It should have been her big trip, but the trip to Australia ended in death for the then 25-year-old German Simone Strobel. She was murdered in early 2005. The Australian and, to some extent, the German police investigated for 17 years.
For a long time, little seemed to be happening in the case, which had shocked the whole of Australia, but especially the citizens of the small town of Lismore on the east coast. That’s where the crime happened. In 2020, a million Australian dollar reward – the equivalent of 685,000 euros – was offered for information. But that didn’t help either.
Now the events rolled over: On Tuesday it became known that Strobel’s then German friend Tobias M. had been arrested in Perth. He lived there with his wife and children. After the marriage, he had adopted the Australian’s name.
On Wednesday, Tobias M. was then transferred to the authorities in Sydney. There the 42-year-old was charged on Thursday with murder and with obstructing criminal prosecution.
Flashback: Simone Strobel from the district of Würzburg wants to spend a year traveling through Australia with her then 24-year-old boyfriend on a working holiday visa in a mobile home. At the beginning of 2005, the friend’s sister and her friend from Germany joined them. The four are at a campsite in Lismore.
There, after a boozy evening, there appears to be a dispute. Shortly before midnight, Strobel leaves the campsite. The friends are still looking for her that night. Vain. The next morning they report Strobel missing.
Police scoured the city for six days until the young woman’s body was finally discovered on a sports field about 90 meters from the campsite: naked and covered with palm fronds. A clear cause of death could not be determined.
In 2007, a coroner concluded that Strobel most likely suffocated with a pillow or plastic bag. In particular, Strobel’s boyfriend at the time was targeted by the Australian and German police. Tobias M. was considered a suspect for years. He always maintained his innocence.
A judicial investigation into the case in 2007, to which only the acquaintance, but not Tobias M. or his sister, traveled, again came to no conclusive conclusion. “The investigation ended with a lot of question marks,” Virginia Peters said in a 2020 interview. The Australian author, who lives just 25 minutes from the scene of the crime, has written a book about the tragedy. Peters interviewed the German for her book. He then sued the author for defamation in 2014, but later dropped the lawsuit.
Peters, who was deeply touched by the young woman’s death, traveled to Germany to do her book research to meet the murder victim’s siblings and parents. “It’s been absolute hell for her,” she said. Police Chief Scott Tanner said the family is still suffering. “She was on the adventure of a lifetime in a foreign country and they never got to say goodbye.”
Now the relatives would feel a “feeling of relief”. Simone’s father Gustl Strobel told the newspaper “Main-Post” after the news from Australia in an initial reaction: “We are completely surprised. We have to collect ourselves first.”
According to a report by local broadcaster ABC, the Australian police have issued arrest warrants for two other people involved in Germany. These were “people of interest from the start,” Tanner said. They would be charged with accessory to murder and obstruction of justice.
The public prosecutor’s office in Würzburg confirmed that it was the suspect’s sister and her boyfriend at the time. Investigations into murder were underway in Germany, said senior public prosecutor Thorsten Seebach of the German Press Agency. The case against the sister is still open, that of the friend has been discontinued, but could be reopened.
According to Tanner, the million-dollar reward did not provide the information that has now led to a murder charge. Rather, it was DNA evidence. The reward is therefore still advertised. Police believe there are other “people with knowledge of this murder,” Tanner said.
The image of Simone Strobel is still burned into the memories of the citizens of Lismore. In a recent interview with the Australian broadcaster ABC, Jenny Dowell, who was working for the community at the time of the murder, described how great the sympathy of the citizens was and is: People collected money for the relatives at the time and a fence near the site was filled with flowers, candles and messages of condolence.
“We were all shocked that this young person in our community had met such a horrible end,” she said. People felt a mixture of shame, concern and sadness, but Strobel’s family never blamed the local people. On the contrary: “They were very touched that our community cared so much about Simone.”
The family sent her a beautiful postcard with a poem that was one of her daughter’s favorite poems and a small heart. In memory of Simone, the community had this poem written on a granite bench in a park a few meters from where her body was found.