Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Tanya Flowerday: Snuff Victim?


On May 29, 2005, another internal investigation was initiated against Insp. Steinhöbel, this time because she supposedly did not have the necessary approval for certain warrants she carried out. She was summarily suspended without salary or benefits. Denying the accusations, she decided that she'd had enough. Her marriage had deteriorated, her children had been ridiculed at school, and the police treated her like a pariah. Even though she loved working on homicide cases, after 16 years of service Insp. Steinhöbel "bought" her resignation for R200 ($33). She left for the Free State, where she had grown up, and bought a tea garden and nursery with her mother. Although she doesn't necessarily believe that a snuff movie exists, she does feel that Grimsley did not kill Tanya on his own. However, her plans to follow up on the investigation have been denied.

A younger Tanya Flowerday
A younger Tanya Flowerday

Ronald Grimsley's trial finally continued on July 25, 2005, more than two years after Tanya's life was taken away from her. Dr. Paul de Wet, a psychiatrist from Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, testified that he could find nothing to indicate that Grimsley did not understand the difference between wrong and right on the night of Tanya Flowerday's murder. He admitted that blackouts do indeed occur, usually in reaction to an excessive amount of alcohol, but Grimsley's account did not correspond to the nature of such a blackout. For instance, his memory of the events following the murder was almost perfect.

As Grimsley was leaving the court, the torture of the past two years wrenched through Tanya's mother. "Grimsley, can you not die, for God's sake!" she yelled to him according to The Star of July 26, 2005.

The next day, on July 26, Mr Justice Fritz van Oosten found Ronald Grimsley guilty on all four charges, labelling the defendant a "poor and unimpressive witness", according to the Beeld of July 27, 2005. He dismissed the "blackout" defense.

During mitigation, Grimsley told the court that he had fallen three storeys at the age of fourteen and had to be hospitalized for six months. He had to learn how to walk and talk again, and struggled to make new friends. The only peers who accepted him were those who smoked cigarettes and marijuana. That was when he had become involved in drugs. He told the court that he was sorry and again apologized to the Flowerdays. His attorney, Charles Thompson, implored the judge to forego the prescribed minimum sentence and proposed 18 years for the murder, to be served concurrently with the other sentences. Grimsley, he maintained, had exhibited remorse.

Tanya as a youth
Tanya as a youth

Delores Flowerday was not convinced. "He took my daughter's life," she told the media, according to the Beeld of July 27, 2005. "She was eighteen years old and couldn't even drive a car yet. Now he gets a second chance and he's not even sorry. He still says he can't remember what he did to her. All he's sorry about, is getting caught."

Judge Van Oosten seemed to concur. He sentenced Grimsley to life for murder, 18 years for rape, 10 years for indecent assault and two years for theft. The sentences would be served concurrently. "A young girl was callously murdered after a cruel attack," the judge said according to the Beeld of July 28, 2005. "Her rape and indecent assault can only be classified in the worst category of sexual crimes I have seen in my career of thirty years."

Did Ronald Grimsley murder Tanya on his own? Was there a video camera? Is there a tape somewhere? We'll probably never know for certain. Since there appears to be not a single case of an actual snuff film having been found anywhere in the world, it seems unlikely. Although it is possible that Grimsley's life and that of his family may have been threatened, that fear motivated him to first attempt suicide and then recant his claims of Nigerian drug dealers and snuff movies, there is no evidence to support such a scenario.

Tanya as a young girl, poses with her parents
Tanya as a young girl, poses with her parents

And Bob and Delores Flowerday? Their beloved daughter, their only child, is dead. Not only was this precious life that they had created together destroyed, but the dreams they had for her had been turned to ashes. They won't see her managing a second branch of the take-away delivery business. Bob won't lead his daughter down the aisle to marry a man who loves her. They won't witness a life being created inside of her, and later hear that little life call, "Grandma! Grandpa!"

A year after Tanya's death, Bob Flowerday told the Beeld of July 23, 2004, "Anyone who says it gets better with time to accept your child's death, doesn't know what they're talking about. It doesn't get better. It only gets worse. You just learn to hide your emotions better."

Note: Dollar equivalencies calculated at $1 = R6.10. This doesn't yield a monetary value that is directly comparable, however.< /EM >

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'