On this fateful day, 11th March 1993, Nancy Grunwaldt mysteriously vanished, marking a solemn anniversary of a perplexing enigma. Three decades ago, the 26-year-old backpacker bid her last farewell to her parents via telephone before vanishing into obscurity 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, lodging at the YHA hostel there. Three days later, on the 9th of March, Nancy rented a crimson Chieftain Mountain bike and pedaled her way to Launceston. After spending the night at the YHA hostel on 199 George Street, Nancy left Launceston on the 11th of March, carrying the bike with her and boarding a Redline bus to St. Helens. Westpac records show that at 10:40 am, Nancy withdrew $200 from the Kings Meadows branch of the Westpac Bank through a duly signed withdrawal form. Later that same day, at approximately 4 pm, she had her final conversation with her parents in Germany, marking the last known contact.
The subsequent day, the 12th of March, which happened to be a Friday, Nancy departed St. Helens sometime between 9:30 am and 10:30 am, cycling southwards towards Bicheno. Two female tourists who had also stayed at the hostel in St. Helens caught sight of Nancy at around 11:00 am that morning, nearly 5 kilometers south of Scamander. After that sighting, Nancy vanished into thin air without a trace.
The police were perplexed by the case, which remains unresolved to this day. The fact that an investigation wasn’t initiated until six weeks after her last sighting gave any potential culprit ample time to dispose of evidence, thereby complicating the recollections of witnesses. Despite extensive searches conducted on land, sea, and air, no trace of Nancy’s body, attire, or bike has ever been found. Investigators believe there are two plausible scenarios for what transpired: either she fell victim to foul play or was struck by a passing motorist who subsequently disposed of the evidence.
The day following Nancy’s disappearance, a Hobart-based solicitor reportedly received a peculiar message on his answering machine from a distressed caller who pleaded for assistance, claiming to have been involved in an accident on the East Coast. Bob Coad, the detective assigned to the Grunwaldt case, later revealed to The Mercury newspaper that he believed the caller “had seen nothing about the accident the next day, and so hastened back to the mainland.” The recording was deleted, as the solicitor had not come across 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 featuring Nancy’s disappearance. The caller was also in great distress and, according to Mr. Coad, confessed to the operator that he struggled to live with the knowledge that he had collided with a cyclist and disposed of the body. Sergeant Delpero stated that the police had been tirelessly trying to locate the caller. “We are well aware of the information surrounding that individual,” he said.
In 2003, a coronial inquest was conducted, and Coroner Peter Wilson concluded that Nancy had tragically fallen victim to homicide on March 12 “as a result of foul play by person(s) unknown.” To date, the authorities have received over 500 information reports and taken more than 280 statements from members of the public. The investigation remains active, with periodic receipt of information and necessary interviews being conducted.
In 2021, Tasmania Police augmented the reward to $500,000 for anyone providing information that leads to the resolution of this case.