The suspected murderer of 21-year-old Lilie James has been lauded by the headmaster of a Sydney all-boys private school as “not a monster” in a school newsletter. The newsletter has been met with broad criticism by many, including consent activist Chanel Contos.
The shocking story of Lilie James’ death has been at the centre of news focus, after she was found dead in the bathroom of St Andrew’s Cathedral School on October 26. The next day the body of James’ suspected murderer Paul Thijssen was found in Sydney Harbour.
Following the news of James’ death, the headmaster of Shore School, an exclusive private school in North Sydney, published a newsletter titled “Looking In The Face Of Savagery” in which he stated that Thijssen was “an absolute delight” as a student.
“He appeared to be just like the best of us. An hour before he committed the atrocity, he was speaking in a relaxed, friendly mode with staff at that school,” wrote Shore headmaster Dr John Collier.
“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.”
Collier even questioned what sort of “mental disintegration” could have lead Thijssen to allegedly commit such a crime.
Contos said the newsletter was “symbolic of a much larger problem.”
The activist made the point that just because Thijssen may have been a model student “does not mean it’s an anomaly that he could murder somebody.”
“The whole point is that normal people do these crimes,” stated Contos.
“It’s problematic to try and ‘other’ people who perpetrate violence because by doing that, we’re allowing people who exhibit normal behaviours in other forms of life to go unnoticed without accountability.”
She stressed that simplifying criminal actions as only ever committed from evil/sick people can be harmful to the goal of reducing violence.
Doing so, she argued, leads to perceived upstanding citizens and “role model students” facing lesser consequences.
Meanwhile the result for the victims remains the same, regardless of their image.
Since Contos’ criticism, Collier has responded by saying that his newsletter was only meant to be a reflection of the thoughts from someone “struggling to make sense of the seemingly senseless.”
Investigations are still underway into the circumstances of James’ and Thijssen’s deaths.