Detectives are searching for the one-time hockey head coach at a prestigious Sydney school, after a 21-year-old female water polo instructor was found dead in the gym bathroom with horrific injuries.
Lilie James was found dead inside St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the CBD about midnight on Thursday morning after her father contacted police when she failed to return home.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal Ms James was in a ‘secret relationship’ leading up to her death.
According to a close friend, Ms James had been going out with ‘someone she shouldn’t have been’.
A crime scene has been established, the school has been closed to students except for Year 12 pupils doing exams, and forensic investigators are scouring the grounds of the school.
Police on Thursday launched a massive search for a male colleague of Ms James – 24-year-old Netherlands-born Paul Thijssen – near the clifftop at Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse.
Thijssen is wanted for questioning by detectives.
It is understood Ms James and Mr Thijssen had been dating for a matter of weeks and their relationship had recently ended.
Daily Mail Australia witnessed police towing away a silver Lexus from Diamond Bay Reserve about 10am, investigating a bin and packing items into brown evidence bags – including what appeared to be a set of Apple AirPods.
Ms James’ cause of death will be determined via a post-mortem examination, though police have already deemed it a homicide due to the nature of the injuries.
Lilie James, 22, was a water polo coach at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD. She was found dead in a gym bathroom last night
Police are searching for Paul Thijssen, a Netherlands-born former student at the school, who has served as the hockey coach
Police were seen putting a pair of Apple AirPods found at Diamond Bay Reserve, Vaucluse into brown evidence bags
A second crime scene has been established at Diamond Bay Reserve at Vaucluse where police are searching for a male colleague of Ms James
The body of water polo coach Lilie James has been found on the grounds of a Sydney CBD school
Police have established a crime scene which is under forensic examination
A message was sent out to parents early on Thursday morning (left) and a follow up message was then sent saying an area of the school ‘not accessible to students is a crime zone’
Thijssen was sports captain at St Andrews, after moving to Australia in 2015 to study at the school for years 10-12.
He graduated from the school in 2017 and then got a job there as a cricket and hockey coach.
It is understood he met up with Ms James on school grounds on Wednesday night, with police now carefully scouring CCTV footage.
Police said other staff members were understood to be present on campus at the time the woman’s body was found, but police would not confirm why they were there.
Superintendent Martin Fileman said the victim had sustained serious head injuries.
He told a press conference at Day Street Police Station that Police Air Wing and officers on the ground were scouring the coastline off South Head – at the entry to Sydney Harbour – and the surrounding reserve for evidence.
He would not say whether police believe the male they are seeking is alive or dead.
‘We are looking for a male in his early 20s. He is employed by the school,’ he said.
‘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.’
‘The female is an employee of the school. (She had) serious head injuries.
‘The scene was quite confronting.’
Parents received messages from 3am from teachers at the school, with principal Dr Julie McGonigle later emailing them to say the school was closed until next week and the bathroom area ‘not accessible to students is a crime zone’.
In one message, the school said no students were involved in the incident.
Friends and family are gathering at the Jame’s family home on Thursday afternoon.
Her father Jamie James politely declined to comment.
The community is in shock and the school will remain closed for the rest of the week
Ms James was a talented athlete winning several awards throughout high school
Her father Jamie James politely declined to comment saying he had to speak with police
Two crime scenes have been established at the school where the female staff member was found and at The Gap at Vaucluse where her male colleague went missing
Officers scour the coastline on Thursday morning at the scene which is understood to be connected to the CBD crime scene
A silver Lexus sedan was seen being towed from Diamond Bay Reserve about 10am
Thijssen (left) graduated from St Andrews school in 2017 and went on to work there
Thijssen had moved to Australia from the Netherlands in 2015 for Years 10, 11 and 12
Refusing to confirm if either the male or female was a teacher, the senior police officer said officers had responded to a welfare check call around midnight.
Supt Fileman said it was ‘a very sad time for family, school staff and students’.
He appealed to ‘anyone who may have knowledge of this homicide’ to contact police or Crimestoppers.
There was no reason to believe anyone else was involved.
At the Vaucluse search, a police helicopter had been circling the area between Diamond Bay reserve and The Gap at Watsons Bay since before sunrise.
Officers found some of the belongings of Ms James’ male colleague at the reserve along with ‘an item linked to the homicide’. It was unclear what exactly this was.
Shortly after 9am a police rescue helicopter arrived for a possible body retrieval while marine area command continued patrolling the coastline.
A rubbish bin, believed to be significant to the investigation, has also been secured behind police tape and covered from the morning rain by a canopy.
A rubbish bin at Diamond Bay Reserve at Vaucluse has been taped off as part of a crime scene
Specialist Police Rescue teams are involved in the operation at The Gap
A 2003 silver Lexus sedan could be seen being towed from Chris Bang cresent overlooking Diamond Bay reserve just after 10am.
More than 25 uniformed officers canvassed the area – looking through gutters and bushes in a bid to retrieve evidence.
Plain-clothed detectives could be seen speaking to a nearby resident.
Detectives, uniformed officers along with specialist police rescue team members are scouring the high cliffs – which were also cordoned off with police tape.
Forensic examinations will continue this morning.
A male teacher at the school is understood to have gone missing from the area
Police carefully search the area around the cliffs for evidence
More than 25 police officers were searching the cliffs, parklands and surrounding streets