssen and James.

One person who knew him well from the school told the Sydney Morning Herald: “There was nothing whatsoever to indicate any future trouble.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns described the tragedy as a “horrible, horrible” crime. “One of the worst that I’ve seen in my public life.”


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