News

Body may be missing German backpacker

CRIME SCENE: An area in Uralba Street following the discovery of a woman?s body, suspected of being Simone Strobel, inset
CRIME SCENE: An area in Uralba Street following the discovery of a woman?s body, suspected of being Simone Strobel, inset

By ZOE SATHERLEY

SIMONE STROBEL'S body may have lain undiscovered for six days while traffic and pedestrians streamed past in the heart of Lismore.

A police dog yesterday made the grim discovery of a woman's decomposing body, hidden by thick shrubbery and long grass, beside busy Uralba Street.

The body was found at about 9.15am, just 90 metres from where Simone, a 25-year-old German tourist, had been camping with her boyfriend and two friends at Lismore Tourist Caravan Park.

Amid growing fears, police had launched a massive search for the woman early in the morning.

The plan was to comb every drain and ditch, street, park,garage, canal, lane- way and the river for any clues to her mys- terious disappearance just before midnight last Friday.

Children on their way to school watched columns of searchers systemati- cally covering every blade of grass next to the Dawson Street caravan park, where the search began at 8.30am.

On the Wilsons River bank, earlymorning joggers watched as police di- vers donned wetsuits and air tanks, taking to the water with high-powered search- lights.

Near the caravan park a police dog team sprang into ac- tion.

They quickly combed the van park and adjacent open drain when the dog picked up a scent.

He determinedly

led his handler across Uralba Street to the Continental Club, next to Oakes Oval.

There was a flurry of activity, a police car screamed down Dawson Street and minutes lat- er the area was cor- doned off.

About 60 SES volun- teers were euphemisti- cally told to come in and have a cup of tea.

What had begun six days earlier as a fairly common case of a miss- ing tourist suddenly had taken a sinister twist with the discovery of a woman's body.

While Richmond Local Area Commander Supt Bruce Lyons was emphatic that police cannot yet confirm that the body is that of Si- mone Strobel, clearly everyone is acting like it is.

Simone disappeared after going for a short barefoot walk about 11.30pm on Friday with- out taking anything with her.

When she hadn't re- turned within 15 min- utes her boyfriend of six years, Tobias Suck- fuell, 24, his sister Ka- trin Suckfuell, 28, and friend Jens Martin, 25, went looking for her.

But there was no sign of the beautiful young kindergarten teacher, who was in Australia with Tobias for a 12-month working holiday.

While the search was still in progress yester- day Tobias was in tears of frustration.

"Why are they all here now, six days after she went miss- ing?" he asked.

"They should have brought the dogs on Saturday.

"Just this morning I have rung the German consulate in Sydney and asked for their in- tervention and sup- port."

Minutes after the body of the woman was discovered, police whisked Tobias and his sister away to Lismore police station, where the police chaplain was waiting for them.

Jens Martin flew back to Germany yes- terday, because he had to return to his job as a draftsman.

Tobias and Katrin said they had been awake all night, strug- gling to remember ev- ery single detail which might help police in their search.

"We remembered Si- mone had been reading our Australian travel directory, and discov- ered she had left the page open at Sydney backpacker accommoda- tion.

"We rang the police at 2am to tell them.

"It seemed like a ray of hope for us."

Late last night Tobias and Katrin still did not have police confirma- tion that the body which was discovered was that of Simone.

Caravan park resi- dents congregated in small groups, talking about the events of the day.

Co-manager Dianna Kerr said as the mother of three girls the dis- covery of the woman's body had sent shock- waves through her.

"This is not the sort of thing you expect in Lismore," she said.

"It seems nowhere is safe any more."



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