Sun. May 26th, 2024
alert-–-exclusive:-‘arrogant’-hockey-coach-suspected-of-murdering-female-colleague-lilie-james-was-a-polarising-figure-at-st-andrews-cathedral-school-who-was-liked-by-girls-but-hated-by-many-boys,-ex-student-saysAlert – EXCLUSIVE: ‘Arrogant’ hockey coach suspected of murdering female colleague Lilie James was a polarising figure at St Andrews Cathedral school who was liked by girls but hated by many boys, ex student says


A hockey coach who is wanted for questioning over the death of a young female water polo instructor was an ‘arrogant’ person who was liked by girls but hated by boys, an ex-student says.

Paul Thijssen, 24, is the subject of a police manhunt after the body of 21-year-old Lilie James was found in the gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD on Thursday morning. 

Daily Mail Australia has been told by sources close to Ms James that the pair had struck up a ‘secret relationship’ in the past several weeks. 

It is understood Thijssen met up with Ms James on school grounds on Wednesday evening before her body was found with horrific injuries at about midnight. 

Police are now reviewing CCTV footage at the school.  

Paul Thijssen is pictured in 2017, graduating from St Andrew’s Cathedral School. The photo was captioned: ‘Awesome photo of the guys after graduation.’

Lilie James’ body was found in the gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD

Ms James’ body was found in the bathrooms at the school’s indoor gymnasium (pictured)

Thijssen tutored St Andrews students in hockey. He attended the school from Years 10 to 12 after moving from the Netherlands to Sydney with his family during his senior years. 

A single photo from 2017 shows that happy time in his life, dressed in the CBD school’s distinctive navy blazer and grey pants. ‘Awesome photo of the guys after graduation,’ the photo was captioned. 

A former student who went to school with Mr Thijssen told Daily Mail Australia that he was a talented hockey player who seemed competitive and confident.

‘He was pretty passionate about the sport,’ the student said. 

‘I didn’t really speak to him off the field but I know people who had a really positive and really negative view of him.’

He said the majority of people with negative opinions were male, but ‘some of the girls held him in a positive light’. 

‘I don’t know what experiences people had with him that formed their opinion, but I know that when we’d talk about the training session or whatever people would either talk badly about him or talk him up.’

Upon returning to Australia from the Netherlands in 2020, Thijssen took up a sports assistant role at St Andrews on a full time basis and started coaching hockey and cricket. 

It was there that he met Ms James. He is also understood to have worked as a hockey coach at nearby St Vincent’s school in Potts Point, and is still listed on their website.

Superintendent Martin Fileman said that Ms James had sustained serious head injuries. 

One line of police inquiry is that Thijssen may have taken his own life. 

Paul Thijssen, 24, was a hockey and cricket coach at St Andrews

A silver Lexus was towed from Diamond Bay in Vaucluse on Thursday morning

‘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,’ Supt. Fileman said.

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.

READ MORE: Female water polo coach Lilie James’s body found ‘in the bathroom’ at prestigious school


‘We are looking for a male in his early 20s. He is employed by the school,’ he said.

‘The female is an employee of the school. (She had) serious head injuries.’

Daily Mail Australia witnessed police towing away a silver Lexus from the scene 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.

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.

Lilie James is pictured with her parents and brother during a recent trip to Hamilton Island

Police taped the school off on Thursday morning after Ms James’ body was found 

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 Thijsenn’s belongings 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.

Investigations will continue throughout the day. 

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