Water polo coach Lilie James, 21, found dead inside Sydney school was dating man police are seeking over murder

A woman found dead inside a prestigious Sydney CBD school had been dating the man police are searching for in relation to the grim discovery.

The revelation came as heartbroken students at the school paid tribute to the 21-year-old.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Relationship break up believed to be behind murder of young woman inside Sydney school.

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Water polo coach Lilie James, 21, was found dead inside a gymnasium bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral School, where she worked, just before midnight on Wednesday following concerns from her father.

Sydney City Police Area Commander Superintendent Martin Fileman said she had suffered serious head injuries.

“From her injuries, it was apparent she was a victim of a homicide,” he told reporters on Thursday morning.

Police revealed they were searching for a man later identified as Paul Thijssen.

Thijssen, 24, who once attended the school as a student after moving to Australia from the Netherlands, is understood to also be a staff member at St Andrew’s.

7NEWS understands the pair had been dating but recently split.

Following the discovery on Wednesday, a second crime scene was established about 11km away at Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse, where “property associated with the homicide” was located — including a pair of Apple iPods and a hammer.

Police do not believe Thijssen is a threat to any other staff, students or the broader community.

Lilie James was found dead inside the school. Credit: Facebook
Police are looking for Paul Thijssen. Credit: LinkedIn

Thijssen is believed to have a long history with the school, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He attended the school as a student from 2015 to 2017, where he was a sports captain and part of the school leadership team.

He then took on a sports assistant role the following year, before attending university in the Netherlands.

7NEWS understands Thijssen was the hockey coach at St Vincent’s College in Potts Point for some time, and was until this morning listed on the school’s website as the hockey coach for the school’s most recent season.

‘We love you’

News of James’ death sent shockwaves throughout the school community, one parent told 7NEWS.com.au.

“St Andrew’s Cathedral School is a happy and tight-knit community for parents and students — it’s horrible to think about such a sad, brutal tragedy happening in the very building we love so much,” the parent said.

“It will be so hard for all of us to move on from this, and thoughts are with the victim’s family, students and fellow teachers.”

Students who were coached by James also paid tribute to her, telling 7NEWS.com.au, “she always had a smile on her face”.

“She always pushed us to try our best,” one student said.

James has been remembered as someone who was ‘always smiling’. Credit: Facebook
It’s believed James and Thijssen had been dating for five weeks. Credit: Facebook

“Lilie, we love you so much whatever happened to you, you didn’t deserve it,” another student said.

“I hope that you find a spot in Heaven and thank you for being such a nice coach and friend.

“You will be in all of our prayers and hearts. Thank you for making PE so much fun, thank you for being an amazing and strong coach, and thank you for being there. We love you.”

A third student described James as being the ”sweetest person”.

“She always put others first. 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,” the student said.

“She was one of the most amazing people, everyone liked her. I met her this year, and I feel like I have known her forever.

“I’m so glad that I met her, and she will always have a special place in my heart.”

Paul Thijssen. Credit: Instagram

Water Polo New South Wales CEO Alex Godbold said the water polo community was “shocked and saddened” to learn of James’ death, who had joined as a member of Balmain this season.

“Her loss will be felt across her Club and indeed the broader water polo community, including her students at St Andrew’s Cathedral School,” he said.

“While we all come to terms with this tragic news, Water Polo Australia and Water Polo NSW will be working to provide support to her club mates and friends within our community.”

Police investigation

Meanwhile, police are speaking to a number of witnesses and also combing CCTV from the school as part of their investigation.

Fileman said the crime scene was “confronting”.

“We’re currently working with the school to ensure the welfare of the students and they have measures in place to make sure those students are taken care of,” he said.

A second crime scene was established at Vaucluse. Credit: 7NEWS
Police tape seen at the school on Thursday. Credit: AAP

St Andrew’s will be closed for the rest of the week, except for students sitting their Year 12 exams.

“No students were involved and there is no ongoing threat,” the school said.

“An area of the school, not accessible to students, is a crime zone, and we await the approval of police before bringing everyone back on site.”

The school has brought in counsellors to offer professional support to students and parents.

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