BARBARA PONGRATZ: We'll head to the icy south a bit
later in the program, but first a look back at a couple of disturbing
mysteries on Tasmania's East Coast.
About a decade ago, the disappearance of a young tourist and the murder of
another sparked two of the biggest and longest police investigations in the
26-year-old German backpacker Nancy Grunwaldt disappeared without trace and
police never identified who stabbed to death a 20-year-old Italian visitor
Next week, police will get another chance to sift through the details of both
cases, look for new leads and hopefully provide some solace to the women's
friends and relatives.
On Monday, the coroner will open an inquest into Ms Cafasso's death and then
take a look into Ms Grunwaldt's disappearance.
Matthew Stanley reports.
POLICEMAN, 1995: There's multiple stab wounds to both the body and head.
It's a particularly vicious attack.
JOHN MIDDENDORP, EAST COAST RESIDENT, 1995: Everybody here round the
neighbourhood is pointing at him, him or him.
ZANIA CAFASSO, MOTHER OF VICTIM, 1995: You don't just go on a beach, kill
someone and walk off.
LUPPO PRINS, TASMANIA POLICE, 1996: We really need a clue to point us in a
MATTHEW STANLEY: When police first issued a statement saying they were
concerned for the welfare of a young German tourist, the report rated just a
few lines on the news that night.
But the mysterious disappearance of Nancy Grunwaldt would feature in the
headlines for months to come.
It was the 12th of March, a hot Friday almost 10 years ago, when the young
Christian backpacker left this hostel in St Helens, having arranged to ride
the bicycle she'd rented in Devonport down the coast towards a rendezvous with
a friend in Hobart.
GRAHAM HICKEY, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR (RETIRED): We never reached a final
conclusion as to whether it was foul play or not.
Whether it was a bicycle accident or she was abducted by somebody, we don't
We are aware that all her money is still in a bank in Launceston.
It's never been touched and we've never heard anything or found anything of
MATTHEW STANLEY: Police quickly confirmed a sighting of the young woman on the
road south of the town.
But there the trail stopped dead.
Despite weeks of searching, police would not find a single trace of Nancy
GRAHAM HICKEY: We found no bike, found no clothing -- we found nothing.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Her grieving parents visited and it was as if Tasmanians as a
whole felt guilty for having lost their daughter.
But when they left, Nancy Grunwaldt disappeared again -- this time from the
With no new clues, there was nothing to report -- until a Wednesday in October
two years later.
That morning, Victoria Cafasso walked across the road Nancy Grunwaldt had last
been seen on and through the dunes to the beach.
The 20-year-old Italian law student had arrived in Australia just four days
earlier and was staying with a cousin at Beaumaris.
Hours later a woman walking her dog spotted Victoria's lifeless body at the
GRAHAM HICKEY: We don't know how she ended up in the water -- but she did.
MATTHEW STANLEY: She had been stabbed more than 40 times and wore only the top
half of a bikini.
Her valuables were found on the beach nearby.
But a shell necklace and several items of clothing, including her bikini
bottoms, were never found.
The murder stunned the East Coast community, shattering a casually held
assumption that their beautiful deserted beaches held no danger for anyone
lucky enough to enjoy them.
STEPHEN SALTER, BREAK O'DAY MAYOR: Everyone in the municipality and everyone
probably in Tasmania felt dreadfully sorry that something could happen like
Not only for the fact that a life was lost, but the fact that our peace and
tranquillity and safety and all those sort of things were sort of, for the
first time, put under some sort of scrutiny.
You know, we live in the safest place probably in the world and all of a
sudden we had two – well, one murder and another mystery.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Suddenly Nancy's ghost was back.
LUPPO PRINS: They were both in the same area and there's a possibility that
there is a connection, but we don't know that for sure.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Compared with the Grunwaldt case, Victoria's violent murder
But if her body had not been washed ashore, she too may have disappeared,
leaving few clues to her fate.
As it was, her mutilated body was washed clean by the water, robbing police of
crucial physical evidence.
GRAHAM HICKEY: We never got any scientific evidence because Victoria had been
in the salt water for some time.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Victoria Cafasso did not submit meekly to her killer.
GRAHAM HICKEY: There must have been a rather vicious fight.
I mean, she fought very strong and hard to save her life and whoever the
offender was he would have had to have certainly been covered in a lot of
blood -- he wouldn't have walked away scot-free.
MATTHEW STANLEY: But the sand where the struggle took place also gave police
few clues before wind and the rising tide erased the story it might have told.
The only significant clue was a single bare footprint.
GRAHAM HICKEY: Nothing stands still on the beach.
You've always got some sort of breeze and we, the personnel, there on that day
had to work against the tide.
It is probably one of the most difficult -- or perhaps even THE most difficult
murder inquiry -- that the State has had, certainly in my years.
And that was because of the location -- it was on a beach, there were no
witnesses and we didn't get any scientific evidence.
MATTHEW STANLEY: The brutal and bloody murder and speculation of a link with
the Grunwaldt disappearance fed a torrent of publicity and fuelled suspicion
in the community.
The spectre of a serial killer increased pressure on police for a result and
dozens of local residents were interviewed as possible suspects.
STEPHEN SALTER: It certainly once again raised a lot of rumours and innuendo
and finger-pointing and that was a concern, because a lot of the people that
were perhaps having the finger pointed at them are completely and absolutely
JANE CATO, HOTEL MANAGER: Everybody had a different story to tell, everybody
had a different idea as to who was responsible and what had happened.
MATTHEW STANLEY: The publicity was also bad for business.
JANE CATO: I know that the bus drivers were making a big thing of pointing out
the beach and saying “That's where the murder happened," as if it was a
tourist attraction almost.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Jane Cato and her husband moved to Scamander to run a motel
just months before the murder.
Over the next 12 months, their bookings would be down by more than $40,000.
JANE CATO: The fact that people were linking the two made some of the local
people more afraid of coming to the area -- especially younger people and
mainly women, I found.
The men weren't bothered at all, but the women's mothers were saying things
like, “You can't go there, there's a murderer there.”
MATTHEW STANLEY: As months passed, it became clear that police were again
There have been anonymous letters and other new leads.
A professional profiler was employed to produce a description of the killer
and a substantial reward still stands.
But still no witnesses and no murder weapon.
And in the case of Nancy Grunwaldt, no clues at all.
MATTHEW STANLEY: An inquest is a last resort.
The St Helens council chambers may prove a bit cramped when the first of 50
witnesses in the Cafasso inquest take the stand on Monday.
By contrast, the Grunwaldt inquest could be over inside a day, with the
coroner almost certain to return an open finding.
There's no reason to expect that either inquest will produce a breakthrough
and some East Coast businesses are not happy that murder and abduction will be
in the headlines again.
But others see it as a chance, however small, to somehow reclaim the innocence
the community lost all those years ago.
STEPHEN SALTER: There are still people that feel a little bit fearful of
walking along the beach.
Certainly there's a perception within the community that it is harmful to
I don't think that is correct, and I also believe that even if it was slightly
harmful for tourism by the fact that it is being bought up again, so be it.
You know, we've got to find out who was responsible for this and this is the
only way it can be done.
GRAHAM HICKEY: Although some people may have been under suspicion, we never
really had any definite suspects and I suppose even though there were numerous
people spoken to, that person could be still on the East Coast as far as we
So you can't rule anybody out until such time as you get the rightful person
that you want.
Father of missing German tourist
tells of her trust
Posted - ABC
The father of a German tourist who went missing on
Tasmania's east coast 10 years ago says she was a very trusting person.
An inquest into the disappearance of Nancy Grunwaldt was held in
Not a trace of Nancy Grunwaldt has been found since she was last seen
riding her bicycle towards Bicheno.
Police have suspected foul play over her disappearance.
While suspects have been identified, there has not been enough evidence
to lay charges.
The Coroner's assistant did not call any witnesses during the inquest
but instead tendered 31 affidavits.
One was from Ms Grunwaldt's father, Bernd, who said his daughter was a
very trusting person who took people at face value.
He said she accepted friendship quickly.
Coroner Peter Wilson reserved his findings.
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
I, Peter Henric Wilson,Coroner, having investigated a death of
WITH AN INQUEST HELD AT Launceston Coroners Court in Tasmania on the 30th
day of October, 2003
FIND THAT :
Nancy Grunwaldt was born on the 5th day of February 1967 at
Flensburg, Germany and at the time of her disappearance was aged 26 year(s).
Nancy Grunwaldt was a single woman whose occupation at the time of her
disappearance was a Travel Agent.
I find that Nancy Grunwaldt died on the East Coast of Tasmania between
St Helens and Bicheno on the 12th day of March 1993 as the result
of foul play by a person or persons unknown.
At the time at the time of the deceased’s person’s death she was not
being treated by a medical practitioner.
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH
TASMANIA POLICE INVESTIGATION
On the 15th day of April 1993, a Reverend Ivor Jones of South
Australia reported Grunwaldt as a Missing Person to Victoria Police and
enquires were commenced. On the 19th of April 1993 Tasmania Police
were advised of the situation and commenced an investigation into her
disappearance. Grunwaldt was last known to be in Tasmania and she made no
further contact with her parents after the 11th of March 1993.
Tasmania Police received the missing person report on the 19th
of April 1993, nearly six (6) weeks after the last confirmed sighting on
Friday the 12th of March 1993. The initial investigation was
centred around Devonport and was under the direction of (then) Inspector Ivan
Dean of Devonport Police (since retired). Inspector Dean had charge of the
investigation from the 10th of April 1993 to the 14th of
During the course of the investigation the following information was
- On the 8th of July 1992, Grunwaldt departed Germany and
travelled to New Zealand where she stayed until the 6th of March 1993.
During her time in New Zealand, she attended the Capernwray Bible College at
- After completing a course at the bible college, she remained in New
Zealand where between the 3rd of February 1993 and the 2nd
of March 1993, her parents visited her and they toured New Zealand. Her
parents returned to Germany and she remained in New Zealand until the 6th
of March 1993, when she departed the Auckland Airport on United Airlines to
travel to Melbourne, Australia.
- Grunwaldt’s intention when leaving New Zealand was to travel around
Australia for two to three months. She had several contacts to visit
including a pen friend in Hobart, Tasmania. She indicated that she intended
to hire a bike to travel around on and was to travel to Adelaide, South
Australia to visit Pastor Jones.
- She departed Melbourne at 3.30 pm on the 6th of March 1993
on flight 6455 (Kendall Airlines), arriving at Devonport at 4.40 pm.
- Once in Devonport, Grunwaldt booked into the YHA Youth Hostel at
Middle Road, Devonport where she stayed for three (3) nights being the 6th,
7th and 8th of March 1993 (confirmed by entry in
registration book at hostel)
- On Sunday the 7th of March 1993, it is believed that she
attended the Devonport Baptist Church.
- On Monday the 8th of March 1993, Grunwaldt went to the Tas
Travel Centre in Rooke Street, Devonport and paid a $40 deposit for a one
(1) one way ticket on the Abel Tasman for travel on the 4th of
April 1993. She failed to travel on the Abel Tasman on this date.
- On the same date, Grunwaldt went to the Westpac Bank at Devonport
where she exchanged $6,000 of New Zealand currency into Australian currency
which she deposited into an account. The total amount received upon
exchanging the currency was $4,474.94. She withdrew $300 at that time from
the account. She arranged for a new card and PIN number to be forwarded to
the Hobart branch, to be collected in about a week’s time.
- On the morning of Tuesday the 9th of March 1993, Grunwaldt
went to an address at 51 Raymond Avenue, Devonport where she hired a red
Road Chief Marauder Mountain Bike from a Trevor James Goss who operates a
bike hire service. She paid $100 for two (2) weeks rent and $30 deposit for
the bike. At the time she stated that she would return the bike on the 22nd
of March 1993. She left her backpack with Goss, which contained some items,
stating that she would be unable to take these items on the bike and would
collect them at the time of returning the bike. Grunwaldt failed to return
the hired Mountain Bike and collect her personal belongings.
- Her movements for the remainder of Tuesday the 9th of
March 1993 remain unaccounted for. Despite extensive police enquiries
between Devonport and Launceston, it is not known where she stayed
- It is believed that Grunwaldt rode from Devonport to Launceston on
the hired mountain bike.
- On Wednesday 10th March 1993, she is recorded as having
stayed at the Backpacker’s Hostel at 139 George Street, Launceston.
- On Thursday the 11th of March 1993 at 10.40 am, she
withdrew $200 from her account at the Westpac Branch at Kings Meadows.
- That day it is believed that she travelled from Launceston to St
Helens on a Redline Coach. It is believed that she took her bike with her as
freight and she stayed the night at the St Helens Hostel, situated in
- On Friday the 12th of March 1993, it is believed that she
departed the St Helens Hostel sometime between approximately 9.30 am and
10.30 am. She travelled south on her bike and was last positively sighted at
approximately 11.00 am that day, approximately 5 kms south of Scamander.
- It was ascertained that Grunwaldt was likely to visit a pen-friend,
Carolyn Hood of 5 Rose Bay Esplanade, Rose Bay whilst she was in Tasmania.
They had met approximately two (2) years previous when they had gone on a
two (2) week camping trip from Cairns to Sydney. Grunwaldt failed to visit
or make contact with Hood.
- Grunwaldt was due to visit Reverend Jones in Adelaide in South
Australia, some time during her travels around Australia. She failed to make
Extensive media coverage was initiated into the whereabouts of Grunwaldt
and as a result, a large number of sightings were reported, state-wide. As a
result of her movements in the St Helens area, the focus of investigation
moved primarily to the East Coast of Tasmania.
Enquiries were continued by Devonport Police until the 14th
of May 1993 when the Commissioner of Tasmania Police directed that the status
of the enquiry be upgraded to that of a major crime investigation. It was
further directed that the responsibility for the investigation be transferred
to the Northern Police District.
Further extensive media coverage was generated in relation to the
disappearance and extensive police coverage was given to the area between St
Helens and Bicheno. A large number of persons were interviewed and a critical
analysis was conducted of the file resulting in a number of suspects being
Overseas enquiries primarily in New Zealand and Germany through Interpol
were conducted. The enquiries related to the interview of former associates
and other international tourists who either stayed at hostels with Grunwaldt
or otherwise met her in Tasmania.
Of concern to the investigation was Grunwaldt’s whereabouts on the night
of Tuesday the 9th of March 1993. It is clearly established that
she left the YHA Hostel in Devonport earlier that day and that she spent the
night of 10th March 1993 at Launceston. It is presumed that she
rode her cycle from Devonport to Launceston, however there are no confirmed
sightings. All guest houses, hostels etc., were checked but no record of her
being at any of them exists for that night.
Enquiries were made with the bus companies with negative results.
On Monday the 8th of March 1993, Grunwaldt went to the
Stewart Street branch of the Westpac Bank in Devonport. On that date, she
opened an Account and deposited approximately A$4,500 by way of a New Zealand
dollar draft of $6,000 purchased at the Westpac Bank, New Zealand. At the
time, she produced a Passport and German driver’s licence as identification.
She withdrew $300 on that day.
During the course of the transaction and in general conversation,
Grunwaldt stated her intention of being in Hobart in about a week’s time and
therefore requested that her new card and P.I.N. number be forwarded to a
Hobart branch. Grunwaldt agreed with the suggestion that it be forwarded to
the branch at 38 Elizabeth Street, Hobart.
Westpac microfiche records revealed that on Thursday the 11th
of March 1993, a $200 withdrawal was effected on her account at the Kings
Meadows Branch of the Westpac Bank by way of a signed withdrawal form. The
time of the transaction was recorded as being 10.40 am.
Grunwaldt’s account was not operated after that date
Summary of Movement
Nancy Grunwaldt arrived in Tasmania from New Zealand,
via Melbourne, Victoria. Stayed overnight at YHA Hostel in Middle Road,
Believed to have attended a church service in the
morning. Stayed overnight at the same location in Devonport.
Attended the Tas Travel Centre in Rooke Street,
Devonport and booked a one-way ticket to Melbourne on the Able Tasman ferry
for travel on 4th April, 1993. It is known that she attended the Westpac Bank
in Stewart Street, Devonport and deposited approximately $4,500. She then
withdrew $300. Stayed overnight at the same location in Devonport.
In the morning she attended at 51 Raymond Avenue in
Devonport and hired a bicycle from Trevor Goss. This was to be her means of
transport around Tasmania. She left excess items with Goss to be collected on
her return. She is believed to have departed Devonport on this date and
travelled towards Launceston, however, it is not known where she stayed the
- Thursday 11th March 1993:-
In the morning she attended the Westpac Bank at Kings
Meadows in Launceston and withdrew $200.00. She stayed overnight in Launceston
City Backpackers hostel.
Believed to have travelled from Launceston to St Helens
on a Redline Coach, with the hired bicycle as freight. Stayed overnight at the
St Helens Hostel.
Departed St Helens and rode south on her bicycle.
Intended departure date from Tasmania
Grunwaldt had booked the bicycle for the two week period from the 9th
to the 22nd of March 1993. She did not have exact plans and she
asked Goss if it was alright if she returned the bike on a bus or similar. In
the event that she did not return to Devonport, she also asked Goss if he
would forward her back pack onto her.
As previously mentioned, on Monday the 8th of March 1993, Grunwaldt
booked a one-way ticket on the Abel Tasman ferry, for travel between Devonport
and Melbourne on the 4th of April 1993. It is not known what her
intentions were for the two week period between the 22nd of March
and the 4th of April 1993.
Speculation may suggest that Grunwaldt was going to stay in Hobart with
Carolyn Hood, and return the bike to Devonport on the bus.
Last confirmed sighting
On the morning of Friday the 12th of March 1993, Grunwaldt
left the St Helens Hostel on her bicycle and road south through Beaumaris. It
is believed that she stopped and walked on the Beaumaris Beach, and that she
purchased a soft drink from the Surfside Motel. She then continued south.
The last confirmed sighting of Grunwaldt was by Christine Leidig and
Tanja De Greve, fellow tourists who had spent the previous night with her at
the St Helens Hostel.
They saw Grunwaldt at the Hostel that morning and they left sometime
after her. They again saw her about 5 km south of Scamander, riding her bike
south on the Tasman Highway. They have indicated that the time was
approximately 11.00 am.
DeGreve stated that it was Leidig who recognised Grunwaldt after they
had passed her. Leidig stated: “We did not talk with her, we only realised
that it was Nancy as we had already passed her. I am so sure that it was her
because she was the only one travelling by bike”.
From witnesses, the last confirmed sighting of Nancy was approximately 5
kms south of Scamander on the Tasman Highway.
The Tasman Highway runs from Launceston to Hobart via Scottsdale and the
East Cost towns of St Helens, Bicheno, Swansea, Orford and Sorell.
From St Helens to Orford, the Highway predominantly follows the
coastline with the exception of turning inland through St Mary’s and back to
From St Helens to the last known confirmed sighting, the highway follows
the coast through Beaumaris and Scamander. It is the main access used by
locals and tourists. There are a number of side roads which turn inland and
form a network of gravel roads that stretch through to the Midland and Esk
The general area of the last sighting is unpopulated, it being
semi-farming/forest area. There is a large tidal area known as Henderson
Lagoon between the Highway and the beach.
Approximately 8.5 km south of Scamander (or approximately 3.5 km south
of the last sighting), the Tasman Highway turns inland through the St Mary’s
Pass, St Mary’s and Elephant Pass and back to the coast.
At the point of turning inland, the new Link Road turns left to Falmouth
then closely follows the coast line through Four Mile Creek and then rejoins
the Tasman Highway at Chains of Lagoons.
Nancy Grunwaldt grew up in Steinbergkirche, Northern Germany and
completed her education there, aged 19 years. She commenced work as a travel
agent at the age of 20 and was an experienced world traveller having visited
14 countries at different times. Apart from German, she also spoke fluent
French and good English. She had previously visited Australia two years before
this trip but had never been to Tasmania. She travelled alone on that previous
Her parents described her as a happy, open, energetic person with deep
religious beliefs. To their knowledge she did not have a boyfriend. She made
friends easily and was always well liked. Grunwaldt was in regular contact
with her parents either by phone or mail and would not have willingly broken
contact with them. Her last telephone contact with her parents was from
Tasmania on Thursday the 11th of March 1993. She told them she was
okay and was planning to go to Hobart to visit a female friend. She told them
she planned returning to Germany on the 24th of June 1993.
Possible sightings of Grunwaldt
During the course of this investigation, in excess of 280 statements
have been obtained from members of the public. The majority were taken during
1993, from people who believed they had sighted Grunwaldt in Tasmania. Some
may well have been legitimate sightings of Grunwaldt or her bicycle, however
they could not be corroborated further.
Searches conducted during the course of the investigation
In 1993, Tasmania Police conducted extensive searches in an effort to
locate Grunwaldt, the hired bicycle and/or her personal possessions. In excess
of thirty days were committed to these searches and at its height, 46
personnel were involved on a daily basis. Personnel involved in the searches
were from various sections of Tasmania Police, including: Northern Search and
Rescue, Diving Squad, Academy Recruit, Bicycle Squad and C.I.B. members.
Since 1993, searches have been conducted as required, with the last
search being conducted in January 2003, in an area of bush in the Hardings
Falls area on the East Coast. This search followed information received as to
a possible suspect.
Description of searches conducted
Road searches were initially conducted of the Tasman Highway from St
Helens to Swansea including the Coles Bay Road. The Police Rescue Helicopter
was utilised to conduct aerial searches of the Tasman Highway between St
Helens and Bicheno and also the coastal foreshore.
After information was received, an intensive land search was conducted
of the roadside between St Mary’s and Fingal. Police divers also searched the
Break O’Day River near the road bridge.
Land searches were conducted of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair
National Park areas in response to information that Grunwaldt had been seen in
After an evaluation of the file and of information that was being
received, a decision was made that an intensive search would be conducted of
the road verges of the Tasman Highway and Link Road from St Helens to Bicheno.
Beach resorts, picnic grounds, coastal areas and walking tracks were also
searched along with the entrance road to the Douglas Apsley National Park.
Witnesses who have spoken to Grunwaldt since her arrival in Tasmania,
provided conflicting versions as to the route she was going to take on her
bike, that is, either the Coastal Link Road or St Mary’s Pass.
It was known though speaking with her parents that Grunwaldt was an
outgoing type person and had spent an extended period of time travelling
around the world. She was an avid photographer and was fond of swimming. She
liked coastal area rather than inland areas. She was fond of bushwalking but
would not go by herself.
Sections of the coast line were searched from St Helens to Bicheno along
with a number of side roads which were identified through information as being
worthy of searching.
During the course of the investigation, other smaller areas were
searched in the Scamander/Beaumaris area as they were deemed necessary.
Searches of all roads were conducted for a distance of 50 metres on
Throughout the course of this investigation, there has been no ‘eye
witness’ account provided by any witness or suspect. Similarly, no exhibits or
evidence has been located, so as to implicate any person in the disappearance
of Nancy Grunwaldt.
That in part, is due to the six week period which lasted between the
12th of March 1993 (last confirmed sighting) and the 19th of April 1993
(commencement date of the Tasmania Police investigation). This delay
negatively impacted upon the investigation, as daily events become "clouded”
in the minds of witnesses. Additionally, given that it was summertime, there
were high numbers of tourists in the area and witnesses could not be 100%
confident as to their ‘sightings’ of Grunwaldt.
This six week delay, also benefited any offender who may have been
spoken to during the course of the investigation.
Suspects were identified throughout the course of this investigation,
but given the lack of eye witness accounts or physical evidence their
classification as a ‘suspect’ resulted from one or more of the following:
- Information received from the public
- Known or rumoured behaviour;
- Prior convictions; and/or
- Inconsistent or inappropriate statements made to police or members of
Nothing of substance was established.
Grunwaldt’s parents have visited the State on a number of occasions
since her disappearance. During their visits, they have participated in media
conferences appealing for information as to the whereabouts of their daughter.
On each occasion they have generated a response from the public, however, no
‘concrete’ evidence has been forthcoming.
The State Government has offered a reward of up to $30,000 to be made
payable at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police for information as to
the whereabouts of Grunwaldt or the conviction of the person(s) responsible
for her disappearance.
Contact was made with the German Consulate in Victoria, Mr Thomas
Bittner at the time of the disappearance and he worked closely with the
investigators in the supply of information in relation to Grunwaldt.
Summary of Investigation
- The initial investigation was hampered due to a six week delay in the
missing person report being made.
- Extensive media coverage was generated.
- To date over 500 information reports have been received and over 280
statements have been taken from members of the public.
- Interstate enquiries have been conducted as well as various
international enquiries through Interpol.
- Monitoring of Immigration and Bank records revealed no activity.
- Extensive land, water and air searches were conducted in the area,
though the prevailing terrain must be considered.
- Suspects have been eliminated during the course of the investigation.
Although the investigation is still active, no one individual is considered
to be the likely offender.
- Investigators from the Port Arthur Task Force and Task Force Air
(NSWPOL Belangalo Backpacker Murders) were also canvassed in relation to
- The investigation remains active, with information being received
periodically, and interviews being conducted as necessary.
CAFASSO murder investigation
Approximately 1.30 pm on the 11th of October 1995, Victoria
Anna Elizabeth Cafasso, dob 8/6/75, an Italian tourist was found deceased on
the Beaumaris Beach at Beaumaris. Her partially naked body was found at the
waters edge and was being lapped by the waves. There were numerous stab wounds
to her body, together with bruising and lacerations. Cafasso was on holiday in
Tasmania and was staying with a relative at Beaumaris.
Topography of Beaumaris
Beaumaris is a seaside township on the east cost of Tasmania, lying
between Scamander (1.4 km south) and St Helens (6 km north). The town consists
of one (1) motel and approximately 150 homes/shacks. It has a permanent
population of approximately 350 persons, made up of retirees, families,
employed and unemployed persons. The population rises significantly over the
The Tasman Highway runs north/south through the town and parallel to the
beach. It is the main coastal route. The town comprises five (5) separate
areas with all but eight (8) houses located on the inland side of the highway.
Beaumaris Beach stretches for 4 km, including the 2 km length of the town. The
beach lies 75 metres to the east of the highway and is predominantly shielded
from view by a coastal reserve strip of low dunes and light scrub. The
northern and southern ends of Beaumaris Beach are defined by rocky points
which prevent easy access further along the coast. Inland of Beaumaris exists
extensive pine plantations, forested areas and a network of gravel roads that
stretch to the Midland Highway.
Personal history of the deceased
Victoria Cafasso was a dual Italian/English citizen who spent most of
her time residing in Italy but regularly visited her grand parents in England.
She lived with her parents and younger sister in Italy. Her mother described
her as a trusting person.
Cafasso held a British passport and spoke fluent Italian, English and
French. She was well travelled, having travelled several times with her mother
as well as having previously acted as a tour guide. Her journey to Australia
was the largest journey undertaken by her alone.
Cafasso was well educated and attended University in Italy where she was
studying law. She deferred that course in July 1995. She then travelled to
England to stay with her grandmother - as was her practice most mid-year
holidays - to consider her options. She enrolled in a language course at
Portsmouth University, due to start in August 1996. She expressed a desire to
travel to Australia and stay with her cousin Simon Howard De Salis whom she
had met on two (2) previous occasions. She called De Salis from England and
made the arrangements.
Cafasso flew from London to Melbourne, via Hong Kong, and from Melbourne
flew to Launceston Airport arriving at 1.50 pm on Friday the 6th of
October 1995. She was met by Simon De Salis and a visiting friend of his,
Peter Holder of Sydney.
Last known movements
From the 6th to the 11th of October 1995, Cafasso resided
with De Salis at “Larby’s Cottage” Charles Street, Beaumaris. Over that time
De Salis took her and Holder to tourist spots on the east coast. The only
social event she attended was a small private birthday party for Mandy-Louise
Larby on Monday the 9th. The only times she was alone, were for two
(2) short walks; on Monday the 9th and Tuesday the 10th.
On the morning of Wednesday the 11th of October 1995, Cafasso
rose about 8.10 am and after breakfast told De Salis she was going for a walk
on the beach and requested to borrow a small carry bag. About 9 am she set off
on foot for the short walk to the beach. She was dressed in a blue T-shirt
with a wolf motif on its front, a pair of slacks/pants, a bikini, white
sandshoes, watch, bangle, ring and necklace. She carried the borrowed bag, a
large beach towel, a flask of water, a Sony walkman radio, sunglasses, sun
screen, scarf and her purse - containing personal papers, $A509.00 and some
En-route to the beach Cafasso was sighed by six (6) reliable witnesses.
It is believed that she entered Beaumaris Beach via a path opposite the
Surfside Hotel. Cafasso was seen sunbaking some 700 metes south of where she
had entered the beach. These sightings were about 9.55 am and again about
Detectives and Forensic personnel from Launceston subsequently attended,
as did the Forensic Pathologist and Forensic Scientists from Forensic Science
Services Tasmania (FSST).
An examination of the area established the murder scene some 50 metres
north of the body. There was no indication - heavy footprints, drag marks,
blood trail etc - that the body had been brought to the beach for disposal.
Within that scene was found a portion of Cafasso’s property. Several items
known to have been taken by her to the beach were not located. She was naked
except for a bikini top which was intact above her breasts. Her face and head
had been stabbed, lacerated and bludgeoned resulting in horrific and extensive
wounds. She had also been stabbed to the back and chest. The frenzied nature
of the attack on Cafasso with a knife indicates that the offender is
disturbed, with a quite possible hatred for women, or who is in a drug induced
state, who loses control during the attack, but once it is over is
sufficiently cunning to conceal his tracks. The fact that some of her
possessions were missing would indicate that he gains satisfaction from
keeping a “trophy” from the murder. In this regard none of Grunwaldt’s
possessions have ever been found.
Review of the Grunwaldt file with respect to the Cafasso murder
In March 1966, (then) Constable Mathew Obsorne No. 1622 of the Bureau of
Criminal Intelligence, Hobart, conducted a review of the Grunwaldt
investigation with regard to the Cafasso murder case up to the 11th of March
In his conclusions, he reported on the following perceived similarities
between the two investigations.
- That both victims were females, aged in their twenties, and tourists.
- Both had been in the State only a few days.
- Both spoke English, although Cafasso spoke more fluently than
- Both stayed on the East Coast prior to their disappearance/murder.
- Both girls were of above average build.
- Both girls would have been recognised as ‘non-locals’.
- The distance between the scene of the Cafasso murder and the last
sightings of Grunwaldt, is as little as 10 kilometres.
- Both were last seen in the late morning/early afternoon.
- Both are described as ‘sensible’ girls who would not take risks.
(This indicates that if there is a connection between the cases the offender
does not immediately raise suspicions.)
- It would appear a possibility that an attempt was made to dispose of
Cafasso’s body in the sea. It is possible that Grunwaldt’s body (if she met
with foul play) was disposed of in a similar manner but did not get washed
back into shore.
- Both were last seen alive early in the month (Cafasso on the 11th
of October 1995 and Grunwaldt on the12th of March 1993).
- Both were last seen on a weekday. Cafasso on a Wednesday and
Grunwaldt on a Friday. (Possibly indicating that a similar offender is a
shift worker, or unemployed, or works odd days and/or hours)
- There is some evidence that both Cafasso and Grunwaldt enjoyed the
beaches of the East Coast. A witness states that he saw Grunwaldt reading a
book on the beach at Beaumaris and this is corroborated by another witness.
The location they say they saw Grunwaldt, is less than 1 km from where
Cafasso was located.
Finally, Constable Osborne stated: “These similarities are reached using
some licence to speculate. The fact that Grunwaldt’s body has not been located
makes investigation and comparison difficult”. In my view there is no firm
evidence to link the two deaths, however.
1986 Attempted rape of (known female - hereafter “K.F.” on Beaumaris
In addition to the Cafasso murder, one other matter which was
‘re-visited’ during these investigations as the 1986 attempted rape of “K.F.”
This incident occurred on the Beaumaris Beach on Thursday the 4th
of September 1986 and this crime remains unsolved.
Likely scenarios with respect to the death of Grunwaldt
- That whilst travelling on the road, she was struck by a passing
motorist and fell from the road side and out of view.
Comment: Given the extensive searches which were conducted by police, it
is highly likely that her body and possessions would have been located.
- That whilst travelling on the road, she was struck by a passing
motorist and that her body and possessions were disposed of.
Comment: This scenario cannot be discounted but appears unlikely.
- That she met with foul play, the motive being sexual or personal gain
(eg, theft of her possessions or access to her bank accounts), and that the
body and possessions were disposed of.
Comment: This scenario cannot be discounted although her bank accounts
were never unlawfully accessed but the motive may not have been financial
- Death by misadventure, for example falling down a mine shaft or
Comment: This scenario is possible, however it would be expected that
her bicycle or other possessions would have been located during the extensive
police searches which were conducted.
- Death by misadventure. After which, her bicycle and possessions were
found by a passer-by. Given the substantial media coverage which followed,
the finder may have been reluctant to come forward and either kept or
disposed of her possessions.
Comment: This scenario cannot be discounted but appears unlikely.
Given the circumstances surrounding Nancy Grunwaldt’s disappearance and
the lack of evidence unveiled throughout this investigation and the fact that
none of her possessions have been found my conclusions are:
- That Nancy Grunwaldt is deceased.
- That she died whilst in Tasmania.
- That she died on or about Friday the 12th of March 1993.
- That she died between St Helens and Bicheno.
- I believe that ‘foul play’ is involved in her disappearance in the
form of homicide.
I am grateful to Detective Acting Inspector M.G. Wright for his detailed
review and analysis which is here in substance largely reproduced as my
COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
I find that Nancy Grunwaldt died on the East Coast of Tasmania between
St Helens and Bicheno on the 12th day of March 1993 as the result
of foul play by person(s) unknown.
I express my sincere condolences to her parents, family and friends.
This matter is now concluded.
DATED: 19th March 2004 at Launceston in the State of
Peter Henric Wilson
New lead on Grunwaldt mystery
Tasmania police are yet to comment on whether they will
reopen an investigation into the disappearance of German tourist, Nancy
A former police detective has thrown new light on the case.
Ms Grunwaldt was last seen on a bicycle at Beaumaris on the state's
east coast in March 1993.
An inquest found she was most likely the victim of a homicide.
But former Launceston Detective Bob Coad, who was not required to give
evidence, believes Ms Grunwaldt was hit by a car.
Mr Coad has told a northern newspaper, after he took over the case, a
Hobart solicitor reported a disturbing phone message had been left on his
The anonymous caller said he had been involved in a terrible accident
and had hit a cyclist.
After no record of an accident the man never called back and the
message was erased.
Mr Coad is calling for the driver to come forward.
Tasmania police are yet to comment.
Death of Nancy Grunwaldt 'an accident'
Almost two decades after the disappearance of a German backpacker
on the East Coast, retired detective Bob Coad has decided to speak
out. He wants the truth about what happened to Nancy Grunwaldt to
come out. ZARA DAWTREY reports.
LINKED with the horrific stabbing murder of Italian tourist
Victoria Cafasso in 1995, the disappearance of German tourist Nancy
Grunwaldt is burned into the memories of Tasmanians.
Like Ms Cafasso's still-unsolved death, the travel agent's
disappearance achieved a level of infamy only paralleled by such
atrocities as the Port Arthur massacre and wife-killer Rory Jack
East Coast residents are today still left wondering if a
serial killer lives in their midst.
But the true story, says retired detective Bob Coad, and the
crucial evidence that supports it, has until now never been made
"Nancy Grunwaldt was not murdered," he said.
"Her death was the result of a tragic accident - and now it's
time for the person responsible to come forward."
The decorated former detective sergeant boasts such
credentials as a stellar 35-year career with Tasmania Police, the
last 28 as a detective investigating major crime.
He was the state's longest- serving detective when he retired
in 2002, the year after he was awarded the nation's most prestigious
police honour, the Australian Police Medal.
"I have chosen to talk about this case now because the time
for achieving closure is running out.
"I've tried to sit back and let it go, but I just can't live
with it any longer. Speaking out now is the last thing I can do to
get the truth out there."
An inquest into both the disappearance of Ms Grunwaldt and the
1995 stabbing death of Italian tourist Victoria Cafasso found Ms
Grunwaldt was most likely the victim of a homicide, committed
somewhere between St Helens and Bicheno on the day she was last seen
- March 12, 1993.
But Mr Coad rejects the coroner's findings and instead tells a
very different story.
"I wasn't called to give evidence at the inquest, and when I
contacted the coroner's office after the findings were handed down I
discovered they were unaware of evidence that was absolutely
integral to the case."
On April 19, 1993, Victoria Police notified Tasmania Police
that a missing person report had been lodged in relation to Ms
While not known to police at the time, seven days had already
passed since she was last positively sighted south of Beaumaris.
Police initially believed her to be on the North-West or West
Coast, so the file went to Devonport.
Another 10 weeks had passed by the time Northern detectives
took over the investigation.
"Some months after we took over the file, a Hobart solicitor
reported a disturbing phone message that had been left on his office
answering machine," Mr Coad said.
"He'd gone in to his office on a Saturday morning around the
time she'd disappeared.
"There was a message that had been left by a very upset male
caller who he described as sounding absolutely distraught. The
caller said he wanted help and advice, and had to speak to someone.
"He said he'd been involved in a terrible accident on the East
Coast and had hit a cyclist.
"He kept repeating it was a terrible accident, and he wanted
But Mr Coad said that while Hobart detectives visited the
solicitor, nothing came of it.
The tape had been erased and recorded over many times by that
"The solicitor told police that after hearing the message,
he'd combed the papers for serious crashes that weekend, but when
none were reported and the man didn't call back, he didn't pursue it
"It is my firm belief that a person travelling south, most
likely via the Elephant Pass, collided with Ms Grunwaldt, who was
riding her bike to Bicheno.
"The crash has either seriously injured or killed her.
"The driver has then, in a state of total panic and with
whatever knowledge he had of her condition, disposed of her body
down the embankment, and taken her bike and personal possessions
Mr Coad said that while it might be hard for many people to
readily accept that a driver would get rid of a body after a fatal
crash, his experience as a police officer proved otherwise.
"People are capable of anything at that level of panic and
"Add to that the very real possibility that he may have been
doing the wrong thing, drinking or using drugs, changing the radio
station and not looking where he was going - you just don't know.
"And there was no foreseeing what was ahead with the Cafasso
murder and the publicity that brought to the Grunwaldt case."
The driver was not Tasmanian, Mr Coad says, based on a second
phone call made four years later from Brisbane.
"Australia's Most Wanted (television show) interviewed my
partner and I on the beach at Beaumaris in early 1997.
"The Cafasso-Grunwaldt program aired in mid-July, and the
information hotline received a phone call from a Brisbane number
"Again, the caller was male and the operator described him as
"He stated that he was on the East Coast in the relevant time
frame and that he'd accidentally struck a cyclist. He admitted he'd
pushed the body off the pass, then continued on to Hobart. He said
he left the state as soon as he could on the boat from Devonport.
"And that's what's happened. That's the truth, and I believe
So sure is Mr Coad of this scenario that he is willing to put
his name - and the respect it still commands across police ranks
today - on the line.
Because by speaking out, he is admitting that police made
fundamental errors in their investigation.
He says he accepts that and has had to live with the knowledge
that things that should have been followed up were perhaps
He cannot recall what action was taken over the Brisbane phone
Police were distracted, he says, by numerous and time-
consuming false leads. These included a cross-country search for a
New Zealand fruit picker who had foolishly boasted while drunk and
on drugs that he had been involved in the disappearance of a German
Mr Coad and his partner located the traveller outside
Toowoomba but, after a lengthy interview, knew he was not their man.
Nor was mass murderer Martin Bryant, who also found himself
the subject of police attention in relation to the Cafasso-Grunwaldt
Mr Coad and his partner spoke to Bryant at Risdon Prison in
However, their experience mirrored that of every other police
officer who has attempted to interview the killer - they got
But the biggest mistake of all, according to Mr Coad, was the
linking of Ms Grunwaldt's disappearance to the brutal and brazen
murder of Ms Cafasso.
"During the course of the East Coast inquiries, there was
absolutely no evidence supporting a link between the two, other than
the location and a sighting of Nancy near Beaumaris Beach.
"She was seen sitting on a bench at the entrance to the beach
with a drink and a book, the same entrance Victoria Cafasso used on
the day she was murdered on that same beach. That's it.
"There were reasons for why things were done the way they were
back then, but there's no changing it now."
He says that while there is no point focusing on the past, the
benefit of hindsight, together with the mistakes and oversights made
at the time, suggests that the case should be reinvestigated.
"As I've said, all I can do at this stage is speak out and
hope something comes of it.
"I don't have access to the file or any records and I can't
reopen the case.
"I don't know the name of the person responsible or where
they're living now.
"What I do know is that the chance of getting the answers the
Grunwaldt family and the Tasmanian community deserve fades with
every passing year."
Mr Coad is hoping Tasmania Police's three-year-old cold case
unit will agree to re-examine the Grunwaldt file as a matter of
The unit has already chalked up major victories for police
since its creation in 2008, including the arrest of a Lake Leake man
in November over the alleged 2006 murder of Kalangadoo resident John
"If I'm right about this, and I know I am, the authorities
have the option of offering the driver indemnity from prosecution if
he comes forward," Mr Coad said.
"It would have been a very heavy burden to carry all these
• Anyone with any information about the disappearance of Nancy
Grunwaldt is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800333000. Callers
can remain anonymous and may become eligible for a reward.