School community to gather and farewell Lilie James

Lilie James was found dead in a gymnasium bathroom at an elite Sydney private school in October.

Lilie James was found dead in a gymnasium bathroom at an elite Sydney private school in October. Photo: AAP

Family and friends of water polo coach Lilie James have said their final goodbyes at a private memorial in Sydney.

The 21-year-old’s former school, Danebank Anglican School for Girls in Hurstville, which she graduated in 2020, hosted Friday’s memorial.

It was also livestreamed into St Andrew’s Cathedral school, where at least 500 students, teachers and parents gathered to watch together. NSW Premier Chris Minns was also among the attendees.

lilie james

Mourners and students at Friday’s funeral for Lilie James. Photo: AAP

Ahead of Friday’s service, James’ family released a statement.

“Today we are celebrating the life of Lilie James. This day is all about her,” her father Jamie said.

“She was an independent, vibrant young woman who was always on the go and lived each day to the fullest.

“On top of working and studying, Lilie loved coaching and playing water polo.

“She loved to dance. Even with her busy schedule she always still made time to support her brother Max, her friends and her family.

“We cannot thank the community enough for their thoughts, prayers, generosity and messages through this difficult time. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for the many great memories we all share of Lilie.

“Lilie James, we are so proud of you and thank you for sharing a wonderful and jam-packed 21½ years together.”

A white hearse arrived at the school just after 9.30am on Friday. James’ body was carried inside in a white casket covered in flowers, as friends and the school community watched on.

James was found dead with serious head injuries in the elite inner-city school’s gymnasium bathroom last month.

A day later, the body of 24-year-old Paul Thijssen, with whom she is believed to have had a brief relationship, was located by police. He is believed to have killed James before taking his own life.

According to the wishes of James’ family, Friday’s service was private. Her family invited only her friends and the school community.

Head of School at St Andrew’s, Julie McGonigle, said at the time that the school community was left confused by the apparent murder-suicide.

“Our beautiful Ms James, a ray of light, and Mr Thijssen, whose actions are completely incongruent with who we knew,” she said.

Ahead of Friday’s service, she told parents in a newsletter that James was “full of vitality, energy, enthusiasm and a natural fit in our community”.

“Lilie’s bright, bubbly personality will be dearly missed. She was a vibrant, smart, compassionate young lady who impacted the lives of many at our school and we are utterly heartbroken by this news,” she wrote.

McGonigle said the James family had chosen to call the event a celebration of Lilie’s life.

“They joined us this week to share stories from staff about Lilie’s time with us, which was a welcome moment of joy and laughter, at this time of deep sorrow. Lilie was a ray of light, and we are coming together to celebrate her life,” she said.

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– with AAP

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