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.
Michelle Hoffman-Tamm was stabbed multiple 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
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
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
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
The wounds were mainly to the chest and back. Ms Hoffman-Tamm
also suffered blunt force trauma to the head and lost several
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 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
In her explanation to police, Sloane said she thought Ms
Hoffman-Tamm had taken $20 from her wallet and she had "lost
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
The summary said Sloane appeared genuinely upset about what
Sloane was remanded in custody for sentencing in the High
Court at Rotorua on February 4.
- By Katie Holland and APNZ