Loved ones and acquaintances are honoring the memory of Lilie James, a water polo coach and university student from Sydney, for her vibrant and cheerful demeanor. As students get ready to resume classes next week at the prestigious private school where she tragically lost her life, she is fondly remembered.
On Wednesday at around midnight, the body of 21-year-old James was discovered in a bathroom connected to the gymnasium at St. Andrew’s Cathedral school. He had sustained severe head injuries and was pronounced dead.
Authorities characterized the situation as “confrontational” and were attempting to contact Paul Thijssen, a former student and colleague of the school, regarding the fatality.
On Friday, the James family released a statement expressing gratitude to the community for their support. They fondly remembered their daughter and sister as a lively, sociable, and deeply cherished young woman.
“Our hearts are broken and we are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Lilie James,” expressed the statement.
We deeply appreciate the encouragement from our community during this challenging period.
On Friday afternoon, Dr. Julie McGonigle, the head of the school, sent a message to parents stating that the police had confirmed the killing was not predictable and promised to not let the school community be defined by the “terrors of evil.”
McGonigle informed parents that, according to the NSW police representative’s thorough investigation, the event was completely unexpected.
“There are no words for what has occurred. It is like entering a foreign land which possesses no words.”
The school was closed for all students except for those taking their year 12 exams on Thursday and Friday.
McGonigle described James as a highly cherished assistant in the sports department.
“Lilie was highly involved with the entire student body and, as you are aware from your children, she was greatly loved by everyone,” stated McGonigle.
During all my interactions with Lilie, she consistently displayed liveliness, vigor, and a genuine connection with our community.
McGonigle also shared a message from some of James’s nearest associates.
They expressed that they will deeply miss Lilie’s cheery and energetic character.
“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.”
According to McGonigle, the school’s main focus was to provide assistance to the parents, brother, and extended family of the sports assistant.
She expressed solidarity with them in their suffering.
“The atrocities of wickedness do not and will not shape our identities. It is our responsibility to wholeheartedly embrace this truth each day, and at times, each passing moment, in order to manifest it into our reality. I have faith that we are capable of achieving this.”
On Monday, students can go back to school while following safety measures and providing additional counselors for their well-being.
The gym will be off-limits and one of the libraries will be converted into a counseling center for walk-in appointments.
McGonigle recommended that students refrain from using social media whenever possible and instead reach out to someone if they have any concerns.
On Friday, authorities continued their pursuit of Thijssen and discovered a body in the water near the Gap around noon. Though the body’s identity has not yet been determined, it has been confirmed to be that of a male.
Thijssen completed their studies at St Andrew’s in 2017 and has since held multiple positions at the school, such as after-hours coordinator and sports coach.
In Australia, the emergency hotline for crisis support is 13 11 14 and the national helpline for domestic violence counseling is 1800 737 732. Additional global hotlines can be located at befrienders.org.