WE WERE THERE: The murder of Simone broke Lismore's heart
WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's reporting of the Lismore murder of 25-year-old German backpacker Simone Strobel in 2005.
FOR a week before Simone Strobel became the murder that broke Lismore's heart she was a young missing German backpacker.
The Northern Star was there to help raise awareness about the search and has followed the story every step of the way since then.
After six days of searching, including by police divers and the dog squad, Simone's naked body was found hidden under leaves at the Bocce Club, across the road from the Lismore Tourist Holiday Caravan Park, where she, boyfriend Tobias Suckfuell, friend Jens Martin and Tobias' sister, Katrin, had been staying.
Simone's disappearance and death rocked the Northern Rivers, and Lismore in particular, to its core.
Her death triggered grief and remorse in a community that had believed itself safe from such seemingly random violence, and then disbelief and anger as police revealed the reasons they held Tobias - the handsome, grief-stricken young man the community raised money for - as the prime suspect in Simone's death.
Those reasons came out in the inquest into Simone's death in July 2007, more than two years after her death.
During the inquest it was revealed Tobias and Simone's relationship had been deteriorating during their time in Australia. Tobias had been smoking cannabis heavily and was becoming increasingly aggressive and controlling.
Detectives, backed by expert witnesses, challenged Tobias' claim Simone walked off after a disagreement at the caravan park and never returned, suggesting she had returned and Tobias had smothered her to death using a pillow before moving her body to the Bocce Club and hiding it.
However, they conceded they lacked the hard evidence needed to press charges.
Tobias has repeatedly denied killing Simone, but both he and Katrin declined the opportunity to answer the detectives' claims directly by attending the inquest.
The one member of the group who did attend, Jens Martin, admitted he and other members of the group lied to police about key details regarding Simone's disappearance at Tobias' insistence.
Pick up tomorrow's Weekend Star to see how we covered the "death" and subsequent resurrection of Ballina's Big Prawn.