On this day, 11th March 1993, Nancy Grunwaldt disappeared without a trace, marking a somber anniversary of a perplexing case. Thirty years ago today, the 26-year-old backpacker made her last contact with her parents via telephone before vanishing somewhere between St. Helens and Bicheno on Tasmania’s East Coast the following day.
Nancy Grunwaldt, a German travel agent, arrived in Devonport on the 6th of March, staying the night at the YHA hostel there. Three days later, on the 9th of March, Nancy rented a red Chieftain Mountain bike and cycled to Launceston. After spending the night at the YHA hostel located at 199 George Street, Nancy left Launceston on the 11th of March, taking the bike with her and catching a Redline bus to St. Helens. Westpac records show that at 10:40am, Nancy withdrew $200 from the Kings Meadows branch of the Westpac Bank via a signed withdrawal form. Later that same day, Nancy spoke with her parents in Germany by telephone at approximately 4pm, marking the last known contact with her.
The following day, the 12th of March, which happened to be a Friday, Nancy departed St. Helens sometime between 9:30am and 10:30am, cycling south towards Bicheno. Two female tourists who had also stayed at the hostel in St. Helens saw Nancy at approximately 11:00am that morning, approximately 5 kilometers south of Scamander. After that sighting, Nancy vanished without a trace.
The police were confounded by the case, which remains unsolved to this day. The fact that an investigation wasn’t launched until six weeks after she was last seen gave any possible perpetrator ample time to dispose of evidence, and complicated the recollections of witnesses. Despite extensive searches of land, sea, and air, no trace of Nancy’s body, clothes, or bike has ever been found. Investigators believe there are two possible scenarios for what happened to Nancy: either she was murdered or hit by a passing motorist who disposed of the evidence.
The day after Nancy disappeared, a Hobart-based solicitor reportedly received a strange message on his answering machine from a distressed caller who pleaded for help, claiming to have been involved in an accident on the East Coast. Bob Coad, the detective assigned to the Grunwaldt case, later told The Mercury newspaper that he believed the caller “saw nothing about the accident the next day, and so scooted back to the mainland.” The recording was deleted, as the solicitor had not seen any reports of a missing woman on the East Coast.
Then, in 1997, a man called Crime Stoppers from a Queensland number shortly after watching a television show that featured Nancy’s disappearance. The caller was also very distressed and, according to Mr. Coad, informed the operator that he had “trouble living with the fact that he had hit a cyclist and disposed of the body.” Sergeant Delpero stated that the police have been trying to find the caller. “We are well aware of the information surrounding that individual,” he said.
A coronial inquest was held in 2003, and Coroner Peter Wilson concluded that Nancy had fallen victim to homicide on March 12 “as a result of foul play by person(s) unknown.” To date, over 500 information reports have been received, and more than 280 statements have been taken from members of the public. The investigation remains active, with information being received periodically and interviews being conducted as necessary.
In 2021, Tasmania Police increased the reward to $500,000 for anyone who provides information leading to the solution of this case.