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Simone Strobel: The murder that broke Lismore's heart

German backpacker Simone Strobel was found murdered in Lismore in 2005.
German backpacker Simone Strobel was found murdered in Lismore in 2005. Contributed

 

TEN years ago today, a German backpacker and kindergarten teacher named Simone Strobel arrived in Lismore.

She was reported missing the following morning and her body was found six days later, concealed in long grass and palm fronds next to the old bocce club in Uralba St.

Nobody has ever been charged with her murder, yet the case has attracted interest across the world and last year German police offered a €10,000 reward for information leading to a resolution of the case.

A book by Virginia Peters called 'Have You Seen Simone? - The Story of an Unsolved Murder' also re-ignited interest in the case, particularly when Simone's former boyfriend Tobias Suckfuell (now Toby Moran) tried to have an injunction placed on the publication on the grounds that it defamed him.

However the judge hearing the injunction case in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Kennet Martin, found there was "reasonable suspicion" that Tobias was behind her death.

FROM MISSING TO MURDERED: The Northern Star’s coverage in 2005 of Simone Strobel’s disappearance in Lismore, on February 14 (above left) and 16 (above centre) and, on February 18, the discovery by police of a body 90 metres from her campsite.
FROM MISSING TO MURDERED: The Northern Star’s coverage in 2005 of Simone Strobel’s disappearance in Lismore, on February 14 (above left) and 16 (above centre) and, on February 18, the discovery by police of a body 90 metres from her campsite.

Looking through the archives from The Northern Star from the weeks after Simone's disappearance and the discovery of a body, you get a sense of a city in shock.

A candlelight vigil was held near the bocce club "for the young woman whose death has broken the heart of a city".

There was a sense of fear that it was no longer safe to walk the street at night.

Police released a comfit image of a man seen hanging around the caravan park where Simone was staying with Tobias, Katrin Suckfuell and her boyfriend Jens Martin.

A man was taken in for questioning at Maclean, but released without charge.

There was CCTV footage of Simone leaving the Gollan Hotel about 11.30pm on Friday, February 11, 2005.

The four Germans then returned to the caravan park and Tobias claims that Simone then went for a walk on her own, wearing no shoes, with no money, ID or phone.

A search failed to find anything in the days following. A police dog later found a decomposing body about 90 metres from where Simone had been camping.

No definite cause of death has ever been established, but a coroner's report in 2007 found it was most likely she died of suffocation or smothering asphyxia, possibly from a pillow or plastic bag.

 

Looking back 

LISMORE mayor Jenny Dowell said her thoughts went out to the family of Simone Strobel on the anniversary of her death.

"They have lost someone far too young, far too soon and there is no way of knowing what happened," she said.

Cr Dowell was one of the organisers of a community fund to help Tobias get home to Germany, along with the Simone's body.

"I think we felt a level of community guilt that this terrible thing happened here. It was our way of saying 'we will help you' and expressed our sorrow."

 

Our readers reflect

Kate Olivieri: I remember the time. I was visiting my parents (was living interstate) and my mum told me about it. She felt it was part of a bigger trend of violence and strange things happening at the time. I felt terrible for her, and sad this happened in an overall beautiful town.

Bek McNamara: Yep, I was walking around town with some friends the night it happened. Too close to home.

Mel Davies: Yes remember that time. We had only recently moved to the area from Sydney. Our family took part in the candlelight vigil. I often think about her family.

Lynne Reynolds: We were staying in the caravan park, waiting to move into a rental property. (I) would have walked past her a few times. The gossip was horrific and 

the atmosphere in the park was strange. Was not a good introduction to Lismore and I didn't stay long. We moved back later though.

Grace Cahill: One of the worst things to happen in Lismore.

Jade King: I remember the spot. I remember when they found her body. I remember driving past the spot every day on the way to school.

Tracey Lea Hunter: Will never be forgotten! I still have all the newspaper articles from it.

Hazel McAuslan: Feels like yesterday the police were knocking on my door asking if I heard anything. Can't believe it has been 10 years.

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