For 17 years, the community of Lismore has grieved the death of a 25-year-old German backpacker many had never met.
- The Lismore community felt shame, grief and under suspicion following the discovery of Simone Strobel’s body in 2005
- Ms Strobel’s family hold no anger toward the town of Lismore, where their daughter was found murdered
- The arrest of a man in relation to her death is helping to heal the community of Lismore
Simone Strobel’s body was found naked, concealed under palm fronds on a bocce court five days after she was reported missing in February 2005.
The kindergarten teacher spent the fortnight before her death traveling the east coast of Australia with her boyfriend, his sister and their friend.
No one has ever been charged over her death.
Police this week arrested a 42-year-old man in relation to the backpacker’s death.
He is now being extradited to NSW from Western Australia.
‘They need answers’
Jenny Dowell was a Lismore City councilor at the time, who later went on to become the mayor.
She said when she heard the news of the arrest, her first thoughts were for Ms Strobel’s family.
“They need answers, they need justice and I’m hoping this news results in that,” she said.
A coronial inquiry in 2007 found the evidence available at the time did not warrant the matter being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In 2005, detectives from Richmond Police District established Strike Force Howea to investigate Ms Strobel’s death and continued to work with its German counterparts.
Ms Dowell said despite much work going on in the background, many in Lismore thought police had forgotten about the case.
Ms Dowell said the community of Lismore had rallied around the Strobel family all those years ago.
One local travel agent even launched a fundraiser for them.
“People were pouring into the travel agent to donate money,” she said.
“The fence near the bocce club was filled with flowers and candles and tributes and everyone was talking about it.
“We were all mortified that this young person had come to such an awful end in our community.
Family holds no animosity towards Lismore
Ms Dowell said the murder had shaken the Lismore community to its core.
“There was a feeling of great shame, huge grief and suspicion, worry and all those sort of things. It was an incredible time,” she said.
Ms Dowell was in contact with the family in the years after Ms Strobel’s body was found.
“The family didn’t feel any animosity or anger towards Lismore. They were very touched that our community was caring about Simone,” Ms Dowell said.
“The family sent me a beautiful postcard with a poem that was one of Simone’s favourites.
“They sent me a little heart as a symbol of love for our community and for their care.”
That poem is now inscribed on a granite bench in a park near the caravan park. Ms Strobel was staying at, meters away from where her body was found.
Ms Dowell said Ms Strobel’s family wanted Lismore to remember their daughter.