Michelle Hoffman-Tamm murdered for $20

By Katie Holland

Michelle Hoffman-Tamm' s family have spoken of their horror at the gruesome way in which she died _ including having her ears cut off and one shoved in her mouth.

In the Rotorua District Court yesterday, Rotorua process worker Gwenda Leigh Sloane,  aka Pluss, 44, pleaded guilty to the murder of her lover Ms Hoffman-Tamm in Rotorua on November 7.

Ms Hoffman-Tamm, 51, disappeared 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.

In front of a packed courtroom yesterday, Sergeant Bill Scott of the Rotorua police read out the summary of facts, which revealed details of a frenzied attack that left Ms Hoffman-Tamm with 33 stab wounds and her ears severed and one shoved in her mouth.

Sloane told police she had ``lost it'' when she thought Ms Hoffman-Tamm had taken $20 from her wallet.

Outside court Ms Hoffman-Tamm's daughter, Monique Hoffman-Tamm, told The Daily Post the family had previously been told most of those details, but she hadn't expected them to be read out in court.

"It was gut-wrenching,'' she said.

Monique Hoffman-Tamm said she felt nothing but anger towards Sloane, who she had known and called "aunty'' her whole life.

She said she was relieved Sloane had pleaded guilty but it "still doesn't make it seem any more real''. In emotional scenes outside court, Monique Hoffman-Tamm embraced a family member of Sloane's, telling her friends it wasn't their fault.

Ms Hoffman-Tamm's sister Jan Donlan said it hadn't been very pleasant hearing what had happened to the woman she described as her  best friend.

However, she said, 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,'' she said.

"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.

According to the police summary of facts, Sloane and Ms Hoffman-Tamm had been friends for more than 20 years

and had a casual sexual relationship over the years, which had become more intense recently.

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 went out and bought three dozen beer.

They returned to Sloane's home where they drank and slept together. At some stage during the evening Sloane became "enraged'' and launched a "frenzied attack'' on Ms Hoffman-Tamm. She used two knives, one 4.5cm in width and the other about 1cm in width, to inflict 33 stab wounds mainly to her victim's chest and back. Ms Hoffman-Tamm also suffered blunt force trauma to the head and lost several teeth.

The summary said some of the 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.

Ms Hoffman-Tamm's  bloodied body lay at Sloane's house on her kitchen floor for more than a day, with Sloane later telling police she sat on her bed and drank the remainder of the beer during that time.

On the morning of November 9, Sloane bought 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 buried it in a 1.5m deep ditch near Murupara, covering it with 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 had happened and led police to the body. Police said without this they were unlikely to have found it.

In her explanation to police, Sloane said she thought Ms Hoffman-Tamm had taken $20 from her wallet so she had "lost it''.

She told police she had been drinking and only recalled 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 after disposing of the body more than a day later she put cleaning materials and bloodied towels in rubbish bags and dropped them on a neighbouring street where they were picked up by the council during its usual rubbish collection. She then 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.

Monique Hoffman-Tamm said yesterday the media attention surrounding the case had been over whelming and exhausting but she had decided to speak to The Daily Post last week in order to tell people to hold on to their family.

During that interview, Monique told how she had known Sloane all her life.

"I've called her aunty for 27 years, my kids have called her aunty since the day they were born,'' she said.

Monique Hoffman-Tamm said she had been worried in the past about her mother's friendship with Sloane.

"We told Mum to cut her loose, she's dangerous, she's no good, she's trouble but Mum  wouldn't have done that, no way. Gwenda had been around for too long for Mum to walk away which in the end brought us to this conclusion.''

She said the horror of what was done to her mother made it harder to accept.

"Why go to that extent after Mum had died, why do then what she did?''

Sloane was remanded in custody for sentencing in the High Court at Rotorua on February 4.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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