A water polo coach, 21, who was murdered and dumped in a campus bathroom at a prestigious Sydney school was a talented dancer and swimmer with the world at her feet.
Lilie James’ body was found in the gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the CBD after a family member called police at about midnight on Wednesday because she didn’t return home.
A cause of death is yet to be determined, though police say it was a homicide because she had horrific head injuries.
It is understood police are searching for Paul Thijssen, also in his 20s, who is the head hockey coach at the school.
He went missing near Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse, in the city’s eastern suburbs. Detectives and helicopters have been in area since about 5am.
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.
Lilie grew up in Kogarah, in Sydney’s south, with her parents and younger brother, and she was studying at the University of Technology.
She was due to graduate this year with a Bachelor of Management in sports business.
Lilie grew up in Kogarah, in Sydney’s south, with her parents and younger brother (pictured)
Lilie James’ body was found in the gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the CBD
The body of a female staff member has been found on the grounds of a Sydney CBD school
Lilie was a champion swimmer who won an under 17s tournament in 2019.
Her parents’ social media pages were covered in photos of her achievements, which ranged from dancing trophies in primary school to the day she got her learner license in 2018.
A 16-year-old Lilie could be seen standing out the front of her family car in Kogarah, proudly holding a yellow L-plate.
‘Let the fun begin,’ her mother captioned the photo.
Another photo showed Lilie in her school uniform, donning a graduation hat and flowers in 2020 when she finished Year 12 at Danebank Anglican School For Girls.
In March, the tight-knit family took a trip to Hamilton Island in Queensland.
On Thursday morning, detectives were in the school foyer consulting with school officials while forensic officers waited outside early on Thursday morning.
School staff are believed to have called police to the scene.
One photo showed Lilie in her school uniform, donning a graduation hat and flowers in 2020 when she finished high school (pictured)
Lilie James, 22, was a water polo coach at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney’s CBD
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
Parents received messages from 3am from teachers at the school, with principal Dr Julie McGonigle later emailing them later to say the school was closed until next week and an area ‘not accessible to students is a crime zone’.
In one message, the school said no students were involved in the incident.
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 and the 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.
‘The female is an employee of the school. (She had) serious head injuries.
‘The scene was quite confronting.’
He said the crime scene at the school gym was previously described as ‘not accessible’ to students ‘because of the hour’ at which the body was found.
He appealed to ‘anyone who may have knowledge of this homicide’ to contact police or Crimestoppers.
The community is in shock and the school will remain closed for the rest of the week
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
At the second crime scene located at Vaucluse on the coast, teams of police are searching the coastline near Diamond Bay Reserve.
A police helicopter has been reportedly circling the area between the reserve and The Gap at Watsons Bay to the north since before sunrise.
A male colleague of the woman, understood to be a teacher at the school, went missing in the area with officers finding some of his belongings at the reserve along with ‘an item linked to the homicide’.
Shortly after 9am a police rescue helicopter arrived for a possible body retrieval while marine area command continues patrolling the coastline.
A police source told Daily Mail Australia they had been surveying the area from the early hours of Thursday morning.
A rubbish bin, believed to be significant to the investigation, has also been secured behind police tape and covered from the weather under 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.