Private school slammed over comments about Lilie James’ suspected murderer

The headmaster of a private school in Sydney has been slammed over comments that appeared to praise the character of Lilie James’ suspected murderer.

James, 21, suffered horrific, fatal head injuries just before midnight on October 25 at St Andrew’s College in the CBD, with her ex-boyfriend and colleague Paul Thijssen, 24, allegedly responsible. After James was found dead, Thijssen’s body was recovered from the base of cliffs at Vaucluse.

Following the tragedy, the headmaster of another private school, Shore, copped backlash on Saturday morning after commenting on the murder in the school’s newsletter.

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Shore headmaster John Collier said he knew Thijssen during his time as headmaster at St Andrews, while Thijssen was a student.

“He was not a monster; rather, in the last five hours of his life, he committed a monstrous act which was in complete contradiction to what everyone who knew him observed in the rest of this short life,” Dr Collier said in the letter, first published by the ABC.

After the letter was sent out Shore copped significant backlash online, with many claiming the comments “excuse toxic masculinity”.

A Shore School spokesperson later responded to the backlash, stating it was “never our intention to create any additional distress” for those affected by the tragedy.

“The opinions expressed in this weekly article are deeply personal and reflect the thoughts of a Headmaster who knew the alleged perpetrator and who, like many others, is struggling to make sense of the seemingly senseless,” the school said in a statement to the ABC.

“As has always been the case, Dr. Collier’s deepest condolences go to the family and friends of the victim and those who knew her.”

It comes as devastated students, teachers and members of the community contributed to a huge collection of floral tributes and notes that piled up at the exclusive St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the wake of her death.

A letter sent to parents and staff on Friday afternoon revealed James’ family had overcome unimaginable grief to visit the memorial created in honour of their daughter.

Lilie James’ family has visited the memorial established in honour of their daughter. Credit: Supplied

“This week the James family visited the school to see the floral tributes, cards and gifts left for Lilie,” St Andrew’s head of school Dr Julie McGonigle said.

“As with every time I have spoken to them, they showed deep concern and compassion for how our students are coping at this time.

“That in itself, is testament to the calibre of this family. Please continue to uphold them in your prayers.”

The memorial will be in place until Sunday before the flowers are relocated to the Remembrance Garden at Kirrikee.

Thijssen is believed to have carried out his crime before using James’ phone to message her dad, asking him to pick her up.

“In essence, either he hoped the father would find Lilie or be there when the police found Lilie because he called them,” University of Newcastle criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett told Sunrise this week.

After flicking off the message, Thijssen fled to Vaucluse in the city’s eastern suburbs and tipped off police with a call.

Paul Thijssen’s body was recovered days after Lilie James was found dead. Credit: Supplied

His body was recovered on October 27 near the base of the cliffs. Items linked to the suspected murder had been found a day earlier near the same spot.

Detectives are not looking for any other suspects.

A GoFundMe campaign launched to support James’ family has raised more than $25,000.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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