The late Lilie James, a water polo coach and university student in Sydney, is being fondly remembered by loved ones and colleagues for her vibrant and cheerful demeanor. As students gear up to go back to the prestigious private school where she tragically lost her life, she remains in their thoughts.
At approximately midnight on Wednesday, James, who was 21 years old, was discovered deceased in a bathroom connected to the gymnasium at St Andrew’s Cathedral school. He had sustained severe head injuries.
Authorities characterized the situation as “confronting” and are looking to communicate with Paul Thijssen, a former student of the school and colleague of the victim, regarding the death.
On Friday, the James family released a statement expressing gratitude towards the community for their support. They fondly remembered their daughter and sister as a lively, sociable, and greatly cherished young woman.
“We are deeply saddened and grief-stricken over the passing of our beloved Lilie James,” the statement expressed.
We deeply appreciate the support of our community during this challenging period.
Dr. Julie McGonigle, the head of the school, sent a message to parents on Friday afternoon in which she stated that the police had reassured her that the tragedy was not predictable. She also promised that the school community would not be defined by the “evils” of this act.
McGonigle informed parents that according to the thorough investigation conducted by a representative from NSW police, the event was unforeseeable.
“There are no words for what has occurred. It is like entering a foreign land which possesses no words.”
On Thursday and Friday, the school was closed for all students except for those taking their year 12 exams.
According to McGonigle, James was a greatly adored sports assistant.
“Lilie was highly engaged with the entire student body and, as you may have noticed from your children, she was beloved by all,” stated McGonigle.
“In every interaction I had with Lilie, she exuded liveliness, vigor, and a genuine sense of belonging in our community.”
McGonigle additionally published a message from some of James’s nearest associates.
They expressed that they will deeply miss Lilie’s lively and cheerful demeanor.
“We are deeply saddened by this news as she was a vivacious, intelligent, and kind young woman who made a positive impact on the lives of many at our school.”
According to McGonigle, the main focus for the school was providing assistance to the parents, brother, and extended family of the sports assistant.
She expressed solidarity with them during their difficult time.
“The horrors of evil do not and will not define us. We will have to all strongly commit to that truth every day, and sometimes every moment of the day, to make it a reality. I know we can.”
On Monday, students can resume attending school with several safety and well-being measures in place, such as the availability of additional counselors.
The gym will be off-limits and one of the libraries will be converted into a walk-in counseling center.
McGonigle suggested that students limit their use of social media and instead reach out to someone if they have any worries or concerns.
On Friday, authorities continued to look for Thijssen. At around noon, they retrieved a body from the water near the Gap. The body has not yet been identified, but officials have confirmed that it was a male.
Thijssen completed their studies at St Andrew’s in 2017 and has since been employed by the school in multiple positions, such as an after-hours coordinator and a sports coach.
In Australia, the emergency hotline for crisis support is 13 11 14 and the national hotline for family violence counseling is 1800 737 732. For additional international helplines, please visit befrienders.org.