In February 2005 a German tourist was murdered in Australia. Despite all investigations, the violent crime remains unpunished – so far. Now the spectacular Cold Case is moving.
Lismore/Würzburg – 17 years have passed since the mysterious death of the German Simone Strobel in Australia. 17 years with many unanswered questions and new suspicions, but without sufficient evidence for an arrest – until now.
It is hard to imagine what the family of the then 25-year-old teacher from Lower Franconia must have gone through. Now the surprising twist: officials led Strobel’s then-boyfriend away from his home in Perth as a suspect. He was charged with murder in Sydney on Thursday. Will the cold case that has kept the police in Bavaria and Down Under in suspense for so long finally resolved?
Simone’s father Gustl Strobel told the newspaper “Main-Post” in a first reaction: “We are completely surprised. We have to collect ourselves first.” Video recordings distributed in Australia showed the arrested German in handcuffs and surrounded by investigators at Perth Airport. From there he was transferred to Sydney on Wednesday. When asked by a journalist whether he wanted to say anything to the Strobel family, the 42-year-old, who has always maintained his innocence, said nothing.
He will remain in custody until at least August 3, after which he could initially be released on bail. In September, the trial is due to move to Lismore in north-east New South Wales, where the victim died.
A look back: The young backpacker Simone Strobel from the district of Würzburg is traveling with her then 24-year-old boyfriend with a working holiday visa in a mobile home in Australia. At the beginning of 2005, two acquaintances from Germany came along. The four are at a campsite in Lismore when Strobel suddenly disappears. There should have been a dispute beforehand. A few days later, her body was found under palm fronds near the campsite. It quickly becomes clear that the woman has been the victim of a crime.
Media reports of arrest
A short time later there were investigations against Strobel’s friend for the first time. At the time, the public prosecutor’s office in Würzburg said he had deliberately given false information during his interrogations in Germany and Australia. German investigators traveled to Australia in 2005 and, together with their colleagues there, questioned more than a dozen witnesses. Nonetheless, the murder remained unsolved.
For days, newspapers and TV stations in Australia have been reporting on the arrest of the German and the developments in the judicial case. Reporters have taken position in front of his villa in Perth, where he lived with his wife and children until a few days ago. After the marriage, he had adopted the Australian’s name. Despite his protestations of innocence, he has always been the prime suspect over the years. The investigators have so far left in the dark what new findings led to the murder charge.
However, they announced that they want to have two more arrest warrants issued in Germany and are in contact with their colleagues there. Superintendent Scott Tanner said the two people were on the suspect list from the beginning and would be charged with aiding and abetting murder and obstructing justice. “Obviously these two people know who is meant. It would be in their best interests to contact the German authorities.”
Public discussions on the case
There were always theories and public discussions about the mysterious crime, and podcasts also dealt with the events of that fateful night. In 2014 the book Have You Seen Simone? The Story of an Unsolved Murder” by Australian author Virginia Peters. After extensive research and interviews – including with Strobel’s ex-boyfriend – she suspects that he could be the culprit. He then sued the author for defamation. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
The case only started moving again in 2020 after the authorities on the fifth continent offered one million Australian dollars for information about Strobel’s death. The equivalent of about 680,000 euros should be there for information with which those responsible for the crime could be arrested and sentenced – whether in Australia or in Germany.
“We know the truth is out there,” Police Chief Scott Tanner said at the time. “We need help from the public to finally know what happened.” Any information, no matter how small, can make a difference. Just a month later, it was said that the investigators had received new information. However, details have not yet been released. dpa