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Goldsmiths - University of London

Have you seen Simone?

Peters, Virginia. 2015. Have you seen Simone?. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Have You Seen Simone? consists of a creative nonfiction book, Have You Seen Simone?, and a critical commentary on the process and context of writing it.
The book investigates the suspicious death of German traveller Simone Strobel, who went missing in February 2005, in Lismore, Australia. After an inquest into her death in 2007, the police stated they believed that Simone’s boyfriend, Tobias Suckfuell was involved in her death, although he has never been charged with any offence concerning her death. I was captivated by the case, and with the agreement of the police I committed myself to uncovering the truth. The book is the story of my investigation; it analyses the evidence, explores new lines of investigation, and recounts my interviews with the couple’s friends and families; included also is an interview with Tobias Suckfuell himself, who remains the prime suspect. Having become intimately involved in the case, the narrative becomes something of an investigation of the self, heightened by the loss of my mother who dies during the writing process.

It should be noted that some of the participants in Have You Seen Simone?, the suspects, have exercised a legitimate right to silence, and although it would be legally inappropriate to draw conclusions about this silence, I question the ethics of this decision, as the nature of their silence suggests they have something to conceal. Silence is at the core of this investigation: what does it mean to write about a legally irresolvable case where the who, what, why, where of the original series of events remains opaque? Navigating through contentious material and negotiating legal, moral, and empirical judgments in a case that has no preceding narrative or conclusion established by the courts is inherently problematic. What does this mean ethically, cognitively and poetologically for the narrative? Is it fundamentally doomed to fail? Or can a persuasively constructed speculative view illuminate a situation that remains largely opaque?

Bearing these questions in mind, what follows in the critical commentary, after an exploration of the history of the genre—that is the context in which I position myself (from its precursors to its more recent developments)—is a discussion on why my particular work was suited to a reflective, personal account; this is in view of my
background as a newspaper reader as opposed to a journalist who is trained in objective, third-person reporting. I go on to discuss and compare the similar works of Australian author Helen Garner who wrote Joe Cinque’s Consolation and The First Stone—in this chapter and the following—as I further elaborate on my particular methodology in relation to writing methods, and investigative methods involving elicitation and evaluation. I will end with a discussion on the ethics of writing, specifically on the subject of the participants’ right to withdraw data from a research project.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Autobiography, True Crime, Life writing, Vulnerable Subjects, Hostile Subjects, Consent

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


30 June 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Jul 2015 13:07

Last Modified:

09 Jul 2018 11:23


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