Simone remains as a guardian spirit
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
SIMONE STROBEL'S devout Christian family believes her spirit will forever be in Lismore, protecting other travellers from her same tragic fate.
The family of the German kindergarten teacher are Jacobite Christians from the Bavarian village of Rerden, who believe people's spirits never leave the place where they die.
They have kept in contact with Nimbin man Alex Charles who became close friends with Simone, 25, and her boyfriend Tobias Suckfuell, 24, after he employed them at the Nimbin Visitor Information Centre and let them camp on his property.
Simone was found killed and dumped near the Lismore Continental Club in Uralba Street on February 17, six days after she was reported missing from the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park.
Mr Charles said the Strobels strongly believed their 'princess' had become a guardian angel for other visitors to the Northern Rivers.
"Not many people leave the small villages around Wuerzburg," he said.
"The house where you were born is the same house your family has lived in for 500 years. Their belief that Simone's spirit is still in Lismore gives them some sort of understanding about what's happened to her and that it has served a purpose.
"It's almost as if she was sacrificed to watch over others. That's why her family thought it was a good idea to build a stone memorial for her, so it would reinforce her spirit."
Mr Charles's relationship with Simone's family began when her uncle, brother and brother-in-law flew to Australia after learning of her death.
The family, along with Tobias, Tobias's sister and her boyfriend, were taken in by Mr Charles, who provided them with a refuge in the hills near Nimbin during the initial police investigation.
Mr Charles said Tobias's and Simone's families never understood their thirst for travel.
"Their parents couldn't understand why they wanted to go away for a year. Tobias's father wanted him to go and get a job after uni," Mr Charles said.
"Simone saved for two years to pay for the holiday." He said the couple were not typical 'backpacking types'.
"They didn't drink much at all and weren't interested in partying," he said.
"They were mainly interested in culture and the natural aspects of Australia. Simone was quite taken with a platypus she saw in the creek and the sugar gliders and wallabies. That's what she dreamed about seeing at home."
The couple stayed with Mr Charles in December and January, and were on their way back to his property on the night Simone went missing.
Mr Charles said he knew immediately that Simone would not have 'run away' from Tobias, as police originally suspected.
"In all the time I knew them I never saw them argue," he said.
"I was interviewed by detectives four days after she went missing and they were of the opinion she had taken off, but I knew that was completely out of character and suggested they better start looking for her body. Two days later they found it."
Mr Charles has struggled to cope with the loss of Simone and has left his job at the visitors' centre.
However, he said he was slowly coming to terms with the grief and believed Tobias was also gradually recovering.
"The German Government has really looked after Tobias and his family. They provided him with a free house in the Black Forest for six months so he could rest," Mr Charles said.
"The whole family are seeing psychologists, but Tobias is trying to pull himself together. The last email I got from him said he had just got a part-time job at a university. He's still shattered. We all are."