Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too,” Queensland teenager Larissa Beilby posted on Facebook on June 3. It was one of the 16-year-old’s last observations on social media. Tragically, on June 27, the body of the vivacious teen— known as a kind person who cared deeply about her friends—was found south of Brisbane in a plastic barrel on a ute driven by Zlatko Sikorsky, the man with whom she’d reportedly been having a relationship.
A massive manhunt for Sikorsky culminated in a 28-hour siege, with the 34-year-old arrested at an apartment on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast on July 2. A 40-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man from the Sunshine Coast have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder.
While Sikorsky did not appear in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on July 2 to face charges of murder and misconduct with a corpse, his lawyer, Brendan Ryan, said his client would fight the murder charge.
“I absolutely believe he is innocent, absolutely, and I have been doing this a long time,” Ryan told the ABC, saying he believed the cause of death would be ruled accidental. “If they [the police] dot their i’s and cross their t’s they will discover that he didn’t do anything, but rather she may well have passed through misadventure.” Sikorsky, who remains in custody until his next court appearance on Sept. 3, was charged with another 16 offences, including torture, deprivation of liberty, possessing weapons and dangerous drugs, and dangerous operation of a vehicle.
Exactly what happened to Larissa, nicknamed “Rissy,” in the days before police found her body remains a mystery to her grieving family and friends. Last seen at a “halfway house” in Sandgate, Brisbane, on June 15, she was reported missing by her father, Peter, on June 26. The following day police went to a house at Buccan, south of Brisbane, where they saw Sikorsky driving off in a black ute.
The vehicle was later found inside a gated community at Stapylton, north of the Gold Coast, where a resident had reported seeing a “dead arm sticking out of the blue plastic barrel” on the ute, studded in bullet holes. “I seen an arm flapping ... It was a little bit scary,” the witness said, adding the driver offered her $2,000 to let him into the gated area.
As more than 100 police officers worked to track down Sikorsky, Larissa’s distraught family continued to hope that the partly decomposed body—at that time unidentified— was not their “darling angel,” but an autopsy confirmed their worst fears. “With a broken heart shattered into more than a million pieces, our family is utterly destroyed to inform you all that Larissa has been taken from us,” the teen’s sister Deanna posted on social media on June 30. “Our beautiful girl has been reunited with our beloved wife and mother. Fly high our darling angel, until we see you again Rissy.”
“I can’t believe this beautiful person has gone,” close friend Georgia Grace, 17, tells WHO.
“Everyone’s just in shock. She is—was— such a unique, special person.”
An active social-media user who regularly posted “selfies,” Larissa had sparked alarm among her friends when, uncharacteristically, days passed without her posting on Snapchat and Facebook. “I’d been worrying about her for ages because Larissa was always chatting online, but for days there’d been nothing,” says Georgia, who met the 16-year-old several months ago at the shopping centre where they both worked. “When I met Larissa at the shopping centre, she was working at McDonalds. I was at KFC. We used to meet during our breaks and chat and laugh. Larissa loved makeup, money and piercings!” Georgia says her fun-loving, vibrant friend was “fascinated by everything to do with makeup, always saying to me, ‘I love your eyeshadow,’ and things like that. I’d often say to her, ‘You’re so good at this. Why don’t you become a makeup artist?’
But, says Georgia, despite Larissa’s love of life—“She was just the most gorgeous girl; such a live-wire, and the life of the party”—the teenager was “unsure about what she wanted to do with her life. She was so unique; funny and entertaining. She was very kind and was always there for me, to talk me through a problem and cheer me up.” Even so, says Georgia “she had a few issues of her own. She managed to always sound optimistic even though you could tell she’d been through a lot.
I knew she had had quite a lot of pain in her life. She didn’t live with her family. Her mum died when she was little, but she was very close to her sister Deanna.”
Georgia says she had become worried about her friend in recent weeks. “She was losing heaps of weight, and was starting to look quite different.” Another teenage friend, who didn’t want to be named, tells WHO Larissa had “begun to party a lot, and she was getting much thinner. She made no secret about any of this, she’d put it all up on Snapchat and so on. I remember she said to me one day that she had ‘a sugar daddy’ and I didn’t really know what she meant. She didn’t say who she was talking about and I didn’t ask her.”
Larissa’s Facebook page has been transformed into a memorial page, with mourners posting their sorrow at her death, including a friend who wrote: “Now you can have as many chats & cuddles with your Mum as you want. Rest In Peace lovely Riss.”
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This article originally appeared on WHO.