Nine years after German backpacker Simone Strobel's decomposing body was found in northern NSW, her home country has put up a 10,000 euro reward.
Source:
AAP
21 Mar 2014 - 8:50 AM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2014 - 8:52 AM

It is a path well travelled for overseas backpackers.

A campervan, young love, Australia's wilderness and seasonal work to keep the dream going.

Many young travellers return from their rite of passage penniless but with experiences to shape their future.

Not Simone Strobel.

The 25-year-old's 12-month journey ended horrifically on a desolate sporting field in northern NSW.

Nine years on, the German national's murder remains unsolved.

But a new 10,000 euro ($A15,000) reward from German authorities for any information to solve the case has prompted a trickle of fresh calls to police in Australia and Germany.

A NSW detective who has been at the investigation's coalface since Ms Strobel's naked body was found in Lismore in 2005 says information received so far is not new, but police hope those implicated in the death have confided in a third party.

Ms Strobel arrived in Australia in 2004 with boyfriend Tobias Suckfuell on a one-year working visa.

The couple welcomed friend Jens Martin and Mr Suckfuell's sister Katrin Suckfuell to their travelling party in 2005.

The German foursome checked into the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park in the north coast on February 11, 2005.

After being turfed out of a pub that night, the travellers returned to their simple accommodation, not far from the local police station, and Ms Strobel and Mr Suckfuell argued.

A 2007 inquest into Ms Strobel's death heard the kindergarten teacher stormed off and did not return.

Six days later, a police officer and his dog discovered a woman's decomposing body covered in palm fronds at sporting grounds 90 metres from the caravan park.

According to NSW Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon's findings, a post-mortem indicated Ms Strobel had been stripped down before her body was taken through the sports grounds' wire fence and dumped.

A passerby found Ms Strobel's singlet the next day, but not knowing its significance, left it on a railing, where it fell into a drain any likely forensic evidence was washed away.

The sympathetic Lismore community was shocked and embraced Mr Suckfuell, who publicly appealed for help to find the "bloody, evil monster" responsible for his girlfriend's death.

The community saw Mr Suckfuell as the collateral damage in a predatory attack: stuck in a foreign land with a broken heart and no means of returning home.

"The public weren't aware of everything we knew about the investigation," NSW police Detective Sergeant Dave Mackie, the officer in charge of the investigation, told AAP.

"So in a lot of people's mind, they believed that there was a killer out there in the community."

So much was the support from Lismore that $3000 was raised to fly Mr Suckfuell home, where he remained and refused to return during the inquest into Ms Strobel's death.

The inquest later heard there was a "strong suspicion" Mr Suckfuell was responsible for his girlfriend's death.

Police also suspected Katrin Suckfuell was involved or knew more than she was letting on.

Det Sgt Mackie said Mr Suckfuell, Ms Suckfuell and Mr Martin provided very similar accounts to police.

"That is always a bit of a red flag, where you have a matter where a number of people are involved and they just give a very brief account but they are all strikingly similar in their accounts," he said.

Mr Martin told the inquest Mr Suckfuell and Ms Strobel's relationship had been increasingly strained and on the night she disappeared she was in tears.

Mr Martin also claimed while he and Katrin searched for Ms Strobel that night, Mr Suckfuell stayed in his van.

The deputy state coroner found Ms Strobel died from suffocation or asphyxia.

German authorities launched their own homicide investigation in 2005 but this February they took it a step further, putting up a $A15,000 reward, which can also be paid to an Australian.

"This is very unusual but we think that maybe since this case happened so long ago, they (perpetrators) might have confessed to somebody ... maybe they felt the need to talk," a German investigator told AAP.

"So we are targeting these people that might have heard from them."

With witnesses interviewed and re-interviewed, an inquest concluded and no foreseeable forensic developments that may prompt a breakthrough, the hope rests with the public.

"You would like to get a result and put someone before the court that is responsible for something like that," Det Sgt Mackie said.

"But also I feel sorry for the family. Their daughter has come over here and hasn't come back.

"And no one has been made accountable for that."