Bombshell in backpacker murder case

Bombshell in backpacker murder case

The former boyfriend of slain German backpacker Simone Strobel will remain behind bars on remand after being granted freedom and having it snatched away in a whiplash-inducing court hearing.

Tobias Friedrich Moran, 42, is accused of suffocating Ms Strobel inside a camper van before dumping her body under some foliage nearby.

Police allege Mr Moran killed his girlfriend while they were staying at the Lismore Tourist Caravan Park on February 11, 2005.

Six days after Ms Strobel disappeared, the body of the 25-year-old schoolteacher was found hidden under palm fronds just 100m from the caravan park.

Police claim Mr Moran stayed at the caravan park and misled investigators as they tried to determine the cause of Ms Strobel’s death.

According to police, Mr Moran lied during the initial investigation into Ms Strobel’s death about the nature of their relationship, their consumption of alcohol, and what she was wearing when she disappeared.

More than 17 years later, he has been extradited from his home in Western Australia and charged with murder as well as acting to pervert the course of justice.

On Thursday, Mr Moran appeared via video link in Sydney Downing Centre Local Court to learn whether he would be granted conditional freedom after a lengthy bail review on Wednesday.

During the bail review, his lawyer Tim Game SC told the court that the case against Mr Moran was “non-existent”.

He argued the police allegations against his client, including the claim Ms Strobel died of suffocation, were not supported by evidence.

The crown prosecutor disagreed and categorised the circumstantial evidence as strong.

He noted there were a number of statements from new witnesses, which the court heard would bring the total number of witness statements to a staggering 300.

The prosecutor noted an inquest found Ms Strobel did not die from natural causes, but instead the actions of a person or people.

Magistrate Margaret Quinn noted neither an Australian inquest in 2007 nor a German inquest had definitively identified the cause of death.

The court heard the couple had been drinking, doing drugs and fighting before Ms Strobel disappeared.

Witnesses heard screaming in the area of the caravan park in the hours before the young teacher disappeared.

Magistrate Quinn noted the “matters are very old” and would be difficult to prove.

She said the prosecution case was purely circumstantial.

“There doesn’t appear to be at its highest any direct evidence connecting him to the offence,” she said.

“It’s not the strongest circumstantial case I’ve seen.”

The magistrate noted Mr Moran has a clean record and his associates combined to offer $450,000 in assurances he would not flee.

Mr Moran, who was known as Tobias Suckfuell before he legally changed his name, was granted strict conditional bail after a robust discussion of how WA authorities would enforce potential bail breaches.

Magistrate Quinn determined the 42-year-old could be released if he reported to police, surrendered his phone information, surrendered his family’s passports and resided only at his City Beach home in WA.

However, crown prosecutor Scott Jaeger immediately moved to delay Mr Moran’s release by indicating he would submit a detention application to the Supreme Court.

Unless the application is rescinded, Mr Moran will remain in custody on remand for at least three business days until the application is heard.

The court heard the trial will likely be held in 2024 due to delays in the court system.

Mr Moran will appear in the Supreme Court within the next three business days to learn whether he will be allowed to return to WA.

More to come.

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