Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Tanya Flowerday: Snuff Victim?

'Blackout'

But then Grimsley changed his story again. He had misled her, he told Insp. Steinhöbel. There was no snuff movie. There were no Nigerians. A variation of his original story, it had only been him.

On June 13, 2003, he had bought heroin for R150 ($24.50) in Hillbrow, which he mixed with tobacco and smoked. Later he also smoked marijuana and drank alcohol. Tanya phoned him from Julian's Bistro, asking him to come and fetch her, which he did. They stopped at his parents' home, so that he could get something to eat to counteract the alcohol he had ingested.

"In the kitchen we began to kiss," he said, according to the Beeld of September 4, 2004. "Before I could put my hands on her buttocks, she pushed me away and said we couldn't go on. I didn't eat and she asked me to take her home."

An Opel Kadett, similar to Grimsley's car
An Opel Kadett, similar to Grimsley's car

In Darrenwood, Grimsley stopped his Opel Kadett, ostensibly to apologize to Tanya for his behavior. He tried to kiss her again, but she refused. So he decided to smoke a heroin cigarette instead. Tanya didn't condone drug use, and they argued when she realized that it was heroin he was smoking. She tried to grab the cigarette from him and they wrestled. According to Grimsley, Tanya was shouting at him about the drugs in his car.

And then, Grimsley "completely blacked out", according to The Star of September 1, 2004. "Once I came to my senses, I was seated on top of the deceased, my hands around her throat with one leg of her pants undressed and my pants unbuttoned. I do not know how long I had blacked out."

He realized that Tanya was dead. So he redressed her, pulled her from his car and dragged her to where she was later found.

He had no memory of raping her, beating her or throttling her.

In other words, it's that old favorite, "I don't know what happened. The gun just went off." The problem is that guns can't go off on their own; they need something, usually a finger, to pull the trigger. The problem with Grimsley's heroin-induced blackout is that he would have needed to ingest two to three times the amount of heroin he was used to in order to have a blackout, according to a drug expert who later testified at Grimsley's trial. Another expert, Sophie Ditsi of the Sanpark Rehabilitation Centre, told the Beeld of September 3, 2004, that heroin, a member of the opiate drug family and classified as a depressant, "slows down brain functions and the person doesn't react normally. It leads to tiredness, lethargy and emotional instability. Like someone who drank too much, a heroin user won't just hit someone. How do you rape someone while you're under the influence of heroin? It's impossible."

Then, after the "blackout" and the large amount of heroin still pulsing through his veins, Grimsley managed to find enough sense to redress Tanya's body, place her in a seated position, steal her cellular phone, and throw her jacket from his car some distance away. Pretty organized for someone supposedly out of control only moments before, who now has to deal with this shocking situation.

It's not congruent with the autopsy results either. The nature and extent of Tanya's injuries make it highly unlikely that she had been murdered inside a car, especially a small-sized one like an Opel Kadett. Not only was she badly beaten with a blunt object over numerous areas of her body, but she was raped both vaginally and anally, with enough violence that the pathologist found clear evidence of both sexual assaults. It doesn't seem particularly believable that all this happened not only in a small hatchback car, but while Grimsley was in the midst of a heroin-induced stupor.

So why the story about a snuff movie? "It's an addict's natural instinct to lie," he would later tell the court, according the Beeld of September 7, 2004. "I read about snuff movies in You [magazine]." He didn't want to accept responsibility for his actions and wanted someone else to take the blame. This was also part of the reason for his suicide attempt. "If I was dead, no one would've known what happened," he would tell the prosecutor during cross-examination, according to the same paper. "Everyone would've been in the dark."

Insp. Steinhöbel received a further explanation. Each time she interrogated him about the snuff allegations, she would fetch him from the Johannesburg Prison and take him to the Linden police station's holding cells, where he could see his family.

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