German backpacker Simone Strobel was killed in Lismore in 2005. Photo Contributed
German backpacker Simone Strobel was killed in Lismore in 2005. Photo Contributed

‘It sounded like someone was being murdered’

"The f--king noise. It sounded like someone was being f--king murdered over there."

The Irish backpackers' complaints about a late night party were made lightly, but they soon took on a more sinister tone.

The night in question was February 11, 2005, and the noise complaint referred to a party being held at a campsite in Lismore where a group of young German backpackers were staying - it was the night Simone Strobel died.

Greg Kerr was running the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park in 2005 when Simone Strobel died.
Greg Kerr was running the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park in 2005 when Simone Strobel died.

The owner of the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park at the time, Greg Kerr, shared his memory of the events surrounding the 2005 death.

Mr Kerr said Tobias Suckfuell (now Toby Moran) was in his office to collect a key deposit, after the travellers had been asked to leave due to numerous complaints about their party the night before.

"Not once did he mention his girlfriend was missing," he said.

Tobias and Simone had stayed at the park before, and Simone usually made all of the bookings. There had been no issues before and, he said, the couple kept to themselves.

This time however, the park owner had had enough.

"There was a bit of a shindig," Mr Kerr said. "A roaring party."

He said there had been "heaps of complaints" by other campers the next day and he initially thought a group of three Irish backpackers was responsible for the disruption, and went to confront them.

They told him it wasn't them, saying the noise from a nearby camp had been really loud, with one commenting, "it sounded like someone was being f--king murdered over there".

Mr Kerr said a woman camping nearby came out and said, "no, not them, these over here," pointing in the direction of the German group, which a Japanese tourist had joined the night before.

The campsite of Simone Strobel’s companions at Lismore Tourist Park, the day her body was found. PicDavid/Clark
The campsite of Simone Strobel’s companions at Lismore Tourist Park, the day her body was found. PicDavid/Clark

Police confirmed a group of Irish tourists were interviewed after Simone's death and there had been reports of a lot of noises in and around the caravan park that night. The source of the noise they said, could not be certain.

Mr Kerr said he did not know anyone was missing until he found police walking around the park later in the day.

Even then, he said, police did not interview him, nor share much detail with him.

By then, he had approached the tent where Jens Martin and Katrin Suckfuell slept and told them to pack their bags and leave.

Tobias was having a shower in the amenities block, and Jens said he did not speak much English.

Still Mr Kerr said, no one mentioned the missing German backpacker.

When Tobias later came to the office to get a key deposit, he told him, "don't f--king come back", and the group left for Nimbin.

The Japanese backpacker, Mr Kerr said, was booked in to stay at the park in Lismore until Monday, but abruptly packed up and left on the Saturday morning.

"He didn't want to be there," he said. "He wanted to get out of Dodge as quick as he could."

The German travellers did return later in the week, at the request of police Mr Kerr said.

 

The Northern Star front page, February 14th, 2005. Photo The Northern Star Archives
The Northern Star front page, February 14th, 2005. Photo The Northern Star Archives

 

Mr Kerr said he did not realise Simone was missing until he saw her photo in The Northern Star on Monday morning.

The following Thursday, Mr Kerr said he watched the police dog search for Simone.

"I watched that dog run across the road to her," he said.

"It first went out to the front footpath, and it was not interested.

"It went out the back and followed the fence line, straight across to her (at the bocce courts)."

Police dogs found Simone Strobel's body across the road from where she was last seen alive in Lismore.
Police dogs found Simone Strobel's body across the road from where she was last seen alive in Lismore.

Commenting about the demeanour of the German backpackers, Mr Kerr said while Tobias appeared confident, Jens "had ants in his pants".

"Jens looked really nervous," he said. "He was sh-t scared."

Mr Kerr also claims when he left the park early on the Saturday, February 12, to run some errands he saw Tobias and Jens crossing the road near the intersection of Uralba and Dawson Streets.

Simone's body was found six days later at the bocce courts on Uralba St, hidden under palm fronds.

While no one has ever been charged over the death, at a Coronial inquest into her death in 2007, then Deputy State Coroner Paul Macmahon said: "Evidence revealed in the inquiry leads me to believe Tobias Suckfuell and possibly another of the German tourists (Katrin Suckfuell) had some involvement in the death of Simone Strobel".

Jens Martin gave evidence at the inquest, and has since been reclassified as a witness, rather than a person of interest.

Simone Strobel Tobias Suckfuell and sister Katrin lay a wreath at the site where the body of Simone Strobel was found in Lismore. Photo Jacklyn Wagner / The Northern Star
Simone Strobel Tobias Suckfuell and sister Katrin lay a wreath at the site where the body of Simone Strobel was found in Lismore. Photo Jacklyn Wagner / The Northern Star

Tobias and his sister Katrin told the court via their lawyer, they would not return to Lismore for the inquest.

Mr Kerr no longer owns the caravan park and said a "lot of things happened" there over the years, but Simone's death was the most memorable.

While no one has been charged over the death of Simone Strobel, a second Coronial inquest into her death may be held.

Late last year, a date was set for that hearing to be held in February this year, but was then vacated in January.

The case is before the Coroner to decide when, or if, a new date will be set.



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