A Sydney private school has copped fiery backlash over comments made by its headmaster which appeared to praise the character of Lilie James’ suspected murderer.
Lilie James, 21, was allegedly beaten to death with a hammer in a bathroom at St Andrew’s Cathedral College, where she worked as a water polo coach, on October 25.
Police suspect she was killed by her colleague Paul Thijssen, 24, who reported her death to police before his own body was found two days later in waters off Vaucluse in Sydney’s east.
The headmaster of another Sydney private school, Shore, has been the target of outrage on Saturday morning after it was revealed he used the school’s newsletter to comment on the murder.
Shore headmaster John Collier said he got to know Mr Thijssen personally during his time as headmaster at St Andrews, while Mr Thijssen was a student.
“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,” Dr Collier said in the letter, first published in part by the ABC.
Since the ABC article was published, people have flooded to social media to express their disgust at Dr Collier’s comments.
“Shore School headmaster gives masterclass on how to use blind privilege to excuse toxic masculinity,” one person wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“Dr Collier has demonstrated that he cannot see a world beyond his privileged, elite, religious, single sex school in its elite North Shore enclave,” another social media user said.
“The public excuses for an entitled murderer who couldn’t take rejection is appalling,” a third said.
“Such a galling lack of insight from this principal.”
Shore School issued a statement on Saturday in response to the public backlash, explaining it was “never our intention to create any additional distress” for those affected by the tragedy.
“The opinions expressed in this weekly article are deeply personal and reflect the thoughts of a Headmaster who knew the alleged perpetrator and who, like many others, is struggling to make sense of the seemingly senseless,” a Shore spokesperson said.
The spokesperson went on to say that the newsletter was an attempt to consider what response is needed from an all boys school that “seeks to build good men” and how they can deliver character development programs.
“As has always been the case, Dr. Collier’s deepest condolences go to the family and friends of the victim and those who knew her,” the spokesperson said.
“We are committed to ensuring that our content is always respectful and compassionate, particularly regarding such a terrible event.”
It is not the first time Shore School has been at the centre of controversy.
In 2020, a document was leaked detailing the shocking “muck-up day” scavenger hunt planned by Year 12 students which included assault and drug taking.