Secret witness perjury case: 'There's no defence against them'

7:56 pm on 29 August 2017

Convicted double murderer David Tamihere was back at the High Court in Auckland today to give evidence against a secret witness from his trial.

Exterior of the Auckland High Court

The High Court in Auckland Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Witness C, whose identity is suppressed, was a Crown witness at Tamihere's 1989 trial and told the court Tamihere made a number of admissions to him while the pair were in prison.

The witness is facing a private prosecution in the High Court in Auckland, accused of lying at that trial.

He later recanted evidence and is now charged with eight counts of perjury and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Witness C's evidence was part of the Crown's case that resulted in Tamihere being convicted in 1990 of murdering Swedish tourists Heidi Paakkonen and Sven Urban Hoglin.

Tamihere told prosecutor Murray Gibson he did not discuss his case in any great detail while inside prison because he did not trust his fellow inmates.

He was asked how prisoners felt about secret witnesses.

"No one likes them. They're a pretty dangerous sort of a crew ... There's no defence against them. They'll stand up and say: 'He said this, he said that' and all you can say is: 'No, I didn't'."

Witness C told Tamihere's trial the accused had confessed to sexually assaulting and killing the tourists.

Tamihere became emotional as he told the court the allegations.

"And then I used an aluminium boat that I was supposed to have stolen and dumped them somewhere at sea out off the Coromandel coast and then come back and did another two or three days of sexually assaulting the girl, and um, and that sort of stuff and that I'd given a watch, one of the Swede's watches, to my son."

Tamihere said everything Witness C told the court - apart from his name and that the pair were locked up together - was a lie.

He said he got a letter from Witness C while still inside prison, 17 years after the trial.

"[He wrote] That the police had put him up to it and told him what to say and that it was all lies and he was sorry about it."

Under cross-examination from Witness C's lawyer Adam Simperingham, Tamihere confirmed he had given incorrect information to fellow inmates to see who was talking to the police but he said he never gave out any important information.

He also confirmed there were two other secret witnesses but neither of them had been charged with perjury.

Mr Simperingham asked whether the identity of Witness C would been known inside prison and whether Witness C was in danger.

Mr Simperingham asked: "Narks and snitches, they're not well liked within prisons are they?"

Tamihere responded: "No, they're a little bit lower than child molesters."

Mr Simperingham then asked: "And child molesters get beaten up, don't they?"

Tamihere answered: "Well, not as much as you'd hope."

He said security within prisons had improved and child molesters were protected.

Tamihere said after Witness C recanted his evidence he later claimed to have done so because of threats from gang members.

"Well, I went to all the heads of the different gangs and put the hard word on them about it and none of them said they had anything to do with it,

"They didn't know what I was talking about ... I said: 'Which one of you bastards are doing this?' And they said: 'Look, it wasn't one of our crew'."

Tamihere confirmed he had lied to the police and others but said it was Witness C who was lying in this trial.