true crime

'The sweetest person.' Lilie James' life was just beginning.

On Wednesday, Lilie James went to work like any other day. 

She got dressed. She did her hair. She went to a place she assumed was safe - St Andrew's Cathedral School, where she coached water polo students. A job she loved. 

At just 21 years old, Lilie’s career was just beginning. 

Not so long ago, Lilie was a student at the Danebank Anglican School for Girls. She was studying at Sydney’s University of Technology, and was due to graduate with a Bachelor of Management in Sports Business at the end of the year. 

Picture: Facebook


At just 21 years old, Lilie’s life was just beginning too. Her friends and family say she was as beautiful on the inside, as she was on the outside. 

The sweetest person. 

That’s how her coaching students describe her. “She always put others first,” one student told Channel 7. 

“She would always have something nice or funny to say. She was always encouraging everyone at sport to have a go or try something new.”

Lilie’s vivacious personality made P.E. fun. But she was more than an “amazing” and “strong” coach. Lilie made the people around her feel as though they’d known her forever, her students say. She was one of those people everyone liked.

Picture: Facebook


Lilie was also loved. So loved. By her heartbroken parents, Jamie and Peta, who are now enduring what no parent should ever have to endure. By her little brother Max. She was a granddaughter. A neice. She was loved. 

“We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful daughter Lilie James,” her family said in a statement. 

“She was vibrant, outgoing and very much loved by her family and friends.”

Until last Wednesday, Lilie was busy doing what young people do. 

She was going out with her friends. She was dancing. She was embracing life. She was dating. 

Lilie was a talented actress. She once came second in an eisteddfod reciting a monologue from Macbeth

“I love creating pieces through physicality and I like how it conveys a character’s journey through movement rather than just speaking and relying on the dialogue and expression alone,” she wrote on the school’s website, alongside a video of her performance. “I feel that Lady Macbeth reflects my dramatic side as well. It matches my personality and my style.”


22-year old Lilie James. Image: Supplied. 

Lilie loved sports, and was a champion swimmer as a teenager. 

At the cusp of adulthood, she was both a player and a coach of the sport she so loved, having recently joined the UTS Balmain Water Polo Club team. 

“In only her first few games with her Balmain teammates, Lilie’s friendliness made a mark, impressing those around her with her gentleness and kindness,” the club wrote on its Facebook page. 


On Wednesday, Lilie went to work. She spent the day doing what she loved - coaching her water polo students. On Wednesday night, she walked into the gym bathrooms of St Andrew’s Cathedral School. 

Behind her was Paul Thijssen. The 24-year-old was a colleague, also working in the sports department. They’d dated, briefly, for a just a few short weeks. Lilie had called it off a few days earlier. 

About an hour later, Thijssen walked out of the bathroom. 

Lilie never walked out. 

She will never walk out. She will never play water polo. She will never dance. She will never date. 

Her parents will never hold their daughter in their arms. Her little brother has lost his future best friend.

They will endure this pain for the rest of their lives. 

Lilie’s alleged killer is presumed dead. If true, he will never be held accountable for what he has done. 

Her name is Lilie James. 

She is the 55th woman lost to violence this year. Of those, 51 knew their killer.

She is the third woman murdered by a man known to her in a single week. 

She deserved better. And we must never forget her.

Feature image: Facebook