An ex-principal of the elite school where young teacher Lilie James was murdered has caused a stir with comments in a newsletter article describing her killer as a ‘role model’ and an ‘absolute delight’.
Dr John Collier, who was a former principal of St Andrews Cathedral school in Sydney‘s CBD where Ms James was murdered on October 25, made the comments in a school newsletter, the Shore Weekly Record.
Dr Collier is now the headmaster of all-boys Shore School at North Sydney.
In the column entitled, Looking Into the Face of Savagery, addressed to ‘students, parents and carers’, Dr Collier described Paul Thijssen, who murdered Ms James, as a ‘fine student, a prefect, and a role model’.
Dr John Collier (pictured), a former principal of St Andrews Cathedral school, wrote in a newsletter that Paul Thijssen, who murdered Ms James, was a ‘role model’
‘What is chilling about the tragedy which unfolded at St Andrew’s, the shock and grief of which will cascade for a long time, is that the young man concerned was, in everybody’s estimation, an absolute delight,’ Dr Collier wrote.
‘At the risk of brooking controversy, I have a probably very unpopular alternative question; why does this kind of event not occur more often in our world?’ Dr Collier wrote in one section of the column, before referring to acts of violence and barbarism around the world and throughout history.
Thijssen murdered Ms James, 21, last Wednesday before her body was found by police just before midnight.
The 24-year-old man’s body was found by police and retrieved by rescue crews two days later after Thijssen jumped from Diamond Bay reserve in Vaucluse.
Dr Collier, who was the principal at St Andrews between 2010 and 2022, said he knew Thijssen and he ‘was not a monster’.
He said he ‘committed a monstrous act which was in complete contradiction to what everyone who knew him observed in the rest of this short life’.
He said the former hockey coach carried out an act that was ‘deeply out of character’.
‘This is what makes the situation chilling, in that on every indicator he appeared to be just like the best of us,’ Dr Collier said.
The Shore School told Daily Mail Australia in a statement that Dr Collier’s comments were not intended to’ create any additional distress for those affected by this tragedy’.
Dr Collier, now the headmaster of all-boys Shore School in North Sydney, described Paul Thijssen (pictured centre) in the school’s newsletter as an ‘absolute delight’
‘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 spokesperson said.
‘This edition of our weekly newsletter to parents attempts to consider what responses might be appropriate in a school that seeks to build good men and how our character development programs need to dig deeply into what respect for women fully means.
‘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.’
Yvette Vignando, chief executive of anti-domestic violence organisation Mary’s House, said while Dr Collier may have been trying to make sense of Thijssen’s actions, his comments were not ideal.
Dr Collier said he knew Thijssen (pictured left) when he was the principal at St Andrews between 2010-2022
‘One thing that stood out to me was it was quite jarring to read someone describe, after such an horrific murder, the alleged perpetrator as an ‘absolute delight’, that was not helpful,’ Ms Vignando told the ABC.
Others commented online about Dr Collier’s words, one calling on Shore to ‘censure and sack’ him.
‘If I had a son attending I’d remove him,’ the post on X read.
Thijssen was a sports captain at St Andrews after moving to Australia in 2015 from the Netherlands to study at the school for years 10-12.
He graduated from the school in 2017 and then got a job there as a cricket and hockey coach.
Ms James was a water polo instructor at the school and was also a talented dancer and swimmer.
Daily Mail revealed Ms James was in a ‘secret relationship’ with Thijssen for a matter of weeks leading up to her death. Ms James’ friend said the relationship had only recently ended.
Thijssen is understood to have met Ms James on school grounds on the night he murdered her, after Ms James went to the school to return sports equipment.
Police suspect the man used a hammer to bludgeon Ms James to death before he allegedly dumped the weapon in a bin and returned to his car.
Ms James (pictured) was murdered by Paul Thijssen at the school’s gym last week
Lilie James (pictured) was a water polo coach at the St Andrews Cathedral school
Superintendent Martin Fileman from NSW police said at the time the victim had sustained serious head injuries.
Thijssen sat in his car until 9.49pm last Wednesday night and then drove to another location nearby where he waited two hours before he called police notifying them that there was a body in the school gymnasium.
Following her death Ms James’s family said in a statement: ‘We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful Lilie James’.
‘She was vibrant, outgoing and very much loved by her friends and family.
‘We are tremendously grateful for the support of the community at this difficult time.’
Police are continuing to investigate the cause of Ms James’ death however they believe it was a homicide because she had sustained horrific head injuries.
Police are continuing to investigate the death of Ms James (pictured) however they believe it was a homicide because she had sustained horrific head injuries
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk