The grieving family of a woman brutally murdered then dumped by her lover in a makeshift forest grave have spoken of their horror at the way in which she died.
(Warning: This story contains explicit content)
Michelle Hoffman-Tamm was stabbed more than 30 times, her throat slit and her ears severed after her death, with one stuffed in her mouth.
In Rotorua District Court today, Rotorua process worker Gwenda Leigh Sloane, aka Pluss, 44, pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Hoffman-Tamm in Rotorua on November 7.
The 51-year-old beneficiary went missing that night after leaving the Philip St home she shared with her long-term female partner to visit a friend. Police found her body on November 23 in a forested area just off State Highway 38 near Murupara.
Sloane was originally charged with assault but that was upgraded to murder on December 3.
Before a packed courtroom yesterday, Sergeant Bill Scott read the summary of facts, which revealed details of a frenzied attack that left Ms Hoffman-Tamm with 33 stab wounds and severed ears.
Outside court Ms Hoffman-Tamm's daughter Monique told The Daily Post the family had previously been told most of the grisly details, but she hadn't expected them to be read out in court.
"It was gut wrenching," she said.
Monique said she felt nothing but anger towards Sloane, who she had known and called "aunty" her whole life.
"All she could do was hang her head down," she said. "If you love someone you can't do that [to them]."
She was relieved Sloane had pleaded guilty but it "still doesn't make it seem any more real".
In emotional scenes outside court, Monique embraced a family member of Sloane's, telling her friends it wasn't their fault.
Ms Hoffman-Tamm's sister Jan Donlan said it was unpleasant hearing what happened to the woman she described as her sister and best friend.
However, she hoped the family could now work towards some sort of closure.
"I am just grateful she [Sloane] did plead guilty... saved us the experience of having to sit through a trial.
"Hopefully now we can bring this tragic situation to an end."
Ms Donlan said she was also grateful Sloane had told police where Ms Hoffman-Tamm's body was.
The court heard Sloane and Ms Hoffman-Tamm had been friends for more than 20 years and had a casual sexual relationship which had become more intense prior to the murder.
About 11pm on November 7, Sloane sent Ms Hoffman-Tamm a text message saying "hello my little monkey want to have some fun". Ms Hoffman-Tamm went to Sloane's Holland St home and they drove to Liquor King where they bought three dozen stubbies of beer.
They returned to Sloane's home where they drank and slept together. Later that night Sloane became "enraged" and launched a "frenzied attack" on Ms Hoffman-Tamm. She used two knives to inflict 33 stab wounds - one a large knife 4.5cm in width.
The wounds were mainly to the chest and back. Ms Hoffman-Tamm also suffered blunt force trauma to the head and lost several teeth.
The summary said up to 25 stab wounds had potentially been inflicted after death including a cut across Ms Hoffman-Tamm's throat and a cut from her mouth across her face. Both ears were severed after death and one was put in her mouth.
Her lifeless and bloodied body lay at Sloane's house on her kitchen floor for more than a day.
On the morning of November 9, Sloane purchased black plastic bags and duct tape and wrapped up the body, put it in the back of her Subaru and drove towards Whakatane looking for somewhere to dispose of it. She discovered a 1.5m deep ditch near Murupara and buried the body, covering it in rubbish and dirt.
She then went home and hired a domestic carpet cleaning machine to clean up the house.
The statement said Sloane was spoken to three times by police during their routine investigations but she offered no assistance and attempted to distance herself.
Their inquiries led them back to her on November 22 when she admitted what happened and led police to the body. Police said without her assistance, they were unlikely to have found the remains.
In her explanation to police, Sloane said she thought Ms Hoffman-Tamm had taken $20 from her wallet and she had "lost it".
As she had been drinking she could only recall parts of what happened that night but remembered attacking Ms Hoffman-Tamm, punching her and stabbing her. She also remembered Ms Hoffman-Tamm being face down on the floor, straddling her and hitting her repeatedly on the back of the head with a kitchen drawer.
She said she left the body on the kitchen floor all the next day while she sat on the bed drinking the rest of the beer before disposing of the body the next morning. She put cleaning materials in rubbish bags and dropped them on a neighbouring street where they were picked up by council rubbish collection contractors. She also took Ms Hoffman-Tamm's bike to a bike stand on Te Ngae Rd.
The summary said Sloane appeared genuinely upset about what had happened.
Sloane was remanded in custody for sentencing in the High Court at Rotorua on February 4.By Katie Holland